On the Goe: Music’s past, present, future come alive in Austin
What’s old is new at Austin City Limits. Making one last grasp at summer fun, two friends, 75,000 festival-goers and I hit Zilker Park with high expectations for a weekend (Oct. 12–14) of world-class live music.
“It’s so rare to see a band that I’m so into when they are so new and fresh,” my friend Trevor said while we were on our way to see Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit.
Well, friend, that’s the beauty of ACL. It’s a buffet of fresh new buzz bands and go-to comfort mainstays. If ACL is anything it’s proof that the correlation between music’s past, present and future has never been stronger.
Festival headliners and openers alike proved it over and over again. There is no present without the past and no future without the present.
Take Jack White’s standout Saturday night set, for example. Backed by his all-female band, the Peacocks, White played like the goth rock, backyard barn stomping guitar god he is. Summoning guitar tones straight out of Khazad-dûm, White couldn’t let the night end without showing distortion pioneer and fellow ACL performer Neil Young some love with a quick shout out.
Performers across all genres paid homage to past trailblazers. Current master of the dance remix, producer and DJ A-Trak wowed the audience, not by dropping heavy bass, but by showing off some serious old school hip-hop vinyl scratching skills.
Black Lips guitarist, singer and Dave Goe doppelgänger, Ian St. Pe reminded anyone who wasn’t too inebriated to listen about the origins of rock ‘n’ roll.
“This is the original electronic music!” St. Pe said, holding up his electric guitar during the band’s ACL pre-show at the legendary Austin music venue Antone’s. Then, in classic rock style, he crushed a half drunk can of Coors Light on his head and whipped the audience into a dance frenzy with the Black Lips signature party thrash rock.
Colorado bands were well-represented at ACL. Both Tennis and the Lumineers played prime-time slots on a very sunny and humid Sunday afternoon. The bands’ successes left me feeling hopeful for the future of music in Colorado.
The past made its way back to the masses via sets by blues- and soul-based duo the Black Keys, ‘70s rock riders the Whigs and disco groovers Wild Belle.
Crazy good live, the Avett Brothers rocked ACL with its brand of Americana. Judging from audience reactions, the Avett Brothers are well on the way to being just about the biggest band around.
“We love Iggy Pop!” Anthony Kiedis said before unleashing 90 minutes of Red Hot Chili Peppers funk during a Sunday festival-closing performance.
Filled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of hits, the Chili Peppers left the masses happy and fat. Before exiting the stage, bassist and hair dye enthusiast Flea gave the audience this surprisingly poignant quote.
“Support live music!” he screamed over the crowd’s roar. “It doesn’t matter what kind because it brings us together.”
Fans and bands embraced Austin’s self-christening as the “live music capital of the world.” Landmarks on downtown Austin streets remind you of the city’s rich music history, notably the exploits of Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but it’s anything but hallowed ground.
You go to ACL first because of the music. You ultimately come back for the shared experience. Singing the lyrics to “Under the Bridge” at the top of your lungs along with Kiedis and 75,000 fans was simply divine.
I’ve been to ACL each of the last four years, and each year I put off removing my festival wristband for as long as possible. Once it is snipped off, it feels like something is missing. Physically, I feel it like a phantom limb. Emotionally, I miss it because it’s like Flea said. Live music connects us.