Monday, September 18, 2006
Austin City Limits: Day 3
Welcome to the final installment of my adventures at the 2006 Austin City Limits music festival! A little shower in the morning didn't dampen our resolve to go to the show, but the muddiness convinced us to take a bus from Republic Square to Zilker, and so we actually made it to the park earlier than we had targeted (which hasn't happened before, not even last year). This gave us enough time to get great seats for K.T. Tunstall at AT&T at 2:30 PM, who's the interesting Scottish woman best known for "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree," as pictured here:
She was just as awesome as I was hoping she'd be, and that made me glad. The great thing about artists like her is that they have something to prove, so they get out on that stage and do whatever they can with the one album they have out there to try to wow you. She just played well and the audience was definitely feeling it, though in a laid back way since it was still the early afternoon. She actually recorded herself tapping her guitar and another vocal of hers for "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" and had it play in the background in a loop so that not a single part of the song was pre-recorded, and the way they performed the song was different from on the radio, so that was awesome, too. The other songs I remember her playing are "Other Side of the World," "Miniature Disasters," "Another Place to Fall," "Silent Sea," "False Alarm," and I think she also played "Universe & U." To close off, they did a great rendition of "Suddenly I See" that put me in bliss for its duration. Her music is just so good that it was so easy for me to get into it. Plus, she has a pretty face:
The sun started to peer its head in the middle of the show, and the AT&T Digital Oasis had free battery-operated fans, so my friend picked us up some. These things helped a lot more than you may think since before we were just fanning ourselves with those thick cards on sticks.
We decided that we were hungry and didn't care about Jack Ingram all that much, and so we joined a group of other people camping out at the AT&T stage (best acts on that stage today), meaning that they helped watch our stuff while we went to grab some lunch. We returned to a large crowd of people around our chairs in time for Matisyahu, but I wasn't all that interested so I read/napped during the act. The show looked great, and the people there were really enjoying it, but I just couldn't get into the reggae that much. I give props to them for being in full Jewish attire though in that heat and putting on a really energetic show. I didn't take pictures of them because I was too lazy, but there was a butterfly on this guy's back for a long time who was near us:
We were supposed to see The New Pornographers after this, except that our fans had mostly died out and it was so far away that we decided to hang out at the AT&T Digital Oasis for a while in the a/c and grab some new fans, and then we got back to our seats with time to spare for The Flaming Lips show. I'm going to spend a good amount of time on this show because it was quite crazy. So here's how the stage was set-up right at the start:
That's right, there were people in Santa suits and alien suits, and it's hard to see but there were also people in superhero costumes (Wonder Woman, Superman, Captain America, etc.). But wait, that's not all. Before the show started, Wayne Coyne got in a big bubble and rolled his way into the audience, as depicted here:
After their first song (can't remember the title of it, sorry), Coyne alludes to Ben Kweller's nose bleeding on stage and having to get medical attention and all that stuff, and decided that he needs to outdo Kweller by pouring fake blood on his face and asking the ladies to donate tampons to help him clean it up. If you think I'm making this up...
And yes, several girls did throw tampons on stage, which he later collected and counted. I was uber excited when they went into "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" since that's my favorite song of theirs and since we didn't sing along enough the first time through he cut the background music and sang it acapella with us, which was really fun just because of how ridiculous the song is. Soon afterwards, he goes into "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," and we kept screaming those magical words louder and louder to ironic questions about what you would do with power, which was a great introit to the song and built up so much momentum. Towards the end of the song he got so into it that he had a nun doll saying "yeah yeah yeah" as well.
Then there was a song about a boy who only wipes his nose with magazines and a girl that wears tangerines as makeup, which for some reason justified him pulling out big hands.
And for their finale, they did another one of my favorites, "Do You Realize," which is another one of those songs that put me in a blissful state. To start off a visual display of confetti, Coyne blew up a really big balloon until it popped and what looked like a bunch of smaller balloons came out of it.
As you can see, I had a great time watching The Flaming Lips. Anyone who wasn't enjoying the show had to be pretty dead inside because the Lips worked so hard to make it entertaining and interactive. This was one of the shows that made coming to ACL worth it. My friend had gone to see Ben Harper midway through the show, and said it was really good (Damien Marley even came on stage, apparently), and so I had to hold the fort until they got back. I had wanted to see G. Love, but their return didn't give me much time to navigate out of the crowd, head to Heineken, and make it back, so I decided to just wait it out for Tom Petty.
As you can tell, taking pictures at night from far away on my tiny camera is hard, but I was doing my best. I was surprised to find out that the audience was much better to Tom Petty this year than the crowd last year was to Coldplay! What's up with that?! Tom Petty put on a great show, but it was really only because the audience was so into it. Yeah, we did a sing-a-long to "Free Fallin," but Coldplay did so much more last year to get audience interaction and share their energy. He also played "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "American Girl" among a host of songs I didn't know, but I was still digging the show. Then, we started getting lots of wind and lightning, but each time the sky lit up the crowd just yelled out louder, as if to challenge it. Well, the sky accepted the challenge and decided to pour down on us for like 10 minutes, at which point Tom Petty just finished a song and said they'd be taking a break to insulate the equipment better and then they'd play a really long set.
It's kind of neat to say that I was at the first ACL Festival it ever rained at, and that I've seen Tom Petty, who's been around for ages. When he came back on, he ended up playing until 10:20 PM, and then did a 3-4 song encore, all of which added up to at least 100 minutes. Quite a long set from him, so I'm sure the crowd was pretty pleased with it. I was just glad to be heading back home because my right contact was bothering me.
So, my overall thoughts? This was definitely my ranking of the top 5 acts:
1. The Flaming Lips
2. K.T. Tunstall
3. What Made Milwaukee Famous
4. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
5. John Mayer
Honorable Mention: The Raconteurs for rocking the house
I think we definitely got our money's worth ($120 something) seeing over 12 bands in all and being deeply interested in at least those 6. Also, the weather was much kinder to us (the rain wasn't that bad), and the newly planted grass staved off the threat of a repeat of last year's dust storm. While last year had a better lineup, I think this one had more surprise hits and was a more laid back atmosphere. Also, we were much better prepared. Our survival kit included: folding chairs (sooo necessary), 3-4 water bottles apiece (they didn't count this year for the typical 2 bottle maximum), suntan, hats, umbrellas, raincoats, fans (thanks to AT&T), a mini torch, my camera, hand towels, sunglasses, and I had a scarf in case of another dust storm. I think having the right gear is key to having fun, and I definitely had fun despite being dead tired right now. I actually have some work to get done so I'd better go now. Hope you all have enjoyed my ACL 2006 coverage! I hope I can find people to go with my for one last time next year!