ACl Day Two: Zilker Park Is Heating Up...

Patrick Michels
Lots of tough choices to make today--like Bear in Heaven (above) or Pete Yorn early on.
A busy afternoon session in Austin had heads spinning on Saturday afternoon--and that much is still the case, as The XX finishes up its set against the Temper Trap, leading into a three-way deathmatch featuring Gogol Bordello, LCD Soundsystem and a whopping two-hour slot for Monsters of Folk, with DFW's own Will Johnson on drums. Also, it was very hot.

After the jump, some thoughts on the bands we caught whilst swiveling our heads--Lucero, Mayer Hawthorne, Manchester Orchestra, Broken Bells and The xx.

  • There's just something about Lucero playing to a sweltering crowd, beers lifted in hand, ain't there? Maybe I'm just nostalgic for DOMAXXXII. Tough pull, though, against Gaslight Anthem, whose sound was loud and crisp, blasting all over Zilker, drawing 'em in from all corners.
  • Not all bands are letting the heat sway them: Mayer Hawthorne & The County's set, which should have been bogged down by the heat, might've actually benefited from it. The crowd was looking to do something other than just stand there and bake, so when Hawthorne asked them to "make it rain" and trickle their fingers down through the air, they did so with glee--perhaps secretly hoping it'd work. It was a nice move; doing so got the crowd's moving, and, better, kept them moving. Hawthorne's a crooner, and though his voice may not be the greatest ever, he sells it well. Plus, he's a hell of a writer; a new, free-to-download song he debuted at his performance got the crowd especially amped up. But he also pays his influences due tribute: Both Pharrell and the Doobie Brothers saw songs of their covered in this gem of a set.
  • Manchester Orchestra's last album was one of my favorites of 2009, but, live, and in an outdoor setting like this, the band didn't come off too well. It was a set almost devoid of lows in the mix--and the highs were more screeching than melodic. That harshness was only enhanced thanks to the pace at which the songs came. There was almost new sense of urgency; this still-young band was extending its jams and letting the music do the talking. Too bad it wasn't saying anything good.
  • It took Broken Bells a little bit to find its groove at its set on one of two main stages in Zilker Park this afternoon, but find its groove the band eventually did, as the set went on. It was a tough sell to the audiences too far back from the stage, where the band's attempts to lure crowds in fell flat, but, up closer, the sound put listeners in an effective trance, soundtracking the free spirit of its listeners' natures quite well.
  • That's a big thing at these festivals: Where you stand is half the battle when it comes to enjoying a band. And with this year's high attendance (thanks, weather!) making it harder to run from stage to stage and grabbing decent vantage points, that's becoming a much bigger deal than expected. 
  • Local Natives made an impressive showing not too far from Broken Bells' stage, its percussive- and harmony-laden offerings wowing with, perhaps the best mix yet heard at ACL 2010. There's a vitality in the band's live offerings that may not come all the way across on its lone release thus far; its members are extremely active on stage, sharing instruments and lead parts and consistently taking advantage of its many crescendos to rile up its crowds.
  • Tomorrow at 11:15, 15-year-old Dallas-born fiddle virtuoso was slated to make her ACL debut as the first act on Sunday's bill. She'll still play then, but her debut's out of the way: Local Natives invited Jane on stage to sing backing vocals for a song on Saturday. This talented young girl, who just signed a deal with C3 Productions, appears to have a bright future ahead of her.
  • The xx announced at its ACL performance late this afternoon that this would be its last performance for a while. Not sure why, but the band and its crowd responded in kind. Although certainly better set in a venue like the Granada Theater in Dallas where the band played last night, the band's alluring and heartbreakingly restrained his/her offerings had wrapped the crowd in a warm cocoon of sound, and keeping them bouncing all the while with their subtle dance melodies.
We'll check back in tomorrow morning with more recaps of what should remain a busy day. Currently, LCD Soundsystem and Gogol Bordello are offering up distinctly different, although similarly frenetic crowds at either end of the field, and Monsters of Folk is charming them in between. This has been, and appears as if it will remain, ACL 2010's strongest front-to-back day.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman

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