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Concert Review: ACL Festival, Friday October 2nd

October 6, 2009

AGMG01

Alright!  Here’s my review of the shows I saw on Friday at the festival.  Yep, you guessed it; Saturday and Sunday to follow.  Also, stay tuned for another 10 minute vid edited by Seanningham, plus more pictures!

Most Disappointing Show:

The Knux

The Knux

Yeah, they’re cool and all, and the album is definitely worth listening to, but the eccentric rap duo did not make a great impression at their first ACL appearance on the XBox 360 stage early in the afternoon.  The beef?  They only played for about 45 minutes and used lots and lots of backing tracks (including on vocals, which is a big one for me).  Also, they teased the crowd at the end by playing a few seconds of “Jump Around”, getting everyone excited, only to stop the song abruptly by leaving the stage.  The songs they did manage to play (in between chastising the crowd for not being loud enough) were pretty good, and the crowd responded well.  And it’s always cool when a band invites people from the audience onstage.

The Knux Crowd

The Knux kept accusing us of being too high to get excited…honestly, I’m pretty sure they were too high to deliver a great set at the festival.  I’d check them out again if I had the opportunity to do so cheaply, but I was really disappointed by their performance.

Most Colorful Stage:

Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog Stage

Dr. Dog delivered a solid set, albeit one that may have been a little too low-key for their time slot.  I left the show about halfway through to get a much needed spicy shrimp po’ boy.  In my defense, every song they played up to that point sounded nearly the same to my sun-drenched ears.  Dr. Dog wasn’t disappointing, but they didn’t wow me either.  I appreciated their sincerity…and the colorful stage of course.

Dr. Dog

Click on the jump to see the show I wish I’d seen all the way through, and my opinion on the closer, Kings of Leon!

Show I Wish I’d Stayed For:

K’Naan

K'Naan

K’Naan started out brilliantly by singing a song that he told us he’d just written backstage, inspired by the festival vibes.  After Dr. Dog, I was looking forward to a really high-energy show that would reinvigorate me mid-day.  K’Naan played a couple of slower songs, and I was convinced the show was going to be mostly acoustic, so I decided to head out halfway through to catch Thievery Corporation.  That was a bonehead error; I wish I’d skipped Thievery Corp and stuck it out with K’Naan for what I read was an amazing show.  K’Naan is an inspirational performer, and is slowly but surely rising up in stature, and he deserves all the praise he is receiving for having dedication that can be rare in musicians.

Show I Wish I’d Skipped:

Thievery Corporation

Thiev Corp

Was that obvious by the K’Naan review?  Anyway, nothing against Thievery Corp, but by the time I got there, you could barely see the stage, much less hear the music.  And what is it about the LIVEstrong/former ATT stage that attracts people who like to camp out in the lawn?  I guess they were waiting for Kings of Leon, but they were really harshing my buzz.  The only thing I could see was the screens which was the most interesting during the belly-dancing.

Best Show of the Festival, Period:

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird Stage

What can I say?  Bird knocked it out of the park once again, delivering in spades the single most impressive, emotional, and musically entertaining set of the festival.  Picking up mainly upbeat fan favorites from his swath of albums, he managed to have the notoriously sluggish late-evening crowd dancing, and included deeply moving tracks like “Effigy” and “Anonanimal” as well.

Andrew Bird

I heard numerous people talking about how great it was while he was still playing and even saw some tearing up.  It was the best performance I’ve personally seen of Bird’s, at least equalling the truly amazing solo show I saw last year.  Plus, props to C3 for giving Bird a great stage and a great time slot, worthy of his devoted fans while respecting his musical artistry.

Most Average Rock-And-Roll

Kings of Leon

KoL2

We were further away from Kings of Leon than we were for Thievery Corp, but somehow we could hear better.  Huh, figure that one out.  The Kings of Leon ripped through songs from their hit album Only By The Night with no frills and practically no stage presence.  They play the songs ably, and they’re certainly a very good rock band, but I still believe they’re lacking something special that will propel them into great performers.  As a closer for ACL, the decision was probably made based on their current popularity.  All that said, there was no lack of audience considering they were playing against another currently-popular group, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  After the brilliant Andrew Bird show, I didn’t feel too bad leaving Zilker halfway through KoL, picking up Whataburger, and tucking in for the night.

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