The confluence of culture, art and music collectively known as the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival was a feast for the ears. So many bands, all packed into just two weekends made for a delightful though dizzying experience. I had the chance to see many of these acts myself, catching whole sets as well as walking up midway through performances. The first act I saw was Jimmy Cliff, who ended up putting on one of the best performances of the day!
As soon as he appeared on stage, his presence filled the air. He seemed to emanate vitality and fun and the crowd tuned in immediately. Accompanying him was a full band, including a brass section as well as a single sultry female hype woman. Even with each of them pouring themselves into the performance, no one came close to matching the sixty-six year old Cliff’s energy. The trumpet player ran back and forth across the stage horn in one hand, mic held in front blasting away tune after tune. Jimmy himself danced, jumped, and dashed staying in near constant motion, only pausing to engage the audience.
The songs themself ranged from covers to classics but all were infused with Cliff’s unyielding energy and love. His causal way of talking directly to the mass of fans made me feel more like a close friend in his home as he shared his music than one in a crowd of hundreds. The whole vibe was one of pure joy to a soundtrack of hypnotic reggae rhythms to ease the soul.
During the next few days, I witnessed people climbing up a truss, high energy crowd participation, guitar virtuosity, notes held longer than should be humanly possible, technical difficulties, huge flames streaking into the air and more stage theatrics than I can list. From Lake Street Dive’s narrative songs to Ana Tijoux’ fiery precision to Childish Gambino’s over the top proclamations, there was no shortage of stunning sets at ACL. Even so, I have to say the legendary Jimmy Cliff not only lived up to his storied reputation, but also set a very high bar for every other artist at the festival!
– Submitted by Davin Roberts, Audio Production