Thursday, September 15, 2011

ACL Festival Preview: Conflicts

This is the part in my pre-fest coverage that is the most fun for me, it's where I look at the Austin City Limits Festival official schedule and I highlight the points in the festival when it will be hardest to choose one stage versus another. Last year was my first year attending ACL Festival and I learned a great lesson, which is don't needlessly move from stage to stage. So, for me personally, my decisions will be based on proximity as well as desire to see a specific set. Last year I did a lot of moving from one side of Zilker to the other and I can tell you, it's a task. Factor in that it's going to be hot as the surface of the sun this year and it makes the likelihood of me traversing the festival grounds even slimmer. I'm not here to tell you which artist to choose either, I'm just going to point out some decisions that you'll have to make throughout the weekend. Some may be no-brainers for you, some may be harder than algebra. Let's start chronologically shall we?

My first major conflict happens at 2:30pm on Friday when Fool's Gold takes to the Austin Ventures stage and Delta Spirit play the Bud Light stage. In this case, you CAN see Delta Spirit at Emo's tonight OR since it's early in the day you can catch half of each set. The Austin Ventures stage is located in a pretty central area so it shouldn't be too tough to move between these two stages at around 3:00pm on the opening day of the fest.

Fool's Gold - Nadine video via YouTube

The next major conflict, happens during the next time-slot. James Blake starts at 3:10 on the Honda stage, that's on the complete opposite side of the park from the Bud Light stage where Delta Spirit will still be performing. Blake's set goes until 4:10p Friday. Meanwhile, back toward the Bud Light stage, Smith Westerns take to the Google + stage at 3:30pm. I have seen both Smith Westerns and James Blake and they're both great performers but due to trekking reasons, and the fact that James Blake's music is very intimate, I'm probably going to choose Smith Westerns. There music is just more festival appropriate and it will require less moving on my part. Did I mention I'm bringing a chair this year?

Smith Westerns - Weekend video via YouTube

The rest of Friday I won't feel too conflicted. I know a lot of people are going to have a tough time choosing between Foster the People and Cold War Kids but I'm probably going to go with choice C) food. The final conflict for Friday is the headliners. It's a battle between Coldplay and Kanye West. Two very different performances in two very different genres. The worst kept secret of the festival this year is that Jay-Z, will join Kanye to perform some of the songs from Watch the Throne. Also, Jay-Z's wife is from Houston so it's possible that she will appear as well. I've seen both Coldplay and Kanye in the past and both performances will be very high energy with lots of spectacle. Kanye will have more cameos and auto-tune, he'll have a cooler stage setup and a LOT more bass. Coldplay will have more balloons, more positivity and a LOT more yoga poses. This is going to be a tough call for me and seeing parts of both sets will require some serious walking and chair carrying. My verdict is still out but I'm kind of leaning toward Kanye, I feel like his set will have more surprises than Coldplay's.

The Throne - Otis video via YouTube


The conflicts start shortly after noon on Saturday as I choose between The Antlers on the AMD stage and Aloe Blacc on the Bud Light stage. The Antlers newest album is one of the best of 2011 and when I caught them at Emo's earlier in the year they sounded at their best. They've added a touring member who really fleshes out the guitar sound and the rhythm section deserves a drumming Emmy. Aloe Blacc is an artist I have never seen before, who sounds fantastic on recordings. Can he deliver in the hot Texas sun? This conflict is early enough in the day that I could probably catch pieces of each set but the jury is still out on which one I'll start with, or if I'll actually end up splitting my time at all.

Aloe Blacc - Loving You Is Killing Me video via YouTube

The next conflict is between The Belle Brigade and Twin Shadow. I have seen Twin Shadow three times in the past but I love them soooo much, I would LOVE to see them play before a festival crowd. On the other hand The Belle Brigade shows a lot of promise and an up-and-coming act that we will be hearing a lot more from in the future. I featured them already as a group who you must see at the festival. Would it be hypocritical of me to not watch their entire set? You'll have to keep an eye on my Twitter feed to see, which band I choose on Saturday.

The Belle Brigade - Losers video via YouTube

The next Saturday conflict is at 4:00pm Saturday, between Iron & Wine or Alison Krauss & Union Station. Both acts feature amazing songwriting, with deep, personal, heartfelt vocal performances. Both artists are known for their breathtaking live performances and both are legendary in their respective genres. Also, I have never seen either act perform live, this might be the toughest conflict to date. I'm leaning towards Alison Krauss even though I'm less familiar with her songs, simply because I feel like I will have many more chances to see Iron & Wine perform.

Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane video via YouTube

The conflicts between 5:30pm and 7:00pm are numerous. Specifically, between 6:30pm and 7:00 pm, I want to see Cut Copy, Wanda Jackson AND Gillian Welch. Of those three Wanda Jackson is the artist whom I have never seen before, I saw Gillian Welch quite recently and Cut Copy live on another continent. So, even though I ADORE Gillian Welch, she is, pretty much, out of the running. She is based in Nashville and will be back in Austin soon. Wanda Jackson is a legend so I MUST catch her set and when she is done, I'll have time to catch the climactic final 30 minutes of Cut Copy.

Wanda Jackson - Thunder On The Mountain video via YouTube

The headlining conflict for Saturday is going to be a difficult choice for lots of people. My Morning Jacket is largely considered to be the best American touring band of this generation and Stevie Wonder has written about two dozen of the greatest songs in American music. I have seen a lot of conversation about his on twitter and I know a lot of people will be splitting their time. For me, it's a pretty obvious choice. I am definitely a fan of My Morning Jacket but they will be back in Austin a lot in the next few years. Stevie Wonder will not

Stevie Wonder - Living For the City video via YouTube


On the final day of ACL two bands that I've featured both go on at 1:30pm. Do I see the quirky Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr? Or do I go for the The Head and The Heart. I love both of their albums and I think that both acts deserve my attention. However, I have seen Dale Jr Jr on Emo's inside stage and I have never seen The Head and The Heart. The fortunate thing is, no matter who I choose chances are both artists will be back through Austin again within the next year. I love you Austin!

The Head and The Heart - Lost In My Mind video via YouTube

Later in the day both Death From Above 1979 and Elbow go on at 5:30pm on opposite sides of the park. Their sounds are very different but they are similar in the sense that whichever stage I choose I'll be bummed I missed the performance at the other stage. Neither Elbow nor Death From Above play very often, although DFA did perform at SXSW this year. Personally, I'm a brit-pop addict so I'm going to choose Elbow although, the hipster side of me really thinks I should go with Death from Above.

Elbow - Open Arms video via YouTube

So, those are the areas in which I feel most conflicted this year. Who know maybe I'll just be passed-out in a folding chair from too much beer and sun and I won't feel conflicted about any of this. As I mentioned, I feel like a lot of these decisions will come down to how far will I have to move my chair, if at all. Congratulations and thank you to those of you who managed to read this far down in the post. I truly appreciate you, I love writing this post every year but it takes forever to put all the links in here. Feel free to tweet at me where you feel conflicted or post it in the comments if you wish.