Let's discuss festival etiquette.
- If you're trying to meet up with your friend, don't call them on the phone. There is loud music everywhere and you aren't going to be able to hear each other anyways. Send a text message instead.
- Text messages should include a specific time and place for friends to meet up. Sending a text that says 'where R U?' doesn't do anybody any good.
- Take care of your body. It is going to be especially hot in Austin so drink lots of water, go for a swim in Barton Springs and do whatever else is necessary to stay cool.
- Don't try and split your time between two sets. Choose one band and stay for the whole set.
Number four is one of my pet peeves. Classic rookie festival-goer mistake is to leave midway through one band's set to go check out another band that is playing at the same time. Not only are you distracting dedicated listeners, but you're also depriving yourself of live music when you have to spend five minutes walking across the festival grounds only to arrive at the next show to stand near the back and catch two or three songs of a set you aren't in rhythm with. Nobody wins. I'm sorry Chromeo and TV on the Radio are on at the same time, but you're going to have to choose one or the other. My advice on how to solve these conflicts:
Cults v. Futurebirds
I'll never understand why festival organizers do this. Two similar bands with a similar fan base playing at the exact same time. Such a shame. There couldn't be a better setting for a Cults concert, outside on a toasty Austin afternoon with grass between your toes. If you've never seen Cults then by all means, indulge, but a festival is a great opportunity to branch out and see things you wouldn't normally see. Futurebirds is relatively unknown even though their sound is more versatile and dynamic than Cults. I'm giving the edge to Futurebirds. Either way you win.
Wild Beasts v. Reptar
Wild Beasts' have a sound akin to Dirty Projectors and Yeasayer only waaay more laid back. It's like they missed the percussion class at music school. Reptar has a wild, eclectic sound, which I can only assume lends itself to a spirited performance and (with any luck) some cool costumes. Exciting bands usually overdo it when they're pegged with the early Friday afternoon slot so Reptar should be bouncing all over the stage demanding audience interaction. So the decision depends on how you want to kick off your festival.
Smith Westerns v. James Blake
James Blake is an immensely talented musician, if only he would use his powers for good instead of evil. The mood he creates is like sitting in a dark room with the taste of cold steel in your mouth. I want to have fun and be entertained! The Smith Westerns washed off any remnants of grunge that was left in their garage rock sound and play youthful music that makes you happy to be alive. Easy choice: go see Smith Westerns
Big Boi v. The Cave Singers
It just isn't right, seeing Big Boi on stage without three stacks is like Turner without Hooch, Jordan without Pippen, lamb without tuna fish...you get the idea. Big Boi is fine on his own, but when he finishes the first verse of Rosa Parks and Andre 3,000 doesn't pick up the beat it breaks your heart a little. Meanwhile The Cave Singers will be laying down an acoustic-laden set for dedicated indie kids who appreciate the subtle use of a maraca, which is almost as good as a cowbell. I'm still going to support Big Boi in this matchup, but thought you should know you had options.
Coldplay v. Kanye West
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and Kanye did a song together back in 2008 so lets hope they've found a way to collaborate. I'm not going to rule out a rainbow stretching between the two opposing stages with the two artists meeting in the middle. And Jay-Z (who also did a song with Martin) joining them on a thunder cloud. Anything is possible at ACL. In practicality people who are into Coldplay probably aren't into Kanye West and vice versa, but they do have massive fan bases so if you want to get close to the stage then plan ahead.
The Antlers v. Aloe Blacc vs. The Kingston Springs
Three bands playing at the exact same time. I'm amazed more people don't know who Blacc is. He sings that 'I need a dollar' song that you've probably already heard. And he's not just a one hit wonder; the rest of his stuff is genuine and soulful. The Antlers are fresh off their latest offering, "Burst Apart," which is a relaxed and effortless take on their own sound (see also: resting on one's laurels). The Kingston Springs strike me as a young Black Keys, under-produced and with an unrefined bass guitar running rampant. Choose wisely, this first band sets the tone for the rest of your Saturday. I'll be at Kingston Springs.
Cut Copy v. Cee Lo
This is tough. Both of these acts put on an amazing live show. Cee Lo will be drenched in sweat and his voice will be gone by the third song, which will make him sound even better. Whereas if you go to cut copy you will be swimming in sweat because you and the rest of the crowd will have spent the last hour dancing more than you thought possible. The edge goes to Cut Copy because they're bound to break out some lasers and flashing lights that will nicely accent the setting sun. Then again Cee Lo always has a clever costume up his sleeve. This one is a toss-up.
Chromeo v. TV on the Radio
If you haven't seen TV on the Radio then go see the boys from Brooklyn. Their instruments might not always be in sync but they do a good job of playing hits from their entire catalog. If you haven't seen Chromeo then you haven't been witness to the greatest dance party in the U.S. If you haven't seen either band then what have you been doing with your life?
Stevie Wonder v. My Morning Jacket
I already feel bad for My Morning Jacket. There isn't going to be a single person at their set. Everybody in Austin is talking about how excited they are to see Stevie Wonder -- and with good reason -- this will likely be the last chance to see the legend perform in the bat city. The crowd will be huge and the closest most people will get is 200 yards away. But you'll be able to say "I saw Stevie Wonder perform live," and that's pretty damn cool.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. v. The Head and the Heart
The NASCAR boys are something to behold and considering Sunday afternoon it will be approximately 103 degrees on stage I'm curious if they'll be donning their full racing suit regalia. The Head and the Heart are riding the success of their self-titled upstart debut. Who wouldn't enjoy a little folk-pop for their festival soundtrack? My advice is to catch Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. during one of their official ACL after shows and reserve this block for The Head and the Heart.
Elbow v. Death From Above 1979
The last time DFA1979 was in Austin a fence was trampled, police officers arrived on horseback wielding tasers and general rioting ensued. So it is safe to assume there is a lot of pent up Austinite angst that is going to be released during this show. I understand it's Sunday afternoon of a three-day festival and you want to lay in the grass and let Elbow serenade you into siesta but you'd be remiss if you didn't strap on your dancing shoes one last time.
Manu Chao v. Fleet Foxes
This is where use of the hashtag #firstworldproblems is appropriate. Hmmm, do I go see the wildly entertaining international supergroup known for their raucous live shows or do I settle for the refined harmonies of Fleet Foxes performing tracks from their lauded repertoire? Wherever you end up I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
Arcade Fire v. Nobody
The unchallenged headliner slot is reserved for the indie darlings turned Grammy stealers. I suspect for many curious ears this will be the first of many experiences with Arcade Fire, which is great news for those of us who appreciate good music. For those of you who caught one of their intimate shows from the early days, get used to the crowds because Arcade Fire will only be getting bigger.