It’s Friday afternoon, I’ve just walked a mile from my car to the park, and I’m bubbling over with excitement at the first sight of the big red archway at the Barton Springs entrance to Austin City Limits. It took about me about 15 minutes to get through the lines and into the park, and immediately upon entry I noticed how clean (and surprisingly green) the grounds were. For most of 2011, Austin’s rolling hills have been an endless sea of beige sprinkled with a straw-like substance faintly resembling grass; you can imagine my surprise to see Zilker Park sprawled out in all of it’s green glory. Another notable observation was the abundance of children I saw attached to the hips of their nearest and dearest. With the endless array of food and entertainment options (they even have an Austin Kiddie Limits area), ACL literally has something for everyone. For myself, of course, I was there for the shows.
“Coldplay or Kanye? That is the question.”
In what appears to have been an effort to equally distribute the masses for the last show of the night, many concertgoers were faced with an extremely difficult decision; Kanye West or Coldplay. I opted to let my festival sidekick (and best friend) make the call on the grounds that this was her first ever ACL experience and so she should get a chance to decide. She had no qualms about this and promptly took the decision making upon herself. Within about twenty seconds of my posing of the question, she confidently proclaimed “Kanye all the way!” I knew that I would be sacrificing a stellar performance from Coldplay that evening, however Mr. West did not disappoint in the slightest. As we charged head first through the crowds (making a B-line for the stage), the anticipation was stirring up an all encompassing wave of excitement in our bones. We finally reached the point of complete and utter human saturation and so we accepted our place in the crowd and planted ourselves firmly among the chaos. Minutes later the lights went down, camera phones began flashing; the steady sounds of the bass were sending a drumming sound through our bodies. The show began with Kanye on a platform in the middle of the crowd with the main stage adorned with an opulent backdrop baring a striking resemblance to something one might find in a Renaissance-era cathedral. Over the top – yes, but his infectious energy during the performance coupled with the graceful, ballet style dancers gliding across the stage were enough to make anyone a believer.
“Who cares if you disagree, you are not me. Who made you king of anything?”
My love for Sara Bareilles’ playful, overtly feminine musical style began several years ago. It’s almost as if she reads my mind. What I mean by that is that time after time I find that so many of her songs strike a chord with me and whatever situation I might be finding myself in. The other upside to her music is that it is generally the perfect style and pitch for those moments when singing along loudly (typically in the car or bedroom) is absolutely necessary. My friend and I gently shoved our way through the masses of giddy girls and women until we were nestled in on the second row. Sara hopped on stage in a polka dot dress adorned with a sassy pony tail placed high on her head. She was all smiles as she gazed upon thousands of her very own adoring fans, noting that she had been trying to get booked on ACL for years. After a few polite words to the audience (and a couple of profane ones), she made the smooth transition into juggling both the piano and the microphone as she serenaded her crowd. My 25 year-old heart felt just as transfixed by her empowering lyrics and catchy tunes as the bright-eyed 14 year-old girls standing next to me.
Other outstanding performances I saw included: Fitz and the Tantrums, Foster the People, Stevie Wonder, Cold War Kids, and Ray Lamontagne. The only downside to my weekend at ACL was the simple fact that there was only one of me and so many wonderful shows to see!