Opening Day One with the likes of Florence and The Machine and The Black Keys, there can be no argument that Austin City Limits kicked off in a marvellously grand fashion. Instantly as big and bold as possible, the festival managed to keep up appearances with their line up for Day Two. Despite havjng a few heavy downpours of rain prevent me from catching sets by Metric, Michael Kiwanuka and The Shins, the day was still a solid one with Neil Young, Jack White, Gotye and more playing huge shows.
Rufus Wainwright is renowned for writing honest, theatrical music that never ceases to flaunt his natural talent, and this reputation was only further reinforced at ACL. In addition to covering the beautiful Judy Garland number “The Man That Got Away”, with his jazzy crooning vocals, Wainwright performed a piece written by his father, Loudon, titled “One Man Guy”. Joined by two backup singers (with one of these being Krystle Warren) to deliver stunning harmonies, it was with absolute ease that Wainwright tackled his father’s music. At another point in the set, Wainwright announced that the upcoming US election boils down to women's rights, before launching into the dramatic number, “Going To A Town”, a song addressing the problems facing America. Also playing a heartfelt tune dedicated to his daughter, “Montauk”, Wainwright proved himself to be an intelligent, open songwriter.
Following this I made my way to see another naturally entertaining live performer, Father John Misty. Along with his energetic band, it was refreshing to see such a big artist perform with a genuine blend of wit, enjoyment and good music. Writing songs that draw upon country, folk pop and rock influences, it is difficult to pigeonhole Father John Misty's sound into one category. Indeed, “I’m Writing A Novel” had an exhilarating country rock vibe, while other numbers were softer country-tinged croons. In addition to his energetic dance moves, the singer songwriter also kept us entertained with his story telling lyrics, with “Every Man Needs A Companion”, being a particularly interesting example of this.
Next up, I caught the beautiful music of Andrew Bird. Perhaps best known for his charming whistling and unique use of strings, Andrew Bird's repertoire is well worth experiencing live. Creating his very own sound of heart-warming orchestral pop, Bird's music is at once creative and instantly likeable. “Fiery Crash” and “Plasticities” from his album Armchair Apocrypha were big hits, incorporating a rich swirl of strings. Another hit track was Bird's cover of a song by the legendary Townes Van Zandt, performed by just himself, a guitarist and a double bassist as they stood around the one microphone. Perhaps one of the most moving sets of the day, Bird is a musician who is bound to continue to write music of the highest quality.
After a break to avoid the sudden downpour of rain, I was lucky enough to see the tail end of Kishi Bashi’s set. Clearly having a brilliant time jamming up on stage as a two piece, Kishi Bashi put on a strong show by looping his vocals along with violin and banjo. Mostly performing tracks from his latest album Paralytic Stalks, it was exciting to see such exuberant and experimental music writing being taken to ACL. The Roots similarly demonstrated their passion for playing a dynamic show, performing their usual series of covers and original tracks. Closing their set with "The Seed (2.0)" and covers of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" and Kool G's "Men at Work", they were doing a fine job of revving up the crowd.
It was certainly a great feeling to watch the Australian artist Gotye perform to such a massive crowd of Americans at ACL. An experimental pop artist who has made waves internationally with “Somebody That I Used To Know”, Gotye has now perfected his live show to live up to the much deserved hype of his recordings. On top of playing a number of songs from his second studio album Like Drawing Blood, Gotye and his band kept punters happy with a whole lot of material from his latest offering, Making Mirrors. The show was enhanced by the vibrant graphics projected onto the stage’s backdrop, while Gotye's obvious enthusiasm for his music was easily infectious. Joined onstage by Kimbra for “Somebody That I Used To Know” as a surprise, the crowds went wild.
Onto Jack White, for a pounding session of electrifying blues rock. Playing songs not only from his solo work, but also from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, it's hard to argue against the notion of White as a huge creative force. After opening with “The Hardest Button To Button”, along with his band of female musicians, we were treated to the fast paced number “Top Yourself”'. “Hotel Yorba” gave us a dose of country folk while another of his songs with The Raconteurs, "Steady As She Goes" was injected with a rocking guitar solo. Closing with perhaps his most loved song "Seven Nation Army", Jack White managed to deliver a strong and dynamic set.
After running to the Bud Light stage to catch a stirring, and extensive performance of “Down By The River” by guitar maestro Neil Young, Day Two of ACL had come to a close. We may haft walked away from the festival a little wet and tired, yet we were beaming all the same due to the high quality of music on offer. Yet another huge day of music, it is hard to fault the impressive line-up delivered across the day.