By the time I was done watching Ryan Shaw I started to get hungry. My stomach was full of a liter of water and was begging for something of substance. I headed back in the direction of the food court around 1:00 pm while watching scores of people file through the entrance of the festival. Some looked fresh and ready to go like they had been dropped off, while others looked like they had just walked several miles to finally reach their destination. Regardless, they all looked happy.
I walked up and down the food court looking for just the right meal to satisfy my hunger but not keep me preoccupied with the aforementioned POP's (that's port-o-potties for you festival rookies) on a hot Sunday afternoon. Salt Lick chopped beef sandwich? As much as they sounded perfect I had to pass on this day. Personal pizza from Austin's Pizza? Just a little too much for lunch for me. Hot and Crunchy Chicken Cone from Hudson's on the Bend? Huh?
I settled on a 1/4 lb hot dog from Original Hoffbrau Steaks. Mmmm, mmmm, good. And not too messy, either, which was good because right next to the food court, The Jones Family Singers had just started a tent revival underneath the roof at the WaMu stage. I plowed through 3/4 of my 1/4 lb hot dog and had to ditch the remaining dog so I could get out my camera and shout praises to the Lord!
I really didn't shout praises out loud, but I thought them while I made my way to the front of the stage to get a closer look at the Jones family that was filling the crowd with energy as they raised the roof for young and old alike. I think The Jones Family Singers were one of the best shows I saw all day. There is something about a large group of people dancing and singing together without a care about what race, age, or gender the other is and they are all having a good time. It's how it should always be.
Around 2:00 pm I made my way to the media tent for a little break in the action and to rest my feet. It was nice to see they had free snacks on the table and a cooler full of ice cold water. I sat back and watched some artists being interviewed by 101X, KLBJ, and ME, while making a phone call to my wife and kids. Then it was time to hit the crowds with my feet blazing trails through stage squatters and left-handed smokers. A much more difficult task now that I am in my mid-30's. I took a wrong turn while following another guy and ended up deeper in the smoky squatting crowd as I tried to navigate my way back to the flow of traffic.
I finally made my way to the AT&T Blue Room stage to catch The National and I'm so glad I did. Their off back beat rhythm song, "Fake Empire," was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. The crowd went crazy when they started and went even more crazy when they finished. It was one of the few times at a live concert where chills went down my neck because of crowd appreciation for the creativity of the band's music. Well done.
Watching most of The National show also gave me a chance to sit down again and reapply the sunscreen chilling in my soft-sided cooler. Cold sunscreen applied directly under the watchful eye of a hot afternoon sun is very refreshing. Take that UV rays! It also gave me time to sit and drink my first cold beer.
When The National was done I moseyed on over to check out Robert Earl Keen at the AMD stage. I like REK on the right day. He is surely a crowd pleaser with "Feelin' Good Again" and the rest of his good laid back tunes.
So as not to miss Ben Kweller and the Infamous Nose Bleeds, I scooted my way towards the AT&T stage at the other side of Zilker. You can't come all the way down to ACL and not see if Ben can pull off another show all bloody in the heat! To my dismay (just kidding, Ben) he was blood free but still put on a great show.
On the way to see Ben Kweller I did stop by to catch Kara Grainger at the BMI stage. Wow. Great voice. Thank you, Kara, for that ten minutes of beauty.
I received a phone call from some friends that were coming out to see Wilco. I would finally have somebody to hang with, even if it was short lived. We met up and went to watch Regina Spektor at the AT&T Blue (but really orange) Room. Regina was by far the happiest person at ACL Fest including the patrons and all the staff. She smiled all throughout her performance and said how happy she was to be playing here. The musical talent that she has is mind blowing to watch. I'm a new fan.
Is that a Polaroid camera that guy has? I think it is.
I missed the end of Regina's show because I made the mistake of drinking a 22 oz beer right before she started. As I made my way towards the food court again to find long lines at the POP's, I was fortunate to catch the Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing, "When the Saints Go Marching In."
I went back to the AMD stage to catch Wilco since that's where I knew my friends were going while I emptied out my bladder. I hung at the back of the crowd and just watched Wilco perform. It was 6:45 pm and my legs were tired so I sat down to enjoy the show. When it was over I tried to talk myself into staying for Bob Dylan but the show put on by Ghostland Observatory on the next stage over (AT&T Orange Room) was my headliner. I had heard that Ghostland put on an incredible show and I heard right. It was just becoming dark when out came the green and purple lasers dancing in the sky to the techno beats thumping from the speakers. I was a pretty good distance away from the stage but felt like I was right up on it.
When Ghostland Observatory completed their awesome performance I glanced over to my right to witness thousands of people rushing to the other side of Zilker Park to catch Bob Dylan.
"No thanks," I told myself. It had been nine hours since I had arrived at ACL and I was ready to go. See you all next year.