|Music Editor Survives Hot, Hot Sun, Big, Big Crowds At Austin City Limits Music Festival!|
|Home Theater News Music - Concerts-Shows News|
|Written by Charles Andrews|
|Thursday, 05 October 2006|
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Got a passion? Mine’s music. Whatever yours is, imagine the near-ultimate. Cloud 9. Nirvana. Hall of Fame All-Star Weekend. All you could ask for. As good as it gets.
I’m tempted to stick one of those labels on the Austin City Limits Music Festival I attended last month. Three days, eight stages, 130 bands. Everyone from Ben Harper to Van Morrison, Flaming Lips to Willie Nelson, Matisyahu to Raconteurs to Nickel Creek, Thievery Corporation to Deadboy & the Elephantmen, Explosions in the Sky to Asleep at the Wheel to TV on the Radio, Ween to Los Lobos. I should have been ecstatic. I think I would have been, if I hadn’t been so exhausted. And hot. And exhausted from being hot.
Those eight stages lined the edges of the very large (400 acres) Zilker Park, off Town Lake on the Colorado River not far from Austin’s downtown and the University of Texas. I wish I had been wearing a pedometer – God knows how many miles I logged in my pursuit of the most/best/most interesting music. I caught 52 bands in three days (22 + 19 + 11). But the mileage decreased each day, not because I wasn’t willing but because the crowds got thicker. Early Friday I was practically jogging between stages, succeeding at catching parts of shows scheduled at the same time or with overlapping time slots. By evening, and by Sunday, it was a much slower pace, trying to not crash into or step on people. Huge crowds gathered in front of stages with even moderately popular performers. Bands who might not sell out a 500-capacity club looked up to see 10- or 20- or 30,000 people in front of their stage. That’s got to be a thrill. Official press releases reported that each of the three days sold out the maximum 65,000 tickets, but it sure seemed to me the crowds got bigger each day.
The year before was not the year to have attended. Tickets sales in 2005 were not limited and reportedly went above 80,000/day, the temperature soared to 107 (and Austin is pretty humid), and the park turned into a dust bowl that had people digging black boogers out of their noses for days. (I’m not trying to be gratuitously gross – I read that description over and over.) This year they had a sprinkler system that eliminated the dust problem, there were a lot more water stations and groupings of giant mister fans (you cannot exaggerate how heavenly they felt), and the temp hit triple digits only one day, low-to-mid-90s the other two, with a little bit of relieving rain Sunday morning and evening. (Note: there are maybe three shade trees in Zilker Park.) Texans are fond of saying they don’t even notice until it gets over 95. Though the heat was nothing like the blast furnace and instant sweat drenching I felt each time I stepped off the plane in Jamaica for Reggae Sunsplash (in August!) – I, being non-Texan, did notice. Heineken’s perfect-sized cardboard fans and AT&T’s tiny battery-operated blue plastic propeller ones (with built-in mister) made them the most savvy sponsors there. Smarter yet: AT&T operated out of a very chill air-conditioned tent they called the Oasis, and the blast of frigid air you got as you stepped inside was life-altering.
I watched the Raconteurs very comfortably, thank you, from the Oasis deck, under an umbrella and with mist floating everywhere, having been rewarded with a precious chair by a group of ladies who thought I could settle a bet about the “Bang Bang” song the Racs were wailing on: yes, Nancy Sinatra did it (“Kill Bill”), but it was a Sonny & Cher song first. (I made a slight error: it was Cher solo, and of course music/lyrics by Sonny.) Because I’m such a Terry Reid fan I had to add that these guys weren’t the first to rock the song up – 19-year-old Reid’s first album, nearly 40 years ago, was titled “Bang Bang You’re Terry Reid.” (Yes… I know… Vanilla Fudge rocked it too, but – no comparison.)