By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Rilo Kiley also got its crowd dancing and singing, as lead singer Jenny Lewis conjured Dusty Springfield on opener "I Never" and sang her ass off for the remainder of a set that mixed loud indie rock with sweet So-Cal pop. The addition of a trumpet player added a sunny vibe to songs like "It's a Hit" and guitarist Blake Sennet's "Ripchord," which showed you can still rock a festival crowd with an acoustic guitar and a tambourine if you know what you're doing.
Of course, add violins, horns and keyboards and you're rocking the crowd as the Arcade Fire, who answered all accusations of overhypedom with endless gang vocals, on-stage roughhousing and the most exciting orchestral pop that has hit Zilker Park in four years. In addition, the crowd participation of The Decemberists, the U2-meets-Beatles piano-pop of Austin's Zykos, the Hüsker Dü revival by Bob Mould ("I Apologize," yesss!) and the Bloc Party-beating Kaiser Chiefs made the rest of the disgustingly hot afternoon worth sweating through, but even Coldplay wasn't worth enduring another night of thick dust. The fog was even thicker on Sunday, so we left early, though we did catch a glimpse of the famed Brits--along with Gwyneth Paltrow and little Apple--arriving backstage earlier in the afternoon, which suited us fine. They wore very large sunglasses.
Fears of Rita-related weather didn't keep the crowds away, and judging by the mass numbers at the biggest shows of the fest, the 10,000 tickets per day reduction compared to last year was hardly noticeable. And in spite of never-ending sweat sessions, water bottles were not in short supply--a few dozen people were treated at medical tents, but for the most part, the thousands remained hydrated and incredibly civil. Even with heat in the equation, there's still no bigger, better, friendlier music event within driving distance, and compared to SXSW, it's nice to not be turned away from a concert no matter how popular the band is.
But, seriously, Austin--reschedule this thing for October (November, even!) next year, or we're staying the hell home.