Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday at Austin City Limits: Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and AWOLNATION (September 18)
Arcade Fire's set will be remembered for years to come.
Read about day two of Austin City Limits featuring Stevie Wonder, Cee Lo Green, and more, here.
AUSTIN With only a glimmer of rain, the final day of Austin City Limits (ACL) flew by with a sleepy Fleet Foxes show followed by a historic performance by Arcade Fire. Here are our reviews of the day's performances:
At the tender age of 16, fiddle virtuoso Ruby Jane has accomplished quite a bit for herself. When she was just 10 years old, she was the youngest fiddle player to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, was the youngest performer at South by Southwest, and has played at Lolapalooza. Her Sunday performance marks the second time she has played ACL; she played with Blues Traveler in 2010 and performed to a crowd of about 2,000.
This year, a growing group of loyal devotees gathered at the Austin Ventures Stage to witness Ruby Jane's fast fiddle playing skills, and she didn't disappoint. Backed by a full band, she demonstrated that she is more than just a fiddle prodigy. She can play the guitar -- acoustic is her preferred choice -- and sings lyrics that are wise beyond her years. Several times throughout her show, she played a mean lick on the fiddle and have her guitarist match it on his guitar. Eventually it rose to an impressive duet that left the adoring audience cheering for more.
Just like last year, Ruby Jane was a nice start to a lazy Sunday morning, getting festivalgoers excited for the final day of the festival.
AWOLNATION opened under the piercing sun, sweat dripping off of everyone in attendance. Lead singer Aaron Bruno came out expecting an exciting audience full of crowd surfing and jumping. And when the energy wasn’t high enough, he jumped into the crowd and surfed on his own, like he did during “Jump on My Shoulders.”
Most of the audience didn’t seem to know the songs, except for “Sail,” the band's single. But familiar or not, AWOL’s crashing, bass-heavy rock kept everyone’s ADD in check. Guitarist Christopher Thorn (Blind Melon) trashed a guitar solo at the close of “Sail,” enthusiastically straying from the band's radio edit. Bruno ended up surfing the crowd on an actual surfboard, exclaiming “Didn’t think you could surf in Texas, did you?”
What Fleet Foxes lack in showmanship, they make up for with their spot-on ethereal harmonies and indie folk melodies. The band's music is admittedly on the boring side. It is soft, oftentimes slow, and melodic. Rarely does the beat pick up, but on the tracks that do, like "Blue Ridge Mountains," the audience broke out in dance rather than just standing and watching.
Although the band members stayed rooted to their positions on the stage, their dedicated fans, who waited over an hour to get the closest spot possible, didn't seem to mind. They were there to see Fleet Foxes play, and the music seemed to matter more than a performance full of bells and whistles. Though Fleet Foxes is a good band to play on the ACL stage, folk music doesn't seem to translate on a grand scale. The band would have done better on a smaller stage or a more intimate setting.
Arcade Fire came out to a full field of patient fans ready for a headline-worthy performance. The Canadian group waited four years to return to the ACL stage, and a lot has changed since that 2007 performance. They’re still reeling from their Grammy win for their third album, The Suburbs, while touring all over the world for more than a year.
Their stage was lit up with vintage cinematic screens that followed along with the songs, matching the lyrics with correlating images with impressive quality. Shortly after opening track “Ready to Start,” genius front man Win Butler announced that he was raised in the Woodlands and calls Austin his American hometown. His nostalgic state of mind only furthered their mind-blowing performance, adding significant depth to their emotional lines.
The intricate instrumentation that goes into Arcade Fire’s music is only enhanced live. The violin, viola, and cello swept in and out with spiraling intervals while the mandolin softly kept the supporting melody alive. This group throws themselves into their various instruments while dancing across the stage as if this were their first time in front of an audience.
The large crowd stayed through the second hour -- which can’t be said for crowds at other big bands like Stevie Wonder or AWOLNATION -- rocking through “Rococo” and “Ready to Start.” Butler’s only complaint of the eccentric crowd was how “horrible” the dancing was, which only fueled the audience further.
Régine Chassagne, co-founder of the band, gets the MVP award for outstanding ACL finale. She ran all over the stage, playing drums, accordion, xylophone, and piano with enthusiastic fervor. Her rendition of “Sprawl” concluded the set. That’s why this explosive performance gets our nomination for the best show of the festival.
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- Best and worst performances at Austin City Limits 2011