• Festivals

A Smile and a Wink at Austin City Limits ’11

written by: on September 20, 2011

This is a story about an adventure, not just a weekend at a festival in Austin, Texas. This is a story that involves music, trains, Greyhound and late-night public transportation. This is a story that includes run-ins with Brits, hospitable playwrights, publicists, managers, a top 20 podcast and dope bands. I call this tale: Matt Wink Does Austin City Limits: 2011


After numerous mix-ups, people backing out at the last minute and travel arrangements falling through, my path to Austin began with me on a two-level Amtrak train bound for Texas. I met two guys who turned out to be Tim Berryman and Steve Hosking of “The Tim and Steve Podcast.” A day and a half on the train later they came to be known as my new friends from England, my colleagues and my roommates for the weekend. As we finally arrived in Austin we had to quickly acclimate ourselves to the drastic change in climate from what we’d been accustomed to and were welcomed with dinner and shuttled out to the local establishment Hole in the Wall.

Day 1:

After two buses, a trip to Western Union and a mile walk, I met up my friend Jordan to catch Theophilus London. In the midst of Austin’s worst drought in years, London not only ripped through a hit list of songs like “I Stand Alone” and “Last Name London,” he also ushered in the first rain the town had seen in quite some time. This started a wet and frenzied dance party and had London himself halt his band in mid-song and suggest a more appropriated track for the rain.

Photo by Dave Mead

After some food and a little walking around to check out the grounds we made our way back to the Bud Light stage for Delta Spirit. This was my first time seeing them live and they did not stray from their folky, heart felt lyrics and soothing harmonies. Known for playing instruments from the harmonica and piano to trashcan lids, they pleased this fan who had waited a while to see them in person. The highlights included “People C’mon” and the somewhat aforementioned “Trashcan” as the crowd, now cooled off at this point from the drizzle, sang along as the band took pleasure in being the only non-hip-hop act on the stage for Day 1.

Next on my list was Daddy Fat Sax himself, one half of legendary hip-hop group OutKast, Big Boi. Anticipating mostly cuts from his solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, my 16-year old self almost lost his mind when Big Boi came out with a furious medley of OutKast classics like “ATLiens,” “Rosa Parks,” “Elevators,” “Two Dope Boyz” to start his set. In the middle of his singles he dropped another group of verses from the OutKast catalog, going all the way back to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Antwan Patton, accompanied by a live band, rocked the ACL crowd.

Photo by Steve Wrubel

The time between that set and the headliner found me wandering the grounds of Zilker Park. At one point, while on the way to catch a little of Santigold, my left ear was hit with a taste of Sara Bareilles and my right, the bass-thumping, laser-enhanced DJ mixes of Pretty Lights. Only at ACL.

Photo by Jack Edinger

Finally dark, we made our way as close to the stage as possible for what turned out to be a show we couldn’t have dreamed of. With everyone’s eyes were fixed upon the stage, the music from “Dark Fantasy” began as a large, Michelangelo-like sculpture hung as a backdrop, but the lyrics seem to be coming from in the middle of the crowd. Kanye West emerged on a platform that arose from the ground and spit his verses amongst the 40,000-plus crowd that passed up Coldplay to see him. The chorus, “can we much higher?,” couldn’t have fit better. He made it through the crowd and onto the stage as his ensemble of classically trained dancers performed alongside him for much of the show as he proclaimed, “Ain’t no one on this stage ever who had more hits than me.” There was honesty in his arrogance. “Power” demonstrated his control of the situation and he had Atheists and Christians alike singing the words to “Jesus Walks.” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Hell of a Life,” “Monster,” “Flashing Lights” and a snippet of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” all laid the ground work for “Good Life.” This ended Act I.

Act II began with tracks from his brilliant auto-tuned album, 808s and Heartbreaks, as he poured his heart and soul into tracks like “Love Lockdown” “Heartless” and “Pinocchio Story.” He then dropped the track which was the proverbial pre-courser to Watch the Throne, “Run This Town.” When it ended and the music stopped, ‘Ye growled into the mic, “she said ‘‘Ye can we get married at the mall,’ I said ‘look you need to crawl ‘fore you balllllll.’” The entire crowd jumped in anticipation only to hear West chuckle back, “naw, not yet, y’all gotta wait for the tour.” We weren’t disappointed for long, as West went into his first ever hit as an artist, “Through the Wire,” and finished up Act II with the rest of his hits “All Falls Down,” “Touch the Sky,” “Gold Digger,” “All of the Lights” and “Stronger.”

Photo by Dave Mead

Act III began with another wardrobe change a beat machine, the dancers and the simplistic beauty of “Runaway.” Kanye pleaded with all of us to have a toast for the douchebags, assholes and scumbags, proclaiming to be the No. 1 of each that he knows. With every bit of sincerity and honesty, he thanked every single person he could think to thank. “You ask a guy how long he’s been rapping, they might say one or two years. You ask one of these beautiful women how long they’ve been dancing, they say since they were one of two.” It was more than a touching moment, a side of Kanye I wish more of the world would see. After jamming “Lost in the World” he dedicated his set, along with everything he’s ever done, to his mother and fittingly asked if he could just do the chorus of “Hey Mama,” the ode he wrote years ago to the most important woman in his life.

Photo by Jack Edinger

Photo by Jack Edinger

Photo by Jack Edinger