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ACL Fest 2013, Weekend 2 Recap: 3 Reasons the Weather-Plagued Fest Was Superior – Exclusive Photos

David Hall

Choosing between two festival weekends with identical lineups is certainly a gamble. Will the weather predictions hold up? Will the bands be up to snuff both times? Will it be weekend one or two when the moment happens? But who ever thought it might be like playing Russian roulette?

Sadly, anyone who bought passes for the second weekend of the 12th annual Austin City Limits fest unwittingly pulled the trigger on the loaded chamber. In an unprecedented move, organizers of the Texas fest cancelled the final day (Sunday, Oct. 13) due to extremely heavy overnight thunderstorms that resulted in floodwaters rising above the ankle in some spots of the Zilker Park grounds.

Meaning that after two days of taking in performances from top-tier groups like Depeche Mode, Muse, Vampire Weekend, the Cure, Kings of Leon, Wilco and Kendrick Lamar, those fans rabidly awaiting the return of awe-inspiring acts like Divine Fits, the National, Tame Impala, Phoenix, Atoms for Peace and Lionel Richie were left with nothing more than one unused side of a trifold festival guide to taunt them.

Though by now this is probably old news to anyone reading this, as social networks went a bit haywire when the announcement was made yesterday morning. It just proves weekend one was obviously the better of the two, right?

Wrong.

Going against what may seem logical, here are three reasons the shortened fest was actually superior:

3. The good people: This is a fairly simple concept that was blatantly evident during Coachella’s encore weekends the past two years: The kick-off weekend is for the celebrities and lookie-loos (“Dude, I was totally THERE, man”) for which special-access passes come through various free channels. It wasn’t a wholly identical case at ACL – certainly, the festival’s direct proximity to so many neighborhoods fostered a population fat with more music-adoring local families than any other major urban fest. Yet by default, weekend one became the I-saw-it-first run. Conversely, weekend two was far less crowded and visibly packed with the bands’ most hardcore fans. Winning so far.

An addendum to this category includes the festival’s organizers. Whoever made the call Sunday morning ultimately aimed to ensure safety. Face it: Safety is cool.

2. Practice makes perfect: It’s the same idea behind Bill Murray’s character in ‘Groundhog Day.’ Imagine you’re in a musical group – relatively unknown or preposterously famous, it makes no difference – and you wake up one day and realize, “I get to relive this entire day from exactly one week ago with a group of people that have no idea what happened the first time.”

Though it didn’t hold up in every case, the two-weekend model tended to inspire improvement across the board. Sometimes it was a fluke situation. Muse, for example, assured the weekend two crowd that the generators — which failed twice during round one — were full up on oil, “tons of the stuff,” and delivered an encore showing that was worthy of the British trio’s relentlessly rockin’ reputation. Other times the decision was obviously more conscious. Portugal. The Man rose to the occasion in this regard by spicing up a set list with a pair of Weekend Two-only covers: the Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’ as a coda to ‘All Your Light (Times Like These)’ and an awesomely rowdy rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall.’

Point is, it’s rare that a self-respecting artist gets up in the morning and says, “F— it. I’m not gonna try harder.” Obviously, this point is irrelevant with regard to the weekend two’s day three names, but two days of higher quality shows is pretty damn good.

1. The cancellation itself: Understand that the fest’s cancellation was as surreal for those who got to see both weekends as it was for those who flew from the far reaches of the globe solely for round two. This never happens. A few years ago, it rained so hard the first day of ACL that everyone was wading through up to six inches of what was essentially composted sewage sludge (the city calls it Dillo Dirt) and a raging dust storm overtook — literally, it blocked the desert sun — the final day of Coachella’s first weekend this year. Still, the show went on. Festivals just don’t flood like this — not to the disastrous point of outright cancellation.

Yet what was more unbelievable was the reaction of Sunday’s bands. Maybe the artists could feel the lingering of spirit of those tens of thousands of fans that actually craved a unique music experience. Or perhaps musicians’ sympathies were aroused by all the despondent Tweeting.

In any case, the response to the day’s tragedy was tremendous. Within an hour, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos was reaching out online — “Anyone got a free venue in Austin?” — and talk of other shows began to surface. By the day’s end, the Mowgli’s had organized a free pop-up show on a downtown street corner, Divine Fits was set for a free gig at the Parish, Franz found its way to a hole-in-the-wall called Infest and, most notably, Atoms for Peace hosted more than 2,000 fans — for a nominal $10 per person — at ACL Live.

And yeah, not everybody got to see one of those shows — some people wasted the day chasing various hoaxes about Phoenix playing unreasonable small spaces –- but the day’s events still trumped the typical silver lining.

The humane response of some of the fest’s biggest players was moving, and it would never have come to light -– certainly not on a giant stage among countless attendees –- without the cancellation. These shows weren’t about fulfilling feelings of entitlement; they were about love for the fans that truly love music. And that’s one of the best things ACL’s ever had going for it.

Check out more photos from ACL Fest, Weekend Two

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