Ultimately how a music festival closes on the last day for its 70,000 connoisseurs of music is how its success will be judged. Friday is perhaps a bit blurry, the rain possibly overshadowed Saturday’s performances, and then there’s Sunday—the final day of Austin City Limits, potentially the most memorable for fans. Ending the three day music extravaganza with the Red Hot Chili Peppers is how one properly concludes a festival.
Trekking across the park to Gary Clark Jr.’s show was much easier without the muddy grass Saturday’s rain created. After he blew us away with an incredible performance it’s easy to understand why he’s a rising star in the making. For “When My Train Pulls In” he worked the guitar like he was playing for his life. It didn’t matter that he didn’t start singing until nearly four minutes as long as he didn’t stop stringing that guitar. He’s so skilled he barely looked at the instrument during “Ain’t Messin ‘Round,” which impressed pretty much everyone. His sound was a mix between rock, country and blues with a dose of GCJ flavor. With the help of his awesome band, “Don’t Owe You A Thang” inspired the crowd to clap along to the rhythm, shouting whenever they saw fit.
You Oughta Know alumni The Civil Wars and The Lumineers performed to the equivalent of what would be a packed house if we were at an indoor venue. Performers and attendees were unaffected by the heat from the beaming sun. Anything’s better than rain, yes? The Lumineers popular catchy “Ho Hey!” was partly the reason for the larger than expected draw, and it’s safe to predict by next year the three member crew will need a bigger stage. But that wasn’t the only song fans were familiar with. The group of friends next to me, along with thousands of others, clapped and sang loudly to “Classy Girls.” “Flowers In Your Hair” and “Stubborn Love” yielded similar results. The Lumineers are here to take the world by storm. And to think, they found the cello player via Craigslist. The Civil Wars “Barton Hollow” and “My Father’s Father” sounded better than CD Quality. “Poison and Wine” flowed like molasses, sweeter than honey. Fans loudly sang every word. Whether it’s listening to The Civil Wars live at VH1’s Unplugged taping or hearing them on stage at a massive park, their voices are truly divine.
How in the world Iggy & The Stooges can still rock a stage like guys 30 years their junior may forever be a mystery. For a 65-year-young man, Iggy had no qualms rolling around on the stage, jumping high and dancing hard. A shirtless Iggy in black jeans sung to a crowd so large the green grass under the patrons feet was invisible. Their energy raised the vibrancy of fans. Women were actually being passed around over heads as the band ran through “Search and Destroy,” “Raw Power” and “No Fun.” No one in the audience was exempt from the ultimate lift by total strangers–not even a guy in a wheelchair. Drenched in sweat Iggy yelled, “Can I get a f—- right!” All around this band proved rock is alive and well. From the blaring trumpet to the beautiful sounds of the guitar, Iggy & The Stooges are legendary for a reason. And like a legend, Iggy exited with his back to the crowd. A peace sign and a middle finger soon followed. Classic ending to a sweat dripping, roll around performance.
Childish Gambino is obsessed with race. It’s not a bad thing just an incredibly noticeable one. In a white tee and khakis he raps, “Workin’ two jobs so I can get into that white school/And I hate it there/They all make fun of my clothes and wanna touch my hair.” The lyrics to “Outside” didn’t keep the mostly all white crowd from rapping along. On “Freaks and Geeks” he rhymed, “Okay (alright) I’m down with the black girls of every single culture/Filipino, Armenian girls on my sofa/Yeah I like a white girl, sometimes we get together/Need a thick chick though, so it’s black and yellow, black and yellow.” Again, the crowd went bananas rapping every word. And during the same song when he yelled out, “Are there Asian girls here?” everyone yelled it out with him right on cue. He was hype throughout his entire set including “You See Me,” “Bonfire,” “All the Shine” and “Heartbeat.” The kids (as a grandmother who would say who doesn’t quite get it) love him. His singing got just as much love as his rhymes. “This song goes out to everybody that downloaded Royalty,” he shouts to the fans who’ve waved their arms up and down to his music. He closed with “Lights Turned On” to the crowd’s approval. “You guys supported me and I love you for that. On this last song we gotta make it over 9000.”
Presumably the Red Hot Chili Peppers closing show was the one tens of thousands of people waited for all weekend. At 8:15 the band emerged onto the stage with greetings from diehard fans. On the strength of their name alone, it was easily one of the biggest draws of the weekend. It doesn’t matter that Flea was off-key. His band backed him up, plus the fans didn’t mind one bit as long as they were able to hear the songs they loved. “We came here specifically to mess with Texas,” Flea shouted. When you’re the Red Hot Chili Peppers you can play a three hour set and not run out of songs. They truly poured their souls into their performances of “Monarchy of Roses,” “Look Around,” “Californication,” “Throw Away Your Television,” “Under the Bridge”and “By The Way.” Fans appreciated every single second of it. During “Other Side” the echo of all voices singing along could’ve shaken the ground.
Every now and then Flea would address the thousands who’d paid to see them perform. “We’re very happy to be here in the warm, hospitality laden comforts of Austin.” The minute the beat dropped for “Snow (Hey Oh)” festival goers went bonkers. For “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” the two guitar players jammed on the ground. That’s how you put on a show! “I am what I am, most motherf—– don’t give a damn,” Flea said during “Suck My Kiss,” another one that got the people going.
At the end of their hour and twenty minute set the fans chanted to express their desire for an encore. The Chili Peppers couldn’t resist rocking out for another 20 minutes of good ‘ol rock music. The show ended with a call to action when Flea implored concert-goers to support all kinds of music. “We humbly f—ing thank you for coming. Support live music. It’s the voice of the people.”
[Photo: Getty Images]