Festival Recap: Day One at Austin City Limits (Weekend 2) – Zilker Park, Austin (07.10.16)

Austin City Limits began its second weekend in spectacular fashion with a lineup filled with just about anything you could want. Headlined by the iconic rock band Radiohead, the day was filled with up and coming names and established world superstars.

A new weekend brought another mass of over 100,000 fans from all over the globe to enjoy one of the greatest festivals in the world. The crowd that showed up is about as diverse and crazy as any festival I have ever seen. It’s quite the sight to see a young kid in a Darth Vader mask holding up a giant inflatable T-Rex jumping and singing along right next to a 50 year old man in a cowboy hat. Welcome to Austin, Texas!

My goal for Day One was to see as many bands as I could, while I only stayed for a few full sets I was able to see 16 sets of the day and there were many highlights. Here is a roundup of some of the bands I checked out.

Photo: Cambria Harkey
Photo: Cambria Harkey

Radiohead

From the opening strings of “Burn The Witch”, you could tell there was something a little special about this Radiohead show. It was the final night of their lengthy 2016 world tour which was enough reason to celebrate for them, but in fact it was lead singer Thom Yorke’s 48th birthday.

“As it’s my birthday and everythink,” Yorke told the one-hundred thousand people in attendance, “I’d like to dedicate this to all my friends and these people here on the stage who I love very much. And I’m very happy to spend my birthday with these buggers.”

The show was everything we have learned to expect from Radiohead, a deep dive into their expansive catalog filled with unbelievable music breakdowns and Yorke being a slithering enigma moving on stage.

By the time they closed with “Fake Plastic Tree”, which was a change from their set at Lollapalooza and the first weekend of ACL where they closed with “Karma Police”, the band had kicked off the festival in classic Radiohead fashion and really set the way for a great weekend of music.

Photo: Roger Ho | rohofoto
Photo: Roger Ho | rohofoto

Major Lazer

Across the festival at the other headlining stage was the throbbing base of world famous DJ Diplo’s side project Major Lazer. If the fans at Radiohead were wondering where all the people with glow-up shoes and dinosaur inflatables were, they were at this show.

DIplo along with Jillionaire and Washy Fire electrified the crowd with their radio hits and just about every pop song on the radio today. Running through tracks from Drake, Rihanna, Chainsmokers and more, they had the crowd in the palms of their hand. Then when fire started shooting from the front of the stage the crowd collectively lost their mind.

Photo: Charles Reagan
Photo: Charles Reagan

Flume

Festival organisers sorely underestimated just how big Australia’s own DJ has become. Walking over to catch the end of his set was one of the most exhilarating and mind-blowing things I have ever witnessed. Flume, who was scheduled on a small side stage had attracted an audience that spread over three separate stage areas and overtaken Zilker Park. Flume ran through his incredible growing collection and no doubt satisfied everyone who came out in droves to see him.

I mentioned in my Lollapalooza review Flume’s crossover success to the US market is putting him on the same level as the biggest DJs in the world. After seeing him play another festival in Texas you might have to stop and wonder if he is already there.

Photo: Roger Ho | rohofoto
Photo: Roger Ho | rohofoto

M83

I have been in love with this band ever since Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was released in 2011. The incredible album resembled more of a soundtrack to an epic film than a rock album. This was what drew me to it and as you attend an M83 concert you experience a show that resembles more an artistic explosion and magnum opus than a rock show. Anthony Gonzalez is clearly a musical genius and this translates to every element of their show.

Accompanied by a beautiful, talented band every beat of the show flows perfectly into the next. Their new singles “Do It, Try It,” and “Go” provide every bit of energy and excitement as the songs they have been playing for a half decade. “Midnight City” hit right as the sun had gone down on Zilker Park and the crowd was primed and ready to party into the night. It was a special moment and the show as a whole was near perfection. It will definitely be a highlight of the fest.

Honourable Mentions…

Bear Hands

This Brooklyn alternative rock band led the day off playing their indie hits “Giant”, “Agora” and “2AM.” Their poppy hooks and fun energy translated wonderfully for their 11:30AM slot and they were definitely ready to kick off the fest.

Keeper

Across the park was Austin’s own female trio Keeper. The three Austin women had quite the challenge playing in the pre-afternoon sun battling rocking bands across the way while they played their music filled with synth-soul grooves and beautiful harmonies. But you could tell the battling elements had no effect on them and they were primed and ready to take advantage of this big moment. They cruised, sounded great and made their hometown city proud.

Flight Facilities

Australia’s own DJ duo had a curious timeslot in the middle of the afternoon sun, but if you judged solely by their hypnotising bass grooves and the audience gelling with every moment, you would have thought was near midnight. Their accompanying vocalists really brought their show to life and provided a true highlight to Friday afternoon.

AWOLNATION

There is a little bit of everything at an AWOLNATION show. It is an EDM show mixed with a heavy metal show mixed with a punk rock show mixed with the message of a motivational speaker. Aaron Bruno can match the greatest stage presence with anyone at any festival. His energy on stage is infectious and the joy he performs with is incredible. They ripped through the solid collection with their recent singles and absolutely killed it with “Sail”.

Die Antwoord

The South African collaboration between rappers Ninja, Yo-Landi and DJ HI-Tek was my favorite act of Lollapalooza. There is absolutely nothing like a Die Antwoord show. It is more performance art than a concert. It is exhilarating, confusing, mind blowing and at times hilarious.  There were costume changes for every song, inflatables that gave great emphasis to the male anatomy and Ninja and Yolandi were on the top of their game.

It was very strange to see them in daylight and not in a headlining slot, but it definitely paved the way for a night to remember. Die Antwoord never disappoints and they sure as hell didn’t disappoint on Friday.

Saturday’s lineup is just as packed as Friday. Some of the highlights include Jack Garratt, LL Cool J, Cage the Elephant and the night’s headliners: Kygo and Kendrick Lamar.

Image: Roger Ho | rohofoto