ACL Day 1: An Arkestra with McCartney & Misty

Week 1 of Austin City Limits brought a variety of artists and bands to the impromptu music grounds of Zilker Park. While there were many different artists to choose from, some caught the attention of Coog Radio’s Julian Combong more so than others. The first one? Canadian group Alvvays.

Alvvays

Alvvays | Photo by Julian Combong

Spearheaded by Molly Rankin on vocals and guitar, their sound encompasses genres of Jangle Pop and Shoegaze with touches of 90s influences, most notably the Cranberries (which isn’t surprising given Molly’s Irish heritage). To date, the band has released two albums: the 2017’s Antisocialites and the self-titled one in 2014. The group started their set on the Miller Lite stage around 2:40 p.m., leading off with their song “Hey,” driving the crowd into a dreamlike lull that only Alvvays can provide. Their set consisted of new and old songs, including hits like “Archie, Marry Me,” “In Undertow,” and “Dreams Tonite,” all of which were fitting for the young crowd that Austin City Limits primarily caters to. The best part of their set was how they engaged with their audience. Being that they’re Canadian, they had choice words for the current Senate election in Texas. Without going into detail, they said things that created new fans, while delighting old ones. Alvvays was one of the stronger acts for Friday, and they delivered in a way that will always be welcomed.

Golden Dawn Arkestra

Golden Dawn Arkestra | Photo by Julian Combong

Austin, Texas isn’t just famous for Austin City Limits, but for their slogan “Keep Austin Weird” as well. Local Austinites Golden Dawn Arkestra made sure to deliver on that promise by providing one of the most memorable live performances to whoever was fortunate enough to catch their set at the Tito’s Homemade Vodka stage. The best way to describe Golden Dawn Arkestra‘s set? Afrobeat with Cosmic Jazz and a touch of funk underneath live theatrics that rival some dedicated theater performances; Their entire set flowed indistinguishably, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly when each song started. The band, however, made sure to keep the audience in the loop by providing guidance in a storytelling type of way, telling each fan old and new what song was which and the lore behind it. At the end of their performance, they thanked everyone for coming out, encouraging them to come talk to them at Waterloo’s artist signing booth. For me, Golden Dawn Arkestra was the surprise delight of the day, as I went in there almost completely blind as to what I should expect. Fortunately enough, I left the stage pleasantly surprised, and as the band describes, “A newfound Child of the Sun.”

Brockhampton

My Friday ended at the exact place it started with self-proclaimed boy band Brockhampton taking the Miller Lite stage around 5:45 p.m. Their performance was by far the most lively, with aggressive shoving and moshing being the staple within the crowd. Led by member Kevin Abstract, the group began the evening  with “New Orleans,” off of their newest album Iridescence. In all honesty, the chaos of the crowd made it difficult to keep track of what songs were playing for the majority of the set, as everyone was trying not to get injured in some way or another. Despite the anarchy, however, I was able to sing along to two of their most popular songs, “Gold” and “Bleach.” The best part for me was when Merlyn Wood was rapping, and the realization kicked in that I once shared a high school class with him when he was known primarily as William.

The fact that one of my classmates had made it big as a rapper just added to the surreal experience that Brockhampton had already provided. When all was said and done, the group thanked everyone for coming out before taking their exit,  leaving behind a crowd trying to comprehend what had just happened for the last hour.

Friday was everything I imagined a music festival of Austin City Limit’s magnitude to be, with my expectations being met, my curiosity for the remainder of the weekend was further stimulated. – Julian Combong

Waylon O’Day grabbed the baton from Julian and rounded out Day 1 of Austin City Limits Music Festival by covering The National, Father John Misty, and Paul McCartney.

The National

Former President Obama, in the past, has expressed his affinity for the indie-rock band from Ohio, The National. So, I figured if it was good enough for Barack, it should be good enough for me. Ever since I had heard that tidbit of gossip, I had tried to get into the long-established band’s music and found little success. I found a lot of their songs, well, interesting, but overwhelmingly predictable for a band that is constantly lauded by critics and music fans

The National at ACL taken by the band

alike. Before the band made their way to the stage, Julie Oliver, a Democratic candidate for Texas’ 25th Congressional District, hyped up the crowd by commanding the audience at the American Express stage to make sure they had registered to vote and to let their voices be heard at the ballot box. It was the first of many political statements made during the 12 song set, that included “Mr. November” being dedicated to Beto O’Rourke, a Congressman from El Paso running for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in next month’s election. Besides that, the set was about what I had expected going in, very slow moving, and sort of passé in the way that lead singer, Matt Berninger, postured himself. Maybe I’m just too young to get The National, as they have been around nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I appreciate the message the band was trying to send with all of the political nods, but I need my politics to be a little more desperate instead of jaded, which is how these political statements came off. Sure, Beto is great, but we can’t count our eggs before they hatch and celebrate like we’ve already won this election. There’s still work to be done, in all corners of our government, and resting on our laurels is not going to take us anywhere except backwards.

Father John Misty

Father John Misty | Photo by Waylon O’Day

I had to make the heartbreaking choice of seeing either Brockhampton, whom I’d never seen before, or one of my favorite artists, Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty. When I had seen Misty six months before at Fortress Festival in Fort Worth, he was just about to release God’s Favorite Customer. Then, perhaps knowing the audience wouldn’t know the new project’s music, he relied more on his fairly deep discography, drawing from my personal favorite, I Love You, Honeybear as well as Pure Comedy and his debut album, Fear Fun. This go around, it was, well, different, but nonetheless spectacular. Opening with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” the showman in Misty immediately revealed itself as he swayed from side-to-side strumming his guitar.  Unsurprisingly, the set leaned heavily upon his latest release, following up his first song with the standout single from the album, “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All,” following it up with the other single from the album, a song about a debaucherous hotel stay, “Mr. Tillman.” Throughout the set, Misty danced erratically, fully investing himself into his music, baring his heart and his teeth on songs like “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the G-ddamn Thirsty Crow,” and “Please Don’t Die.” Someone older and wiser than I once said that all good things must come to an end, and alas that even applies to what was one of the best performances I had seen at Austin City Limits in all of my years of attending the festival. Closing with the title track from I Love You, Honeybear, I was in shock, thinking of all the songs he could still play, when Misty left the stage, including what is my favorite post-Honeybear track, “Real Love Baby.” Even though his time on stage felt too short, it was still one of the most enjoyable.

Paul McCartney

Sir Paul, in all his glory, graced the absolutely jam-packed American Express stage to close out the first night of 2018’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. The crowd was literally belly-to-belly for what seemed like a mile. Everyone had gathered to see the Beatle, and Mr.McCartney did not disappoint, playing for about two hours by running the gamut of his seemingly endless catalog. Opening up with early Beatles hit “A Hard Day’s Night,” the crowd both young and old instantly became energized seeing one of the most legendary songwriters live and in the flesh. McCartney traded off Wings and Beatles songs for the majority of his set, playing Beatles standards like “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a song that once made Conservative America lock their doors in fear of the “devil’s music,” seemed tame in the context of today’s music landscape.

McCartney, perhaps unbeknownst to him, kept flashing the Wu-Tang symbol after Wings’ songs. Maybe I’m too young to know that was originally his thing, but nonetheless it got a chuckle out of the younger crowd, as did most of Paul’s stage banter, which seemed like your cool grandpa trying to fit in with the grandchildren. Other highlights included “Love Me Do,” “Blackbird,” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” all of which induced mind-numbing nostalgia for me, someone who grew up on the Beatles. “Band on the Run,” and “Live and Let Die,” the only Wings songs I can honestly say I know, were saved for the tail end of the set. The final stretch of Sir Paul’s set was full of the songs that everybody waited for, including “Hey Jude,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise),” the heaviest song in the Fab Four’s discography “Helter Skelter,” and finally, the aptly titled “The End.” Of all the old-timers I’ve seen in my life, and there have been a few, Sir Paul did not disappoint, and honestly surprised me with how spry he still is. Then again, if you’re one of those that believe that the Sir Paul I saw Friday night is a clone, you can just write off all of my gushing praise for my third-favorite Beatle. – Waylon O’Day

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