Only one day down and it has only just begun. ACL has already been exhausting, yes, but totally worth it. The acts have been solid thus far, and incredibly eclectic as always. Here’s a breakdown of Friday:


Theophilus London kicked off my experience with his hip hop infused pop styles. It’s always inspiring to see an artist pump up a crowd before it’s really appropriate to serve beer, and that’s just what he did. Then England’s Wild Beasts rocked out over at the Honda stage, despite the light rain that seemed to affect some of the band’s gear. Covering their instruments with tarps while continuing to play, they still managed to deliver a haunting, driving set that included “Devil’s Crayon,” one of my favorite tracks from 2008’s Limbo Panto.

From a distance, you could feel the dub bass of James Blake while attuning to crunchy distortion over at Smith Westerns’ set. They played at the Google+ stage, which was nearly impenetrable to pass through after a certain point in the day when most of the concertgoers had arrived. Buzz acts like Smith Westerns and Foster the People (which is playing on pop radio now, bizarre) drew the types of crowds that would normally be appropriate for the two main stages. Nonetheless, I had to make it through to catch Big Boi’s set. Given his energy and extensive catalog (which he let people request from at one point), he would undoubtedly kill his set. The full live band enlisted to fill out the soulful bombast of tracks like “The Way You Move” and “Shine Blockas” did not disappoint. He even had a pair of horns, which I’m now convinced is the only proper way to augment a live Big Boi show. Then he, of course, brought out dozens of girls to dance on stage, a simple but effective gimmick that always works. Definitely one of the best entertainers of the day.

Charles Bradley was also incredibly inspiring, as his 62-year-old self was possessed with the soul music he sang. The former James Brown impersonator definitely shares some moves and screams with the late legend, but Bradley was himself through and through, wearing his heart on his sleeve and exclaiming to the audience, “I love you too!” a number of times between songs. Having the Menahan Street Band back you definitely makes for a tight sound no matter what. Nas & Damian Marley made for a great one-two punch, as they started with tracks from last year’s Distant Relatives and then proceeded to snake throughout each of their own career highlights. Helping each other out as hype men on eachother’s tracks showed their grace as performers, showing that even some of the world’s best emcees can step back to make another look great.

And then there was Kanye, oh Kanye. This was the first megastar of the festival (with Coldplay squaring off across the park) and he did not downplay that at all. As the last night of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy tour, he broke his set into 3 acts, featuring songs that ranged from 2003’s “Through The Wire” to tracks like “Runaway” and “All of the Lights” from last year’s album. Though festivals are famous for bringing out surprise guests, especially given Kanye’s performer laden albums and his epic SXSW show earlier this year, the man brought the place down solely with the help of a small production crew and his ballerina dance squad. Even though everyone was expecting Jay, ‘Ye held his own and proved that he can blow expectations without a big brother to lean on.

Onto Saturday; Here’s what to hit: Argentinian lounge lizard Federico Aubele, Stones Throw’s soul singer/rapper Aloe Blacc, hipster’s take on the 80s’ Twin Shadow, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes’ Alexander, energetic soul throwback’s Fitz and the Tantrums, and Stevie. That 6 to 8pm is tough though, Cut Copy vs Cee Lo and Chromeo vs TV On The Radio. By that point in the day I think it will be more of a convenience call.

Check out DMX’s Facebook for more pictures from the festival! And check out ACL’s official Friday recap:

– Submitted by John Parsons, Music Design