ACL Recap Day Minus One: Getting There From Here

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”

Bourdain Should Not Come To Anchorage

I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel.  The cinematography is incredible, Bourdain’s commentary is consistently good, and I tend to walk away from every episode wanting to go to the places he visits.  From Livingston, Montana to The Azores or even the Maine episode there is a care and intentional quality to every episode.

In a recent episode he sought to visit U.S. cities that aren’t normally thought of for their culture or food.  On the list were Detroit, Milwaukie, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin (which in my opinion doesn’t fit the lack of culture category) and Columbus, OH.  While eating street food in Denver, Anthony is given an Alaskan Reindeer Sausage hot dog and he makes a snide comment, as he’s prone to do, about it being the only good thing to come out of Alaska.  Despite watching it on my DVR on my time, when he said that I could hear the Anchorage and Alaskan travel industry people firing up their campaigns to get Bourdain to visit Anchorage.  Over the past year we’ve had Man vs. Food and whatever the diner show is come to Alaska.

I know I’ve been accused of being an instigator before, and I’m sure this could be considered instigating, but I don’t think Anthony Bourdain should come to Anchorage.  Anchorage has some great restaurants and, in general, it feels like the city values Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria or Snow City Cafe over national chains.  But there is very little that is unique to Anchorage.

And it’s not our fault.  Afterall with a relatively brief history (Anchorage really didn’t exist as a city until the early 1920s) and a population made up largely of people from other parts of the state, the U.S. and the World, Anchorage is still figuring out what Anchorage food is.  While most restaurants have some sort of reindeer sausage omelet or buffalo or fresh salmon or halibut, largely they are inspired by Pacific Northwest restaurants or even places from the South. Perhaps one of the most damning lines of reasoning is how crazy and excited people get whenever someone refreshes the old rumor that Olive Garden will be opening in Anchorage.

The state as a whole is a different story, and I guess if No Reservations decided to visit rural Alaska and taste whale blubber or other scary foods, but I feel like that’s been done and I think that Bourdain’s show is above the “Alaska Week” thing.

To make up for my criticism, I now will highlight just a few Anchorage restaurants I love:

Spenard Roadhouse, Villa Nova, Glacier Brewhouse, Bear Tooth Grill, Humpys, Orso…there, satisfied?

“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

– Anthony Bourdain