Saturday at ACL was decidedly much hotter, both in temperature and activity than Friday.
Saturday—being the most convenient day of the week to attend a music festival—had an enormous crowd of attendees. This made for some huge turnouts for artist sets, and it carried a certain weight to some of the larger-than-life performances of the weekend. It also likely caused a few sporadic hours without cell service at the festival.
Even so, that sort of electric atmosphere made for an exciting day of ACL, which had a thoroughly stacked lineup of great sets.
I arrived to the festival in time to catch Car Seat Headrest covering Neil Young’s Powderfinger, which was awesome timing. The group was one of our best bets for the festival, and they did not disappoint. Despite the group being four scrawny dudes with big guitars strapped to them on a gigantic soundstage, they sounded just as huge.
Frontman Will Toledo seemed like he was half-asleep during the set, but that’s sort of the guy’s schtick. It was the lead guitar player though, Ethan Ives (who also sang Powderfinger) that really seemed to be in his element, whipping back and forth and ripping tight solos.
Despite the on stage energy, these guys sounded great.
Angel Olsen was a clear highlight. Her dreamy, hazy set in the middle of the hot day was something else. Her voice was both otherworldly and extremely worldly, as if she was channeling the country of Loretta Lynn with the edge of Patti Smith.
Sure, many of Olsen’s songs are downtempo, and they didn’t play well to a restless, inebriated crowd of festival goers. Many stayed for a song or two and moved on to other sights and sounds. But I stayed through for “Sister” off last year’s “My Woman,” and it was powerful. Olsen’s voice could get so delicate and ethereal, as if she was a ghost, and then she could project and have her vocals cut like a diamond if she wanted. Her band, all in blue suits and bolo ties, jammed out like they were My Morning Jacket to it.
Angel Olsen was a clear highlight, if at least for being such a clear change of pace.
Right before Spoon began to perform, festival organizers surprised music fans with a tribute to the late Tom Petty, whose death earlier this week shook many. At 7 p.m.— Australian disco-rock group Cut Copy were even cut off from their set closer at exactly 7 p.m.— the stage screens throughout the festival displayed a message asking everyone to look up into the sky. Soon, they began playing footage of Tom Petty’s 2006 ACL set of “Free Fallin’”. Up in the air, three sky divers pulled their parachutes and flew down over the festival, with one of them emitting a sparkling tracer behind them. It was emotional, taking it all in. It served as a beautiful tribute to a man whose art and music reached many the world over.
Seeing Red Hot Chili Peppers were also a real treat. Despite the group being near the twilight point of their careers, it’s abundantly clear they still have all the energy and performance chops necessary to keep putting on powerful shows through the next decade.
Most all of the songs began with improvised jams that were so fluid and cohesive, they sounded like demos of new songs. They would always crawl or boil to a breaking point, and then they’d roll into one of their platinum hits, like “Californication,” “Can’t Stop” or “Dani California.” It was delightful, really.
Say what you will about how ridiculous the band is and how they own a portion of alternative rock radio, but seeing them reminded me how much I adored this band growing up, and the nostalgia hit right in the core.
Stay tuned for more coverage throughout the rest of the fest on Twitter: @hillcountrynws. Whitney, BADBADNOTGOOD, The Growlers, First Aid Kit, Run the Jewels, the Gorillaz and The Killers are all coming up tonight.