The first day, and what a day it was.
We awoke at 4 o’clock in the morning to get dressed, pack up the car, and leave by 5:00 A.M. After all was situated it was an 8 hour trudge to the great city of Austin (blasting tunes from artist’s we expected to see while there). Coming into the city, everything seemed normal. We checked into our motel with ease and unpacked what luggage we had. After all that was taken care of, all that was left was to find some parking and to start walking towards the famous ACL Festival.
Walking into the park for the first time was a new experience to me. Thousands of people patiently waited in line to have their bags checked and their tickets registered. Seeing that many people in one place was something unthought of in my mind. Little did I know, the number of people I saw at the gate would be nothing compared to the number of people at the park.
After registering we walked into the park. It is a massive field strewn with concession stands and stages for the artists to play on. The first band that we went to go see was The Mountain Goats. Since there was still plenty of space we parked ourselves a far distance away, on the hill, and brought out our blanket. Laying there in the sun was nice after a hectic day of travel and trying to get in. The music was soothing and gave off a “you’ve made it” feeling.
After The Mountain Goats stopped playing, we made our way to the arts center to check out the wares. A lot of what you saw there was typical, jewelry, sunglasses, clothing, etc. I did find one piece of clothing in particular that I wanted though. It was a blue headband, one of which that would stretch out in the front to be more of a bandana of sorts. When I get around to posting pictures, you will see what I am talking about. Anyways, I purchased it and we looked around some more.
Eventually, we made it to the food court where all types of food were being served. The diversity of food was amazing! On the sign itself it read. “Austin Eats – No giant turkey legs, just great food,” which sums up everything about this place. I went with a brisket wrap which was especially good, (So good in fact, it didn’t need any BBQ sauce!) Trish and Bethany had meat pies, which looked equally delicious. Carrying our eats, we made our way to the other side of the park from where the previous band was playing. Little did I suspect that that is where we would spend the rest of the day.
The Black Keys were next, a new band that I have grown to love over the past few months. They have a bluesy/thick southern sound to them that make them a very soulful band. We got up as close as we possibly could, (trying not to step on people who were sitting down in the crowd, waiting for the band to start). Still being a ways away, we finally stopped just as they were starting. It was thrilling to see them play live, with all the heart and soul you would hope from a band like that. At this point the afternoon sun was beaming down on us like a heat lamp. But I didn’t care, I was having too much fun!
After The Black Keys were over, we decided to stay, since Spoon would be the next band on that stage. So we pushed forward to get even closer to the stage, finally stopping about 20-25 feet from the front. Sitting down seemed like the best thing to do at that point, so we did. The soft green grass was perfect to relax on. It would be another hour before Spoon played. In the meantime, we chatted with each other and occasionally with the people around us. About 30 minutes into the wait time, it was getting crowded enough that we had to stand up. At this point, the number of people I saw at the gate was starting to compare to the number of people just standing around us. You have to also realize that other shows were going on at the same time on other stages. The sheer number of people in this one spot was outstanding!
After another 20 minutes passed (and many more people surrounded us), Spoon came out on stage with a heavy presence. The bass sending waves of sound over the audience like a thick warm blanket. The energy coming from the crowd and coming from the band was amazing. Song after song, I sang-along with, keeping myself pumped and energized during this exciting moment. The exhilaration I was experiencing with this band was amazing. It is one thing to enjoy an artist’s music, it is another to experience their presence as they play live.
Spoon ended an hour later and we had discussed previously about getting closer to see The Strokes. Little did we know that everyone else there also had the same idea. There was a huge rush of bodies as we all were pushed closer to the front. People trying their hardest to get closer (and some trying to get out) created quite a crunch. People were standing next to each other like canned sardines. Thousands of bodies in the same area with one goal in mind, get as close of a view as possible. Now, having been up since 4 in the morning this was not ideal. However, I believe we all thought it acceptable since one of our favorite bands was about to play. Standing in the heat with other people packed so tight was slightly uncomfortable, but after a while it became normal.
An hour and a half passed before the Strokes were finally ready to play. Exhaustion from standing in the same position for most of the day was quickly dismissed as the band’s energy rushed through the crowd. The sun had set by the time they appeared and we were now being assaulted with sound and light from this huge band. A giant LCD screen located behind them created fun animations as the band played their most popular songs. I was having lots of fun, but that’s not to say that the high energy didn’t bring it’s hazards. As the band was playing, people began to “crowd surf” above the crowd. While this was exciting, those of us unaware of people doing this were quickly hit with a rude awakening. Bethany, who was standing just in front of me, had one of these surfers land on her neck. I reacted quickly, pushing the person back up above the crowd. At that point, the excitement of the band wore off since someone almost was injured. Not to mention that we were so tired from the trip anyways.
We decided to leave early at that point, and started making our way out. The crowd was so thick. It was at that point that I realized just how many people were attending this event. The crowd never seemed to end as we made our way through the maze of bodies. Many minutes later we finally made it through the crowd to the exit. Our bodies literally were pushed to their limits. The bus ride back to the first park was almost like sleeping while awake. Walking back to our car was no different. Had someone filmed us, we would just as well be zombies in a movie. After many more minutes of excruciating walking, we made it to our car. From there, it was tough ride back to the motel. The motel bed awaiting, we all fell asleep with little effort. (After showering of course!)