Austin City Limits Fest 2010

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In the interest of wrapping up our 2010 music festival coverage, The UWM Post took a trip down south to Austin, Texas, a.k.a. “The Live Music Capital of the World,” to review this year’s Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival.

Also owned and operated by C3 Presents, ACL isn’t much different than Lollapalooza in most respects. Over the course of three days 130 bands play on eight stages, spread throughout several hundred acres of Austin’s Zilker Park. Lollapalooza was basically constructed in ACL’s image.

There’s definitely an older age demographic present at ACL, probably because it’s largely a rock festival – hip hop and electronic music are not represented well – but also because they allow chairs, yes chairs.

Despite overcrowding issues brought on by an increased capacity of an extra 10,000 this year, we still managed to have an amazing time at the festival. So much so in fact, that there may have been some slight guilt on our part about our first ACL experience. It almost felt like we were cheating on our superhot Midwest girlfriend (Lollapalooza) with her older, more laid back cousin down south. Obviously the Midwest has our heart, but after this weekend we would be lying if we said we didn’t catch some feelings while we were gone.
Austin City Limits Fest 2010


To no one’s surprise, The Black Keys brought out the first massive crowd of the weekend for their 4 p.m. set on Friday. It remains unclear why C3 continues to schedule the group so early on their festivals (5 p.m. at Lollapalooza) when they are practically headliner material at this point. Primarily playing cuts from their latest album, Brothers, The Black Keys kept the audience engaged with their infectious blend of revitalized blues rock, despite the lack of volume at the AMD stage.

Notorious for having an intensely dedicated fanbase, Phish has always been extremely self-conscious with setlist selection, and their Friday night headlining set at ACL was no different. Given an allotment of only two hours (a little more than half their normal performance time), the Vermont jam band played a safe, greatest hits style festival set. Often typecast as “noodlers” for their improvisational and jam tendencies, Phish actually remained reserved throughout the set. Songs that usually get drawn out into mind expanding territory, like Talking Heads’ “Cities” were kept short and concise. With the exception of “You Enjoy Myself” (the quintessential Phish song), and the extended vocal jam that followed, the boys never really got “weird” for Austin.


Saturday was a day rife with scheduling conflicts. The most puzzling of which being Lucero and The Gaslight Anthem facing off on complete opposite ends of the park.

Another head-scratcher was Broken Bells verses Silversun Pickups later in the afternoon.

Those who were able to get anywhere near the AMD stage for Broken Bells discovered that songs from the James Mercer/Dangermouse collaboration – with the help of a few hired guns – translated surprisingly well into the live setting. Even a couple new songs surfaced, giving promise to the rumored second LP the duo claims to be wrapping up.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the park, Silversun Pickups wowed the crowd at the Budweiser stage with what lead singer, Brian Aubert, dubbed their “last show for some time.” Before closing out the set with “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye,” Aubert ominously stated that the band had “no idea” what they were going to do next.

If you ever want to accuse someone of going out on top, you can start right now by pointing a finger at James Murphy. Having declared This Is Happing as the end of the road for LCD Soundsystem – at least as a touring band anyway – Murphy has been playing every show on this tour like it’s his last. And the LCD set at ACL was no exception, with perhaps the exception that it took place in the shroud of daylight. Staring directly into the setting sun, Murphy apologized for wearing what he called “Douchebag glasses,” and further explained “there’s a mid-sized star fucking me up. You can’t see it, but I can.”


Perhaps one of the most heavily anticipated sets of the weekend came from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It remains unclear whether or not they are a cult or some type of traveling hippie commune, but that doesn’t matter for now. Happiness seems to be the ultimate goal of the Magnetic Zeros and their eccentric leader, Alex Ebert. Midway through the set Ebert stopped to remind the audience there was two shows going on, “You guys are looking at us, and we’re looking right back at you.”

Billed as the over-all headliner of the festival, The Eagles played to a Budweiser stage unopposed, filling that area of the park like it hadn’t been all weekend. The older crowd showed up in droves for the ‘70s classic rock heroes, spilling out of the restricted chair zones where they had resided for the majority of the festival. Putting all Lebowski jokes aside, Joe Walsh and Don Henley made the show one to remember by playing cuts from their respective solo careers. An especially moving moment came when Walsh took center stage for “Life’s Been Good,” essentially turning Zilker Park into one giant karaoke session.

Dates for the 10th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival have been set for Sept. 16-18 2011.