After three days of musical greatness in the Texas heat followed by a cooling rain shower to close out the festival on Sunday evening, I think I have regained enough control over my senses and collected my thoughts such that I am able to wrap up my experience in written form.
I think that one of the more memorable moments of the festival occured early on Saturday afternoon during Ben Kweller's performance. He was bleeding profusely from his nose, apparently due to an allergic reaction. Blood poured from his nose, ran down his chin and flowed non-stop down his neck onto his clothes and onto his guitar. He gave it everything he had, even going so far as to pushing a tampon into his nose before tearing into "This is War", but he was physically unable to continue and was only able to perform a handful of songs. A few other notable occurances were Gnarls Barkley covering The Doors on "Who Scared You" and witnessing Ween lyrics interpreted live for the hearing impaired festival-goers. I can't forsee a situation in which I'll need to know how to sign "big booty bitch," but you never know.
I was able to watch the following artists' performances, and I have them listed here from best to not best. This is just my humble opinion, of course.
Kings of Leon - These four guys from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee are the best rock band in the United States. The new songs that they performed from their as-yet unfinished 3rd album sounded outstanding. Rumor has it that the working title the next album is Because of the Times.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Perfect. Amazing. Inspiring. Moving. Awesome. A heavy rainstorm came down about thirty-five minutes into the set and the band took a short break to let it pass. Twenty minutes or so later Tom and the band came back out and played for another hour to a huge crowd who didn't budge during the storm. It was a perfect ending to the festival, rain withstanding.
The Flaming Lips - These guys never cease to amaze, and this performance did exactly that. The Wayne in a bubble, the confetti blasts, streamers, space men, fake blood, santa suits, futuristic dancing women, The Flaming Lips have it all. Oh yeah, the music is pretty damn good as well.
Damian Marley - Wow. Austin discovered why Damian Marley has three albums and three Grammys; it's because he's got talent flowing through his entire body, including his five-foot long dreadlocks. His band and backup singers were top-notch as well. Anyone who got out to the festival late on Sunday really missed out on something special. I especially enjoyed seeing some of his native flags flying out in the crowd, that was a proper welcome.
Gnarls Barkley - Damn it was hot. All I was wearing was a t-shirt, and Gnarls Barkley were up on stage facing the sun and wearing lab coats and long-sleeve shirts. I have to tip my hat to these guys for putting on such a great performance despite playing at the worst possible time on the worst possible stage, as far as temperature was concerned.
Los Lobos - These guys have been making music together since the early eighties, and they perfected their sound many moons ago. Their set at ACL was fantastic, just about every person I could see was in motion for their entire set. I'm pretty sure these were some of the coolest dudes at the festival.
Ghostland Observatory - Out-fucking-standing. These two Austinites (Thomas Turner and Aaron Behrens) just played Lollapalooza last month, they've just done the Austin City Limits Festival, and over the next few months they'll be hitting up the west coast and then overseas. I'll be conducting an interview with them very soon, so check back for that.
Calexico - These guys were great. They have the perfect sound to find some prime festival real estate and just chill out and soak in their performance.
What Made Milwaukee Famous - These guys sounded great, and put on a nearly flawless show. Believe the hype.
Deadboy & the Elephantmen - This was a good set, somehow a little less heavy than I expected, but a great performance nonetheless.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore - If I listen to country music, I want it to sound a lot like what I heard from Jimmie Dale Gilmore at the Austin City Limits Festival. His 2005 release Come on Back was nominated for a Grammy.
Ween - I enjoyed their set, it's just hard to get into a lot of their stuff because their lyrics are, uhhh, uninspiring.
TV on the Radio - I love Return to Cookie Mountain and Desperate Youth, but either their sound doesn't transfer well to live shows, or I had water in my ears, or the PA system was setup wrong, or they just had an off day. A few of the songs sounded good, but overall I was unimpressed.
I'm not placing these artists into my 'best of' breakdown because I was only able to watch less than half of their set.
Ben Kweller - Showed a lot of heart trying to play through the waterfall of blood coming out of his nose on Saturday, and the crowd let him know it. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips paid homage to Ben on Sunday by pouring a vial of fake blood all over his face mid-set.
Cat Power - From the few songs I saw this set was much better than the one she turned in at the 2004 ACL Fest.
Van Morrison - Sounded great, but I was unable to stay for the set.
Sparklehorse - Looked good on the big screen, but I could barely hear it from where I was in the back.
The New Pornographers - Had to sacrifice their set for a prime spot at another stage...
So that officially wraps it up. I pinky swear not to talk about ACL again until after SXSW 2007, which can't get here soon enough.