5th Annual Austin City Limits Music Festival

By Julene McCoy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 19, 2006 6:05AM

2006_09_aclbanner.jpgWishing to extend our summer fun by one more weekend, Chicagoist headed down to the Live Music Capital of the World for the 5th Annual Austin City Limits Music Festival. The lineup was similar to that of Lollapalooza and gave us a chance to see a couple of bands we missed there, as well as enough new ones to keep us running from stage to stage.

The ACL Music Fest is set up in Austin's Zilker Park with eight stages for music. The walk from one end to the other was much shorter than the hike at Lollapalooza this year. Thank goodness for that since the heat and humidity were killer for us Yankees until the rains left over from Hurricane Lane came in late Sunday night during Tom Petty's set.

We started the weekend off with a rockin' sweat-inducing set by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. Ted's forehead seems to be doing fine after the microphone incident at the Pitchfork Festival. We then saw Wolf Parade who started the set with "It's A Curse" and let us know that they were down a member who had contracted E. coli the last time they toured the states.

2006_09_gnarls.jpgWe had missed Gnarls Barkley at Lolla, and they did not disappoint with their sexy scientist costumes when they came on stage to a shriek of "She blinded me with science!" Cee-Lo then proclaimed that John Nash was performing today since Gnarls Barkley was unable to make it there. We actually heard one fan lament how they were upset that Gnarls Barkley weren't performing. Oh well, we hoped she enjoyed John Nash well enough when he sang "St. Elsewhere".

Van Morrison took his time between songs perusing the songbook at his side with a hat pulled down to partially obscure his face while on stage. It was a classic ending to the day to hear the songs we grew up with like "Gloria" and "Brown Eyed Girl".

Days 2 and 3 after the jump.

Saturday we bounced around from Texas country-based rock to songs sung in French to indie darlings and got a happy surprise with Pierre Guimard. His songs in French caught our ear on the way down to the main stage, and we were enraptured by his beautiful, soothing melodies.

The breakout performance of the weekend was put on by Austin's Ghostland Observatory. A little birdie told us to check them out while we were at the Austinist party Thursday night and, boy, are we glad they did. As Ghostland Observatory played their dancey, bass-filled electronical the crowd grew larger and larger around the Heineken Stage with dancing converts. The sexiest performance we witnessed all weekend.

2006_09_benkweller.jpgKudos to Ben Kweller for motoring on through "Wasted Away" when his nose began bleeding profusely leaving a stream of blood down his face and onto his guitar (that looked f'ing cool) before asking for a tampon from the audience and jamming it up his nose. And all of this was while the photographers were still in the pit shooting away. Poor guy. His shortened set was rockin' though.

We've seen the Kings of Leon before (including the first ACL Fest performance) and thought they were disappointing this time. They were missing their usual energy and had Hollywood looks. The set was a mix of old and new, but it just seemed to miss for us.

2006_09_willie.jpgWe would have been run out of Texas, or shot, if we said Willie Nelson didn't put on a fantastic set, and luckily he did. He started it off with "Whisky River" and had us at "Crazy". Willie was everything we thought he would be, performing in front of a gigantic flag of Texas. Did this happen after the show? Hmm. I guess they weren't lying when the organizers stated at the press conference Sunday morning that there had been one arrest off site.

Sunday began with a deluge of rain that lasted for fifteen minutes and has us worried that the rest of the day would be spent covered in mud and soaking wet, but the rains stayed away for the most part.

On this last day of the fest, local Austin band The Black Angels impressed us with their psychedelica. Although our favorite moment happened during soundcheck when the sound tech said to the lead singer, "There's an awful lot of distortion on that mic. Is that what you're going for?" It most definitely was!

Just when we thought that we were going to have to say that Patrice Pike was our favorite act of the day, we witnessed Muse in all their rock-n-roll glory. Loud. Raucous. Entertaining. They restored our faith in rock. Seriously.

2006_09_tompettyacl.jpgEnding it all was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. As lightning flashed in the distance, Tom played "Free Falling" for us all to sing along with and "American Girl" before taking a break due to the rainfall. When the rain and lightning subsided he came back with three more songs for those diehards who stuck around.

We enjoyed Austin City Limits Music Festival just as much as Lollapalooza, and since it's impossible to see all the bands at both fests, we've decided to quit our jobs and travel from fest to fest until we see at least half the bands. Care to join us? Not sure yet? Check out more photos on Flickr.