The best breakout performance of ACL 2011, Day 1 was without a doubt the 10-minute surprise appearance of rain. It was the first real rainfall Austin has experienced all summer, and rather than scramble for cover or complain, crowds erupted in joyful cheering. Having Theophilus London provide the soundtrack for the end of an epic drought coupled with record heat didn’t hurt.


As one of the opening acts on opening day, London’s energetic set rivaled Santigold for the top musical highlight of the day. The Brooklyn-based rapper blends old school swagger, soul and R&B, electro-pop and dance for a sound entirely his own. Earlier this summer the Montreal Gazette remarked “Theophilus London is going to be big. Very big.” After seeing him live, there’s no doubt in my mind.

It was a treat to see Chilean pop star, Francisca Valenzuela, up close and personal given the rise of her star since the 2007 release of her debut album Muérdete La Lengua which was certified Gold in Chile. Fans who weren’t familiar with her solo material likely heard her sultry vocals on fellow Chilean Latin Bitman’s track “Help Me”.

Meanwhile on the larger Honda stage, London’s James Blake was captivating a huge audience of youthful hipsters with his experimental style of dubstep meets electronic pop. His songs feel deeply personal, almost heartbreaking, and the simple repetitiveness of his poignant yet sparse lyrics ensure that songs like “The Wilhelm Scream” and “Limit To Your Love” will haunt you for days..

Back at the east end of the park a green cloud was hovering over the crowd as Big Boi took the stage playing a few of his biggest hits early on. Foster the People drew the biggest traffic jam of the day as the Cold War Kids simply couldn’t compete with the former’s hit “Pumped Up Kicks” which as been rising up the charts all summer to land comfortably in the Top 40 along with the Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys.

Santigold and her expressionless, dancing drummer girls captivated a huge crowd at sunset just before Coldplay’s headliner spot on the West end of the park. With multiple costume changes, quirky antics, a white horse and fantastic sound, Santigold dominated Day 1. Part of what’s so special about music festivals is getting to see artists who would normally never cross paths all perform within hours of each other. Thanks to ACL, I’ll be dreaming of a Santigold/Theophilus London tour for the rest of the year.

– Submitted by Anita Benner, Music Design