ACL is not the best music festival for the average metalhead, but there are always hidden gems at ACL. ACL in my own experience has been mostly folky-indie sounding bands and musicians. ACL is produced by the Austin based company C3 Presents, which is the same company that produces Lollapalooza in Chicago. The festival was inspired by the PBS concert series of the same name, and began in 2002. ACL is an enjoyable festival for the average person that listens to a wide variety of music. Sometimes the festival gets a bad rep due to its mainstream appeal. We have gone further and further down the rabbit hole when it comes to music. We want to see a band play a bar gig before they blow-up with popularity and start playing arenas and we want to discover a band and let everyone else know about them. ACL appeals to the music mainstream and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With the success of ACL and the rise in popularity of festival culture, there has been several music festivals that have popped up in recent years. Euphoria, Levitation, and Fun Fun Fun Fest are all Austin music festivals that have started in the last few years, and appeal to a more niche group of music listeners.
If you do find your way into ACL on either the first weekend or second weekend and want to see something heavier than an acoustic guitar and a banjo then here are my suggestions.
The Strokes are one of my favorite bands, and I am lucky enough to have seen them play twice in 2002 and 2003. They sound great live and put on an awesome show. Their songs live are more raw, so you can definitely rock out to The Strokes. They are one of the few bands that haven’t really put out a bad album. Their latest album “Comedown Machine” is my least favorite, but it is still a decent album, therefore the song repertoire is lengthy and fulfilling. The festival producers obviously have a lot of faith in The Strokes since they are closing out the festival for weekend one. If you have passes do not miss this band, or else you will regret it for the rest of your life.
I have never seen the Foo Fighters and honestly do not listen to much of their music. I did enjoy their HBO series “Sonic Highways” because I am a huge music nerd and music history is a huge interest of mine. I will be honest though I am a huge Dave Grohl fan I respect his artistry and I love his drumming style. He recorded most of the drum tracks on Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album “…Like Clockwork”, which was an amazing album and he was in the super-group Them Crooked Vultures with John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin and Josh Homme from Queens Of the Stone Age. Dave’s most notable music contribution is obviously Nirvana, providing drums on the legendary album “Nevermind.” We cannot forget another notable member of the Foo Fighters Pat Smear who was a founding member of the legendary punk band The Germs and was later recruited to play live with Nirvana to provide some relief for Kurt Cobain on guitar.
Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. is an Austin native and also a blues powerhouse. He plays incredible solos off the cuff and has an authentic blues sound unlike all of the Jack White and Black Keys wannabes that have appeared in recent years trying ride the blues popularity all the way to the bank. Gary’s latest album “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim” is a great album the guitar riffs are the type that instantly make you pull out your air guitar and squint your eyes. Gary Clark Jr. performed in the film “Chef” and I got to see him play a secret show at the Mohawk during SXSW in 2013 and of course he killed it. He has a live album “Gary Clark, Jr. Live,” which says a lot about his live shows. I have watched interviews with Gary and he seems like the nicest guy and very humble. He was also present at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this year when Stevie Ray Vaughan was inducted, and I respect that SRV was one of his major influences, and it shows in his guitar sound.
TV on the Radio
TV on the Radio is band that I have been wanting to see since I discovered them in 2006 with their album “Return to Cookie Mountain” these Brooklynites have a bunch of really good songs that are highly addictive and you will catch yourself bobbing your head and singing along. I have seen youtube videos of them play and they sound great and the lead singer Tunde Adebimpe is very energetic, giving the band all the ingredients for a great show. They are playing an official ACL Late Night Show on Friday October 2nd at Emo’s that is sold out, but I’m sure their are tickets on StubHub and Craigslist. If It fit into my festival schedule I would go see TV on the Radio play at Emo’s on top of seeing them at the festival.
Tame Impala is a pyschedelic influenced band and in fact I saw them play at Levitation last year and they are a great live act, their newest album “Currents” has a very chill, relaxed feel to it, but their earlier albums have a little more energy to them. Tame Impala (mainly Kevin Parker the main contributor) is receiving a lot of media attention lately, so I expect a big crowd for Tame Impala. Tame Impala is from Australia so go see them while you can because in case you didn’t know Australia is really far away.
This English rock-duo have a fun rock sound that reminds me of early Muse. They have a very full sound for only having two people in the band. I look forward to seeing Royal Blood play, they have a great energy to them so I feel like I’ll get some decent headbanging going during their set. Their first album is self-titled and is pretty damn good. Make your way over to see this band, they play at 2 pm on Friday so this will be the first band I see during weekend kicking off a long music filled weekend. I hope to see some craziness during their set. If you have never crowd-surfed I suggest giving it a try during Royal Blood’s set, because you will have the highest probability of not getting hurt and you will figure out what it’s like and you’ll be ready to do it at other shows.
The Decemberists are a likable indie band from Portland that aren’t the most headbangable band, but have some decent songs. I saw them in passing during Fun Fun Fun Fest last year and I would see them by way of waiting in the beer line. There are so many bands playing ACL that sometimes you have to multi-task and go to the beer tent next to a band that you only half-assedly want to see and just watch and listen from the line and then head to the stage of the band you 100% want to see. For me The Decemberists is this band.
Kurt Vile and The Violators
I really like Kurt Vile, he looks like a metalhead with his long hair, but he is an indie rock artist. He was a founding member of The War On Drugs and if you listen to “Wagonwheel Blues” you can hear his contributions. He has a slightly softer sound than that of The War On Drugs, but they are really good songs. I find that when I listen to folky, americana kind of music I tend to get bored, but I don’t get bored with Kurt Vile and in fact I find myself wanting more. I suggest Kurt Vile and The Violators in order to get your singer/songwriter fix, at least that’s where I’ll be getting mine.
I will confess to being being a Blink-182 fan back in junior high, but I never got into Brand New. They are on this list because I had a lot of friends that were big fans of this band in high school and they have a higher score on the headbangability scale than most of the other bands at ACL. I have nothing against Brand New I just had already outgrown the alternative pop-punk stuff by the time this band became popular. This might be a good merch-table visit if the stage they’re playing at is close to the merch-table otherwise I’ll go see a majority of their set and then hit up the port-a-potty nearest to the stage and let the music compliment the smell of urine and feces.
Do I really need to say anything about Billy Idol? It’s a no-brainer, if you get a chance to see Billy Idol you take advantage. This will be a really fun time, I already know it.
The only change I would make from Weekend 1 is basically replacing The Strokes with Modest Mouse since The Strokes aren’t playing Weekend 2 and Modest Mouse is only playing Weekend 2. I have seen Modest Mouse play three times and they have put on one great show out of those three and two mediocre shows, but they are still one of my favorite bands. They just seem to play better when they are not playing a festival gig. It’s not a problem with their music not being played well they are outstanding musicians, its their showmanship. The singer/guitarist and main contributor Isaac Brock seems to get a little introverted in front of huge crowds. They have probably the longest repertoire of great songs out of any band playing ACL. If you have never seen Modest Mouse play then you should make it a priority to see them play. The last time I saw them was at Fun Fun Fun Fest last year and a comet shot across the sky in the middle of their set and it was the talk of the town the entire week. Their latest album “Strangers to Ourselves” is great album and I anticipate most of their set will be made up from this album. No matter what goes on during the Modest Mouse set you will leave more of a Modest Mouse fan than you were before. Check out the meteor at 2:50 into the video below.