Coverage by Waylon O’Day and Raj Radia
It seemed hard to top the first day of ACL’s second weekend, but thanks to performances from Anderson .Paak, Cage the Elephant, and Kendrick Lamar somehow managed to do it. Saturday’s weather was arguably better than Friday’s with more of a steady temperature which kept things manageable even during the peak sunlight. With that said here is Coog Radio’s coverage of the fifteenth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival.
One thing I love about music festivals is finding new artists. When I looked up the ACL schedule, Slaves caught my eye. I looked them up and realized how rad they were. They are a garage punk band that hails from the UK. They have been blowing up this past year, and hope to build up hype in the US. They even got to collaborate with Mike D from the Beastie Boys! As soon as I got to the stage, I saw the two-piece jumping around and sweating everywhere. They had a great stage presence and did an amazing job at engaging the crowd. They managed to get members of the crowd to hug each other, including all the security guys and the two police officers that were there. My favorite part of the set was when they played “Girl Fight.” Drummer and vocalist Issac Holman jumped off the stage and proceeded to the barrier to tell the story that inspired the song, which is about a random night he saw two girls fighting. If there is one underrated act on ACL it is these guys.
LL Cool J
If there is someone that can still kick it in their forties, it is LL Cool J. LL has set big goals for himself in 2016. Earlier this year, shortly after he announced his retirement, he announced was no longer retiring and that he was writing a new album. I was really excited to see what he was going to bring to the stage. His performance stated with his DJ, DJ Zip-Trip, hyping up the crowd and playing a series of old school hip songs. After the five minute warm-up, LL took the stage. He started the set with “Mama Gonna Knock You Out.” You could see he still had the same drive he had 30 years ago. I think the best part was watching all the middle-age dads busting out cheesy dance moves during the set. He played several of his other hits like “Doin It,” “I Need Love” and his version of “Going Back to Cali.” It was a great performance and won the hearts of thousands of 80s and 90s kids.
Prior to his performance, I had only known of the collaborations Anderson .Paak had done, so I did not know what to expect. His performance was astonishing. The amount of raw energy and talent Paak has is incredible. His set was flawless. He started off with his “Come Down,” which is one of the singles of his new album Malibu. Throughout the set, he bounced to and from his drum kit, and played them for majority of his set. He even did a drum solo in the middle of the show. My personal highlight was when he played “Glowed Up,” which is a song he did with producer Kaytranada. That was the song that got me into Paak’s music. He ended his set with “Am I Wrong,” which had everyone off their feet and dancing. Paak’s performance was one of the best performances at ACL. He proved that you don’t need lights and visuals to put on a great show.
Cage the Elephant
Nashville, Tennessee’s hard rock band came, saw, and conquered the Honda stage while the sun set. I honestly had forgotten about the band after their appearance on the mainstream came and went with “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” getting radio play across the nation, but with this set they have etched their image and sound into my memory. I realized that there was more to this seemingly country-fried hard rock group than I had previously thought, they seamlessly went from slower ballads into all out head knocking, elbow throwing inhibition free anarchy. At one point during their set I caught myself thinking of them as the mainstream version of the Growlers, they both have the ability to throw it down if need be, but seem to prefer the slower, easygoing way of going about things. If Cage the Elephant taught me anything, it’s this: if you find a band you truly enjoy, don’t just give up on them because you don’t dig their sound anymore, keep with them, stay loyal, because at the end they will always be able tap into that same sound that brought you to them in the first place. Sorry for what I said when I hated the radio Cage the Elephant (I still hate the radio).
Two Door Cinema Club
The Northern Irish band came to the Cirrus Logic stage late on Saturday night as the sun was almost completely beneath the horizon, and served the surprisingly large crowd with a huge dose of nostalgia. The first quarter of the set consisted of their earlier work including the opener to their debut album Tourist History, “Cigarettes in the Theatre,” “Undercover Martyn,” and “This is the Life,” all of which engulfed me in goosebumps as I replayed six years of memories that were accompanied by these sounds that I was seeing be made right before me. Then the band announced they would be playing some songs from their upcoming album, Gameshow, their first in four years. The first song struck me as Two Door’s ode to the Bee Gee’s, which is not at all a bad thing but lead singer, Alex Trimble’s voice just didn’t cut it in that high register, but the bassline and the synths really lifted any other shortcomings of the track. All in all, I left that stage thinking that was the best set I had seen thus far, and honestly, I don’t think anyone can top it for the remainder of this weekend.
If you went to last year’s Austin City Limits Festival and saw how huge the crowd was for Drake, I think you would be shocked to know that the crowd that gathered at that same stage, just a year later, was even larger. They all came for one man, the man who is being hailed as a living legend, a lyricist with a list of accomplishments almost as long as his verses, Kendrick Lamar. The last time that I had seen Kendrick, it was at Day for Night, and I felt as though his hour and half set didn’t live up to the hype, but through the first forty five minutes I was convinced he had heard my criticism and took it to heart, opening with “Levitate”. There were still large pauses where he addressed the crowd, but this time it felt more authentic as though he really wanted to connect to the crowd. About at the fifty minute mark, Kendrick performed “Collard Greens” which had me convinced h was going to bring out Schoolboy Q who had also performed at ACL just an hour earlier. Right after Kendrick finished his verse, the beat to “That Part” began and out came Schoolboy, together they bounced all around the stage and getting the crowd hyped. Right after the song ended, Schoolboy left and it was back to the K.Dot show. He asked the audience how many people had been down with them since day one, and of course the crowd claimed it, and Kendrick even said he was slightly skeptical before he went into “Swimming Pools (Drank),” then he performed an actual deep cut “ADHD,” off of Section.80. From there, it kind of seemed all downhill, I started to notice the amount of time on his set dwindle down, and the length of his pauses increase as you could tell fatigue had set in amongst the crowd and Kendrick himself. I started to think of all the songs he hadn’t performed yet and I started to realize at this pace, it was highly unlikely to hear even half of the dozen or so songs that I had listed in my head. Then, out of nowhere, Kendrick left the stage, and I quickly caught on that this was a clever ruse for an encore, again I guessed correctly, out came Lamar and he performed arguably his most popular song off of To Pimp a Butterfly, “Alright,” and it was a moment of pure bliss, truly, the crowd was endless and all of their hands were in the air rising and falling in unison, it’s one of the most beautiful things I had seen this weekend just because I knew that for one moment, everyone that was at that stage was thinking the same thing, “We’re gonna be alright.” Once again, exit Kendrick stage left, with a whole ten minutes left in his set. I thought, surely he wouldn’t waste this precious time that other artists envy over, he had times for a solid two songs. Deja Vu set in, and Kendrick came out again, this time to re-perform “ADHD,” this time I was not so happy to hear it. It felt like a cop out, he has so many other hits, “Blacker the Berry,” “Momma,””How Much a Dollar Cost,” and he chose to redo a song. This set was honestly amazing, but as it slugged on, my aspirations for a jam-packed, Radiohead sized set fell. This was definitely an improvement from the Day For Night performance which brought us a thirty minute version of “Maad City” featuring numerous inebriates including Corporate Dough. I think that’s honestly the only thing in my mind that is different from any other performance I have seen from Lamar. It’s become stale, I really feel like at this point I could go a while without seeing Lamar for a while, at least until he drops another album. I know it seems like I’m not a huge Kendrick Lamar fan, but you really don’t get it, I am a huge fan, I have Section.80, good.kid.mAAd.city, TPAB, and untitled.unmastered on numerous physical mediums. I remember seeing him in a packed Warehouse Live way back in 2012 when I was sixteen and thinking that this guy had to be the realest, most down to earth guy on the planet. Now it feels as though he has fallen into that trap he addresses on TPAB opener “Wesley’s Theory,” giving into the record companies and the corporate influences to please the mainstream. This is just me expressing my frustration at seeing someone who is a true artists cowtow to the mainstream, which he is obviously apart of, but still, you can tell he yearns to bust out his old B-sides and see who is real fans are. At the end of the day, any performance from Kendrick Lamar is going to be a good one, and griping and moaning I do is just because I wish people would look deeper than the radio and recognize a true artist when you see one. It’s all love Kendrick, you keep doing your thing, spread the love and the knowledge, and never let anyone take you down, not even some journalism student from the suburbs of Houston, Texas.
Thanks for reading, but the festival is not over, check back tomorrow for our coverage of the final day of the fifteenth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park. If you want to catch some of the sets yourself, but you’re too lazy to leave the couch, check out Redbull.tv, they are streaming selected sets from the festival and bring them to you on your laptops.