Eight stages, 130 bands over three days, and 65,000 people a day has an overwhelming ring to it. We opted for single day tickets this year just to get our feet wet. With Mark, Cindy and Jason coming in from Nashville for a long weekend, we figured all three days was a big time commitment, and there was a lot we wanted to see and do while our friends were here in Central Texas.
Maybe I'll have more on that later, but for now here are my personal highlights from our first ACL Fest last weekend.
1. The Shade. September in Austin is hot AND muggy. Fortunately, it's breezy too, and on Saturday we had some big fluffy clouds to block out that big ball of fire in the sky from time to time. We set up headquarters under a big tree by the Washington Mutual stage and were reluctant to leave it.
2. The Long Winters. This is the set I was most excited about, so I scrambled up close to the stage to snap this pic of Winters' frontman John Roderick performing my favorite tune of theirs (Cinnamon) on the patriotic guitar he said that he purchased for the festival.
This stage was the only one that was situated under a large tent, so it was a fairly popular way station for people traversing the festival grounds in between some of the bigger acts.
During this set we learned that the Winters were playing a set at the newly opened Mohawk on Red River later that night. In hindsight, I wish we had gone, but we're old and opted for a trip to Whataburger en route to the house.
3. Sunset. When the sun started to go down behind the clouds for good, there was renewed life among the festival attendees. The wind kicked up, and we finally left our shade tree to set up camp near the stage where The Raconteurs were performing.
Directly behind us, Iron and Wine's set quickly followed at the Heineken stage, and for a guy with a reputation for putting crowds to sleep he put on a pretty exciting show, unlike Aimee Mann who seemed to suck the life out of that corner of the park with her droning performance earlier.
4. The End of the Day. We temporarily lost Mark and Cindy in the teeming mass of people that had flooded the western end of the grounds for Willie Nelson's first ACL Fest appearance ever. From our extreme angle to the right of the stage, we got to see the massive Texas state flag rise from the stage to reveal Willie and his trademark red bandana. About thirty minutes into Willie's set and sometime after getting to hear "Crazy" (for once, not the Gnarls Barkley song), Mark and Cindy emerged from the crowd, and we began our one-mile trek back to the car.
For more on the festival, check out the Official 2006 ACL Recaps