Well, Austin, it’s that time of year again. Forget about driving anywhere in or near Barton Springs and Zilker Park, and double the average commute time, the number of bloody mary’s at brunch, and the excitement. The obligatory grumblings about sudden and temporary population inflation are nothing compared to the how grateful we are, as locals of this wonderful city, to be hosting visitors and artists and creatives alike. This is our favorite time of the year, guys, and not just because it’s timed perfectly with the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Mercifully, Austin City Limits has been held in October the last few years. Mid-September weekends spent wholly outside is a recipe for a slow and painful death. In true Austin fashion, we spanned the entire weather spectrum the span of the two weekends. (Did I mention ACL took a page out of the Coachella book and started splitting weekends?) The first highly-anticipated weekend was met with atypically beautiful weather (highs in the 80s????) So we second-weekend goers got to turn green with envy as people live-tweeted and instagrammed the shows from their comfortable shaded views as the light breezes grazed their fringed vests and feather-infused hair. The second weekend was a mixed bag. Let’s start at the beginning.
After a boozy brunch I managed to park, walk farther than I would have if I just left my car at home, and weed through the congested security lines to make it to the festival at a respectable 4 p.m. The timing could not have been better. I walked right to the Honda stage, guided by “We Sink,” Chvrches kickoff song.
The stage was minimally decorated, which was the perfect backdrop for the adorable Lauren Mayberry (nominated for cutest lead singer ACL 2014, by me) who rocked the latest fashion trend, flash tattoos, on her face like a rebel badass. She was joined with her aggressively Scottish bandmates, Iain Cook (bass/guitar) and Martin Doherty (synth/samplers) who held down an impressive time slot for a band that has yet to really break the mainstream scene.
The band pulled the majority of the crowd from the stage over after the Bleachers set ended, which I only caught the end of and is a sore subject for me so I’d rather not talk about it. The mood was upbeat, relaxed, and simmering. (A four o’clock set time means the sun sits about eye-level and glares at you the whole time.) Lauren paused half-way through to express gratitude on rounding out their tour here (they launched at SXSW) but the Scottish native was a little thrown by the mid-October heat wave, calling it “hotter than a dog’s balls!” She isn’t wrong.
It was my first time seeing them live, but I knew they were on my must-see list after listening to their album, The Bones of What You Believe, a handful of times before deciding I was irreversibly obsessed with them. It’s always a refreshing and pleasant surprise when a band has an equally powerful presence live as they do on their tracks. Lauren’s voice was clear and poignant, and there was no need for excessive production like fireworks (Eminem) or dancing digital bananas (looking at you, Skrillex) because they were just there to jam. Their set was long enough to include 12 songs, serendipitously the number of songs on their debut album, and they omitted only one, “You Caught The Light,” in order to include “Richard Pryor.”
The most important thing, of course, is that they played “Recover,” which is my favorite song, and for the purpose of this article, which is based solely on my subjective opinion, their best song. The set left nothing to be desired and set the tone for the weekend of music, madness, and fun.