This year's ACL fest got off to a cooler than usual start, with temps topping off in the low 80s and the crowd filtering in primarily after three. After catching partial sets by Avett Brothers, Phoenix, The Walkmen, Bassnectar, John Legend, and drinking a few Lone Stars, I and my 50,000 new friends and were primed for a set by Them Crooked Vultures.At seven on the dot you would have thought John Legend and his entire band simultaneously farted as the crowd fled en masse to the neighboring XBOX stage to gain a sightline advantage for an act 90% of them hadn't heard so much as a song from. The audience was a mixed bag of fans old and young and there seemed to be an equal contingent of Nirvana and Led Zeppelin t-shirts.
Christoper Nelson TCV Taking the Stage
When Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, and Josh Homme took the stage the audience roared in anticipation and then, well, nothing much happened. It's not that TCV weren't good, obviously these are masters of their respective instruments. It's just that their music is exactly what you expect. Jam-heavy stoner rock, with lots of solos and a big light show. From about the second song on, the set was going pretty much like a practice, with Homme making comments like "That went well, let's do another like that...." between songs. Obviously this band will draw Cream comparisons, as they have borrowed heavily from the power-trio super group model Clapton and Co. put forth, but in watching TCV one gets the feeling this is an excuse for Grohl to get behind a floor tom-heavy drum kit and have a working audition for his slot as the most worthy replacement for John Bonham should a Zep reunion ever really transpire. It's hard to escape the fact the music they are playing is extremely self-indulgent, verging on wanky.
My experience seeing TCV's ACL performance was the same experience I had with the film Pineapple Express. Because of the cast they'd assembled, I went into both with the highest of expectations, but midway through things got a little dicey. At that point the band's set began to remind me of what bugged me most about the film; Seth Rogan and crew's endless action scenes, left in the movie not because they made the film better or advanced the plot, but because they wanted to see themselves as action heroes and because no one could tell them no. Much like the film, some audience members lost interest at the half and slowly drifted away. TCV songs, like PE's plot, sometimes felt unresolved and incomplete. But again, like the movie, if you go into it expecting the excess (and with a fat, fat sack of weed), you are likely to have a good time. Them Crooked Vultures will continue to tour successfully, I'm sure, as their star power is too compelling to deny. I'm just hoping before recording they enlist a producer so super he's not afraid to tell these rock gods to reign it in.
On the other end of the spectrum, but the same side of the park, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs were electrifying from start to finish. Lady O's voice's has never sounded better, and even after a summer of endless touring she had energy to spare and flaunted it in front of the crowd. Her Converse-clad feet never stopped as she danced her way from one end of the stage to the other, taking the mic into the crowd to let several audience members "woooo-hoooo" along with her, and changing up her costuming through out the set. Closing with Fever to Tell faves and whipping the stage with her microphone in a flurry of teal and violet lights, there was no need for an encore and fans left satisfied. This one was one of the best shows I had the privilege of seeing all summer, (followed by the Y3's at Lollapalooza where Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and a little girl clad in a tutu, who I assume was Homme's daughter, were my side stage companions) and I will, from now on, be referring to this band as the Fuck Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs!
Christoper Nelson Christoper Nelson
Today's festing promises to be interesting, as for the first time, RAIN will descend upon ACL and hometowners Ghostland Observatory will main stage it up tonight!