ACL Week Sunday (Day 5)
It’s Sunday and the final day in what may be my final year at ACL. The day started with 15 year old phenom Ruby Jane. With a bluegrass base and the spirit of a… well, of a 15 year old, Ruby plays a mean fiddle, a solid guitar, sings beautifully and leads the band with a crazy intensity that you normally only find in a 15 year old (there we go again). She yells with joy during band members’ solos (and sometime her own too) and you can just feel that the spirit of the music is in her. I can’t wait to see how time changes this young lady. She’s got a hell of a start though.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were billed as a blend of punk and… well it doesn’t matter, because there was no blend, at least today. Their brand of punk is smart and I believe socially relevant, but it is just punk. After about 20 minutes we were ready to move on. If that is your thing, you might enjoy them.
Liz, Linda and I met back up as Frank Turner got his set going. Frank is from Manchester England and has a sound that reminds me of a modern Big Country (although not nearly as anthem like). He was a lot of fun too, singing about refusing to grow up and making a great sing-a-long out of it. It was a good call from Liz.
At the same stage a half hour later was valley boys, Dawes. Landing somewhere between Americana and modern rock, these youngsters (okay, they aren’t that young… I’m just getting older I suppose) showed that they had a desire to write the important songs about important subjects. They have a long way to go and could easily get sidetracked by fame, but keep an eye on these guys. There was a fun moment in the middle of the set. The lead singer/guitar player, did a nice solo and was making the big stage moves. When the solo ended, there was a big applause from the crowd. I don’t think he was expecting that and he got this huge grin on his face. I love when the spirit of rock works both ways and the fans actually light up the performers. Good show. Good luck guys.
The tent was jammed when we got there. Linda found her way in but Liz and I decided to just find some shade under a tree and listen from a distance. It may have been a bit of a mistake as Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue put on one hell of a show. Playing trombone, trumpet and singing, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, at the tender age of 24 has all the skills to rock a crowd. Playing songs that were probably around before his father was born and mixing them in with more modern music, the band shook the tent to its foundations. I’m kicking myself for not trying to get inside, but even without seeing the show, we were definitely entertained. I will not miss him next time.
As many in the crowd shuffled out, we slipped in to the front of the stage, meeting up with Linda again to see Martin Sexton. Martin has an unusual voice, but it comes with great power. Accompanied with just his guitar and a second microphone (in which he vocally reenacted Hendrix’s famous Star Spangled Banner to open the show), Martin was funny, charming and driven. My only two problems with the show were 1) that he came back for an encore and sang “God Bless America” (why?) and 2) he was much more religious than any of us expected (when I told Deb this today her reaction was, “Jesus”, to which I replied, “Exactly”). Otherwise we enjoyed his show.
We continued to hang on the stage, and waited for the great Richard Thompson to appear. With only an hour to perform, Richard dispensed with any chit chatting with the crowd (he did make a few humorous remarks) and went right at it, singing several songs from his latest CD. All but one of the songs found him on electric guitar and he brought down the house several times with his solos. Not one to hog the stage, he traded solos with his violin player and sax player and overall rocked the house. His current band is tight and obviously very talented. This may have been one of the highlights of the weekend. I can’t wait to see him again.
There was only one band left playing in the park (well, actually 2 with Norah Jones refusing to get off stage on time, causing a bit of a musical mess as the Eagles came on and played on top of her) and it was the weekend headliner: The Eagles. It appeared that a good 50,000 people decided to stay for that show with people seated all the way back toward the exit sign in the middle of the park. Knowing the venue, we left the park and walked over to the trail behind the stage where we could hear the show perfectly. It would have been nice to see them, but that was impossible in the park anyways. We listened for a good hour and a half before deciding it was time to go home. They played mainly their hits and solo hits which I suppose is what the crowd wanted but doesn’t lend itself to a consistent sound (especially with Joe’s material). The music sounded very close to the record, so if you like that, you would have enjoyed the show. I couldn’t really tell if there was any real passion here, but they sounded good.
The three of us headed back to Deb and Linda’s house and hung out for awhile. It was weird not being with Deb at the festival for the first time in 9 years, but overall it was another good experience. In the morning we all (along with Deb’s mom) got together for breakfast and now I’m heading home. I don’t know when I’m coming back here. I hope to check out South by Southwest (SXSW) next year and if something special happens I could find myself at ACL again, but for now, I will just say a sad goodbye to one of my favorite cities. Goodbye Austin. Goodbye ACL.