September 7, 2011

Four Reasons to Love Austin City Limits Festival ’11. ~ Dylan Owens


Photo: Ashley Garmon

A primer for next week’s elephant invasion.

My brother moved to Austin a few weeks ago. I called him the other day to see how it’d been treating him, and of course, he’s having a blast — that’s just his MO. But he did have a small complaint: it’s too damn hot. Indeed, Austin is braving a record heatwave right now, with temperatures routinely hitting 100+ degrees. But I had a hard time mustering any sympathy. I know it must be frustrating for many Austinites, forced to forego their leather jackets and cut their jorts into smaller jorts, but it’s a small price to pay to live in one of the coolest towns in the country. And that goes double for music lovers.

If you’ve ever been to Austin before, you’ll know there’s good reason it’s considered the live music capital of the world: aside from its storied musical history, just about every bar, smokehouse and garage in town flip-turns upside down into a concert venue come dusk (along with the bats under the Congress Ave. bridge).  The amount of talent in the town is staggering. You pretty much can’t hum a tune without accidentally harmonizing with someone or inspiring some blues song based on your tune humming tendencies.

And as if all that weren’t enough, they play host to two of the better music festivals around. While South by Southwest is still a ways off, Austin City Limits Festival is comin’ down the pike September 16th. The Austin City Limits Festival is a spin-off of the PBS TV concert series Austin City Limitscurrently in its 36th season this year—but aims to deliver its namesake’s celebration of live music to as many as possible directly as opposed to via television.

And guess what? Your favorite Boulder-based organization is gonna be there to give you the skinny. No, not Jibbitz (although I do hold considerable stock in Jibbitz [Note: I do not hold stock in/own any Jibbitz])—elephantjournal!  And in celebration of elephant‘s inaugural outing (and ACL Festival’s tenth anniversary), I’ll be counting off the reasons to be chuffed about this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival.

1 – It’s mindful.

If there’s one central motif to elephant, it’s mindfulness—a concept ACL Fest has consciously embraced. Now, with about 70,000 people expected to show up at hosting venue Zilker Park, it’s safe to assume some grass is going to get trampled. But fear not, tax payers: ACL Festival concert promoter/event coordinator C3 Presents will foot the clean-up expenses, just as they did with Lollapalooza (though if looks anything like this year’s post-Lolla Grant Park, it may take a while). And while that may fall in the “they damn well better” category, C3 Presents has also allocated a portion of each ticket sold to benefit the Austin Parks Foundation‘s grant program.

Additionally, a slew of other mindful organizations will be active on-site at ACL Festival. Among the many worthy causes are Rock and Recycle, where any festival goer can fetch a bagful of cans in return for a t-shirt, or buy a $3 Energy Tag equivalent to a 433 mile car ride/1375 mile flight; Shared Earth, a farming-centric craigslist-esque project intended to connect those willing to lend land to gardeners in need of it; and the youth-oriented voter registration organizations Head Count and Rock the Vote will both be setting up shop, hopefully in a collaborative celebration of democracy and not a competitive voter-registering melee.

2 – It’s local.

In light of Austin’s rapid population growth, locals have started getting protective. Slogans like “Keep Austin Weird” and “Don’t Dallas my Austin” are becoming increasingly common on the bumpers and lips of Austinites, indicative of a fear that the gritty flavor of their fair city will be diluted by the invading masses and the FYEs, Orange Juliuses and Del Tacos they’d ostensibly bring with them. And yes, it could be argued that ACL Fest brings in gobs of out-of-towers that will only exacerbate this de-coolification, but to the festival’s credit, it also works to the benefit of the city.

While of course all of those incoming festival-goers will be plunking down some serious collective coin into the local economy, ACL Fest will also play host to many organizations geared toward aiding Austin’s creative community. Anthropos Arts provides incredible music education opportunities to low income Austin schools by bringing premier musicians to their schools to lead workshops and organizing student performances around town (including onstage at ACL Fest). Also present will be HAAM, or Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, an organization dedicated to providing healthcare for low income musicians who would otherwise go without it. And in both a local and mindful vein, The Nature Conservation will be distributing information on their efforts to conserve and protect Texas’ water supplies, an important issue underscored by Texas’ ongoing drought.

3 – Incredible music. (Click for video) 

For their 10th anniversary, ACL Fest has scraped together a bill with something for everyone.  Lovers of nostalgia “got a friend” (I am so sorry) in Randy Newman, bluegrass heroes The Del McCoury Band and headliner Stevie Wonder, who’s slotted against the oops-I-crapped-my-pants southern rock of My Morning Jacket on Saturday night. Those looking for cutting-edge hip-hop (if that’s a thing) can look forward to Kanye West, Theophilus London and Chiddy Bang as well as elder statesman Nas and “Distant Relative” Damien Marley.

For funk/soul/classic R&B, you’ve got a host of options: along with Aloe Blacc, Fitz and the TantrumsCee-Lo and the legendary Mavis Staples, there’s the genre-bending funk-electronic of Chromeo and electronic-funk of Pretty Lights. And, as for the everything in-between—aka the billion variations of rock—we’ve got Arcade Fire, Delta Spirit, Young the Giant, J Roddy Walston and the Business, The Antlers and about a 100 others (not including the after-shows.)

4 – elephant will be there.

Like you needed reminded that yours truly will be there to check in on what the ACL Festival website proclaims to be “one of the most environmentally friendly events in the world.” All weekend, elephant will be uploading video, posting live updates and arm-wrestle-dancing with all who get in its way. Never seen a man arm-wrestle-dance before? You fool! Amend that by checking us out Sept. 16-18 via my/elephant’s Twitter and the Event section.

PLUS: For a small fee, I will shout your name during the set break of the show of your choice!  Treat yourself. I mean, when was the last time you ever did anything for you?


Dylan Owens is currently a senior in the creative writing program at the University of Colorado. As an ex-baby model, he peaked early, but is mounting a comeback as a writer for elephant journal and the Boulder Today. You can learn about his exploits and interests via photo, blurb and hand-picked Youtube video on his Twitter, or simply Google “pickle recipes,” “life-sized Jenga” and “PBR&B” for the same effect.


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