Welcome to ACL '11: Zilker Warms Up For A Big First Night; It's Already Buzz-Thirty, Dudes.

Off in the distance, the song of the summer, Foster the People's can't-stop-won't-stop "Pumped Up Kicks," is blasting away over Zilker Park, blaring from the P.A. over at the Google+ (nee Dell) Stage. There's a marvelous tag-team effort at play here: Foster the People don't want the summer to end, and the 2011 edition of the Austin City Limits Music Festival is pretty much designed to not let it.

The last big music festival of the summer (certainly, with its move to November, it's now safe to now classify Fun Fun Fun Fest as a fall fest) is acting like it: After early-afternoon cloud cover and a brief bout with showers, the sun now shines bright, casting an Indian summer hue and 90-degree temperatures over the masses.

There are indeed plenty of people here -- hepcats of every sort, even (gasp!) the dreaded Mainstreamers. Right at this moment, the biggest crowd of them is over at Ye Olde Google+, outrunning Mark Foster's proverbial bullets. Earlier in the day, the crowds were more divided.

Shortly after four, it began: the clear line splitting Zilker in two distinct halves -- pop music over on the AMD stage, hip-hop over on the Bud Light stage -- was drawn. On one end, Ray LaMontagne's Americana-cum-soul had its crowd swooning, steel guitar and gravelly vocals the clear order of the hour. The other half grooved and bounced to Big Boi, backed by a live drummer and a horn session -- "Daddy Fat Sax" scored major points, no surprise there.

Intermission from this main genre-on-genre bout has brought Middle Of The Road fare: Cold War Kids' piano undulating indie pleases, Kurt Vile's stoner folk-rock agrees, The Cave Singer's stomps rile and Foster the People's nu-pop crack delights.

Meanwhile, there are stars! Well, two -- one more of a punchline ("McLovin!"), the other a local reality star that may or may not be walking around the press tent to start the rumor that he'll be performing with Cee-Lo Green on Saturday evening, which, OK, would kind of make sense.

There's even dubstep: Beardyman, some knob-twiddler, drew thousands to one of the park's smallest stages. Things are obviously starting to getting real.

A couple more match-ups highlight the impending rest of the night --  Bright Eyes versus Nas & Damien Marley! Santigold versus Pretty Lights! Mavis Staples versus Sara Bareilles? -- but the big one is last: Coldplay versus Kanye West. These foes were once friends, Coldplay's Chris Martin having supplied the hook on West's on "Homecoming." But, lest West has ordered some lavishly adorned tear in the time space continuum, there will be no such collaboration tonight.


Rumors abound: Might Jay-Z join Kanye for a jaunt? It is, after all, Kanye's first major festival performance since Watch the Throne, isn't it? Far as we know... Plus, apparently Trae tha Truth's people confirmed it to our pals from the Houston Press just minutes before Trae similarly offered up a cameo during Big Boi's set. Take that how you will.

If nothing else, another collaboration -- this one confirmed by the bill -- has just started as Nas & Damien Marley have launched into "Welcome to Jamrock" over on the park's far east end.

Not a bad backup collaboration if the other never comes, as it probably won't. And, even muddled, it sounds legit. Sounds like summer, too -- a different summer than Foster the People's, but summer nonetheless.

Division can be fun sometimes.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman

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