I went to the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2005 and every year since I’ve seen it come and go wishing I made the effort to get there again. 2010 was the year. The lineup was solid, not as much in the headliner department, but the mid-major and small time bands made up for the lack of power at the top. Tickets were purchased, travel was arranged, it was on.
2005 is rather legendary in ACL lore because the festival was happening as Hurricane Rita (the follow-up to Katrina) was threatening to hit Houston. Thousands of people had already flood the gulf coast for Houston and along with thousands of Houston area residents, they flocked to Austin. The temperatures in Austin in September of 2005 were already smoldering, but adding the hot air blowing in off the the gulf it was unbearable for this guy from Alaska. The 2010 festival was scheduled for October and promised to be be cooler…and no hurricane.
Technology has come a long way since September of 2005 too. The phone I carried and the roaming service I had allowed only for voice calls while roaming. No texting, no data. Fast forward to 2010 and not only do I have texting and data, but I’m tweeting, uploading pictures, and keeping all my non ACL-attending friends jealous of my trip.
Traveling to Austin from Anchorage consisted of 3 flights. Leaving Anchorage in the middle of the night, landing in Portland too early in the morning for Coffee People to be open, a terribly turbulent flight in to San Jose, and a pretty uneventful hop from San Jose to Austin. Arriving early in the afternoon on Wednesday, the only thing on the agenda was to catch some sleep and get up and out in time to catch The Strokes play an official Pre-Show Show at Stubb’s BBQ.
There was very little information about The Strokes’ show, I had been to the venue before and knew exactly where it was, but there was no information about any opener or what time the band would start playing, only that the doors opened at 7. We arrived at Stubb’s shortly after 7 and there was a line wrapped around the building of people waiting to get in. My days of being early, camping out, or pushing my way to the front of the stage are long behind me, but even with the line ahead of us, we managed to be pretty close to the stage in the standing room only backyard of Stubb’s.
The crowd continued to grow and grow and get more and more restless as minutes and hours passed without any sign of when The Strokes would take the stage. All in all it ended up being 2 and a half hours after the doors opened that they finally took the stage. The moment they ran onto the stage the crowd abruptly shifted. I’m no small guy and I was not in control of where I was headed as what felt like the entire crowd jumped 20 feet closer to the stage. Between the smell of humanity, the tiredness of having traveled all night, and the dust cloud that was created, fairly quickly into their set, we retreated towards the back of the crowd where there was not only more oxygen, room, and access to beers, but higher ground to see the stage better.
The Strokes are good. They’ve never been a favorite band of mine, but I like their music. I recommend seeing them if you have the chance; but don’t worry about being on time and don’t bother being close to the stage, the 19 year old hipsters have that market covered. They are a solid live act, even acknowledging the crowd a few times… At the end of their ~hour-long set they ran off of the stage as quickly as they ran onto the stage to start. And finally it was time to sleep.
“See, people they don’t understand…
No, girlfriends, they can’t understand…
Your Grandsons, they won’t understand…
On top of this, I ain’t ever gonna understand…”
The Strokes “Last Nite”