10 November 2010

You Know Her Life Was Saved By Rock and Roll

Considering it had been a few years since I had been to Austin, ACL gave me the perfect reason to go back. Aside from the fact that the lineup this year was great, the band that I had driven over 4,000 miles to see this summer was a headliner, and practically playing in my backyard, there was no way in hell I was going to miss the festival this year.

After getting off to a late start and finally getting to Austin, I stopped and unloaded my extra ticket for some extra cash for the weekend. Unfortunately traffic around Zilker prevented us from seeing Blues Traveler, we made it into the park just after 3, right in time to catch the last few songs of Miike Snow's set. The few songs we actually got to hear were solid, something I'll have to give a listen to later.

After Miike Snow, I needed to stop and get some food in me so I could start getting ready for the Phish. Not that anyone should give a shit as to what I was eating, but Mighty Cone was probably the best food I ate all weekend. Fried chicken, fried avocado, coleslaw, and chipotle sauce in a tortilla? Sign me up, wish that we had these in Houston.

Next up was Pat Green. Who doesn't love some Texas country? Not the crowd at ACL it seems, this was probably the least crowded of the sets I saw all weekend, although it may have just looked that way considering he was on the main stage. He played a good set, mixing both his newer songs (crap) with some of the older fan favorites. I got to sing/dance along to Take Me Out to a Dancehall, so I was happy. Little did I know "if we get a little crazy, blame it on the alcohol" would be a foreshadowing of all day Saturday.

After taking 30 minutes to refuel on food/booze, we headed over to see Spoon. They played a ton of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, much to the delight of the crowd. All in all it was an incredibly fun set, and the crowd clearly enjoyed the hell out of it. Highlight of the set: Eric Harvey climbing on top of the piano at the end of Underdog, stomping on the keys, jumping down and pushing the piano over. The crowd lapped it right up, and Spoon then closed out the set with a good sounding Black Like Me.

Who to see after Spoon was probably the toughest decision of the weekend. With Vampire Weekend, the Sonic Youth, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band all playing at the same time, I was completely torn as to who to see. After finally deciding on Vampire Weekend, we headed toward the stage, only to find a complete clusterfuck awaiting us. It seemed like three quarters of people in Zilker Park at the time were doing one of two things: either going to see Vampire Weekend, or waiting to see Phish, and it just so happened that these two stages were probably the closest stages in the entire festival. After trying and failing to get close to the stage, we decided to listen to the Vampire Weekend set from a distance. What I heard of the set sound incredible, unfortunately I ducked out 30 minutes into their set so I could snag a spot close to the stage for the Phish.

Phish took the stage just past 8, and I had managed to get a spot Page side (rage side) about 10 rows of heads back from the stage. As soon as the first few notes of Mike's bass from Down With Disease rang out, it was time for liftoff, and I was not touching back down for the next two hours. Coming off of a short break from their summer tour, the boys picked up right where they left off. They played a setlist comprised of mainly the heavy hitters, and very little jamming. was tightly played, and was a great opener. Next up was a funkified version of the Talking Heads' Cities. For me, Cities started the dance party that would go on for the next few hours. After a standard, smoking Possum, Page took the spotlight for a cover of the Velvet Underground's Rock & Roll, which segued into a compact, but always fun 2001. Backwards Down the Number Line gave me the perfect chance to catch my breath and finish my now warm beer. Harry Hood may just be becoming one of my favorite songs, the jam section leading up to end of the song is incredibly beautiful, and never fails to move me to the very depths of my soul. Unfortunately, Trey decided to abort Hood in favor of Light, leaving Hood unfinished and me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Luckily they followed with Suzy Greenberg, which was met with much singing, dancing and elation by both me and the phans that I was surrounded by. Page absolutely destroyed his solo, and this still stands as the highlight of the show to me. They closed out their set with the one song I was expecting not to hear in You Enjoy Myself, considering the vocal jam at the end could put off many new listeners I was not expecting to hear this at a festival but it was a very pleasant surprise. Phish left the stage after the YEM vocal jam, and came back out with an incredibly high energy encore. Cavern including the toe-tapping from Trey and Mike during the chorus, and Trey didn't flub the lyrics! I expected them to end the night after Cavern, but was proven wrong when they started into First Tube. Trey clearly loves playing this song, and being able to see him on stage dancing and jumping around while playing is a joy. Considering where Trey was just a few short years ago, I have been incredibly lucky to have seen Phish four times in 2010, with hopefully 2 more shows before the new year. I am so glad to see them up on stage, having fun, and playing better and better since the reunion in March. It may have not been the best show that I have seen them play musically, but it was certainly the most fun I have had at a show so far.

The first day of ACL was a success, with my personal highlights being Spoon and (obviously) Phish. As I walked out of the venue with a shit-eating grin on my face and a euphoric feeling washing over me from the show that had just ended, I knew I was right where I needed to be. And there were still two incredible days of music to follow.