I had literally been waiting for October 8-11 for a year. Having purchased these tickets the week after ACL2009 (late September 09), I calmly waited months to even see the lineup, then planned and replanned my ACL schedule until the day before the festival started this year. With all that anticipation and planning, there’s generally a huge let-down. That was not the case this year… this year’s ACL was amazing.
Our team of four (Kelsey, Luke, Rocky, me) assembled in Austin on Thursday night. We packed our sitting-towels, Cliff Bars, sunscreen, and threw our bottled waters into the freezer. We hashed over the plan that Kelsey had been mulling over for days and finalized our parking situation.
The next morning, we awoke bright and early at about 7:15am. The anticipation in the air was palpable, and we left on time (8am). After “taking the long way” on the way to our parking destination (stupid GPS, telling me to turn after we had already passed the street), we arrived at my cousin’s house, a healthy 1.3 mile walk away from our destination at Zilker Park. Luckily, the roads to Zilker Park were downhill, so getting there quickly wasn’t an issue… those roads would prove to be not as pleasant on the walk home. We arrived at the park at 9 – gates weren’t scheduled to open until 11, and we were definitely the first people in line. Rocky and I staked out the front gates while K & L went to the opposite gate. Friday’s plan was to have one runner from each team with no bags to check, and one person to haul the goods. I was the pack-mule on our team. We waited until a few minutes until 11, then stood up with the rest of the now packed and fidgeting crowd. At a few minutes past 11, the speakers throughout Zilker Park turned on and the Star Wars theme started blaring. That means GO! I pushed Rocky through the gates, his wristband was scanned (incorrectly, a minor setback), and he was OFF. He sprinted across the field, met with Kelsey (who was running from the other side of the park), and they ran to the AMD Stage together. They’re fast. About 5 minutes later, I finished leisurely walking my way to the stage (being passed by other runners trying to get to their stages) and secured the spot that had been held for me on the front row.
If you haven’t waited for hours in the front row for a show before, the first thing to know is that you MUST make alliances. This is important if you need to get up for food (duh, like a Chicken Cone) or a bathroom break, or just to take a walk to stretch your atrophying body. You don’t want those jerks to move in on your spot you’ve been holding all day. This was especially important since we would be around these people for 11 hours. First alliance made, Derrick. Derrick would further be referred to as “Fucking Derrick” or the like, as he turned out to be not as great as expected. He allowed himself to be pushed around, let people squeeze up front past him from the back (you can’t do that if you’re in the SECOND ROW) and was generally worthless. Fucking Derrick would be our concert-mate for two whole days. Good ol worthless Derrick. He also somehow decided he would be sharing our ice-cold water. BRING YOUR OWN WATER, DERRICK. Gah.
The lineup for our stage on Friday was:
Asleep at the Wheel (great, as usual. This band is phenomenal, genuine, and enormously fun to watch. I believe this was their 9th appearance at ACL – we watched them from the front row last year as well).
Blues Traveler (while I was waiting to sing along to the 3 songs of theirs I knew, they surprised the crowd by being pretty entertaining. Along with their own songs, they also tossed in a cover of Radiohead’s Creep and Sublime’s What I Got. Popper threw no less than 10 harmonicas (unused, because otherwise that’s gross) into the crowd. Tip: if you see Blues Traveler and want a harmonica, make a poster that says it’s your bday and you want a harmonica. Free harmonica for you.)
Spoon (Fun show. I’m not a huge fan, but I enjoyed the music.)
The Strokes (Went on 15 minutes late, and only played 50 minutes of their 90 minute allotment. While Julian Casablancas (frontman) tore it up with his vocals, he balanced it out for me with terrible stage presence. Obviously out of his mind, be it on drugs or booze or both, he rambled on about this and that between songs, even singing the Thundercats theme at one point. Sometimes these distractions are entertaining… this was just straight up unprofessional and annoying. His tangents were enough that band members pulled him aside a few times to tell him to get on the ball, I can only assume. I enjoyed the songs they played, but can’t say that I enjoyed the show as a whole when you factor in all the other bullshit.)
Our only real drama was encountered starting right before The Strokes set when two drunk, underage, bitchy, short girls pushed their way to the front and demanded that they be let in front of us. Note: if you want somebody to be nice to you and let you in the place they’ve been holding for TEN HOURS, don’t be an asshole about it. Nobody in the crowd around us was too fond of them either, and Rocky and Luke practiced enormous restraint (an amount I would not have been able to demonstrate) as those girls punched Rocky and Luke in the back and kidneys throughout the show, held their cigarettes by the boys’ ears, and gave them the nastiest verbal bashing they could muster. Karma’s a real bitch, though… when a crowd surfer found his way towards our area of the crowd, instead of helping to hold him up, those girls both ducked. As expected by gravity, when those girls didn’t help to hold that dude up, he fell to the ground. On his way down, he kicked one of those girls in the face, which gave her a solid bloody nose. I wasn’t on the perimeter, but from what I heard afterwards, everyone surrounding her really enjoyed that and had a laugh about it. That’s what you get for not being a nice girl, ya bitch. Of course, that made the girls even angrier, which resulted in blood-face intentionally spraying blood across the back of Rocky’s white shirt. They were real sweethearts – I’m sure their parents are proud of them. They left quickly after The Strokes finished.
Derrick let us know that he’d see us the next day at the Muse stage. Super. We left him and started the tiring 1.3 mile uphill walk back to my car.
Long, hot day. I was worn out. A quick stop at Whataburger (“quick” being relative, as we waited 30 minutes in the drive-thru line), then it was home to take a shower and off to bed. Aside from a bit of a stranger’s blood on Rocky’s shirt, the day was a success. I was already nervous about day 2, when we would do the whole thing again.