A Photo Spread from the Fifth Annual Music Festival
Words and images by L. Paul Mann
Tom Petty closed out this years’ Austin City Limits music festival with a bang, literally. Halfway into his twilight set, dark clouds enveloped Zilker Park on the outskirts of downtown Austin. The city skylight disappeared in the darkness and lightning began illuminating the skyline. Then a deluge of rain sent most of the 65,000 festival-goers scrambling for the exits. But not before witnessing one of the largest and most diverse pop music festivals in the world.
In fact, Austin has long been know for their love of live music. Their motto, “Austin: The Live Music Capital of the World,” is etched in a stage at the airport where bands greet arriving and departing passengers. And downtown Austin has one of the most active live band nightclub scenes in the world. But the Austin City Limits (ACL) festival, held this year from September 15 to 17, takes the fanaticism a step further, offering more than 130 bands on eight stages over three long days.
The bands are carefully picked each year to represent the hottest and most relevant new and established acts. Bands that played last year, like England’s Keane, are this years hottest new sensations. This year’s new bands included the ferocious fusion band TV on the Radio (who play SOhO tonight, September 27), already on the verge of becoming big stars.
The festival, which features bands from all over the world, really has only one unofficial and non-binding connection: Guitar is king here, meaning that most at ACL display an awesome amount of searing guitar work. Even usually placid bands like G Love and Special Sauce may employ an extra guitar god to amp up their sound.
The location of the festival just on the outskirts of the city completes the magic of the event. Zilker Park is an area with green rolling hills that boasts a spectacular view of the Austin skyline. Barton Springs (pictured), the large natural aquifer in the middle of the park, has been a favorite swimming hole for Austin residents for over two centuries. And if that isn’t enough for die-hard music lovers, many of the bands play aftershows in the clubs downtown until early in the morning.
Way to go Austin—they really do keep it weird. Don’t believe it? Check out these photos.
What were these guys on?
Jack White gets down.
Gnarls Barkley gets gnarly.
John Mayer sings a lot.
Ian McLagan drops his faces.
Los Amigos Invisible get friendly.
Who said the Raconteurs don’t rac-on!?!
Everybody’s favorite mixed media band: TV on the Radio.
A view of the crowd.
Muse muses on.
The Flaming Lips get all bubbly.
Austin bids goodbye during the rainstorm brought on by Tom Petty.