Some days feel like you’re swimming upstream. Then there are days when it feels like you’ve stepped into the current and are being literally carried right where you want to go. The final day of the Austin City Limits music festival was like that for me – I stepped into that festival stream and it carried me through the day, dropping me right outside the gates at the end of the night with a big, satisfied smile on my face.
- How to find friends in a crowd – I arrived at the festival after the rest of our group had been there a while, but I found them instantly in the Honda Stage crowd listening to Polica. We use the clock system to find each other – Every stage has a control booth facing it from inside the crowd. The control booth is the center of the clock, with the stage as 12. JP texted me that they were all at “10 o’clock, 50 feet,” which meant that they were in the 10 o’clock trajectory from the control booth, 50 feet away from the booth. So instead of spending half of the show wandering around looking for friends, or trying to entice the crowd to chant their names for me (both of which I witnessed on multiple occasions this festival), I found my crew instantly and had time to swing by the Camelbak free water station on my way.
- Staying cool in the Texas heat – Rainy weather gone, the bright Austin sun was back in the sky for the final festival day. And sometimes, even an ice-filled Camelbak doesn’t do the trick. Enter – the spritzing fan. Austin City Limits 2010 found me parked in front of these large fans, outfitted with tiny misters disseminating cool mist on those lucky enough to have found this festival oasis. Lucky for me, all of the shows I wanted to watch in 2010 were at the stage immediately adjacent to the fans. This time I took a misting break while waiting for my friends to return from the beverage tent. As the misters weren’t portable, some of the crew wet down a handkerchief and did a cooling head-drape.
- Knowing where the sun will set – The Lumineers performed on the one stage that offered mid-afternoon shade. In order to take advantage of that limited space, we headed over early to find a spot. Knowing that the sun would set behind one side of the stage, we chose the opposite side – first in shade, first to enjoy the music. Perfect! The Lumineers were the most interactive show by far. The crowd, stretching as far back as the food tents, sang along with every song, even dividing up to call out “Ho” “Hey” with almost pre-planned coordination.
- Say “Yes!” – When our South African friend, Anthony, introduced us to Die Antwoord when we were all living in Liberia, I didn’t think the band was real (Ninjas?). But yes, this squeaky-yet hard core-rap combo band is real and they performed at ACL. JP wanted to check them out, for nostalgia’s sake, and I said, “what the heck, I’ll go to.” Holy wow! I quite literally had to catch myself gawking at the antics of this group. But I have to admit – they were kind of fun to watch. Would I buy their album? No. But was the laughter worth tagging along to see this band? You bet 🙂
- When to go solo – I was 10 when I first “met” the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was 1990 and I was watching Julia Roberts’ character walk into a Los Angeles club looking for her wayward roommate, while Show Me Your Soul played in the background. Pretty Woman – a classic in more ways than one. Over twenty years later, I still hadn’t seen them live…until the last day of ACL. And my 8-person crew was going to make getting a prime watching spot difficult. So I said adios to my group and forged through the Bud Light Stage crowd, watching the legend that is Iggy Pop finish up his encore (yes, Iggy is still around…barely), in order to get a spot as close to the stage as possible. I ended up immediately in front of the control booth, squeezed almost intimately close to fellow fans in space pretty much with “breathing room only.” I couldn’t even move enough to get my phone out of my Camelbak to take photos until half way through the show when the kid behind me kindly retrieved it for me.
The Peppers’ concert was like taking a trip through time – when they played classics like Give It Away, the 40-somethings throughout the crowd (like the two couples on my right), waved their hands in the air and sang at the tops of their lungs. When they played newer pieces, like my absolute favorite, Snow, the Baylor freshman on my right and the many other teens in the crowd knew every word. I could have stood there all night, watching and listening to the attentive dynamic between Flea on the bass and John Klinghoffer on guitar. At the end of the night, Flea asked the crowd to support live music – “from the child singing Mary Had a Little Lamb to the old man playing the violin.” I can’t think of a better way to experience music…or a better headliner to finish the flow of the Austin City Limits music festival.