This morning, the organizers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival announced the schedule for the September 16-18 Zilker Park throwdown. We all knew there would be some tough choices, but Rocks Off found that when we actually dug into it, it wasn't so bad, as long as you hate generic indie-rock, which (1,2,3,4) you probably don't.
With names like Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, My Morning jacket, Coldplay and Randy Newman in the mix, we knew things would get interesting. We matched up some of the bands playing head-to-head and jotted down some advice for those of you on the fence.
Bear in mind, none of this will matter when you hit the park in September and your friends start dragging you to whatever it is they want to see.
Tickets for the first night of ACL began melting away like an ice cube on Houston blacktop once Kanye West and Coldplay were announced as that night's headliners. Overall, Friday is light on stars, but is richer in actual thought-provoking artists.
Kanye West Vs. Coldplay (8:30 p.m.): Do we watch white couples from Austin sway to "Yellow" or do we wait for Kanye to say something vulgar about Texas? Our pick is Kanye, because if not for him, we would just be at our usual table at Jackalope on Sixth Street.
Kanye: Bud Light Stage; Coldplay: AMD Stage
Nas & Damian "Jr Gong" Marley Vs. Bright Eyes Vs. Gary Clark Jr (6:30 p.m.).: Seen the first two, missed Clark while we were covering Peter Gabriel last month. Advantage: Ball-busting blues-rock from Austin.
Nas & Marley: Bud Light Stage; Bright Eyes: AMD Stage; Gary Clark Jr.: BMI Stage
Cold War Kids Vs. Foster the People (5:30 p.m.): Everyone loves Foster the People now, and the Cold War Kids still put on a great show, even five years past their first great breakthrough. We pick the Fosters to see what the fuss is about live, because on record, we ain't feeling it.
Cold War Kids: Honda Stage; Foster the People: Zilker Stage
Big Boi Vs. Ray LaMontagne (4:30 p.m.): Some would say that Kanye would be a contender to appear at Big Boi's set, but at this point, Kanye is just as likely to show up at LaMontagne's slot too.
Big Boi: Bud Light Stage; Ray LaMontagne: AMD Stage
James Blake Vs. Kurt Vile Vs. Smith Westerns (3:30 p.m.): Blake is boring, the Smith Westerns are adding nothing new to the conversation, but Vile is doing something interesting. We've been fans since a few SXSW gigs years back.
James Blake: Honda Stage; Kurt Vile: Austin Ventures Stage (3:45 p.m.); Smith Westerns: Zilker Stage
Asleep at the Wheel Vs. Ha Ha Tonka (12:30 p.m.): Asleep at the Wheel is in Houston a lot, so we switch over to Ha Ha Tonka, whose last three albums have put them firmly in the next wave of Americana that includes our own Buxton and Robert Ellis. Speaking of those two, let's assume they will be at Zilker next year too.
Asleep at the Wheel: AMD Stage; Ha Ha Tonka: BMI Stage (12:45 p.m.)
We've seen My Morning Jacket already this year, and seeing them on the beach, with our feet in inches of cool sand while the waves lapped up against the edge of crowd can't be beaten. Heading to Stevie Wonder y'all.
My Morning Jacket Vs. Stevie Wonder (8 p.m.): Even MMJ's Jim James would tell you to see Stevie Wonder. Shit, we hope that James gets to collab with Wonder too. The really cynical part of us worries that Wonder will be bad, but from what we have heard about earlier festivals, he's still top notch.
My Morning Jacket: AMD Stage (8-9:30 p.m.); Stevie Wonder: Bud Light Stage (8-10 p.m.)
TV On the Radio Vs. Chromeo (7 p.m.): This is the king of the toss-ups. TVOTR is for your brain; Chromeo is for your pants.
TV On the Radio: Zilker Stage; Chromeo: Honda Stage
Ed. Note: Rocks Off Sr.'s personal decision is between Court Yard Hounds on the Austin Ventures Stage and Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the Vista Equity Stage, both also at 7 p.m.
Cut Copy Vs. Cee-Lo Green (6 p.m.): Cee-Lo sucks and may not even show up, so don't bother. Cut Copy is a crowd-pleaser, right Summerfest folks?
Cut Copy: AMD Stage; Cee-Lo Green: Bud Light Stage
Wanda Jackson Vs. Gillian Welch (5:30 p.m.): Sick burn! Wanda is a gem, but Welch has a really great new album. Splitting our time with both ladies.
Wanda Jackson: Austin Ventures Stage (5:45 p.m.); Gillian Welch: Vista Equity Stage
Skrillex Vs. Fitz & The Tantrums (5 p.m.): Skrillex puts on a loud, fun show, and why see Fitz when Black Joe Lewis exists? Also, the Skrillex crowd will be full of drugs and half-naked ladies.
Skrillex: Zilker Stage; Fitz & the Tantrums: Honda Stage
Allison Krauss & Union Station Vs. Iron & Wine (4 p.m.): Blasted scheduling! OK, Krauss it is first, then we split for I&W.
Allison Krauss: Bud Light Stage; Iron & Wine: AMD Stage
Young The Giant Vs. J. Roddy Walston & the Business Vs. Phosphorescent (2 p.m.): For our money, it's J. Roddy, who we first saw open for Deer Tick last year at House of Blues' Bronze Peacock Room.
Young the Giant: AMD Stage; J. Roddy: Bud Light Stage; Phosphorescent: Austin Ventures Stage (2-2:45 p.m.)
Sunday, all the other stages shut down at 8:30 p.m so Arcade Fire has the whole park to its own damned self. Weird - we would have had Wonder as the closing-night tentpole, but scheduling was probably a bitch.
Social Distortion Vs. Hayes Carll, Vs. Randy Newman (7:30 p.m.): Randy Newman is never in Texas, and Houston has seen Social D and Carll a lot the past year. Let's hope Newman pulls out "Rednecks" for the yuppie crowd to choke on.
Social Distortion: Honda Stage; Hayes Carll: Austin Ventures Stage; Randy Newman: Vista Equity Stage
Manu Chao La Ventura Vs. Gomez Vs. Fleet Foxes (6:30 p.m.): Gomez is who Fleet Foxes will be in a decade. Manu Chao is high energy and is worth a few minutes of your time.
Manu Chao: AMD Stage; Gomez: Austin Ventures Stage (6:15 p.m.); Fleet Foxes: Bud Light Stage
Death From Above 1979 Vs. Elbow (5:30 p.m.): Elbow is crazy-beloved by a devoted few, but you could die at DFA1979.
Elbow: Zilker Stage; DFA: Honda Stage
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses Vs. Broken Social Scene (4:30 p.m.): Broken Social Scene was a nice get for ACL, but they are just around so much that we don't miss them anymore. At least Bingham will be something to chew on mid-afternoon. Plus, chicks in cowboy boots.
Ryan Bingham: AMD Stage; Broken Social Scene: Bud Light Stage
AWOLNATION Vs. Chiddy Bang (3:30 p.m.): Flip a coin.
AWOLNATION: Honda Stage; Chiddy Bang: Zilker Stage
The Walkmen Vs. The Airborne Toxic Event (2:30 p.m.): The Walkmen are way more memorable.
The Walkmen: AMD Stage; Airborne Toxic Event: Bud Light Stage
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Vs. The Head & the Heart (1:30 p.m.): Bah, this stuff all runs together. Not sure if The Head & The Heart will translate well to a huge venue like ACL.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: Honda Stage; The Head & the Heart: Zilker Stage
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The Vaccines Vs. Mariachi El Bronx (12:30 p.m.): The Vaccines are boring and no one will care in two years. Remember Glasvegas? This stuff is just as rote and bland as anything on modern-rock radio. At least Mariachi El Bronx tell cool stories about prison and drugs.
The Vaccines: Bud Light Stage; Mariachi El Bronx: AMD Stage