Early on Friday afternoon, ACL seemed as though it would suffer the same fate as this year’s Lollapalooza as the sky broke open and poured heavy rain. Festivalgoers ran down Barton Springs toward Zilker Park in white tanks and neon shorts, mud splashing up on their calves.
The 10th anniversary of the ACL Festival has brought headliners Arcade Fire, Stevie Wonder, My Morning Jacket, Coldplay and Kanye West, the latter two who will play tonight.
Today, Foster The People took to the Google+ stage where a hearty portion of festivalgoers gathered to see what these “Pumped Up Kicks” people were all about. Not sure this was the best stage for their performance; when FTP were first added to the ACL lineup, they were beginning their popularity ascent. Now that the band’s name is as recognizable as other acts at higher billing, the Northwest area of the park was crammed with an inane amount of sweaty, cheerful people, unknowingly dancing to a song about a trigger-happy outcast.
As night fell on the Austin Ventures stage, soulful Sara Bareilles recalled a conversation she had with a police officer earlier in the day, noting that people never fight at ACL, and promptly requested the audience to get in a fight. It didn’t go over too well, so she launched into a peppy cover of Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man.”
“Is there anybody out there? Did we make it to Austin City Limits?” Chris Martin asked the massive crowd gathered at the AMD stage before singing famed hit “Yellow” and a slow-paced version of “In My Place.”
10 minutes to Kanye West’s set, a bridge of people stood between the AMD and Bud Light stages, trying to get the best of both headliners’ sets. People walked to Kanye humming Coldplay songs, and vice versa.
Martin spoke to the sea of people waving below him, expressing his gratitude by saying, “Don’t think we don’t appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts,” gratefully acknowledging his fans for being at the Coldplay set instead of across the park.
Over on the Bud Light stage, a deeply pungent aroma of marijuana clung to the light breeze. West’s set began a few minutes late, and people commented that Coldplay’s lights were better than Kanye’s – but that quickly changed.
Divided into three acts, West rolled right through the first act, performing “Dark Fantasy” and “Power” without acknowledging the crowd. But I can’t even pretend to hate him. Because he’s a bloody genius. Dozens of dancers in flesh colored costumes joined him onstage, keeping the beat during “Jesus Walks.”
A little commentary finally came when West announced, “This is a true story” before singing “Hell of a Life,” which is essentially about being in love with a porn star; so, do with that information what you will.
With the recent release of Watch the Throne, ACL was buzzing with the notion of a possible guest appearance during West’s set. “Monster” would have been a perfect excuse for a surprise guest to show up: Jay-Z? Rihanna? Nothing.
In the midst of Act II, West finally said over the beats of “Heartless,” that he usually talks too much onstage (Taylor Swift anyone?), but since he had a “curfew” he wanted to shut up and play his songs. Which is basically what he did, until the end of the show.
Most Act II songs were his most popular; the audience heard cut-down versions of “Touch the Sky” and “Gold Digger,” sort of like a Black Eyed Peas performance (West later went on to tell the Black Eyed Peas to ‘rest in peace’ – whatever that means).
Act III began with 15 minutes left until his “curfew” hit. “Runaway” began with the first denotative piano plink. His dancers returned, striking a different pose with each stroke of the piano keys.
Here’s the weirdest thing Kanye said: “This is the last night of our life.” Not like this is the last night of our lives, or, as if it were the last night of our lives; but, finite. That’s it. Meaning there would be no Stevie Wonder to look forward to tomorrow night. No Arcade Fire the following evening. As in, our time will come, and Kanye will still be stuck in our heads.
“This is the last time we’ll perform ‘Runaway’ in this way,” he said, lingering on the outro. The audience was instructed to “remember these times.” Thanks to Kanye’s oddity, that’s a given.
He thanked his crew, the dancers, DJs and everyone who helped put on the tour; and then essentially called himself a vessel through which others can achieve recognition. Which is genuine for Kayne. That’s about as genuine as he gets.
West closed his monster set with “Lost in the World” – again, another opportunity for Bon Iver to show up – but nothing. All we have is Kanye. But that’ a lot.
Can’t make it to ACL? You can still see Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Nas & Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, Bright Eyes, Social Distortion, Cut Copy, Pretty Lights, Big Boi, Iron & Wine, Foster The People and more at the live webcast: www.youtube.com/aclfestival.
UPDATE: This is, in fact, what Kanye meant
Laura Stillo is the Arts & Entertainment Writer and Creative Social Media Producer for YouPlusDallas. Follow her on Twitter at @laurastillo.