Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Austin City Limits 2011

Summer coming to an end meant one thing to me, 3 letters that people in Austin say nonchalantly like they are reciting their ABC's: A.C.L. Despite the weather still feeling like the dead of summer, I had once again been anxiously awaiting for this week to get here. Of course, I bought my tickets before the line-up was released way back in May, and the chances of me missing Austin City Limits was as likely as rain was in the forecast the past 4 months since I had purchased the tickets... zero percent.

I started off ACL week with Deadmau5 at Austin Music Hall. Being one of the more entertaining acts at last year's festival, I thought catching him at his own show would be a cool way to kick off what I like to refer to as my fall break. We got to the show a little too early unfortunately, but did get to see Tommy Lee do a DJ set, yes that Tommy Lee, which was surprisingly entertaining. Dubstep DJ Excision came on next, and was also pretty legit if you are into that kind of thing. I can be when in the right mood, but unfortunately was not quite at that level on this given night. So once Deadmau5 finally hit the stage I'm sad to say I was pretty tired, and being surrounded by high school kids with glow sticks was just not cutting it for me. We stayed for about 45 minutes, got to see some incredible visuals from Deadmau5, and hear his infamous electronic beats. All in all I left feeling a little dejected, and a little worried about how I was going to survive the next few days of all out music.

The only official ACL Aftershow I bought tickets to in advance was for Pretty Lights with Nas and Run DMT at Austin Music Hall the night before the festival officially got under way. I knew a few different people going, so I showed up solo and just made my rounds. Run DMT were a pair of local Austin DJ's, and they got things going with some good jams. Nas came on next, and a little intoxicated due to his birthday being the night before, put on a surprisingly impressive set complete with some of his older classic hits. The place was getting live to "Hate Me Now" and the energy in the venue was contagious. The anticipation for Pretty Lights was palpable, and when he finally came on, the place exploded. Pretty Lights went on a little after 11pm, and didn't stop playing till after 2am. It was by far the most visually entertaining show I've ever been to, and he straight up rocked out. The most important element to me at a show is crowd involvement, and not a single person at AMH was standing still for nearly 3 hours. His set, set-list, and crowd involvement were all flawless. I walked away knowing there was no way any show I could see at ACL the next 3 days would come close to touching what I had just been a part of. Easily top 3 best shows I've ever seen, if not the best. Do yourself a favor, and catch his act if you ever get a chance. Seriously. Do it.

So on very little sleep, I awoke Friday feeling rejuvenated and back to being excited thanks to the show the night before. After the ritualistic Kerbey Lane brunch filled with homefries and mimosas, it was off to the festival early to get our money's worth. After dropping off some flyers downtown for my friends over at Tortoise & Blonde (http://www.tortoiseandblonde.com/), I made my walk over to Zilker Park. Along the way I started chatting with another guy making the pilgrimage wearing a Caribou shirt (one of the best concerts I went to in 2010), and after about 20 minutes of trading stories and laughs, came to find out his name was Jordan. Small world. Having already gotten my money's worth the night before, I more or less just tagged along with my friends to whatever show they wanted to see, and since none of Jordan's friends had made it down there yet, he ended joining as well. We started at Theophilus London, and during his set the unthinkable happened... it started raining. Granted it wasn't a downpour, more of a light drizzle, the crowd still went pretty wild none the less, so thankful for the cool off during the hot day and the much needed rain the entire area of south Texas so desperately needs. Then we hiked over to the other side of the park and caught some of Wild Beasts, and Brandi Carlisle, whose Johnny Cash cover had the crowd feeling like shooting a guy down in Reno. James Blake was interesting, but not really my cup of tea, and despite my eternal love for Ray LaMontagne I just simply was too far away, and too hot, to truly enjoy his set. I tried to get over to catch some of Foster the People's highly anticipated set, but was left feeling very disappointed both by the poor sound and the overall performance of the hipsterish band. Thankfully, Nas saved the day again when him and Damian Marley put on a killer set on the main stage in the heat of the late afternoon. Was so happy I got to see anyone with the last name Marley, especially from as close as I got. Once their set was over I had a decision to make, keep my spot close and get mobbed in with the thousands of people piling in for Kanye West, or bail and watch it from a distance and make it to my ride in a timely fashion. I made a game-time decision and pushed my way close, having already seen Coldplay before I knew this would probably be the only headliner I'd actually see at the festival this year. Waiting an hour stuffed between 50 thousand people is an interesting experience, and in no way is fun, and I was getting quite cynical towards the end as I sobered up and waited for Kanye to come out, because lets face it... Kanye is an ass hole. I fully expected him to come out late, half-ass his performance, and leave me feeling completely unjustified in my decision. Note to self: always underestimate performers. Kanye came out in the middle of the crowd on a huge lift, only 5 minutes late, and absolutely killed it. His first 5 or 6 songs were all jams, and the crowd involvement was off the charts. I completely took back all my bad mouthing of him and was left pumping my fist watching the throne. The only downside was having to snake my way out of all those people to make it back to my ride waiting for me near downtown. Apparently I made the right decision once I finally got out of there (alive, thankfully) as I heard his show ended up being best at the beginning and declining a little towards the end. I ended up literally tripping over a friend on my way out of the park, as ACL never ceases to bring all types of people together. All in all it was a successful first day, thanks mainly in part to Kanye's surprisingly dope performance.

A little tired after a long first day of drinking in the sun, I slept in, went to lunch with Lauren, and took my sweet time getting down to Zilker. I decided rather than trying to stage hop all over Zilker like I had the day before, I would be better off just posting up at one stage all day, sending out a mass text to anyone I knew at the festival as to where I was letting them know I'd be there all day, and just sit back and enjoy the experience. I picked the Google+ stage, where Alexander, Skrillex, and TV on the Radio would be playing on that day. I had bathrooms 10 yards to my left, a water filling station 20 yards behind me, a bar 10 yards past that, and a prime spot about 20 yards away from the stage. During Alexander, some friends met up with me, and we enjoyed sitting around listening to the melodic tones, drinking, and letting the light rain that had started up cool us off. Skrillex came on and we got a little closer and enjoyed a very entertaining and fun set, with the surprisingly large crowd completely into it as much as we were. Surrounded by good friends I rarely get to see, we danced and had a great time dubbin out to his jams. Once his set finished up, I pushed even closer to get a prime spot about 3 rows back for one of my girlfriend's favorite bands, TV on the Radio, so I could find out just why she likes them so much. I quickly found out, as they put on the most impressive set musically I saw all weekend. I also was about 10 feet away from Christian Bale standing on the side stage apparently filming a movie, so whenever one comes out in a few months that involves him being at a festival or something, look for me snapping photos in the background.

Sunday, after not exerting as much energy the day before, I woke up early ready to make the most of my last day at the festival. After a burger and some beers at Black Sheep Lodge, I headed back to Zilker with the same game plan as Saturday, post up at Google+ and enjoy not trying to deal with maneuvering through 75,000 people. Chiddy Bang kicked the day off, and they put on a surprisingly entertaining set, as I was not impressed the first time I had seen them a few months back. The white guy playing drums made a huge difference, as did having a large group of friends around me again versus essentially seeing them alone the first time, and we all danced and had a great time despite the killer heat. Elbow went on next, a band my sister introduced to me a long time ago and I have always enjoyed. We had a great spot close for this show, and they put on a very good show musically. Empire of the Sun was the last show of the night at this stage, and I was not at all prepared for their wild and crazy show. It was like a 1980's band meets an Andy Warhol painting, and I was happy to be so surprised by a show. Those crazy Aussies had the place rockin, and having already seen Arcade Fire earlier this year, I didn't mind only catching a few of their songs from their headliner performance from way in the back before saying so long to ACL 2011.

I took work off Monday, a lesson I learned the hard way last year, and was lucky enough to win free entry to an ACL (the PBS TV show) taping of the British band Gomez. I didn't know much about them save the one song I had on an ACL Sampler I had downloaded a few weeks back, but I was third row for their hour long show and they were very impressive. It was a nice intimate way to finish up another successful festival week. Ironically enough, I ended this past week the way I started ACL last year, by seeing Neon Indian. This time it was at Mohawk, and it was another great night.

Its times like these that make me thankful to be alive, to be living in the town that I do, and being able to have the means to do the things I want to do. I am so grateful to be at this place in my life, where I have amazing friends, a great supportive family, a beautiful and caring girlfriend, a job that allows me to live where I want to and support myself, and an attitude that has challenged me to open up and meet new people, try new things, experience new events, and become a person I am happy and proud to be. I can't wait to go back and read this posting, just like I read last years "Austin City Limits 2010" post when packing for this years festival, and relive all the incredible moments I was lucky enough to be apart of. To everyone who were a part of this years memories, thanks! I don't know that I will be going all 3 days to ACL again next year, but it is definitely an experience I will always cherish and remember.



Sunday, September 4, 2011

500 Days of Summer

It's Labor Day Weekend... already?! Where did this summer go? It's gone like all the water in Texas, and with ACL looming I figured it was time to update this because I'm sure I'll have an epic posting coming for that amazing festival weekend. A lot has happened since Memorial Day and New Orleans.

It's been a crazy, hot, rain-less summer here in Texas, and I kicked it off with a trip to Houston for Free Press Summerfest. A smaller, more intimate festival in the heart of downtown, I got to see some pretty good bands for cheap such as Beirut, The Black Angels, Yeasayer, Cut Copy, and the headliners Weezer. Other than sliding down the hill we were sitting on during the festival, fighting the overwhelming humidity and 100 degree temperatures, and a little rain (the last time I felt rain, and this was the first weekend in June) we had a great time with friends. Cut Copy had the show of the festival in my opinion, and I can't wait to see them again at ACL in less than 2 weeks.

The middle of June consisted of a few river trips for floats, a Girl Talk concert on the river that I won free tickets too, some free shows at Blues on the Green at Zilker Park, and a lucky free ticket to see Florence and the Machine's taping of their show for Austin City Limits on PBS #gingergotpipes. Since moving to Austin I've won more free things then I ever did before I moved here, tickets to shows namely (including the pair I use for the first date I went on with the ole lady), "swag" packs with beach towels and water bottles, etc. I digress, moral of the story is moving to Austin was the best decision I ever made. I'm a firm believer that you have to go out and make your own luck, and that being a positive person will mean positive things will happen for you. I'm living proof of that, and sometimes I feel like I'm Forrest Gump-ing my way through life, but that for better or worse it's brought me to exactly where I want to be with some amazing stories along the way.

The end of June brought me to the coast of Louisiana for my friend Blake's bachelor party with the boys. We did some fishing, ate some amazing fresh seafood, and I brought out the mustache for its debut. It got mixed reviews on Facebook, but I have to admit I grew kind of fond of the lip blanket over those 4 days. Trips like those with guys I have been friends with my entire life always help put things in perspective, and having a solid group of people I've constantly surrounded myself with like that is the sole reason I am the person that I am. Poker games, drinking games, constant jokes, and reminiscing on stories from our past, its hard to believe we are all where we are, moving on with our lives and growing older. These are people that have known me since I was 7, 8 years old, and accept me for who I am flaws and all. We've learned that no matter how long we go without seeing each other, how far apart we move away from each other, no time or distance can break the bonds we have forged, and I'm eternally grateful for not only those guys but all the people in my life both now and in the past, because without them I'm not sure I could have made it through some of the difficult times I've been through, and I know I wouldn't be the person I'm proud to be right now.

Fourth of July was spent grilling out with friends and avoiding the craziness of downtown. Not long after that, another group of guys I've been close with for a long time came down to Austin so we could all go see Kid Cudi, and once again he did not disappoint. A crazy night downtown followed, and another river trip the next day. My family I stayed with in Portland when we went back in May came down to Austin not long after that, and we got to party with them at an awesome mansion on Lake Austin they were renting out along with a few other friends and family, and I got to take my 21 year old cousin downtown to show him Austin on a Thursday night. We had a great time, and it was awesome getting to be around my aunt, uncle, and 3 cousins for a few days in my part of the world.

Next, I got to take Lauren to my hometown and show her all that Whitehouse/Tyler had to offer. We went to celebrate my nephew Jude's 4th birthday, which again makes me feel really old. Got to see some friends I hadn't a long time, my family and grandparents, and show Lauren the house I grew up in. It was a good trip, but also reminded me that as much as I'm thankful of my upbringing and growing up how and where I did, I'm even more thankful to be out of that place and on to bigger and better things. I use to be bitter towards Tyler, and even hard on it and the people that live there. I'm not quite so cynical anymore, but I still feel that Tyler has a way of trapping people who become comfortable there. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I just think some people who stay there too long become narrow minded and closed off to the rest of the world, and maybe should learn that there is more out there to see, do, and learn.

Anyways, the summer ended with a long awaited trip to Galveston to stay at a beach house with a bunch of friends. I had never been to Galveston before, or even seen the ocean in Texas before for that matter, so it was nice to finally experience that. The water was actually pretty nice, the house was awesome, including a deck on the roof with a great view of the gulf, and we had a great time drinking and hanging out with friends on the beach. There is nothing like the vast ocean to put you back in your place and help you understand how small you are. We are all just blips on the radar, and we are all here for just a second on the clock of the world, so I live my life trying to make it the best I can, experiencing the most I can, seeing everything there is to see, meeting anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of my life, and creating memories that will make this life seem worth living when I reflect on it in the future. No one lives forever, but we can all create moments, impressions, friendships, bonds, and love that will outlive us even after we are gone.

I kicked off what I dub as "concert season" here in Austin with a show at Emo's seeing The Ettes rock out, and the schedule of upcoming shows is just unreal. ACL, White Denim, Deadmau5, Pretty Lights, Neon Indian, Incubus, Death Cab for Cutie, Portugal the Man, Washed Out, Beats Antique, Minus the Bear, Ghostland Observatory, and Fun Fun Fun Fest. Also going to check out a tribute to the Beatles play that is coming in town straight from Broadway, as well as a play starring John Malkovich. I moved to Austin because it is the live music capital of the world, and I'm still taking full advantage of it.

The summer of 2011, the summer of no rain, will be one I will always look back on with a smile on my face. Portland, New Orleans, the ocean, the river, concerts, friends, and memories that I wouldn't trade for the world. Being 24 is an odd, sometimes awkward age, but I'm loving every minute of it. I'm still somewhere between being an immature, naive kid and growing up to become a functioning adult, but its fun hovering here in purgatory. To all my friends and family that took the time to read this, thank you so much for making my life one I can be proud of and happy with. I'm eternally grateful to each and every one of you, and I hope that we get to be together soon and make more memories I can write about here to look at later and smile at. I love you all.