A music festival attendee’s worst nightmare is overcast in the sky that threatens to unleash a torrential downpour upon thousands of concertgoers. Unfortunately, we weren’t spared from the rain that descended upon Zilker Park on Saturday off and on for the entire day leading well into the night. But resilient music fans aren’t scared off easily, especially not by water falling from the clouds. The show must go on. And it did.
Southern rap while in Texas was a befitting start to our Saturday afternoon. Minutes before Big K.R.I.T. took the stage we caught up with the Mississippi newcomer to talk about his success from underground mixtape pusher to slowly cracking through the tight crevices of mainstream. Interview wrapped, it was game time. In a black t-shirt, camouflage pants and a few pieces of gold jewelry K.R.I.T. took the stage to a swelling crowd of hipster hip-hop fans. What he said in his interview 15 minutes prior had already become a self-fulfilled prophecy. Festivals are breeding grounds for people to attend artist’s shows whose music they aren’t familiar with, he said. The hipster crowd of mostly young, suburban kids who didn’t seem familiar with his music, but rather were there for the appearance of being cool, were perhaps those new listeners K.R.I.T. referenced.
His energy level was what we southerners like to call crunk as he eased through “What U Mean,” “Hometown Hero” and “Country Shit.” His set included records ranging from his two year old mixtapes to cuts from debut album Live from the Underground. The slight drizzle during “Hometown Hero” didn’t halter the show or excitement of the crowd. By the time he closed with “I Got This” the rain had subsided. A fearless K.R.I.T. took a page from Florence’s book, jumping into the crowd. If the young girls yelling “f— these haters, f— these h—“ on the walk to their next destination was any indication, it’s safe to say he won over some new fans.
Luckily, Metric‘s stage wasn’t far from K.R.I.T.’s. Before the band stepped foot on stage just the sound of their music resulted in screeching howls from thousands. If only that enthusiasm had lasted. In fly sunglasses Emily Haines and James Shaw wasted no time jumping right into “Artificial Nocturne,” singing, “I’m just as f—ed up as they say.” The bass from the speakers accompanying the sounds of guitar strings and piano keys was mesmerizing. The crowd’s energy mellowed out lacking the usual sing-along-to-every-word types. That changed the moment Emily spazzed on the keyboard and guitar with a phenomenal showmanship of musicianship. Before “Youth Without Youth” concluded the rain put a damper on the day once again. Well, not for everyone. Most fans didn’t seem bothered by their muddy legs, wet feet and drenched clothing. By “Speed the Collapse” and “Empty” the crowd was snoozing not to any fault of Metric. All of the band members rocked out, but Emily was without question the star of that stage.
It’s not even arguable that The Roots is one of the best bands of all time, of any genre. Twenty years and counting the Philadelphia natives can still keep a slew of people dancing throughout their entire show. Even during a solo tuba jam session! Come on. Who else is doing that? Black Thought opened the show honoring two late musical legends. “Sending this out to the great, late godfather of go-go,” Black Thought said referring to Chuck Brown. “And this goes out to the late great hip-hop legend MCA.” The crowd jammed sans the rain (for the most part) to “Mellow My Man,” “Break You Off” and “You Got Me.” Normally you’d think solo sets by each band member would bore the crowd. The Roots has just the opposite effect. Their skilled musicianship sparked a vibrancy unmatched by other sets. Black Thought ended the show with rhymes so fast and lyrical he was met with larger than life applauds and screams. It’s The Roots. You shouldn’t expect anything less.
By nightfall the rain decided to play nice for Gotye. What comes across as Gotye’s quiet demeanor translated on stage. Through “Eyes Wide Open,” “State of the Art” and “Thanks For Your Time” he never seemed excited. He sang the songs, played his instruments, and did it well. Cell phones lit the darkness as he slid into “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Not singing along to this song is nearly impossible. Eager attendees shouted at the top of their lungs when Kimbra joined him on stage for one of the best songs of 2012 as far as we’re concerned.
To close out day two of ACL it was either Jack White or Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Sorry, Neil. Jack White won this time. For two hours Jack, along with his all-female band, ran through hit after hit after hit. Engaging the crowd was not Jack’s focus when he’s on stage. It’s all about the music. From “The Hardest Button to Button” to “Freedom At 21″ to “Love Interruption” to “Weep Themselves To Sleep,” he flowed from song to song without a pause. If you weren’t paying attention you’d likely never know he’d began a new song. Crowd favorites were “Trash Tongue Talker,” “Hotel Yorba” and “Steady As She Goes.” He did find time for some crowd participation, “Alright Austin, when I say ‘steady as she goes,’ you say, ‘are you steady now.’ It’s not too hard.” The crowd happily obliged. Jack’s drenched in sweat from how hard he’s rocking on stage. The stage fades to black before he goes into “Two Against One” followed by “We’re Going to be Friends.” Jack is good, but the highlight of the show is the brilliance of his band. The women’s stage presence, their interaction with him and their pure talent made what would have just been a good show, a great one.
[Photo: Getty Images]