ACL '10: So Far, So Not Very Impressive. But Things Are Gonna Get Better Real Soon.

It's the very early goings in the 2010 installment of Austin City Limits, and, apologies to all you die-hard Blues Traveler fans, but, so far, nothing's really blown us away. Well, nothing except Those Darlins, who we already knew we loved.

Oh, and the weather, which indeed is proving to be the small talk of the festival grounds. It's an easy offering: "So much better than last year, right?"

Ugh. Sure. But, remember, at last year's fest, Friday was downright gorgeous, too. The good news, though: Weather reports for the next few days indicate more of today's perfect festival weather. Better yet: No chance of precipitation, thank heaven.

After the jump, some bullet-point observations on the bands we've seen thus far (Vonnegutt, JJ Grey & Mofro, GIVERS, Those Darlins, Asleep at the Wheel, Donovan Frankenreiter and Blues Traveler) plus some overall festivalgoer nonsense talk.

Fortunately, things pick up down here real soon: Tonight's offerings of Miike Snow, Girls, The Black Keys, Beach House, Spoon, The Strokes and Phish might be the strongest of all three nights. And that's saying nothing of the logjam coming in the seven o'clock hour: Sonic Youth, Vampire Weekend, Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses and Robert Randolph & The Family Band--all strong draws--is looking like the first big showdown of ACL 2010.

  • First band caught at ACL 2010: Vonnegutt, a white-boy rap outfit with a live backing band, which did nothing more but remind us of some regrettable musical choices we made back in the early '00s when we were freshmen in college. Rapping about girls and drinking and partying? I guess it has its place. Rapping about anti-consumerism and how rap on the radio is really bad? Not only relatively misguided (Southern hip-hop's had a huge year and is starting to become relevant again, folks) but also dated as all get out. Besides, isn't one Asher Roth enough?
  • JJ Grey & Mofro is a good time if you like roots rock and you're over 40 years old. It's not that bad--really, the guys are impressive performers and know their way around a blues scale--but it doesn't take more than three songs to get the point.
  • ...which may explain why, yes, the groups toward the back of JJ Grey & Mofro's crowd were playing frisbee. Correct me if I'm wrong, but can't you play frisbee on pretty much any parkgrounds, without paying hefty festival fees? I hate you guys. But, hey, I guess Phish-heads need to do something to pass the time. Anybody got a hacky sack?
  • GIVERS may or may not sound a lot like the Dirty Projectors at first listen, but they've also got a bit of a dance-punk/psych-pop thing going on. Consider them our favorite surprise of ACL in the early goings. And the crowd before their set showed their potential draw--lots of hipster kids hanging bopping around, enjoying the crap out of it. A big Dallas promoter and I spoke about this at length the other night: This kind of stuff looks like it's gonna be making a big comeback in the coming months. ACL seems to be indicating that much, too--there are far fewer synth-heavy acts at this year's deal than last.
  • I know, like, seven dudes in Dallas with dreadlocks--which is probably four too many. because Phish is playing tonight, I've thought I've seen each and every one here on the grounds. No such luck. Just your run-of-the-mill Phish fans.
  • Asleep at the Wheel performed its annual early afternoon, first-day set, with Ray Benson and Co. namedropping their collaborators left and right. They're Texas mainstays--which explains their big stage billing and their older crowds--but they also may be the least exciting band on the bill. Besides the Eagles.
  • How many Phish jokes is too many? To be honest, I'm actually looking forward to catching their set--after The Strokes finish up theirs.
  • Those Darlins, a longtime DC9 favorite, looked great in a big stage setting (a far cry from the floors we've caught them playing in the past), performing mainly new cuts to a crowd not all-too-familiar with their work, but very much enjoying their vibe. And how couldn't you? These rocker girls are like every girl you knew in high school who cut class to smoke cigarettes. Only they right great retro-leaning country-punk ditties that you won't be able to lodge from your brain.
  • Speaking of retro-leaning acts, blues- and beach-rock dude Donovan Frankenreiter's set competed with the Darlins'. And his offering was about as bland as bland gets, sounding like terrible mix of Jonathan Tyler and Jack Johnson, and not doing either of those dudes justice.
  • How many Free Weezy shirts have we seen so far? Glad you asked: Three.
  • Blues Traveler was a big draw for their 2 p.m. set. Surprising? You bet. Didn't they played a free Jack FM show a few months ago in Dallas? And didn't, like, no one go? Ah, festivals. Gotta love the middle-of-the-road, "Oh, I guess I'll check that out..." draws...
Off to catch the end of either Miike Snow and.or Girls. Catch ya in a few hours. Oh, and to stay up to date with us to-the-minute, follow us on Twitter.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman

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