ACL Day 1 Recap: Vampire Weekend, More Strokes & Sonic Youth, Sulking
Photos by Marco Torres
For lots more pictures from Friday, see our slideshow here.
Friday night at ACL began with Aftermath charging our phone up until 6:45 p.m., then sulking because the Internet was down in the media tent (duh), and then stocking our man-satchel with cans of Red Bull for the rest of the evening's shows. You can take the boy out of Houston...
First up for us was Vampire Weekend, who commanded an almost scary amount of white folks, mostly cute little college-aged ones, for their hour-long set. Dancing, jigging and general blazing of pearly teeth was the norm. Sundresses. Khaki. Brown sandals.
We have never been fans of Vampire Weekend, but we will disclose we bought the first album and do dial one or two songs up on YouTube from time to time. It's not a point of pride, it's just something you should know. We've tried to convert ourselves, but it's all too pompous and dear.
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But in the interest of musical science, we found ourselves taking in half their set. The band has energy, perfect for huge festivals like ACL, and they bridge the age gap almost seamlessly. We saw oldsters and parents alike getting down to their sound. It's not offensive, the lyrics are ambiguous, and you want to see them dating porn stars or rehabbing.
We walked off to Sonic Youth soon after, who were turning in one of the best looking, sounding, and played sets of the night. The band is a machine, a well-oiled post-punk, noise, indie-rock machine. The band plays like a jam band you can tie one off to, and they gave no quarter.
The nucleus of the band, the married team of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon plus guitarist Lee Ranaldo, has morphed into one of the iconic teams of the past 50 years. The band has been enlisting Pavement's Mark Ibold the past few years as extra personnel as well.
"Poison Arrow," from the band's 2009 LP The Eternal, is a stunner live. Songs came reeling off their fingers and heads, making their set easily our favorite of the first day.
The Strokes were the main course on Friday night, and we couldn't help but think that maybe Vampire Weekend could be standing in their same place in eight years. The parallels between the two are legion (mostly $$$), save for the fact that the Strokes sold their scuzz pretty well. The Strokes made looking and acting like a scumbag cool, while the Vampires wanna know if you have ever seen a yacht this big.
The band came out older on Friday, but no worse for wear, after spending a good three years apart from each other. Everyone in the band has been involved in solo and extracurricular work in the interim, so no one has gotten too terribly sloppy. If anything, it's going to help the music, with the individuals fleshing out their own personal chops before bringing them back to the fold.
The band had been in Austin for the past two days, playing at Stubb's on Wednesday and turning in a hipster-dividing set, from what we heard.
"Is This It" opened their set, from their similarly titled debut. They were tight, but not so much that they were slick. The band is still the boozy, Faces-style, shamble-addicted guys they were in their youth. It's even strange to imagine that these guys have been together since the '90s. They were a quintessentially millennial band from the beginning before going on extended vacation in 2006.
Lead singer Julian Casablancas was chatty in between songs, but he wasn't quite Weilanding out. Fabrizio Moretti still has a robotic skip to his drumming, almost sounding mechanical, and Albert Hammond Jr. has retained his live presence and guitar stance, even if his famous Afro has been replaced with a thinning tuft.
The band dipped into more obscure stuff throughout the set; well, at least stuff that wasn't radio fodder, like "Trying Your Luck" and the slow-dance of "Under Control", before turning out "Evening Sun" from 2006's First Impressions Of Earth. We didn't even remember that song, it seems. "New York City Cops" was a big surprise.
"Last Nite" is still a firecracker, making people leap off the lawn during its two and a half minutes. No new material this time around, even though it has long been gestating in a studio. All in due time, we guess. We waited 20 years for them to come around the first time, you know?
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