ACL Fest 2009: Rain Can’t Stop the Rock

The Austin City Limits music festival this year can pretty much be summed up in one tweet:

rain can't stop the rock - ACL fest 2009

“Rain can’t stop the rock” – Jason


It was my 7th consecutive year at ACL, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. The curve ball this year was the festival date change. Pushing ACL back from September to October took it from guaranteed sweltering summer heat to a potential grab bag of who-the-hell-knows what the weather will be. If anything, we knew it would be better than the dust bowl of 2005.

I had a few expectations for ACL 2009:

  1. No cell phone service – there is never great cell service at ACL, and you’re lucky if you get any glimmer of wifi (even though AT&T handed out cards toting free wifi would be available – I was never able to connect even from the bus line). To prepare, I set up Twitter via text and Twitpic via e-mail. Practically wireless!
  2. A dead cell phone battery – iPhones have notoriously short battery life as it is, but out in the park with no outlets? Good luck! I made it through by turning off all notifications (Settings > Notifications) and switching my e-mail to only check manually (aka never). Kept the phone charged in the car all morning until right before I stepped out to head to Zilker, and my battery was fine. Beats a $60 backup battery!
  3. Good food! One of the best parts of ACL is the food! Reasonably priced and actually damn good. Sweet Leaf Tea, Amy’s Ice Cream, the Salt Lick, Wahoo’s fish tacos… I could go on and on.
  4. Fashion – ACL always brings out the hippie chic in people. I was hoping to see cute dresses, ironic tshirts (surprisingly, I only saw one keyboard cat shirt), and all the trends fit to photograph on the streets of downtown Austin. This year I was a little disappointed. The majority of the park needed to edit – pick a trend and run with it, please.

sweet leaf tea at acl fest 2009

Sweet Leaf tea and muddy feet


Within 30 seconds of getting to Zilker, I turned around and Jason was gone. He got across the park before he noticed I was not behind him (and saw my angry text messages).  We shook it off, breathed in the beautiful Zilker air, and it was all smooth sailing after that!

My biggest love of Friday was Raphael Saadiq. His name sounded familiar (I feel like I’ve seen him on a late night talk show?), so we stopped by the show. WOW, what a performance. Backup dancers (hello, chick in the full suit shakin’ that tamborine) and lots of upbeat dancing. I even (are you sitting down?) bought his CD. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve paid for that technology known as the compact disc.

My favorite number is “Big Easy,” a bluesy song that he introduced by saying “I wrote this song about the victims of Hurricane Katrina… but it’s a party type of song.”

Enjoy on YouTube:

Next up was John Legend. If you know how I love covers, you can guess how I felt when he opened with “Redemption Song,” sang Michael Jackson’s “Remember that Time,” threw in a Snoop Dogg “Sexual Eruption” lyric in the middle of a song, and played my all time favorite Beatles’ song She’s So Heavy (I Want You). This is me, dying all over again just thinking about it.

John Legend covering I Want You - ACL fest 2009

John Legend covering She’s So Heavy (I Want You) – my FAVORITE Beatles song!

The other amazing performance of Friday was Karen O. and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There was a giant eyeball surrounded by blue glitter, eyeball beach balls hovering in the crowd, and Karen O. in all her glory. As Jason says, she dresses like a 3 year old. I will admit that going into it, I hadn’t really heard more than their hit Maps – but I left with “Heads Will Roll” stuck in my head for hours.

This video will give you an idea of the craziness that is the eyeball backdrop. Note that at ACL, Karen O was wearing a full on face mask that lit up with a swirl over her face. Insanity.


On came Saturday, and on came the rain. At first, it was cute and cool and Woodstocky, but by late afternoon I was a wet muddy mess. Thank God for umbrellas and ponchos.

rain day 2 acl fest 2009 acl recap 2009

Rain on day 2 at ACL fest 2009

We started with Mutemath. Their music is not really my groove, but they definitely put on a great live show. AND they RETWEETED Jason during the set. I am SUPER jealous.

Mutemath retweets Jason - ACL fest 2009

Flogging Molly (the crazy dance-a-licious Celtic Punk band) made the rain work for them (the whole crowd was dancing!) and we made it to Citizen Cope to hear their song Son’s Gonna Rise that I really like!

Next up was Mos Def (did you see Be Kind Rewind? Hilarious.) – who didn’t come out until 25 minutes into his hour long set, then proceeded to rif randomly for about 10 minutes. It was 40 minutes in until he did anything that half way resembled a song. Disappointment.

The lackluster of Mos Def and all the dripping rain was enough to drive a girl to the Rock Island Hideaway Tent – aka the dry, warm tent with 2 huge screens showing the Texas A&M/ Arkansas game. Bliss. I sat there for longer than I meant to and caught just one Scabs song (Tarantula!!) before DMB. No shame at all. Gig ’em Ags.


Sunday was not so much rainy, but the mud was still in full force. We were hella prepared anyway. We bought chairs because we knew there was no sitting in that swampy mud. I just hope the $2.5 million Austin spent on the Zilker grass was mostly on the irrigation and not the grass itself – because it’s washed away after this weekend.

day 1 on the beautiful zilker grass end of day 2 at zilker park - acl fest 2009

Day 1 vs. Day 2 at Zilker park for ACL fest 2009

First up Sunday were the B-52’s. I totally had a moment screaming “tinnnnnn roooooffff…. RUSTED!” with the whole crowd during Love Shack. Who doesn’t love that song? No one.

We treked slowly across the park through the slop and camped out halfway between two stages. Listened to Heartless Bastards, and then turned the chairs around to hear the Toadies. Possum Kingdom is such a great song.

At the moment, Ben Harper is playing with backup band the Relentless7. These guys are from Austin, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they only played off the new album – but I was really hoping for a little Steal My Kisses, or Burn One Down, or something from Both Sides of the Gun… sigh. At least the Relentless7 ROCK. Lots of falsetto and slide guitar and tambourine.

While waiting for Pearl Jam we heard a little from a band called Michael Franti and Spearhead. Really good stuff. Then Pearl Jam came out guns a blazing, in full up beat force playing the hits and having a blast. A great end to a great weekend!

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