Just like Saturday, the light sprinkle on the festival grounds provided a respite from the blanket of heat that covered the thousands of attendees. By the last day of any festival, you can spot the 3-day wristband wearers by their dirty fingernails and hollow, exhausted appearance. It’s weird to see strangers who you first saw on Friday age so rapidly. These weekend warriors have stuck it out and are ready to retire their lawn chairs for the season (unless they’re planning to follow around Fleet Foxes for a while a la Phish). Nevertheless, some of the best acts at ACL were still reserved for Sunday, so that kept spirits high.
The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser was relaxed and grateful as he led the band through a collection of new tracks and old favorites spanning their 10 year career. The newer material definitely has more of a laid back gait to it; more influenced more by country and west coast slacker rock than the New York intensity of the band’s origins. This was one of the most casual and informal performances of the festival, and it was really wonderful.
For a change of pace, I thought it would be fair to pay some mind to Chiddy Bang. Once again, the Google+ stage proved to outsize itself, as the audience for this show created a huge swell of traffic in the middle of the park. The duo packed in their indie-pop hook laden hip hop and cheeky humor as expected, but the show really turned on once Chiddy boasted his freestyling capabilities, asking audience members to shout out topics like you would at an improv show. He managed to package themes as disparate as hamsters, Saved By The Bell, and 4 Loko into a seamless 5 minute flow.
Next was Nick 13, an artist whose new solo album I really like, but I assumed he was probably going to lean heavily on his heavier psychobilly Tiger Army material. Nothing wrong with that, I just really like his solo material a lot more. But to my pleasant surprise, his minor-key country styles stayed mellow and traditional, pedal steel and all, and he nailed it.
Broken Social Scene’s community vibe set the tone for the rest of the night over at the Bud Light stage. Between them, Fleet Foxes, and Arcade Fire, it felt like spending the night at a co-op. BSS’ four guitar attack sounded surprisingly reigned in, and their horn section really shined. The band’s massive presence constantly shifting around on the stage kept the momentum high, even through more laid back tracks like their cover of Modest Mouse’s “The World At Large”. At the end they announced that this was the last show they’d do for a while, leaving the crowd with a somewhat bittersweet send off. But they then directed attendees towards the Death From Above 1979 show, possibly alluding to the fact that most bands will resume playing music together if they’re still friends.
After pingponging around stages to catch glimpses of Death From Above 1979 and Empire Of The Sun (can’t believe I totally omitted Randy Newman from this scan), I made it back to hear Fleet Foxes’ trademark harmonies as the sun set. A highlight from their performance was “Mykonos,” a melancholic, stained-glass track from their 2008 Sun Giant EP.
Ending the night and the festival was Arcade Fire, triumphantly buttoning up their American tour victory lap for winning Best Album at the Grammy’s this year. Being that the Butler brothers are originally from Houston, they touted Austin as a second home, appreciative for being asked to headline ACL this year. Between the last time they played the festival in 2007 and now, they’ve noticeably transformed from a ragtag collective into true pros, tackling numerous highlights from throughout their career and giving fans old and new what they wanted. It was a great way to end a festival known for its garden variety of acts.
Pictures from all 3 days of ACL is up on DMX’s Facebook. Catch up and relive with ACL Festival’s official Sunday recap.
– Submitted by John Parsons, Music Design