It was the final day of the festival and exhaustion had very much set in. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the massive expanse of Zilber Park. Maybe it was the long days, or the mud. Probably it was a combination of all of the above, but suffice it to say it was a challenge rising out of bed for the final morning of the festival. Unfortunately this challenge meant we missed Australia bound Alt-J, an act who have produced one of the best releases of this year in An Awesome Wave, but we will no doubt be able to catch them again in the near future.
We battled through body pains with the help of a vodka or two in the media area (which, I have to say, is one of the best media areas I’ve ever experienced - free drinks, lunches and even massages, plus Wi-Fi and pretty damn nice bathrooms - you're on notice Australia!) and heard Kimbra finishing her set from afar, following up her sold out festival after party in the city the night before... and of course her highlighted performance with Gotye for THAT song. Though the New Zealand-via-Melbourne artist hasn’t been selling a whole heap of records over here, she has without a doubt captured a great deal of interest from the public, who were talking about her performance for the rest of the day. It will be quite interesting to see where things go from here for her... much as it is for us, her next stop is in New York for CMJ!
Stars, the musical project fronted by Canada’s overachievers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell, played an as expected beautiful set, that included songs such as "Backlines" and "Do You Want To Die Together?" from their latest record North - of whose album cover was utilised as the backdrop for the stage. Meanwhile, over on the Honda stage, acclaimed New York outfit Freelance Whales were letting things rip, celebrating their just released Sophomore album Diluvia. Their set closed with "Starring", which, judging by the crowd response, was a favourite track among their ever growing fan base.
The name NEEDTOBREATHE has been floating around for a while now, and while Johnny shot the amazing Gary Clark Jr who will return to Australia for Big Day Out (you can read my review of his recent Annandale show HERE), I thought I’d check them out. Walking onto the stage to a Beck song, the opening strums of a Banjo and high energy American vocals immediately made it clear why I wasn’t familiar with them: they are a rock outfit with the spectrum weighed heavily on the country side. Not normally my thing, with a few exceptions here and there, it was hard not to tap your hands and feet along to their catchy, Kings of Leon reminiscent, radio friendly tunes - with a dash of Mumford and Sons energy.
Though enjoyable, I didn't feel particularly inspired by the music and moved on to see Nashville based Lera Lynn on the BMI stage. You’ll be able to see my interview with the talented artist soon, but it would be fair to say that her music will be well digested by any fan of the modern variety of Country music - Australian, American or otherwise. Supported on stage by a three piece, Lera looked very much the comfortable performer on the stage, playing a beautiful rhythm guitar as she sang with perfection. A highlight of the set was a cover of TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me”, featuring just her on guitar and a backing banjo. You can check out a past performance of this cover below; she totally makes this one her own. Without a doubt one of America’s finest up-and-coming talents.
Highly buzzed bands Tennis (not to be confused with the now defunct Australian band of the same name, this Denver based outfit is fronted by the talented Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley) and Laneway Festival bound Polica were the next clash of the festival. I caught the latter briefly and was impressed with their on stage presence and sound, as I was a couple of nights prior when they supported Metric at Emo's. On my way to Tennis, however, I was distracted by a band called Bad Books, fronted by the one and only Kevin Devine with support by Andy Hull and other members of Manchester Orchestra. Not too far removed from the music of the latter, the set was a huge surprise for someone who considers himself a huge fan of Manchester Orchrestra – though admittedly it took a quick Wikipedia search to work out the “I totally swear I know this band...” connection. I blame the aforementioned exhaustion for not working it out sooner.
Two Door Cinema Club followed and what is there to say that hasn't already been said? The Northern Ireland based group pumped out a mix of songs new (from the recently released Beacon) and old, with the tracks from their breakthrough debut record Tourist History naturally going down well with the crowd, even allowing those older audience members an opportunity to have a dance. And how!
Unfortunately The Weeknd had cancelled that morning, replaced by a local DJ, so I had the opportunity to see The Civil Wars again, who I caught at their after party/sideshow the night before. They sounded fantastic, though I would suggest they wouldn't work on a stage as large back home. Don’t miss their church performances next year! The always amazing Ruthie Foster also didn't disappoint. Holding her set in the only tent stage at the festival, I momentarily felt like I was at Jazz Fest in New Orleans or at Bluesfest in Byron Bay. She summed up this vibe the best: "Have your margarita and a little bit of Church… a Bloody Mary and the Biblical!"
Speaking of Biblical, few artists in the Bible of rock and roll are quite as iconic (dareisay infamous) as Iggy fucking Pop and The Stooges, and at 6.15pm it was time for Iggy to bring his never ending, leathery party to Austin, Texas, proclaiming “We are the fucking Stooges and we have come from hell”. On a sidenote, I was standing right in front of the woman who was doing sign language interpretations of the music for the hearing impaired. Seeing her translate this statement was pretty hilarious. Also being in the position I was, I finally mustered up the courage to try and “bum rush the stage” as requested by Iggy. Though I got into the pit in front of the stage, unfortunately I just missed out on the chance to share the stage with His Greatness. Maybe next time.
The set was as crowd pleasing as ever, playing songs such as "Search and Destroy", "Gimme Danger", "1970", "Funhouse", "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and a four track encore that featured "Penetration" and the set closer "No Fun". As I’m sure many journalists have stated before me - it’s impossible not to get swept up in the excitement that comes with an Iggy Pop performance, imperfections anb all. And at 65, with no signs of slowing down, tonight Iggy continued to keep that tradition alive. It was a easy highlight of the entire weekend.
By now I’d had more than a few vodkas to counteract the immense pain my body was undergoing, and as such I started to get more than a little excited about the festival’s closing act and Big Day Out headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, in between Iggy and the Chilis I popped over to check out Donald Glover from Community, aka Childish Gambino, who will also be making an appearance at Australia’s Big Day Out in January.
The set is something of a standard hip hop flare. Donald works hard to rev up the crowd, and does it well, though the whole thing feels more of an act or a send up than something genuine. Still, this works; aren’t the best shows all an act anyway? As his line in "Bonfire" goes, "Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?", he’s definitely wearing this tag on his sleeve, and works hard to ride the thin line between comic sentiment and serious hip hop flare. With songs featuring violins, references to Rugrats and New York, and more, I don’t think this is anything we should be taking too seriously, either, but at the same time the musicality and lyrical quality behind it all means it shouldn't be passed off as mere comedy. It’s an interesting mix, but all in the name of a good time and at this, Gambino scores with flying colours.
But then it was time to bring the three day festival to a close, and who else to do it than the iconic American outfit, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Today would be the third time I had seen the group, and the first without guitarist John Frusciante, who left the group in 2009. A big fan of Frusciante, I had set my expectations low for the bands performance today, but when Anthony Kedis emerged in front of 70,000 people in an OFF! Hat (who are also playing Big Day Out), to a sax solo, immediately jumping in to favourites such as “Dani California”, “Other Side”, “Can’t Stop”, “Snow (Hey Oh)”, “Suck My Kiss”, “By The Way”, “Californication” and an encore that featured “Sir Psycho Sexy”, “They're Red Hot” and “Give It Away”. With plenty of jamming along the way, this was a greatest hits set that had the crowd singing and dancing along from start to finish. I’m rather surprised at myself to say this, but the set was one of the best of the weekend, and one of the most enjoyable experiences in recent memory. I couldn’t think of a better way to have brought the weekend to an end. Bring on Big Day Out!
Photo Credit: All rights reserved by ACL Festival. Used with Permission.