ACL Recap Day One: Black Keys, Vampires, and Monsters Oh My!

Thursday was an off day from the Festival. I got to have lunch with my former boss who moved back to Austin. I got to take a tour of his offices and facilities in West Campus of University of Texas. His company is doing some exciting things and growing like crazy, it reminded me of the old days when we worked together in what was essentially a start-up.
Friday marked the opening day of the official festival. Having been to ACL before I understood that there needed to be a little bit of planning and strategy to the day. With 130 bands on 6 stages over 3 days, there are plenty of bands that overlap other bands and deciding when and where you want to be to see who. Compromises have to be made when two bands you want to see play at the same time. On the list for Friday was The Mountain Goats, The Black Keys, Spoon and Vampire Weekend at the festival and then catching Monsters of Folk and Blind Pilot at Stubb’s for two aftershows.
I didn’t know much about Mountain Goats going into the festival, other than that they’d been around for quite a while and a few of their songs consistently show up in my iTunes. John Darnielle is a great front man. The primary songwriter is funny and engaging. At one point he said, “To the dude who keeps yelling [song title I can’t remember], I have heard your cry” and also talked about the fact that singers don’t go into music business if they don’t have an ego issue to work out on stage.
For a great Mountain Goats song, download “Woke Up New” from 2006’s Get Lonely
The Black Keys are one of the hottest American bands out there right now. The crowd that was stacked up to see their ACL set was definitely proof of that. We got relatively close, but knew we’d have a chance to see them the next day play a full set at Stubb’s, so fighting the crowd wasn’t necessary. They started off with several songs with the traditional two-piece lineup of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, brought a bass player and keyboard player out for some of the songs off of their new album, and finished the set as a two-piece. It was loud, tight, and got the crowd moving; exactly what you want out of a rock band!
Check out “Everlasting Light” and the rest of their near flawless album Brothers.
Spoon is one of the bands in the ACL lineup that I’ve seen before. I love their upbeat music with a driving beat that almost commands that you bob your head and tap your foot. Being from Austin originally, Spoon drew quite a crowd. Highlights for me were seeing a handful of songs off of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction.
Check out “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
The thing about Vampire Weekend is they are madly popular…and very good. Put those two factors together and you’d be as confused as I was to see that they were scheduled to play on of the smaller side stages. Having thousands of people mash in to see Vampire Weekend caused quite a mess, and with a long sweaty day and an aftershow to get to, we decided to bail out after a few songs and head back to the hotel before walking to Stubb’s.
I’m more of a fan of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album than their latest release, check out “A-Punk“.
The Monsters of Folk aftershow was certainly something I was looking forward to. The “supergroup” made up of Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, and M. Ward promised to be great with the freedom of a full set, rather than a pared down festival set. The combination of all three voices, haunting in their own way, made for 2 and a half hours of spectacular music. A highlight for me was them playing My Morning Jacket’s “Golden“, one of my favorite songs.
Check out their album and don’t miss “Ahead of the Curve“.
By the time Monsters of Folk finished their set, it was 12:30, Portland’s Blind Pilot were scheduled to start playing at 1:20AM. My cousin-in-law drives the tour bus for Blind Pilot, and before Monsters of Folk, we had a chance to chat and I jumped at the chance to take a tour of the tour bus. It’s a antique school bus that’s been converted. Other than the fact that there is a governor that keeps it from exceeding 60 mph, I think it would be a great way to tour the U.S. Check out his tour blog. After a long day of standing, and burning in the sun, the 1:20AM Blind Pilot set ended up being too late and too crowded to deal with, and I knew I’d be seeing their festival set on Sunday, so we bailed on the set. In hindsight, I guess I regret it, but at the time with aching feet, back, and cramped into the basement of a building full of people it was certainly justified. More on Blind Pilot on Sunday’s recap.

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