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Top Five Acts at ACL Festival, 10/5/2013

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Photo by Julian Bajsel
Editor: Our friends at Houston Press' Rocks Off music blog are tackling the first weekend of Austin City Limits, and they're bringing us these dispatches.

THE CURE The Cure was one of the acts, if not the act, that I was really looking forward to seeing in Austin. They're, dare I say, legendary. That word gets thrown around way too often, but I stand by it with The Cure, especially after Saturday night's performance. It was further proof that Robert Smith is truly a prolific songwriter and vocalist, and they're badasses to the nth degree. Truth.

The Cure has been around for 36 years now, but you'd never know it with how incredibly spot-on they sounded Saturday night. From the moment that very first note tinkered across the stage and into the audience, it was The Cure through and through. Smith's vocals... I mean, damn.

Their set lasted a full two hours, and not once -- once -- did his voice show wear and tear from years past. The only thing that dated them at all was that leathery look that getting on in years gives us all. Had I closed my eyes, there would have been no change from the sound that drowned my teenage angst and sorrows all those years ago.

Every bit of every song was flawless, from "Pictures of You" early on to "Just Like Heaven," which forced that hill to come to life despite the sorrowful undertones of the music. It was all quite beautiful. ANGELICA LEICHT

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Photo by Julian Bajsel
Montreal's Grimes was photographer Julian Bajsel's favorite act from Saturday.

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Photo by Marco Torres
KENDRICK LAMAR Focus. That is what I saw in Kendrick Lamar's eyes as he took the stage at ACL Saturday. The dude knows he is a boss, and carries himself with a supreme confidence without becoming an arrogant diva. Since his Section.80 first rejuvenated the rap battleground a couple of years ago, K-Dot has provided smart, fun, lyrically potent content that has catapulted him to the top of the list of peers he called out on the track "Control."

With his live band behind him and a wall of speakers below him, Kendrick pounced with ferocity in front of a massive audience, causing a roar that shook Zilker Park. "Swimming Pools (Drank)" "Money Trees" and "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" sounded superbly smooth in the Saturday-evening sunset, with just the right amount of vulgarity to make this hipster party interesting. Seeing a sea of pale festival attendees sing and dance to "Fucking Problems" was as hilarious as it was turned up. Beast! MARCO TORRES

THE SHOUTING MATCHES The Shouting Matches were one of those "Surprise, I like these guys!" ACL moments. I automatically shied away from them based on the whole "Bon Iver side project" label; I'm not quite into Bon Iver, so I assumed I wouldn't be into The Shouting Matches either. I really should learn to stop judging things before I've heard them. I'm just glad the bathroom lines were heinous, or I would have missed out.

All of the energy missing from Bon Iver must be channeled into this band, because they were totally charismatic and interesting onstage. I found myself dreading the bathroom line moving forward, because they quickly because out of my scope and I was digging what they were doing. They have a kind of classic-rock meets blues feel, with a bit of soul, and it works really well. Nothing is overdone or pushed onto the listener. It's just a solid, pure sound with no frills or unnecessary layers. ANGELICA LEICHT

List continues on the next page.

 

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Photo by Marco Torres
TRUE BELIEVERS By the time I realized what was happening, I was grooving, jamming, and dancing in the middle of a large group of music lovers who were easily 20 or 30 years my senior. The music pulled me in and I lost control, something that can only happen when real rock and roll shakes your bones.

Guitar legend Alejandro Escovedo rocks out harder than anyone I have ever seen. He and the rest of the True Believers (also known as The Troobs) delivered one of the best performances of the whole weekend. These guys played with so much heart, it made me rethink my whole knowledge of what I assumed was good rock and roll. Now that's dedication. MARCO TORRES

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Photo by Julian Bajsel
WILCO I had no intention of writing about Wilco when I sat down in the grass Saturday. I was only doing so to placate my friends, killing time until Kendrick Lamar came onstage. I'm glad I gave in to their pleadings, though.

I really dug Jeff Tweedy's twangy, soulful vocals, and even the feedback that resonates in moments of strange, ear-piercing experimentation is a nice change to the traditional alt-country sound they'd have without it. It's fairly obvious that they're intentionally defying that whole cookie-cutter mainstream-band mold and are instead pushing into their own territory, so for that, I can respect it. ANGELICA LEICHT

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