Back to life, back to reality. Another ACL Festival over, another 12 months until we all get to rock out together again. The 11th Austin City Limits Festival didn’t disappoint as any of the 70,000 strong who spent the weekend at Zilker Park can attest. Like most years, we got some epic performances, some tasty food and beverages and some mixed weather. While we wait for next year’s encore, let’s look back at some of the highs and lows of the past three days. (And check out these cool panoramas my husband shot with his iPhone 5! Click on them for more detail.)
I’m a ’90s girl through and through, so I absolutely loved getting to hear some blasts from my teen past with Weezer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Old 97s all mixing newer material with some older classics. For me, it doesn’t get much better than singing along with ten thousand of your new best friends to “El Scorcho,” “Under the Bridge” and “Won’t Be Home.” As someone who is approaching a big milestone birthday, these bands reassured me that getting older doesn’t mean you have to quit rocking. If anything, the Chili Peppers sounded even better than when I last saw them in 1999.
As much as I love my ’90s throwbacks, I also couldn’t wait to see Friday night headliner The Black Keys live. The energy on their last two albums, “Brothers” and “El Camino,” is so high, that I thought their live show would be amazing. Unfortunately, I found it to be kind of underwhelming. I’m not sure if it was the size of the venue, the number of people in the crowd or what, but it left me cold. Did anyone else have a similar reaction?
When you tell non-ACL goers how excited you are to eat at the festival, they’re probably picturing turkey legs and funnel cakes. But ACL Fest offers so much more than that with its food court. And for the past few years, that extensive and delicious food court has expanded into the Farmers Market. This year, I skipped some of the longer lines at the main food court for some tasty treats from The Seedling Truck, Cool Haus and Cazamance (seriously still drooling over their peanut butter hummus) over at the Farmers Market. In addition to shorter lines and offerings from some lesser known eateries, this year’s Farmers Market was only a few steps away from the relocated Zilker Drafthouse, where you could forego the traditional can beers for some craft drafts.
Tons of people plus grass plus rain equals mud. It’s inevitable. But boy, does that lovely Zilker grass adopt a horrible smell when it becomes mud. A smell that might be best equated with a horse farm. But just as every cloud has a silver lining, the rain paved the way for a beautifully clear day on Sunday and a nice cool evening for the final acts of the festival.
At the end of the day, ACL is really all about the music. I saw some great acts this year, from newcomer Lera Lynn to Austin favorite Gary Clark Jr. to the long-running Afghan Whigs to multi-hyphenate Childish Gambino to Two Door Cinema Club, who, bless their poor Irish hearts, played straight into the sun on Sunday afternoon from the Bud Light stage and still totally rocked. But overall, my 2012 ACL Fest MVP is, fittingly enough, M83. Those French folks know how to put on a show and look like they’re having a good time while they’re doing it. There wasn’t a single person about to stand still at the Barton Springs stage during their set.
Before this year’s fest, I expressed some concerns about the two-weekend split for 2013, but after the last three days, I’m pretty excited about it. ACL is always crowded, and that’s part of the festival charm, but the crush of people seemed almost overwhelming at points this year. Thankfully, even with all the people, the lines for the porta-potties seemed way shorter than years past, so that definitely fell on the awesome side.
If you missed all the ACL Fest action, check out this video recap the ACL higher-ups did of Friday’s shows (you can find the other video recaps here):
So now that it’s been split into two weekends, will you be buying a ticket for next year’s festivities? They’ll be on sale soon; check www.aclfestival.com for more info. If you went this year, who was your favorite act?