ACL Fest 2013 Day Two: The Cure Conquers the Cold, Kendrick Draws Huge + More – Exclusive Photos
When the weather changes drastically at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, it’s almost bigger news than anything happening on the fest’s eight stages. So when the temperature dropped to a significantly chilly 60-something degrees at the tail end of day two (Oct. 5), it felt for a moment as if the stand-out performances from the likes of Junip, Silversun Pickups, the Joy Formidable and Wilco might be overshadowed by the quest to turn picnic blankets into multi-person hovels of warmth. The frigid blast even threatened to downplay the anticipation for the evening's two headliners, Kings of Leon and the Cure.
The Cure, however, remedied that handily by delivering a greatest-hits set that built artfully from slow-burners like ‘Plainsong’ and ‘Pictures of You’ to enrapturing favorites including ‘Just Like Heaven’ and the encore finale ‘Boys Don’t Cry.'
Though frontman Robert Smith’s charmingly creepy performance was a source of awe for most in attendance, longtime David Bowie axeman Reeves Gabrels amazed with some stunning fretwork on ‘From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,’ and bassist Simon Gallup induced such revelry with his piercingly passionate playing on ‘Fascination Street’ and ‘Disintegration’ that the icy air became a fading afterthought.
Aside from featuring showmanship that has clearly stood the test of time, the Cure’s closing set should be remembered for a light show more dazzling than the most elaborate jam-band or EDM displays. It was easily the most breathtaking visual array of the fest so far, and possibly the best in the event's 12 years of existence.
Yet even before the Cure conquered the cold, day two had created ample memorable moments. Here are are a few:
Best gritty garage band: For those unfamiliar withReignwolf -- stage name for Jordan Cook -- the first part of his ACL performance was likely underwhelming. Who was this scraggly looking, beanie-wearing dude with only a guitar trying to rouse a festival crowd with a solo blues act? Talk about a misleading first impression. By the end of that song, Cook had covered every inch of the stage, manhandling and wrangling (and more often mangling) his axe, evoking whines and screams, sometimes with one hand or just a drum stick in place of a pick. And when his two bandmates joined a song later, all bets were off. Cook’s Chris Cornell-inspired wail and range of tone -- a sonic spectrum that spans the erraticism of Jack White to the careful weavings of U2’s Edge -- revealed a pocket the professionalism behind in his maniacal persona.
Best breakout artist: The ladies of HAIM certainly know how to come off as endearing. It was hard not to want to jump onstage and hug them when they mentioned that Austin -- and specifically South by Southwest two years ago -- was where it all began for them, making it exceedingly more significant that they got to celebrate the Sept. 30 release of their debut album, ‘Days Are Gone,’ with this main-stage performance. But the juxtaposition of their stage presence erased all notions of cutesyness. In particular, the way they shredded through a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ -- an homage to their most frequent comparison -- justified all the buzz surrounding them these past few months. Given how young they are, it was exciting to watch the Haim sisters command the stage so effortlessly and imagine how hard they’ll rock as they grow together. The only bummer: They ended their set 15 minutes early. Doesn’t seem likely anyone would’ve turned down a couple more crushing classic rock covers to flesh out the hour.
Best and biggest audience: Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar drew the most enthused crowd of weekend one so far. He probably got a boost from people leaving Passion Pit’s massive dance party directly across the field, but it was clear from the crush of bodies that his was one the most sought-after sets. Lamar reciprocated with a hits-filled performance that proved his hunger for fame matches his zeal for delivering some of the sharpest mainstream hip-hop of at least the last decade.
“This is not a concert. This is not a rap show. This is a motherf---in' experience,” he declared before working the crowd into an exuberantly pulsating frenzy for the closing track, ‘Swimming Pools (Drank).’
Check out more photos from ACL Fest Day 2, Weekend 1