Austin Kiddie Limits (ACL Music Festival) 2010: Day 2 Report

Waking up for Day 2 of the 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival, I was really sore, stiff from the large amount of walking I did on Day 1. I mean, I normally walk a lot at ACL, but Friday's walking seemed... longer. Maybe it was the crowds, who knows, but that's advice number #1 for parents at ACL: stretch.

IMG_3662_2.jpgAnyway, my primary goal on Day 2 at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage was to get there in time to see Elizabeth Mitchell and Frances England. We caught the very last song of the Jellydots' set, then settled in. The kids, having been fortified with Cheetos at the media area, angled for the kefir at the Lifeway Kefir booth (because for them, flavored kefir = flavored yogurt = treat). And we were eager to hear Mitchell, whom we'd never seen in concert before and who'd been a part of our family's lives since Miss Mary Mack was still crawling around on the floor.

IMG_3664_2.jpgElizabeth Mitchell's set was reasonably mellow, but not overly so. The crowd, which seemed reasonably full on Friday, was more so on Day 2 as people brought their kids on the weekend, and it brought an energy to artists' sets on the weekend.

I hadn't appreciated how much Mitchell's and husband Daniel Littleton's daughter Storey is now a part of the set. She sang on most (all?) of the songs, sometime taking lead. I wouldn't call her a pro -- that's actually praise from my perspective -- but she was poised. Ella Childs joined them for the Japanese song "The Chestnut Tree," and as I looked around, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many parents were joining along with their kids on the hand motions Mitchell, Storey, and Ella led them in or how many were attempting the Spanish-language version of "John the Rabbit" Mitchell tried out.

IMG_3698_2.jpgWe had to miss Tom Freund's set on Friday, so after grabbing some lunch at the food court, we dashed back to see him play. He was a nice fit between Mitchell and England -- his fun Hug Trees album is a low-key disk for the most part. He was joined here in Austin by Abra Moore, who appeared with Freund on his album as well.

IMG_3707_2.jpgMoore had by far the most distinctive performance outfit of the AKL stage (sorry Verve Pipe guys all wearing ties) -- leis, big glasses, and a whole bunch of purple balloons, which she sported while bouncing on a big ol' pink exercise ball. By comparison, Freund (also sporting a collared shirt and tie) looked positively restrained. There was nothing revelatory about the set, but like I said, Hug Trees is fun, and so I enjoyed getting to hear the roots-pop songs live.

IMG_3714_2.jpgNext up Frances England. England (as well as Mitchell and her family) hung out a lot at the AKL stage for the weekend, seeing the other performers. In fact, generally, it was a much greater social gathering than I recall previous AKL stages being. For whatever reason, it just seemed like the performers hung out a lot more front stage (as opposed to backstage) listening to the other acts -- the Okee Dokee Brothers wanted to see Elizabeth Mitchell, for example, while Mitchell wanted to catch England's set. It was a very family vibe.

IMG_3727_2.jpgEngland's set was a little less of a surprise for me because I'd seen her in Brooklyn and so I knew she and her band would deliver a solid indie-folk set. England's husband, bassist John Funke, got down from the stage to lead the kids in some movement activities on one of the quieter songs, and by this point there were a fair number of kids to be led.

IMG_3734_2.jpgThe special guest for Saturday was Peter DiStefano playing with AKL producer Tor Hyams. DiStefano was the guitarist with Perry Farrell in Porno for Pyros, and so, as he'd done in guest sets at Kidzapalooza, DiStefano and Tor played PFP's big hit "Pets" as well as "Sympathy for the Devil." While the renditions definitely rocked from an adult perspective, it's not entirely clear what kids get out of those songs -- between "Sympathy" and the School of Rock kids, sometimes it feels like the AKL stage is both the youngest and oldest stage at ACL. But they did do the undeniably cool thing of having a bunch of kids get up on stage to strum DiStefano's guitar and then hang out on stage while they were playing. It was fun to see a bit of the controlled chaos of the crowd/AKL area make it up there.

IMG_3759_2.jpgThe final act of the day was Sugar Free Allstars. Again, I'd seen them in Brooklyn, but of course my kids hadn't, so it was a chance for my kids (or at least Little Boy Blue) to get up and dance. Perhaps more than any other AKL act, SFA worked hard at trying to get the kids in the crowd to interact -- not that the other acts ignored the kids, just that Chris Wiser and Dr. Rock have a lot of energy on stage that they're trying to transfer to the audience.

IMG_3779_2.jpgWe went offsite for dinner, and the kids went back home, but I was determined to come back and see LCD Soundsystem who I also saw here back in 2007 (and who also had one of my favorite all-time quotations). I saw about 75% of James Murphy et al's set back then and the last 25% in 2010. Maybe one of these days I'll see a complete set. While his new album This Is Happening doesn't hit me quite as much as its predecessor Sound of Silver, it's still pretty darn good. And I can't stress how great they are live.

After that I sampled from various acts -- Ozomatli had a party going on under the Clear 4G tent, while Matt and Kim were incredibly hyper (which I gather is normal for them in their sets). Also, I've never seen a band pander as much to the crowd the duo did -- really, it's OK, just chill a bit. Still, they were on fire -- Kim is a toddler, energy-wise, on the drums. And I wrapped it up with 3 songs from Muse (my neighbor would have been very disappointed in me if I hadn't seen just a little bit of their act). I totally get why their live show is sometimes called the best rock show in the world right now. It had lasers, a video show, bombasticity -- like U2, except if that band had a dystopian rather than utopian bent.

But after another full day of music, it was time to head back home to recover and see my kids. So I made my way back through the Muse crowds, waited for what seemed way too long at 8:45 to catch the shuttle bus back to Republic Square, and headed home.