Stevie Ray Vaughn was watching over Zilker Park with a smile on this weekend as the 10th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival kicked off. Friday morning started with the first rain in months, cooling off the city and ushering in three days of live music with more than 130 acts from all over the world. Equally impressive was the turnout, which brought 70,000 fans of rock, indie, country, folk, hip-hop, and electronica to the Live Music Capital of the World.
As the band began their set at the Bud Lite stage, headliner Stevie Wonder entered stage right, keytar slung around his neck as he launched into a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is.” Wonder’s familiar and beaming smile awed the young crowd, many who weren’t even alive when Wonder cut his first single. No matter, though. At 64 years old he still has the live energy — and poignant political leanings — that we’ve all come to know and love.
Backed by an impressive and intricately timed lightshow, Coldplay brought a nighttime crowd to its feet with the first song of their set, “Mylo Xyloto,” off their soon-to-be-released album of the same name. Frontman Chris Martin led the charge at the AMD main stage to a packed house of devotees.
With over 70,000-plus people in attendance for Arcade Fire’s set on the Bud Light stage — and a large thunderstorm brewing in the distance — ACL’s closing act was easily the most anticipated of the weekend. The hyped-up crowd luckily didn’t get rained out, and was instead treated to a grand-scale, Broadway-style set from the eight-piece, which kicked off with the building “Ready to Start”.
The smooth, melodic sound of Fleet Foxes was hard to imagine on the Bud Lite stage. Reminiscent of ’60s folk icons Crosby, Stills & Nash, the mellow vocals of this band surprisingly do not lose their effectiveness in even the largest venue settings.
Cee-Lo Green, together with his spandex-clad all-girl band, performed in the 90 degree Austin heat atop the Bud Lite stage. Known for his sometimes rude lyrics and over-the-top costumes, Green impressed with his infamous bad boy antics and performance of standout tracks like “ChamPain.” But, to be fair, most everyone in attendance was happy to just ogle his backing band.
With S.B. native (and Mad Caddies trumpet player) Keith Douglas in tow, Mariachi El Bronx took to the AMD stage for a mid-afternoon set. The band, on break from their current tour with the Foo Fighters, put a twist on the traditional mariachi format by singing in English and incorporating elements of punk rock. And the formula makes for something special, which was obvious from the large crowd that began to amass during the set-starting “48 Roses.” Frontman Matt Caughthran kept the crowd captivated by giving each song a nice little intro; “This is a song about being poor and being happy,” he said before launcing into “Poverty Is King.” Between the stage banter and the dramatic stylings of the violin and horns, Mariachi El Bronx puts on one of the surprise highlights of the weekend.