I was stuck at school until late afternoon, so I headed down to the fest around 6:30 p.m. Meghan was already there, and Laura had been in Dallas for work and was driving back down and we were all supposed to meet inside. ACLfest.com said not to try and park at the venue, I parked in a garage on San Jacinto near 15th street and caught the shuttle at Waterloo park.
The shuttle setup at Waterloo was very nice and efficient. They’d load up the busses 4 or 5 at a time, like a train, and send them off. So far it looked promising. Of course, going to the venue is very different from leaving the venue! But more on that later.
The Zilker Park venue is beautiful. It’s clearly modeled on the New Orleans Jazz Fest: an oblong field with two large stages at the ends, and smaller stages, tents, and vendors in between. It seemed a tad larger than the fairgrounds in New Orleans, but maybe it was just less crowded. The big limestone formation in the middle of the venue was nicely used as a backdrop for one of the minor stages. Late September is a great time to have a festival in Austin, and the weather was perfect, not hot, not cold — perfect weather for girls in shorts and tanktops. ;-) Near the middle of the site there’s a large open field far from any stage where people can walk, chill, play frisbee, and look at the surroundings. Sunset there was fantastically beautiful.
Like JazzFest, they had local food vendors, instead of crappy hamburgers and hotdogs. Lots of Austin restaurants were represented, though the food its self was overpriced and seemed hastily prepared, even from some of my favorite places (like Curra’s 78704). I had a $4 Cajun chicken stick (“it’s chicken. on a stick.”), $3 lemonade, 2 $4 cans of Heineken, and 2 $3 chicken tacos. I skipped the $7 Jambalaya because it didn’t seem to have any rice in it, but hey, it’s Austin, not New Orleans. I didn’t have an barbecue or Amy’s Ice Cream, but I still have 2 more days.
Um… what else… oh yeah, the music! Since I got there late, I didn’t get to see much. Cell phone service was crappy, so I never met up with Meghan, but I did talk to Laura, who was late coming down from Dallas, and she said Meghan was seeing Keller Williams whom I’d never heard of — so I drifted over that way, and was well rewarded. He was awesome. He’s a kind of electronic one-man guitar band: he builds up his backing accompaniment by looping live-recorded samples of himself playing guitar and bass and doing hand-percussion and vocal percussion. I’d seen Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers do something like it once at a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert years ago, but on a much smaller scale. Keller Williams has made it an art.
After That I went over to see Al Green on the Capital Metro stage (one of the big stages, where R.E.M. will close the festival on Sunday). By the time I got there the crowd was pretty huge, and the sound was terrible. I mean awful. The drums were inaudible, except for the snare, the bass, when audible was booming and farting, and the rest of the band varied between being inaudible or too loud. It seemed to be slowly growing better, but was so bad that I had to wonder if somebody had snuck into the sound booth and twisted all the knobs when nobody was looking. Or maybe they just turned up the suck.
It was while I was watching Al Green that I noticed that ALCFest has more portable toilets than I’ve ever seen. The outer wall of the venue seems to be built from portajons.
Tired of waiting for Al Green’s sound to get better, I went back across and caught some of Dwight Yoakam’s set on the Cingular stage. The crowd was almost equal in size to Al Green’s but everything was audible, even from the back. I don’t know much of Yokum’s stuff, but he seemed to be rockin out when I got there. I hung around til 9:40, then split hoping to beat the rush for the shuttles. My hopes were dashed. The line was at least 1/4 mile long, and when Al Green and Dwight Yokum finished and the crowd came out, everything just stopped. It was like waiting for the Boston Marathon to go by. I finally got on a bus around 10:45 and got back to my car around 11:05. Tomorrow, I think we’re riding bikes. I’ve heard that there might not be enough bike racks, but we’ll see.