Thursday, September 20, 2007
My Mind's Not Right
Much apologies for the delay, but as promised, here's your Official Dear Mr. Supercomputer 2007 Austin City Limit Music Festival Recap.
Let's remember above all, that DMS got the hookup from a coworker. We didn't expect to be going to this at the beginning of the week. We did, however, have tickets to The National/Blonde Redhead aftershow at Emo's Saturday night. That was fine with us. We had accepted it. But then, here we were with a ticket for a three-day pass. Below is a retroactive diary of the weekend's events. But not only that, you know how we usually give grades and such for the bands? Well, we're grading everything this weekend to grade how the whole weekend experience is. Everything.
(4:30 AM) Toddler Supercomputer wakes up really early for some reason. That is totally unacceptable. D- We'll bring her into bed and pray that she goes back to sleep. Please... please...
(7:30 AM) Thank God, she went back to sleep. B+
(10:30 AM) Magnolia Cafe. With Mother-in-Law Supercomputer in town (don't ask me why she has the same surname), the wife and I head to Austin fixture, Magnolia Cafe. Nothing like loading up on pancakes and queso before a long day of sun. The food is, as always, fantastic. At this point I'm getting giddy. A-
(1:00 PM) Getting parkside dropoff from the wife is always appreciated. Now it's time to bask in the glow and the possibilities that lay before me.
The first thirty minutes of the ACL Fest might be my favorite time of the whole weekend. It's Friday so there's a lot of chumps still at work so the park is rather empty. You can just walk around and catch a few of the morning acts which are usually nothing too intense. Just sort of a wake up call. I hang around Asleep at the Wheel for a few minutes before heading over to Jesse Malin, but more importantly, a good spot for Joseph Arthur. At this time, it's not too hard to get a good spot anywhere.
(1:30 PM) Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts. Joseph is a couple minutes late and for a while I was wondering if he had killed himself before going onstage. Thankfully, he shows up and sounds great. Great in that raspy, the-world-is-black kind of way. The Lonely Astronauts are great too. Particularly the girls. One's got a sort of superhero spandex thing going on and the other, well, imagine if instead of a visor over his eyes, Geordi Laforge had eyeliner painted in a stripe there instead. That's what she's got. A great set, but two minor complaints: A) He didn't play a whole lot of older stuff and, B) he seems utterly tired of "In the Sun" at this point. B
(2:30 PM) Pete Yorn vs. the ACL Fire of 2007. So apparently an RV exploded or something. For the first few songs of Pete Yorn's set we're all preoccupied with the billowing black smoke not 100 yards away. I'm not too worried until I can see flames almost touching the surrounding trees. At that point, I begin to back away and eyeball my escape route. Once the APFD get there, the thing's out in a few minutes and we get back to rocking out. Pete Yorn was actually excellent in that it reminded me of how much I love Musicforthemorningafter. Just great song after great song. He's got great energy and the crowd is thin enough that I can get real close. Still though, I have one complaint:
Remember last year when I berated Paolo Nutini for covering Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" on the very stage that Gnarls Barkley would be playing in a couple hours? Well, Pete Yorn committed an even greater travesty: he played Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks" just a few minutes before PB and J would be going on across the yard! Totally uncool! Do you think Pete cleared it with Peter Bjorn and John? You'd hope so. This is all made creepier by my labelling "Young Folks" as my MP3 of the Week this week. Well, since it's fresh on my mind, I can go see how the original authors do with it. B-
(3:30 PM) Peter Bjorn and John. A pretty odd and lackadaisical show. The heat is really starting to take it's toll and I don't think any of us were prepared for how awkward these guys would be. "I heard that Pete Yorn covered our song," Peter starts in a perfect Stockholm accent, "there's an artist where we're from named Pieter Bjorn... Maybe Pete Yorn and Peter Bjorn should tour." Thankfully I beered up before this one. "Young Folks" is a great song though. But anti-props to the girl singer they brought out with the lyrics taped on the back of one of those Heinneken fans. C
(4:00 PM) Blonde Redhead. I cut out early from the Peter Bjorn and John show to size up Blonde Redhead, hoping I can catch "23."
Not only did I not catch "23," but I apparently missed the part of the show where they did anything but play ethereal sounds and not really sing. It makes me very wary of the aftershow scheduled for Saturday night. C
(4:30 PM) Crowded House. You know it's Friday when it's getting later and you can still walk right up to the front of the main stages. All I want to hear is "Don't Dream It's Over." I think that's all anyone wants to hear. It certainly is great, but it clears out quickly afterwards. Myself included. I need to get a good spot for M.I.A. B-
(5:30 PM) M.I.A. She is awesome. She could totally kick your ass. She gives it 100% for the entire set. Her backup singer/dancer pusses out halfway through and has to sit because of the heat. She can't keep up with M.I.A. who, is a total badass. The crowd is the most energetic I've seen yet. It's hard not to get up when M.I.A. is getting you up. Rather than give an extensive description of the show, I'll just link her myspace page and that should give you an idea of what it was like. And I'll tell you that she invited the whole crowd to come dance on stage. A+
(6:30 PM) Spoon, Louis XIV, and Queens of the Stone Age. I love Spoon and I love Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga but after seeing them several times in their own venue, it's hard to want to see them at a massive festival. I stick around for a few minutes, hear "Cherry Bomb" and "Don't Make Me A Target" and head out. B-
Loius XIV is awful. At first I thought it was a joke. And it still might have been but I just didn't get it. The lead singer is a dead ringer for young Ozzie and all their songs are Spinal Tap-esque. I seriously thought they were going to bust out "Big Bottoms." Maybe if they had I'd have stuck around. D-
Queens of the Stone Age is pretty good. I'm not a huge fan of theirs but I like what I've heard. "Little Sister" is a good song as is "No One Knows." In fact, I really enjoy those songs. Maybe I'll stick around. B
Nah, I'm tired, I don't feel like seeing the Killers. I'll try to catch the early bus home. Ooh, and maybe get some Sandy's Hamburgers before I head home.
(7:30) Sandy's Hamburgers. I love Sandy's but they sure do take a while. And my bus home will be showing up any minute. C'mon Sandy's....
(7:45) Capital Metro Bus #10. Ah the 10. I get my burger just in time as the 10 is pulling up. A perfect bus pickup is really a thing of beauty. And the thing I love about the Cap Metro buses is that they run their A/C at like 10 below. Perfect for a sunburnt and hungry transient such as myself. B+ for Sandy's and Cap Metro's incredible air conditioning.
(8:15) I finally get home, a little early today. I need to store up my energy for tomorrow, which should just be one big blowout. On the way home I make a decision: I will be at the front row for Arcade Fire. I will sit through every act and miss every other act to maintain the spot at the front of the stage. I will not go to the bathroom. I will not get food. I will arrive early to stake a claim at the absolute front. And no one will take it away from me. So it is written, so it shall be done.
(7:00 AM) Getting home early last night allowed me to get a full nights' sleep for today. I'm thankful of that when the Girl wakes me up. Still, it's early. Time for Thomas and Friends. B-
(10:30 AM) So in addition to my incredible plan to camp out for Arcade Fire, I begin planning my after ACL activities. I decide I'll park my car downtown at a meter (free on the weekends) this morning when there is parking available and then bus it to ACL. I park as close to Emo's as possible, where the aftershow will take place. That way I'll be able to just leave and go home, because I'm sure I'll be so exhausted I'll want to get home quickly. So I do just that. I park downtown and then take the bus over to Zilker Park. It's fucking brilliant.
(11:30 AM) Good Lord, what am I in for? It's already hot. My two water bottles that I had stuck in the freezer overnight to freeze into a solid block of ice were almost entirely melted by the time I sat down in front of the AMD stage. There's a few other early birds there as well that had the same idea. We're all in this together I suppose. So, I take a deep breath, take one final trip to the port-a-potty and then stake my place along the front railing where I'll be for the next 10 hours.
(12:30 PM) Soundteam. They're really great and I'm getting all into it. Then I start talking to the girl behind me who's boyfriend is the synth player. She said they're breaking up after this performance. What's up with that? I'm just getting to know them! Anyway, they play a great energetic set, heavy on the electronica. A-
(2:30 PM) Paolo Nutini. Ah, Paolo, we meet again. The Scottish man with the Brazilian name has all the women swooning. The Scottish accent is like kryptonite to women. You can be the most wretched looking creature, but if you have a Scottish accent, you are attractive. I like Paolo though. He's singer-songwriter-y. Kind of like a Scottish Pete Yorn. B
(3:30 PM) We're all bonding now. We all are hot as hell, hungry, and we've sweated off our sunscreen, but if we leave now, we'll never get back up at the front. We might get close, but not to the very front. That seems like little to a non-believer but I'm telling you: the front rail is beautiful. Not only does it provide ample back support in between sets, it also ensures there's no one in front of you, allowing your face to hit oxygen instead of someone else's sweaty neck. A- for the front rail.
So, let's see who's next on the sched... oh God..... no. It can't be. No. Fuck, no.
(4:30 PM) Blue October. Kill me. Kill me God. I can't take it anymore. Take me away from here.
No that's not the lyrics to a BO song, but they might as well have been.
Remember in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (6) when Dumbledore tells Harry to force him to drink the potion no matter how much he protests? And that he can't stop drinking it no matter what he says? And Harry forces it down his throat, all the while Dumbledore is begging him to stop? Yeah, I needed Harry for this one.
Blue October regales us with self-absorbed tales of self-loathing and narcissistic self-abuse for a full hour. It is excrutiating. They are total posers. The lead singer (who is probably at least 35 and 230) has a painted cross-tear and is singing songs such as "I Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek." They are not edgy but they are trying their damnest to be edgy. Actually, I was enjoying one of the songs until the lead singer sang, "she left me with the crying disease." That was it. No more chances. This is simply awful. All the Arcade Fire fans have a look of half-dread, half-nausea on them.
Look, I can't blame Blue October for being at this particular stage. It's not their fault that I have to be here so I can't blame them too much. I knew it would be tough. You don't normally go see your least favorite band on earth. Why would you? I'll tell you why: to be up and close for your favorite band on earth.
For that reason, I have to recuse myself from grading them. If you want a better grade, ask someone who likes them or is even ambivalent towards them. I can't wait for the Arctic Monkeys to get this taste out of my mouth.
(5:30 PM) More and more people are showing up. There's almost no room to sit now, but I'm going to try anyway. I slide down along the wall. Everyone around me is forced to stand. So I'm now staring at some guy's crotch. It's not, I'm dehydrating as we speak, I just sat through a torturous show and now I'm staring at some guy's crotch because he can't sit down.
At least I have this precious rail to lean against.
(6:30 PM) Arctic Monkeys. They jolt some life back into us. In fact, one of the highlights of the festival is "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor." We're all shouting it and pumping our fists. B+
(7:30 PM) Remember when Bart goes to Kamp Krusty and everything sucks, but he keeps repeating, "Krusty is coming. Krusty is coming?" That's the state I'm in right now. Everyone is surging forward, squishing us into the front rail. But I'm glad I have it to hold on to for dear life. This is going to rule. We're getting a little frenzied right now.
(8:30 PM) Arcade Fire. This is the reason I waited for hours. I feel like Andy Dufrane who "crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side."
The first few, pounding chords of "Black Mirror" whip us all into a ravenous, berserked state. Seriously, we are all losing are sanity right now. Everyone around me not only knows every word to every song, but every note, every harmony, every inflection for every song. Sometime that's annoying, but the speakers are right in front of us so we can't even hear each other and besides, Arcade Fire is built perfectly with a lot of shouts and call-and-response stuff.
After that it's "Keep the Car Running" just like on the album. I should mention that there's like 10 of them on stage. They have strings, horns, and of course, a massive pipe organ. They are all very animated. We are very animated. "Laika" is one of my favorite live tracks they play. While I like that song ok, it's awesome live. I mean, every line is like a call to arms. "Alexander! Older brother!..."Our father.... SHOULDA... just named you 'Laika'!" It's awesome.
After that, it's "No Cars Go." Phenomenal. I can't say enough about the voilinists.
"Haiti" (another surprisingly great live track), "Intervention," "Antichrist Television Blues,"Windowsill" and "The Well and the Lighthouse" follow, going heavy on the Neon Bible.
"Ocean of Noise" kind of lulls us to sleep. Or rather, it's the calm before the storm. They close with a 1-2-3 punch of an extended version of "Power Out," "Rebellion (Lies)," and encore with "Wake Up." This might be the best 15 minutes of my life. "Power Out" is intense. My entire section is jumping and pumping their fists. During "Rebellion" one of the percussionists is throwing everything around on stage high up into the air. Then he runs down into the crowd with a big bass drum, full speed ahead. "Wake Up" is probably the ultimate crowd-anthem. Some are even raising their arms to heaven like this is a praise service. I'd say that's about right. A+
We stick around for a few minutes telling ourselves how worth it the wait was. And it was. So worth it. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to see them live ever again. Anywhere they play tickets will get scooped up so quickly you'd have to just be lucky or pay a trillion dollars on ebay.
But the night does not end here. It's off to Emo's for The National (I'm wavering on Blonde Redhead at this point.)
(11:00 PM) The National @ Emo's. Look, I know I'm pretty dehydrated at this point perhaps even to the point of hallucination. I haven't peed in 12 hours and what's more disturbing, I don't really have to. But damnit, if this isn't the best show I've ever seen.
(Ed. Note: We here at Dear Mr. Supercomputer have oft been accused of using hyperbole so much that everything we spout becomes meaningless. While these charges are certainly not unfounded, I assure that this was a fucking great show. Seriously, maybe the best I've ever seen.)
I get there just as the band is starting. I almost forgot how small actual non-ACL venues can be. I didn't get there eight hours ahead of time and I still can see well. What a concept!
"Fake Empire" is of course fantastic. They play an amped up version of "Slow Show." I think I might start crying. My favorite song of the show and maybe the weekend (Arcade Fire excluded) is "Abel." The lead singer hops up onto the speakers and almost hits his head on the beams from the low-lying ceiling of Emo's.
At the end of the show, I make the semi-conscious decision to call it a night and call it a weekend. I go get a Lone Star from the bar and sit down and sip my cool water-beer as if I had just completed a long day of work. A+++
(1:30 AM) My plan to park my car downtown in the morning was brilliant, although that seems like years ago. It takes me five minutes to get to my car and get the hell out of there. But you know what? I haven't eaten anything since this morning and I'm also thirsty as hell. So I head over to Kirby Lane Cafe to scarf down something at 1:30 AM. Of course the place is packed, but since I'm by myself I can slip in at the bar without waiting.
I guess my body was telling me that I had lost a lot of saline when I looked down and realized I ordered a lemonade, chips and salsa, and a bowl of soup. Either that or I'm pregnant. A- for the food and for not having to wait.
(2:30 AM) Precious shower. Precious bed.
(7:00 AM) I can't get up. I just can't. Thankfully, Mother-in-Law rescues the child her father by keeping an eye on her for a few more hours. A+ to Mother-in-Law
Like I said, I eschew Sunday in order to get myself back in working order before tomorrow. I've seen the two bands I was dying to see (Arcade Fire, the National) and got a few unexpected surprises (M.I.A., Soundteam). My ticket was free and I need to let the M-in-L get back to Dallas and spend time with the Girl.
When CBS cut out to show the last seven minutes of the Browns' win over Cincinnati (A+), I couldn't think of a better possible weekend. Not even in a Fake Empire.
Overall Weekend GPA: 3.578