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“The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.”So it goes according to the age-old song lyric, once written by June Hershey back in the 1940’s. As for weekend two of the Austin City Limits music festival, the saying was more figurative, than literal, as overcast and rain hindered the view of the big Texan sky, keeping most of the focus on the stars that graced one of eight stages at the sold out, mud-haven, mammoth-sized music festival that drew roughly 75,000 people each day.
Stars or no stars, not even Outkast’s Big Boi could resist the urge of getting their large crowd from chanting Hershey’s old time sing-a-long, during a mid-set break. He started it, and the audience finished it with true Texan pride.
Of course, just about anything a musician chants through a microphone – requiring some sort of audience response – is met with thunderous applause and raucous reception. Kind of like when Eminem, during his own set, un-shockingly asked his endless sea of fans, “How many of you out there are fucked up?”Followed by; “How many of you out there are fucked in the head?” Followed by “How many of you are both fucked up and fucked in the head?”Would you believe that literally everyone in attendance responded louder and louder as the questioning progressed? Of course.
This is Eminem we’re talking about. Nonetheless, give Slim Shady the credit for drawing the biggest crowd and giving the biggest, most aww-inspiring performance of anyone at the festival, hands-down. Pearl Jam was easily a not-so-distant second in terms of performance and crowd size, with frontman Eddie Vedder also regularly dialoguing with his audience in somewhat of a more rationale and humbled demeanor, but still, nonetheless, glorifying and encouraging the festival-goers choice intoxicant. His own being a bottle of wine.
Outkast, Pearl Jam and Eminem, all with career’s stemming from the 90’s, and having an arsenal of songs to draw from, raced through extensive hit-laden set lists that were nearly two hours each. Beck, Jimmy Cliff, The Replacements and Lorde all, too, had blazing sets worth recognizing.
Although ACL seems to be known for its plethora of sounds and styles from artists of varying levels of clout and success, it is, from the perspective of this first-time virgin eye, a festival that caters to the big stars. Deep in the heart of Texas.
photos by Ralph Arvesen