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ACL Music Festival Day: One Weekend Down, One to Go

by Dave Cathey Modified: October 15, 2013 at 10:40 pm •  Published: October 15, 2013
Grouplove put on a rousing performance on Sunday at ACL Music Fest in Austin, Texas.
Grouplove put on a rousing performance on Sunday at ACL Music Fest in Austin, Texas.

Sunday marked the end of a remarkable three-day music festival exceeded only by a remarkable three-day run of weather at the first of two weekends of the 2013 Austin City Limits Music Festival.

A cool front from the north arrived mid-afternoon Saturday and enjoyed the music so much it decided to stay for Sunday’s shows, which was highlighted by the performances of Grouplove and Phoenix.

The three-day, 130-band event was a celebration of shiny, happy music sung for shiny, happy people. Few bands better personified the high-energy, upbeat vibe of the
ACL 2013 better than Grouplove. The multicultural quintet born in Los Angeles bounded around the stage like the cub brood of Tigger, regaling the youth-heavy crowd of what had to be 15,000 people or more with much more than their megahit “Tongue Tied.”

Hannah Hooper in her leopard-print bodysuit had plenty to flash her toothy grin at as the crowd that carried on practically as far as the eye could see sang and danced along with every tune for the 60-minute set that included “I’m With You,” “Lovely Cup,” brand-new “Shark Attack,” “Hippy Hill,” “Spun,” “Itchin on a Photograph,” and ended with “Colours.”

Though that leopard-print bodysuit made her stand out, Hooper is truly only one-fifth of the band. Lead vocals are passed around like a baton between she, Christian Zucconi and Andrew Wessen with plenty of harmonizing and instrument-sharing. Brit Sean Gadd brings just enough guitar mashismo to balance the pop-friendly sound and drummer Ryan Rabin not only keeps the beat but is also the band’s producer. Rabin is the son of former Yes guitarist and film-scoring legend Trevor Rabin.

While Grouplove set the tone for Sunday, Phoenix stole the day, which was no small task for a schedule that included venerable Lionel Richie and super band Atoms for Peace, which includes Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, longtime Radiohead producer/engineer Nigel Godrich, and drummer Joey Waronker, who has recorded with Beck, Elliott Smith, Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, Pink, Dwight Yokum, Daniel Johnston, Leonard Cohen, Thurston Moore, Pete Yorn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gnarls Barkley, Tracy Chapman, Nelly Furtado, Cat Stevens, The Vines, Lisa Marie Presley, Rufus Wainwright and replaced Bill Berry when he left R.E.M.

Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai and Thomas Hedlund broke the mold on some ACL traditions on Sunday, which made it memorable. To begin with, they played on the Budweiser Light Stage, which is designated for second-tier acts but were given a 90-minute set, an amount of time previously reserved for headliners.

The Grammy-winning band drew an inordinate number of people to the small stage, looking like what had to be 20,000 people at a venue set up for a quarter of that. The numbers weren’t lost on lead singer Mars, who finished the first two songs looking on the throng in amused disbelief. Midway through the hour and a half, he acknowledged the inordinately large crowd through a French-first language filter.

“We played here four years ago, and other festivals, but this is the first huge crowd at a festival. You guys are the first ones to support us…We love variety, we love you guys, we thank you.”

Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars surfs the crowd at ACL Music Fest on Sunday.
Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars surfs the crowd at ACL Music Fest on Sunday.

From there, Mars sang three songs, including their monster hit “1901” from the top of the crowd barrier, a security guard anchoring the singer by hanging onto the waistline of his pants. Mars took it a step further by crowd-surfing for a good minute and some 30 feet into the audience before the microphone was knocked out.

Lionel Richie finished out the three-day party in Zilker Park, singing the standards he is known for in both his solo and Commodores career while joking that two kinds of folks were in attendance: old people and people whose mother played his records while they were kids.

Dawes, Kodaline, The Mowglis, Shuggie Otis, Ms Mr, Franz Ferdinand, Toro y Moi, and Tame Impala put on impressive show according to agents on the inside.

I’ll be back for weekend two of ACL to catch some of the acts I missed last weekend and two relive those I enjoyed most. Look for a wrap-up this time next week right here.

As I mentioned in the last two posts, there are still standard three-day passes available for the second weekend, which will boast the same lineup and schedule. The weather forecast is for more of the same temperate weather, let me know on Twitter, or with a comment here, if you plan to be around and if you have different taste in music, I can at least give you the lowdown on what to eat.