The Austin City Limits Festival 2013 opened its second weekend as the sold-out festival it has been for more than a decade, encouraging hopes that the dual-weekend approach to the event would stick past this year. It did dash some expectations that a repeat of its opening round last weekend would draw smaller crowds, at least over the course of the entire three days.
But the sea of humanity was noticeably thinner on Day One in the early hours — more like the festival days of old, when it was just the working locals who came to ACL; from 11 am to around 4 pm Friday, the atmosphere was low-key, aired-out and open, with plenty of space for blankets and no throngs stepping on your toes every four seconds.
"Sing louder than you did last week!" — Nate Ruess of the band fun.
At the Zilker Tent, there was room for shakin' your butt when the Bells of Joy came on, a place to spread your blanket a few hundred feet from the stage while you waited for the downtempo Latin grooves of Pacha Massive, feeling the breeze blow through the empty tent that is usually so packed you can't find a spot after lunch.
"The last two years, I was shocked at how crowded it was on a Friday," said Monica Ellison of Corpus Christi, who has never missed an Austin City Limits festival. Her husband, attorney Scott Ellison, was pleasantly surprised that he was able to get "as close as I wanted" to Jimmy Eat World at the Samsung Galaxy stage for their 2:30 pm show, although, he said, "it's still early" and the festival was likely to get packed again — as it always does.
Those looking for big differences between the first and second weekends didn't really find it on Day One, save for a handful of bands like Sons of the Fathers, who hit the Austin Ventures stage on Friday for their only festival set.
One thing predictably different will be the weather, which was near-perfect last weekend but threatening rain this time around. The beauty of the cloud cover at an outdoor festival is obvious, and the ground was so dry that the smatterings of rain before lunchtime and after dinner didn't even leave it damp. The 80-plus temperatures were hot and sticky, but breezy and with occasional breaks from the sun.
The rain began to fall around 7:30 pm, soaking a frenzied crowd of twentysomethings who were too busy losing their minds at a very intense Kaskade show to even notice the downpour.
Good enough, in other words, for diehard ACL veterans who remembered the dust bowls, heat strokes and mud pits of years past. As singer Nate Ruess of fun. put it, "You picked a great day to come to a concert. I picked a terrible day to wear a jacket." Fair enough.
One festival-goer said he was coming to the second weekend to see his favorite bands for the second time after having spent the first running from stage to stage. He was full of performance reviews and had a list of what he wanted to see again — and who to catch after having missed them last time. The second weekend is a great cure for that dastardly dilemma of ACLs past — a la Depeche Mode vs. Muse this year — that always occurs when two favorites play on opposing stages at the same time.
The rain began to fall around 7:30 pm, soaking a frenzied crowd of twentysomethings who were too busy losing their minds at a very intense Kaskade show to even notice the downpour — a particularly frenetic set at the Honda Stage made more so by the driving rain that lasted only about 15 minutes.
Behind his graphic screen as the rains fell, Kaskade seemed to draw more energy from the increasingly soaked fans. "A little rain never hurt anybody!" he shouted to the throngs.
It didn't deter the Muse show, either, which started on time and without the technical difficulties marked by last week's show. Bandleader Matt Bellamy blazed through a triumphant headline set after noting that the problems that plagued last week's show due to a lack of fuel for the stage generators wouldn't be an issue this time around. "We've got plenty of the stuff," he told the cheering fans.