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Either Sing a Song Off "Surfer Rosa" or Get Out!

2004-09-21 - 3:05 p.m.

Dangerspouse read me! How cool is that?

For the record, I was using the spelling preferred by a friend of my mom's named Scherezade, which, granted, is probably the modernized spelling. She's a cool lady, and ridiculously gorgeous, so who am I to say no?

Also, the Christians are praying for my soul! Please, please start some sort of campaign against my site so I can get famous! PLEEEEEEEEASE!!! On a slightly more serious note: hey, if God really thinks that the way I love is evil, then I'd rather be in Hell than in his presence. That way, if you guys are right, we'll all be happy, and me and all the hot boyz will be having a big hot tub party down in Club H.E. Double Hockey Styx. And Saint Caroline can sneak me in past the Pearly Gates anyway, where we can hook up with Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and do tequila shots, so whatever man, it'll all be good in the Big G's hood. Peace!

Actually, I really should have listened to St Caroline, but as everyone's favorite Pop Culture Cassandra, she is doomed to have her visions of the future denied by we narrow of vision. When called her up a few months ago and told her about this year's Austin City Limits line-up, she became possessed by the Holy Spirits (Saint Jack Daniels, Saint Jim Beam, and San Jose Cuervo) and cried out, ""Woe betide the house of Atreus! Frat boys will scatter their beer cans like dragon's teeth and from the ground shall rise up assholes who talk loudly in Dutch during 'Debaser!' They will not know their music history, nor their history of World War I! Forsooth, Franz Ferdinand the band is Scottish. Franz Ferdinand the archduke was not, asswipe!"

Unfortunately, I paid her no heed, and so headed out on Thursday to this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Oh, boy.

In its first year, ACL was still working out the kinks. There were too few food venues, too few beverages ordered, and worst of all, too few PortoPotties. The good news for me was that I was only there for a day, to see the one and only Emmylou Harris, country's most talented diva. The next year, as I said on this diary, brought an amazing line-up of artists and a set of organizers who had learned from the mistakes of the year before (which were hard to ignore, considering the smell). I had a blast listening to Patrice Pike, Ruthie Foster, Ween, Beth Orton, Patty Griffin, and the bestest of the festest, The Polyphonic Spree, and was looking forward to another year of clean bathrooms, delicious fried foods (including catfish and fried green tomatoes, my favorite treatn from last year), and getting up close and personal with some of the best artists in the music world.

Well, the bathrooms were clean. I will give them that.

There are those who believe that Hell is a place of fire, of burning heat that scorches the flesh of the damned and seers the minds of the wicked. There are others who follow Jean-Paul Sartre's out-of-context quote, who believe that "Hell is other people."

Both of those viewpoints would have found a lot of supporting evidence at this year's festival, which was a Hell that can be produced only by the press of tens of thousands of cowboy-hat wearing frat fucks and their bikini-and-cut-off clad girlfriends in the middle of a classic late September Texas heat wave. In such an environment, a good time is had by none, at least by no one who had the audacity to go to the festival for the music.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy my time in Austin. It was great to see PearlJammer, Anarchaspud, StikiNiki, Demolisha, and so many other friends that I hadn't realized how much I'd missed in the past few weeks getting settled in here. Hanging out with them was a blast, particularly when lunches at World Beat Cafe and dinners at Cuba Libre were involved. The problem is that I feel like I would have had a better time if I hadn't gone to the festival at all. I would certainly had more time to see Ginger and Cindy, and Trish the Dish, and all sorts of other people whom I missed out on. I also wouldn't have had to watch all the episodes of Six Feet Under I'd missed on a single night (thank god for digital cable, or I might never have got to see Mena Suvari and Lauren Ambrose making out, which would have been a damn shame). And when you've spent $80 on festival tickets, you start to feel a little pissed off.

I can't blame the artists. Actually, I will lay a little bit of blame on Broken Social Scene, because they need to be upfront about the fact that they are a JAM BAND so that poor unfortunate souls like myself won't bother wasting my time with them. Otherwise, it was clear that the artists were doing all they could to perform in the middle of a classic late-September Texas heat wave.

For some people, a september heat wave means that the temperature will maybe reach 90 degrees. For a Texan, it means it will rarely drop below 100. This one was oppressive. It hurt just to stand in the sun. I spent the entire weekend with a bottle of water, a glass of iced tea, a snow cone, or a smoothie in my hand, and still had to occasionally dump the water on my head to keep from passing out.

The music suffered for it. The worst case was The Killers. Their music, having a strong 80s new wave influence, makes me want to dance, and I had no energy to spare them that weekend. If they come play the Bay Area, I'll see them in a night club. They deserve a second chance.

The country and folk people had an easier time of things. I got to see Neko Case and Ryan Adams, both of whom were really good. It made me break out Gold and buy a Neko Case album as soon as I got home. I also give a round of applause to The Pierces, whose Nields-esque sound was a perfect way to cool down. The best of the daytime acts, though, was Patty Griffin, who managed to make me forget that I'm not a fan of the new album by singing every song with tremendous earnestness and intelligence. So, if you think that Impossible Dream is somewhat saccharine, don't let it deter you from listening to her live. On the other hand, don't expect the Living with Ghosts classics, because I've seen her two years in a row and she still tends to prefer her current making pies flying kites numbers. Patty, if you're out there, please bring Every Little Bit out of mothballs. There's nothing like hearing you sing "I can chew like a cannibal. I can yell like a cat." For me, baby, for me!

Things were much better at night, but I was faced with a much bigger problem than even the sun: the crowds. Whereas I had only nature to blame for the heat(or God. Do you hear that Christians?! GOD! Yeah, I said it. Now will you start letting all your friends know about how evil I am, and how they should write their local newsmedia about how no one should ever read me, PLEASE?!) I was able to fantasize about wrapping my fingers around the organizers' necks every time I found myself up against a wall of people blocking my view of some artist or other. They let in twice as many people as they had in previous years, a full 70,000. Before, I only had to arrive a few minutes before the concert began to wiggle my way up near the front of the stage, the better to see Patty or Emmylou or Beth. This year, I was screwed.

See, whenever I get tickets to a general admission show, I always try to get as close as possible. There's nothing like being able to see the subtle expressions on an artist's face as he or she or ze makes music. Whenever I don't get up close, I feel like I've been cheated of something.

One of the big problems this year is that PearlJammer was my date for the fest, and she never really cares about getting up close except in the case of one band (I'll give you three guesses as to which band that might be, and the first two don't count). In normal circumstances, I would have just said, "Hey dude, I'm going to go up front, meet me by the drinks stand after the show so we can go to the next venue." However, it was impossible to find people in this crowd, and phones didn't work properly, and PearlJammer had just received some really bad news about her grandma (How bad? Six months left bad) which meant that leaving her alone and lost would make me A #1 asshole on anyone's list, including mine, so I was left to look myself in the eye and say "Suck it up, buttercup!"

So, while my anarchist buddies were upfront for The Pixies, I had to stay in the relative boonies. It was rough, but a bud's gotta do what a bud's gotta do.

This meant, unfortunately, that I had to put up with Festival People. These creatures do not show up to music festivals for the music. They show up for the opportunity to drink beer in an outdoor environment. They park their blankets down and build up a small fort out of empty cans of Heineken and the occassional bottle of water. I hate these people, because THEY TALK DURING THE SHOW!!! SERIOUSLY, MOTHERFUCKERS, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!?!?! THIS IS A FUCKING CONCERT!!! YOU PAID TO HEAR THIS MUSIC!!! WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY ON EARTH ARE YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE FUCKING CONCERT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!

Yeah, I was a little upset.

The classic moment had to be when The Saint's prediction came true during Franz Ferdinand's show, to whom I need to give huge applause for being the rockingest band of the entire festival (you heard me right). These people behind me asked their friend (during a song) which guy was Franz Ferdinand, and he had to explain that Franz Ferdinand was the guy whose assassination sparked World War I. The problem was that he said that Franz Ferdinand was Scottish, which was why the band took his name, even though he also said that it was Austria who started the war as a result of the murder. At least it gave me a good laugh.

Not so much when The Pixies were onstage. Now, I love The Pixies. I La La Love Them, that's how much I love them. When I heard they were going on a reunion tour, I nearly burst into tears. When I saw that they were playing ACL, I called all my friends and ordered them to go. I was looking forward to their show all summer.

And when they came on, the imbecilic frat boy fucks all around me refused to shut the Hell up. Grrrrrrrrrr

Actually, I need to also point out that there were three foreign men next to me who were being far louder. I was getting very close to grabbibg a folding chair and hitting them with it. The worst was during Debaser, my favorite Pixies song, when they never shut up. I was the only one jumping up and down with glee. It sucks to be the only gleeful one, let me tell you.

This did not mean I didn't love their set. I loved listening to Wave of Mutilation, Gigantic, Where is My Mind, Bone Machine, and Gouge Away. However, I was terribly upset when they didn't do an encore. Guys, COME ON!!! At least pretend that you're not just doing this for money. I know you've already played a great set, but you're the last band of the night, so no one's gonna get mad. Would it have been so wrong to come back onstage, and have Kim go up to her mike and yell, "This is a song about a superhero named Tony! IT'S CALLED TONY'S THEME!!!"

*Sniffle* Excuse me, I need a moment.

Throughout the fest, I tried to look on the bright side of things, but in retrospect, the experience was pretty damn shitty overall, and I'm not going to pretend it wasn't, because if I do then I might feel motivated to go back next year, only to have things suck all over again. So I'll leave this statement up with the caveat that I will still come back if one of my Top 10 or So artists plays. I doubt Tori or Dar would ever do it, but Emmylou already has, and I can certainly imagine Ani DiFranco, Erykah Badu, The White Stripes, Scissor Sisters, and even The Decemberists playing there. Even then, I'll only go to the shows I really care about, or to the shows of Austin artists I want to support (when will these jerk-offs wise up and give Ginger Leigh a spot, and for that matter, why the Hell weren't the offering Ruthie Foster anything she wanted and a pony to play again, because girl can SANG). The rest of the time will be spent enjoying my beloved hometown, who still needs a love letter from me one of these days.

I'll get around to it. In the meantime, Austin, I say you guys stand outside the gates of Zilker Park next year with questionnaires. If people can't name three songs by at least five artists on any given day, and sing one of them, they get kicked out. Unless, of course, they promise to let the real fans up front.

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previous - next

The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
Sisters Lolita and Matronic Explain It All for You - 2005-01-31
Cowboys and Medievalists - 2005-01-30

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