I’m totally sorry about the gap between ACL Fest reviews there. Shockingly, graduate school does NOT offer much flexibility, even when you have like, totally important music blogging to attend to! Jeez. Anyway, thanks for bearing with me and let the reviews of ACL Fest Day 2 begin!
Overall, Saturday was a better festival day than Friday. Friday’s crowds were crazier (go figure), so by comparison, Saturday just seemed a lot more relaxed. It was a little warmer, but nothing some shade time couldn’t fix. I actually saw more bands on Saturday, and was even able to get fairly close to the stages a couple of times! Miraculous! Here’s who I saw:
Most esoteric of the day: Bear in Heaven
As I said in my ACL Fest preview, Bear in Heaven is like a mix of Grizzly Bear and Yeasayer. After their set on Saturday, I would also add Blonde Redhead to that blend. While that sound is clearly ambitious, their show wasn’t the most energizing of the festival – and the crowd definitely reflected that. My critique is that although Bear in Heaven have great technical abilities, a daytime festival slot means that you really have to engage the crowd. With very little stage banter and a dedication to a particular style, after three or four songs, they all started to blend together. Overall, their set was interesting but not particularly memorable.
Breakout performance of the day: Two Door Cinema Club
If any band had a festival “moment” on Saturday, it was the Irish indie pop-rock band Two Door Cinema Club. Assigned to one of the tiny stages, the band drew a huge crowd based on buzz alone and really, really delivered. Their set full of danceable pop tunes was fresh, exciting, and fun; even the band members were enjoying themselves and that always makes a difference. They very charmingly remarked on how surprised they were that there was such a big, responsive crowd. Quite simply, TDCC put on a terrific show from start to finish and established themselves as a band to keep an eye on.
Sexiest of the day: Mayer Hawthorne & the County
Alright, I gotta admit I laughed and mocked the person who advised guys to “watch their gals” during the Mayer Hawthorne set…but I was wrong. The smooth crooner and his band had the audience really going by the third song or so, and eventually, the best show wasn’t even on the stage – it was in the audience. I have never seen mating rituals on display quite so unabashedly before.
Anyway, Mayer sounded great and even though it’s hard to believe that Motown-style tunes could translate well to a daytime festival audience, they did in spades. Mayer is a true showman and his band is solid. This was one of the best sets of the day.
Meh of the day: Broken Bells
Ah, Broken Bells. How I had such high hopes for thee and oh, how those hopes were laced with doubt. Unfortunately, the part of me that doubted that James Mercer and Danger Mouse’s low-key record could hold up to the festival’s finicky crowds was correct. The pair drew a gigantic crowd, but even from a reasonable distance, they sounded much too quiet and displayed very little enthusiasm. Very disappointing.
We ended up leaving the show to get food, which turned out to be somewhat of a payoff because we were able to hear most of Local Natives’ set, and they sounded pretty good. I’m not going to review it hear because I listened to it from across the park, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see them live sometime.
Most perplexing of the day: The Temper Trap
I’ve never really been too sure of what The Temper Trap is going for. I mean, they’re obviously influenced by U2 and Coldplay, but at the same time, they have tracks that have no clear hook, really long instrumentals, and lyrics that need work. Live at the fest, they sounded just like their record, which is both good (because they’re musically capable) and bad (because of the aforementioned flaws). The set was uneven, with some soaring moments of melodic sweetness, and some moments of long-winded falsetto and uninspired instrumentals. Overall, I wasn’t particularly impressed by their show.
Most energetic of the day: Gogol Bordello
So, I ended up seeing Gogol instead of LCD Soundsystem. The reason is because I wanted to go to a show where I was SURE I was going to have a great time. Gogol Bordello never disappoints. I just love this band – they’re crazily energetic, have tons of rousing songs, and are guaranteed to satisfy your urge to jump up and down wildly. The songs from their new album aren’t quite as good as their previous ones, but live at the fest, they all blended together really well. The crowd loved them.
Most overrated of the day: Deadmau5
Duuuuude. Before you unfriend/unfollow/unlike me for dissing Deadmau5′s highly regarded ACL set, hear me out. The best thing about this show (and probably the reason so many people loved it) was the lights, which I must say, were pretty awesome and some of the most intricate I’ve seen. I also thought it was cool when his mouse face had a digital mouth that moved…like, WHOA man!
BUT, even Deadmau5 admitted the set was technically flawed. In my opinion, there is just nothing special about this guy’s music. It’s basic house beats. The crowd was shove-y and full of tweakers. Bottom line, it was overhyped and overrated in every way (other than the light show). Or maybe I just wasn’t on enough drugs.
Prog-rock fan show of the day: Muse
What can I say? There was no better time to be a Muse fan then during Muse’s precision-perfect set closing out Saturday of the festival. I’m not exactly a Muse-lover, but after seeing their show at ACL, they’ve grown on me quite a bit. It sure looked like their dedicated fans were having a fantastic time, and the band throws themselves into their stage show. The crowd was super-massive (get it? Nyah!), and even from our vantage point waaaaaay back, Muse looked and sounded like a band that deserves to sell out arenas. All-in-all, a fine choice for a closer on Saturday night.
Stay tuned for my reviews of Sunday, coming up shortly. Also, check out the rest of my pictures on my Facebook fan page!