“What we have going for us that nobody else has is we have Austin, Texas.” - Charlie Jones, one of the producers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
What's that saying? Oh yeah, "never has a truer word been spoken."
Austin is a lot like this cloud-covered sun. Sure, George Bush has made you think negatively about Texans. And sure cities like New York and San Francisco get all the limelight. But eventually, no matter what you do, the sun comes out and shows you what you've been missing. Only in Austin's case, it's not just 90+ degree days that come along with it.
Case in point, I've been to more than 100 concerts, but only one music festival. I consider myself lucky that Austin City Limits is that one. And I've done it a few times now. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to check out Lollapalooza and Coachella sometime, but I'm almost positive neither will quite match up to ACL exactly because of what Charlie said. We have Austin.
The New York Times article titled, "Hitting the Radar: A Festival Soars in Texas," only goes to show that ACL has reached the pinnacle of music festival lore. Move over Glastonbury (though I would've loved to see Jay-Z cut Noel Gallagher a new one this year) and Bonnaroo...there's a new sheriff in town. And he just so happens to be none other than a Texan.
Funny thing is ACL Festival started off as an afterthought, more or less riding the coattails of the PBS show that has fans all over the country as a way to draw attention back to the show. Plus, ACL was more or less created to deliver a big show to a city that bills itself at the "Live Music Capital of the World." Well let's just say it worked.
In 2002, Wilco, Ryan Adams and Texas country favorite Pat Green led the two-day festival. Very quickly a third day was added to accommodate the growing number of bands and fans, upwards to 125 and 65,000 a day, respectively.
Just five years after its debut, ACL headliners had grown to include legends like Tom Petty, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan; multi-platinum acts like the Foo Fighters, Beck, John Mayer, Coldplay and Sheryl Crow; and indie/alternative favorites like Manu Chao, Ben Harper, R.E.M., Jack Johnson, The Killers and Bjork. And The Roots, Common, Gnarls Barkley, N.E.R.D., Erykah Badu and Zap Mama even made new fans by taking to the Zilker Park stages.
People that go to ACL go for the music, but they also go for a unique Austin experience. For years now, people from all over the country - or world if you go to the University of Texas - have been drawn to Austin after hearing about its youthful, green-friendly, liberal-minded, lake-loving, football-frenzied, Sixth Street boozing culture. Austin, Texas, really isn't all that far away from just being Austin.
When you go to ACL - and this next part is especially true for the tens of thousands that come from San Fransisco and Chicago and New York and other places that have great music scenes to brag about themselves - you go to see what this place called Austin is all about.
You may have heard it called the "blueberry in the middle of tomato soup," but you have to taste it yourself. You may have heard it called the "Live Music Capital of the World," but you have to hear it yourself. You may have heard Austin has one of the best bar scenes in the U.S. of A., but you have to enjoy it yourself.
And when you get there, you realize - sure there's much weirder places than Austin freakin' Texas - but you've never had a better tasting blueberry in your life! Of course, it's not just the blueberries either. I'm talking about the queso that makes you fuller than a sirloin steak, the margaritas that make you drunker than a frat boy on a Saturday night, the barbeque that makes your fingers damn near edible and the Shiner Bock beer that has you asking your neighborhood liquor store if they carry it when you get back to Portland or Cleveland or wherever the hell you came from.
Long story short, when you go to ACL you get just a glimpse of what makes Austin the best city in America. You heard me. And as Barack Obama once said, I'm willing to debate anytime anywhere on the issues.
Speaking of issues, rather editions, consider this part one of my attempt to show you exactly why Austin is the best city in America.
Check back tomorrow for my full, real ACL recap. Trust me, it's worth it.