ACL Fest 2013 Day One: Muse Battle Sound Issues, Arctic Monkeys Crank It Up + More – Exclusive Photos
For the first time in its 12-year history, the Austin City Limits Music Festival expanded to two weekends (Oct. 4-6 and 11-13), using a repeat-lineup model similar to Coachella’s.
A transformation like this always raises a few questions: Were organizers motivated more by monetary prospects or opening up the three-day experience to more wanting fans? How many among the event’s roughly 200,000 attendees will tough it out for both weekends? What, if anything, will be different about the two weekends? And to what extent will the performing artists value a second chance?
Based on the past two years of dual Coachellas, one might answer: seems like a profit thing (passes for the second weekend haven’t sold out, and promoters are pushing them heavily), not many (less than 2,000), mostly the weather with a few vibe and set list shifts and depends on who you ask.
With regard to day one of kickoff weekend, most artists -- standouts including Smith Westerns, fun., the Black Angels, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age -- delivered peak performances with barely a glitch. Ironically, the one band that will likely be jonesing for next Friday's encore was one of the day’s mightiest: Muse.
Commencing its headlining set with the indomitable 'Supremacy,' the British rock trio roused deafening cheers. Those soon turned to confused shouts and dumfounded silence when, after one measure of hair-raising riffage, the sound cut out. After an otherwise seamless day, the flub felt horrendously anti-climactic – not to mention fairly laughable when it became clear that Matt Bellamy & Co. failed to notice and continued to rock out full-force to the tones coming through their earpieces.
It took a full 10 minutes to make a repair – drummer Dominic Howard reported that a generator had run out of oil – by which time overarching adrenaline had dropped sharply. But ultimately, that didn’t deter what was probably one of the largest main-stage crowds in ACL history from amassing and singing heartily along to high-octane cuts like the replay of 'Supremacy,' 'Uprising' and 'Stockholm Syndrome.'
After the band had regained some lost mojo, the sound malfunctioned a second time during the closing cut, 'Survival,' and this time, Muse decided to forgo a redo. The group did, however, return with a triumphant rendition of 'Knights of Cydonia' for a one-song encore. All in all, Muse’s set marked the day’s most bittersweet moment, tragic yet galvanic.
Here is a handful more highlights:
Best use of volume: This one goes to the Arctic Monkeys, whose early-evening main-stage set -- which featured ample familiar hits plus a few choice selections from their recently released album, 'AM' -- was so thunderous that it successfully drew in more than a few casual passersby from as far as halfway across the festival grounds. Those who journeyed closer got to see one of frontman Alex Turner’s most swashbuckling performances all year. Perhaps his amped-up antics -- which included stage-spanning gallops, saucy sneers and Elvis-haired head-banging -- were to impress friend and occasional producer Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, who watched from side stage. Whatever the case, it did the trick.
Best swagger: With its members' euphoria-inducing ballads and carefree showmanship, fun. were a close second in this category, but the unequivocal winners were Queens of the Stone Age. As the sun set over this fest’s first day, the group opened with the powerhouse drug homage 'Feel Good Hit of the Summer,' which prompted Homme to assert his standing as the epitome of cocksure: “Austin … we came to give you a night you’ll never remember, man.”
That was surely a reality for some folks, but it was hard to forget some the day’s swankiest and mind-bending riffs during extended jams on 'Burn the Witch,' 'Make it Wit Chu' and 'A Song For the Dead.'
Best night band in daylight: Yeah, it’s an obscure category. But London-based post-punk quartet Savages deserves the nod for their 1PM performance. Their barrages of chugging rhythms overlaid with terrifyingly toned flurries of distorted guitar are better suited for a dark room where the enclosed acoustics are liable to make your eardrums bleed. Yet there was something unmistakably powerful about being able to clearly see the fiercely reflective glint in frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s eyes. Hers is the chilling stare of a hungry panther, and as she warbled and wailed 'Shut Up' she was nothing short of captivating.
Check out more photos from ACL Fest Day 1, Weekend 1