Saturday, October 13, 2012

ACL 2012 Day 1 Wrap-Up

I had to work the morning of the first day of ACL Fest so I had to miss First Aid Kit as well as the War on Drugs but that doesn't mean I didn't get to see lots of great music. The first band I caught a full-set from was The Afghan Whigs. They are a band that I was aware of but who I had I never really listened to. Mr. S. has been a really big fan for years so we were sure to catch them. At times, lead-singer, Greg Dulli sounded a bit like Dave Grohl. Their songs were R&B through an early 90's college-rock filter. Clever lyrics, hooky riffs and propulsive bass-lines. With an abbreviated festival set, The Afghan Whigs used every minute they had available. There was little-to-no stage banter and as soon as one song would finish the next would start. Many people in the crowd were singing along and it made for a great opening set for our festival.

Alabama Shakes - Rise to the Sun video via YouTube

After The Afghan Whigs we made a long, arduous journey across the park to catch the Alabama Shakes. They have a lot of buzz in the Adult Contemporary music world and I wanted to see what all of the hype was about. Getting from the west side of the park to the east side was incredibly difficult. The placement of the stages makes for a complete lack of clear traffic pattern. People are moving to and fro every single direction with varying rates of speed, urgency and focus. We did manage to get into a good position to see Alabama Shakes and they sounded good. I didn't fall head-over-heels in love with them simply because there is so much hype about them. My walkaway critique is that they were no better or worse than any band I've ever seen at the Saxon Pub. It just brings up my standard wondering of why X band and not Y band. Why are Alabama Shakes the next big thing and not LZ Love?

After the madness of trying to move from one stage to another we decided to just get a good spot near the soundboard for M83, which means we listend to Florence + the Machine from an adjacent stage. We could see Flo on the screens and we could hear the band quite well. She has a lot of energy and the crowd really loved it. Her voice was spot-on, my only critique has to do with experiencing it from a far. With the persistant tribal drumming in most of her songs, they all sort of sounded like Revolution after awhile. It became a joke between Mr. S. and I, Flo would start a new song and one of us would sing the chorus of Revolution over it. Most of the time it fit perfectly.

We ended our day 1 with a stellar set from M83. It was my third time seeing them on this tour and fourth time seeing them total. As far as I'm concerned it was the best set of the day and possibly of the festival weekend. I am not privy to the goings on of booking shows and/or festivals but I do not understand how AVICII got a better stage and time-slot than M83. That is neither here nor there, I can tell you that the crowd for M83 was very attentive and involved in the show. The lights were fantastic and after the first couple of songs, which were too quiet the sound was great. The band sounded majestic, powerful, confident and generally superb. I honestly feel bad for anyone who missed out on their set.

We didn't stay for the headliners Friday night, opting to beat the crowds and get home early. I will add, I find it an odd choice that after M83, The Black Keys were on the adjacent west-side stage while AVICII were on the opposite side of the park. It seems like it would have made more sense to put the two electronic acts back to back on the same side of the park? Like I said though, I really don't know how the planning of an event this size really works.