Preview: Austin City Limits Festival 2010

Things hadn’t been going so well for me at the time. I was dealing with quite a bit including unemployment (had been several months), living at home (again) at 34, and some newly understood medical ailments. Summer 2004 was coming to a close and I was pretty destitute, to be honest. Things just weren’t looking my way.

I had a couple of friends who were heading down to Austin in a few weeks, and had asked if I wanted to go. It was for the Austin City Limits Festival. Absolutely. I would love to go, but where am I going to scrape up $90 plus for a ticket? So I pretty much put it out of my mind.

While chatting with another friend a couple of weeks later, the subject of ACL came back up. He seemed pretty confident he had a wristband for me, and to just make it down to Austin and it could happen. That’s all I had to do? Make it to Austin? So I called my friends who were going and solidified plans to head down that weekend. Fortunately they were staying with a mutual friend of ours, so lodging wasn’t going to be an expense.

I had about $50 to my name at this point, and while riding down the road with yet another friend, we discussed that I was going to Austin that weekend. As he dropped me off that Thursday afternoon, he pulled out his wallet and out of sheer friendship gave me $80. “Bro, just go have fun, you need it” he said.

And I did.

It had been so long since I had seen live music of any sort I was ecstatic. And the complete variety was a bit overwhelming. The first act we saw upon making it to Zilker Park that Friday afternoon was Solomon Burke. How many times do you have the chance to see THIS guy? Not many. And over the course of the weekend I would catch sets by The Roots, Wilco, Ryan Adams, The Pixies, Trey Anastasio, Sheryl Crow, Centro-Matic, Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, My Morning Jacket and several more. Indeed it was what I needed, a full-blown music driven amusement park.

And I have gone every year since.

I, unlike several others, love the lineup this year. Over time, this festival has afforded me the chance to see acts I would have never stepped out on my own to see, including Van Morrison, Trey Anastasio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Levon Helm, John Legend, Raphael Sadiiq, Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Lucinda Williams, all of whom would fall into that category. This year I get to see Phish and the Eagles, two acts I would never strike out on my own to see, but I can here. And I am genuinely excited about both. Those along with another 35 or so acts I have on my calendar for the next 3 days.

It’s not all 100% about the music either. I have met some great people through this festival, most of which I only get to see during this weekend. The conversations and camaraderie that have been forged at our annual camp area grows some each year, making the relationships as important as the music itself. We all have the same goals, have fun, see some great live music, get exposed to some new artists that might never have been on our radar before, and just in general enjoy Austin.

Three day passes sold out from under me in ’05, only to be able to buy a single day Friday pass and pick it up, to see that they had put three day passes on sale at the ticket booth that afternoon for $30 more than my one day pass. I wasn’t happy but I got to see Lyle Lovett, so that was okay. But every other year, the moment I can buy my three day pass, or passes since I have drug my girlfriend Leah into the madness, I knock it out.

Why? Because I love ACL weekend. It doesn’t really matter what the lineup looks like, I can and will find something to see. I see so many people quibbling and squabbling over the lineup, that Coachella or Bonnaroo were going to be better, or that Pitchfork was a true festival, and ACL is overblown. Someday I want to go to all of the American festivals on the circuit, just for one year, to see how and what the scene is at theirs.

But as for now, I have ACL. This weekend, those 6 years ago was probably a lifesaver for me. They say the mind blocks out periods of distress, and it’s one of the few memories I have of the year 2004. ACL is my yearly escape from my life, to submerge myself in a world I fully understand and love whole-heartedly.

As I find myself in a somewhat similar situation this year as I did in ’04 (I got laid off about a month ago), I have to thank Jasun, Ryan, Scott and Eric all for helping me discover this place where I have some solace from it all, and Leah for sharing it with me over the past 3 years.

A wonderful, yearly solace known as ACL.


Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see where I am and who I am seeing all weekend (phone service permitting), and look for a full wrap up next week!

~ by thesynaptic on October 7, 2010.

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