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ACL Festival in Retrospect: Music and Mud in the Heart of Texas at Austin City Limits

The line-up for the 2009 Austin City Limits music festival featured some impressive artists: Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Ghostland Observatory, and Kings of Leon, to name a few. Even though the Beastie Boys unfortunately canceled their appearance, hordes of fans nevertheless seized upon the opportunity to see and hear for three straight days a massive, multi-staged spectacle of Texas-sized proportion.

Zilker Park

In response to past experiences with sweltering heat and asphyxiating sand, the authorities decided to properly prepare Austin’s Zilker Park for the festival and its many attendees, a motley amalgam of children, teenagers, college students, trust fund hippies, real hippies, elderly hippies, and music aficionados from the reaches of the globe.

To enhance the experience of these pilgrims, the powers that be moved the event back to October, hoping to thwart the heat. Furthermore, to counter the past problem of kicked-up dust, lush expanses of grass was grown and maintained. With Zilker Park prepared, the festival simply needed auspicious weather and enjoyable music.

Bands Versus Weather Conditions

Throughout 2009 central Texas has experienced severe drought, so the general public along with the local farmers generally welcomed the prospect of rain with open arms. Some fans, however, were not so excited about the downpour. On Saturday, day two of the festival, rain steadily showered upon the fans’ heads and umbrellas. The wise ones brought galoshes, but mud soon caked the legs of the rest, as they waded and wallowed from stage to stage to stage through the crowds and port-a-potties, likely barefooted.

Most, nonetheless, remained resilient to the wet and mud and cheered and danced relentlessly. The shows all went on as scheduled, and at least no one was suffering from the heat.

As for Friday and Sunday, days one and three, the weather was ideal, some of the first cool, tolerable, even pleasurable conditions of the year in the region. Ultimately, pushing the festival dates back to October seems like a successful innovation.

ACL Headliners and Stand-Outs

While most bands pleased, some shined especially. Ghostland Observatory, an Austin local favorite, flared rhythmic laser light and blared music fanatically, causing the crowd to erupt in a rapture of dance. Kings of Leon and Dave Matthews, as expected, enthralled their many fans. Mos Def, alongside accomplished break-dancers, thoroughly entertained. And other acts such as Bon Iver, The Dead Weather, White Lies, The Toadies, Passion Pit, Girl Talk, and Citizen Cope invigorated the atmosphere with their inglorious and shimmering sound.

Overall, the festival was a success. Despite momentary bad weather and band cancellations, the show persevered. On sports bottles of wine, carnival food, and positive vibes a gargantuan tribe of flag-bearing vagabonds, transients, misfits, and musicians clad in capes, blue jeans, leather, bell-bottoms, day-glow, plaid, and tattoos managed to “Keep Austin Weird,” as usual.

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