Andrew Bird, Arctic Monkeys Impress at ACL Day 2

To the Arctic Monkeys a festival like Austin City Limits is old hat. (Merritt Martin)
So, the whole festival thing is such a mixed bag. There are the hassles you know about that I won't really detail too much here -- expense (admittedly, the beer and food prices are reasonable here), lines (it took an hour to get inside ACL premises on opening day) and trying to find your friends. But overall, the ACL folks have done a kick-ass job keeping things working well. Potty lines, food and bev. lines have been OK; the fires (!) were dealt with quickly and as professionally and efficiently as possible; and the sets have been on-time and fuck-up free.

The dichotomy of Ooh, too many people vs. Ooh, Band X is awesome! was no more noticeable than during the 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. hours, when one could set up camp in advance of the Arcade Fire set -- which closed last night's festivities -- in between the AT&T Blue Room stage and the AMD stage. The chunk of greatness started off with Andrew Bird, whom I have until this day eschewed with a great disdain for his pretentiousness. He completely won me over with his gorgeous, fun, poppy set; his famous whistle parts as thick and full as a Rhodes. He also plucked his violin like it was a heavy metal guitar, as well as playing it traditionally while singing simultaneously.

Andrew Bird impressed us with his violin plucking skills. (Merritt Martin)

After his set, a quick 90-degree turn and bam! there were the Arctic Monkeys. The Monkeys' set was acceptable, above-average, but for a group of young kids playing to tens of thousands of people, they seemed relatively unexcited, kind of bored, and not in a snotty cool punk way but in an entitled way, like, they were thinking, "This is no big deal."

And while the Monkeys' set wasn't as transcendent as the guy who told me that they are the new Beatles would have wanted it to be, it was fo' shizzle pretty rockin', and the split-second it ended, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah busted into its fine set on the other stage (90 degree turn again). There must have been some mojo on the AT&T Blue Room Stage, because, much as Andrew Bird proved a happy surprise, so did Clap Your Hands charm the pants off of, hmmm, about 80 zillion people.

The sweat factor rose just as the sun was setting and Clap Your Hands finished up. Another 90 degree turn afforded a fine view of Arcade Fire, who reaped the benefits of Meg White's recuperation (and we always thought it would be Jack!) with rapid additions to its already swollen crowd. For the first three songs, it seemed clear they would blow Bob Dylan out of the water; they are the perfect festival group. But then, honestly, my companion took a hit off a joint and promptly got dizzy. We had to go.

As we high-tailed it to the water tent, I looked around and saw a field of motionless bodies. The shit looked like that post-battle scene in Gone With the Wind, with the rows upon rows of dead and wounded Confederate soldiers filling the scene. It was a bummer to miss Arcade Fire, but shit, we had already had out fill. It was time for some rest. -- Jonanna Widner



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