There was sun, there was rain and there were some damn fine unforgettable performances. As Austin City Limits Music Festival closes the gates on its 11th annual weekend of music, CultureMap's staff and contributors look back at the performances — headliners and up-and-comers — that shaped our 2012 ACL Fest experience.
Hands down, the best show for me was Florence + The Machine. Florence looked like the spookiest Gaelic sea witch posing against the harp on stage and then jumping around the stage in her old-timey dress. Her singing voice sounds exactly the same live as it does on the radio, which is always astounding and completely satisfying. In between songs, she'd start giggling and flirting with the audience, and then, boom, right back into wailing like a banshee. Awesome.
- Michael Graupmann, Senior Editor
I've been saying it since the lineup was leaked in June: The chance to see Iggy would be the highlight of my festival experience. Sunday's early evening performance had all the makings of the rowdy, raunchy live show I expected: a shirtless legend, sweat-drenched crowd, unmatched stage antics. There was more energy and debauchery seeping out of Iggy than any other aged rocker I've seen in a decade. (Sorry, Neil.)
"I Wanna Be Your Dog," "Funhouse" and "Raw Power" were grungy and guttural in all the right ways — and I can't argue with a show that got thousands of Texans on their feet to "Dance with The Stooges." Iggy left ACL Fest — and Austin — as he should: with a peace sign, a middle finger, and a raw, sweaty taste of the brashness that created a subculture.
- Arden Ward, Managing Editor
The highlight of ACL for me was the sheer not-giving-a-fuck-itude of the set from Crazy Horse and Neil Young. The band definitely gets top billing there, because the set was all about the band — not the songs, not the singer, but the joy those old dudes take in making really loud noise together. The band opened with a 17-minute version of "Love And Only Love," a deep-cut from their 1990 album Ragged Glory, and Neil Young didn't even open his mouth to sing the first line for six minutes.
He did not play "Heart Of Gold." He did not play "Old Man." He did not play "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," or "Like A Hurricane," or "Mr. Soul," or "Rockin' In The Free World," or "Harvest Moon," or "Long May You Run." In the end, he played 12 songs in a full two-hour set. Mostly this was a set by one of rock's most inscrutable and idiosyncratic legends intended to please only himself and his band. Neil Young is just himself, as he's always been, and I hope he never changes.
- Dan Solomon, Contributor
The Civil Wars headlining a major stage with no supplemental musicians was a sight to see. It was interesting to watch how the crowd actually quieted down and paid attention because it was so stark. The set inclusion of their covers of "Billie Jean," and especially Portishead's wonderful "Sour Times," was a highlight. On a weekend when you hear so much that is new, it was a treat to hear a favorite re-interpreted.
- Tom Thornton, Contributor
My favorite moment of ACL is a tie between Florence + The Machine and The Lumineers. Florence gave an amazing performance (very theatrical) and getting to hear her voice in person was amazing — it really is that good. The Lumineers were very soulfull, they played awesome and you could really tell how much fun they were having and how excited they were to be playing ACL.
- Jessica Pages, Photo Editor
Two Door Cinema Club performed an incredible show with a perfect mix of fan favorites and new songs. I loved how much they loved on Austin and their fans throughout the show. It was clear how grateful they were to be playing the Bud Light Stage to a sea of fans — a huge step up from the Austin Ventures Stage where they played in 2010. It's a true testimony to how far they've come in just two years.
- Veronica Castelo, Director of Marketing