Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

3:45 p.m.: Owing to a late night, the amount of time it took to draft my Day One blog, and the hour-long wait for a cab (after yesterday's shuttle disaster, I'm not taking any chances), I don't arrive at Zilker Park until mid-afternoon. This means I've missed both Dax Riggs and Sound Team's last ever show (unfortunately) and Paolo Nutini and Augustana (fortunately), and more importantly I've let you down, dear reader.

3:52 p.m.: I am, however, in time to catch the last half of Cold War Kids' set, who are playing to an audience that is significantly larger than yesterday:


4:07 p.m.: Cold War Kids singer Nathan Willett, like every performer before and after him, comments on the heat: "It's a hot one. Y'all must have trained for this!" Actually, Nathan, even native Texans never really get used to it; we just accept it stoically and put up a façade of false pride to intimidate outsiders. Willett introduces the next song as "Expensive Taste," but it comes out sounding a lot like "Expensive Tits," causing the guy next to me to exclaim, "Hell yeah! Make 'em big!" The band's set peaks with its penultimate song, the incredibly catchy single, "Hang Me Up To Dry."

4:43 p.m.: St. Vincent, a last-minute addition to the festival, is playing the relatively small Austin Ventures Stage around the corner. Unfortunately, she didn't bring her band along, but if anyone can make the solo show work it's Annie Clark, one of indie-rock's most talented multi-instrumentalists. Using sampled loops, a drum machine, and her own considerable skill on the guitar, she conjures up droning violins, church organs, and backing choirs, all emanating from her tiny porcelain figure. As the skuzzy throb of "Your Lips Are Red" fades, Clark cheerfully tells everyone, "Eat, drink, and be merry. And get married. Today. Why not?" It's a nice subtle plug for her album (Marry Me), though I don't think it's intentional.

5:02 p.m.: I realize I'm being a little elitist by only checking out indie-rock acts, so I decide to give something new a try that's off the hipster beaten path: Trent Summar And The New Row Mob–surprisingly, not a hip-hop act–is kicking up dust on the BMI Stage with its pedal steel-driven rockabilly, singing songs about whiskey, women, and Nashville (where they're from). When it began, ACL was nothing but bands like this, but the shift away from country, folk, and blues acts has definitely relegated them to the minority. The crowd in front–mostly older folks in those free cowboy hats being passed out by Blackstone Winery–is modest in size but visibly excited, twirling and two-stepping it up. "Here's a love song I wrote about my cousin!" Summar exclaims. OK, that's enough experimenting.

5:45 p.m.: It's official: Whistling is this year's hottest "instrument," exemplified yesterday by Peter Bjorn And John's ubiquitous "Young Folks" (still being passed around in the crowd like a bad cold) and solidified here by master whistler Andrew Bird, who can trill like a human Theremin. Bird's set is perfect for late afternoon, especially one blessed by a light breeze, and he seems to be loose and enjoying himself. It's also unexpectedly rocking, aided by drummer and sampling whiz Martin Dosh. Bird even turns in a playful performance of "Dr. Stringz" to big cheers.


6:15 p.m.: I notice that I haven't seen as many funny hats or bizarre costumes today, which either means that today's crowd is considerably more conservative, or I'm just not looking hard enough. I do spot this guy:


(In case you can't read it, his shirt says, "I love black people.)

I do, however, spot plenty more homemade beacons, like a confusing cardboard sign reading, "Mormons Only!" Then, of course, there's the guy who brought his inflatable friend:


6:35 p.m.: I'm admittedly not as familiar with Favourite Worst Nightmare as I am their first album, but I'm fairly certain that Arctic Monkeys are leading off with "D Is For Dangerous." Whatever it is, it's given me cause to put that album back in my iPod's playlist for another listen; the boys from Sheffield have emerged from last year's insufferable hype as an incredibly solid rock band, playing loud and fast and with none of the spotlight-shunning insecurity that bedeviled them the last time I saw them. With barely a breath in between songs, the band rollicks through several FWN tracks as well as "old" favorites "Dancing Shoes," "From The Ritz To The Rubble," and "Fake Tales Of San Francisco." Singer Alex Turner finally addresses the crowd, saying, "What happened to the beach balls? This is a beach ball song" before launching into "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," inspiring lots of impromptu pogoing. No beach balls, though.

7:40 p.m.: Holy shit, there are a ton of people watching the Indigo Girls. Wow.

7:55 p.m.: And they all know the words to "Closer To Fine." (I do too, as it turns out, but only the part that Ed Helms sang on The Office.)

8:05 p.m.: Jockeying for position in front of The Arcade Fire means missing out on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but the stage is close enough that I can still make out the familiar strains of "The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth." They sound on tonight, but the impatient clapping and chanting around me drowns them out.

8:15 p.m.: Stupid ACL Scheduling Decision #3: The Arcade Fire vs…Oh, who am I kidding? The White Stripes' last-minute cancellation means that America's favorite Canadians (sorry, Kids In The Hall) are playing against Muse, and–with apologies to the many fervent Muse defenders in our comments–there's really no contest, meaning I'm able to take in The Arcade Fire without feeling like I'm missing out.

8:16 p.m.: Is there anyone who doubts that The Arcade Fire is one of the best live bands performing today? The group's headlining set is a nigh-religious experience, and not just because of the glowing bibles flickering on the red velvet curtain, huge pipe organ, or the pre-show tape of an out-of-breath televangelist loudly proclaiming, "You need a holy ghost enema!" The ten-piece band is constantly moving–dancing, getting into mock fights, swinging guitars around–and the joy is contagious, more effective than any sermon. (They also deserve credit for resurrecting the flugelhorn, something my high school jazz band director would be excited about.)

9:15 p.m.: After a first half heavy on songs from Neon Bible, beginning with "Black Mirror" and segueing into a cover of Eddie And The Cruisers' "On The Dark Side" (just kidding; it's actually "Keep The Car Running," and no, I will probably never tire of that joke), the band closes out by dipping into Funeral favorites: They tour through all of the "Neighborhoods," ending with a smooth transition from "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" into "Rebellion (Lies)" that finds William Butler running through the crowd and smashing away at the marching drum slung over his shoulder. While this is as good a climax as any, the crowd knows that it ain't over until we hear "Wake Up," and sure enough the band delivers on the encore. Want to know how to headline a festival? Here endeth the lesson.


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