ACL: The Sound (Or Lack Thereof) & The Fury
Yes, that stage is as far away as it looks.
Photos by Chris Gray
When a bleary Rocks Off arrived at the media area this morning, there was some chatter about Stevie Wonder's supposed sound troubles, and more online, both in our review and the Austin American-Statesman's. (By the way, we've updated our review with a complete set list that we, ahem, "borrowed" from the Statesman's Austin Music Source blog. Thanks, guys.)
Like we said, Rocks Off didn't have much trouble hearing Wonder, definitely not up front, and not much even when we were what felt like miles away from the stag. We took the above photo from the appoximate position where we were standing Saturday night, shortly after Graffiti6 finished playing this afternoon.
It's a long ways off. As enamored of American classic rock and soul as many of their British countrymen, Graffiti6 is already on our short list of ACL discoveries and a group that merits further research once this whole blessed thing is over.
More importantly, we did not have a single problem hearing them from that spot. Not in the least. We could hear a little bleed from Mariachi El Bronx, but not much - it's about the same spot where we started hearing My Morning Jacket Saturday. Rocks Off is no sound engineer, but we have a few theories why Wonder's sound may have been less than stellar (although, one more time, his actual performance was).
First, when we shot that photo, we'd guess there was about a fifth of what must have been 40,000 people (maybe more) parked front of the Bud Light stage for Wonder. Where we were standing, we were surrounded by people doing things they do at festivals: Sitting, standing, sleeping, smoking, dancing and, most importantly talking and singing.
No matter how loud the band is onstage, that much crowd noise from that far away creates a significant dampening effect. Think about that the next time you and your friends are at a show at Fitz or House of Blues. It works there too.
The other reason we can think of is that Wonder's band was huge, in the neighborhood of 20 people, and maybe twice that many instruments once you finish tallying all the keyboards and percussion knick-knacks. From what we understand about sound technology, each vocalist and instrument needs its own channel, and perhaps the sheer number of voices (human and instrumental) onstage meant there was less juice to send them all out our way.
But like we said... we don't know. Sounds reasonable to us, but it is just a guess. If any actual sounds techs out there would like to chip in their thoughts, we'd be grateful. So. Moving on.
Mariachi El Bronx tries to beat the heat.
The sharpest bit of wisdom we've heard so far today has been from the Mariachi El Bronx singer, who observed, "We picked the wrong festival to wear these fuckin' suits." Today we feel like we picked the wrong festival to wear any fuckin' clothes at all, but htat would be disgusting. Still, MEB fought off the heat for a lively set charged with trumpets and acoustic guitars. Also, we could hear them just fine too.
Once again, we took a lunch break in the Vista Equity tent, where gospel family band the Durdens were doing their best to save a few shade-seeking souls. Through the years, these groups have become our favorite part of ACL - the music is always on point, and we envy them not only for their faith, but their energy. The lead female Durden, who had a voice that would make Satan cower, asked if anyone wanted to go to heaven. That would be nice, but right now we just want to go home.
It's hot today. Rocks Off is dangerously low on energy, let alone words, with about eight hours left to go. This is probably the last you'll hear from this member of Rocks Off until tomorrow morning. It's about to get hairy.
Hold On, Brother: The Durdens try to soothe Rocks Off's weary soul.
Strangest Text We've Sent This ACL: "Have you seen the Penis Bros yet?" This is not a band (too bad), but three dudes in overalls walking around with two cardboard cock-and-balls (one says "Go Nuts") and one inflatable dick with a shit-eating grin. We think there may be a shot in this slideshow.
10 Years After: The original ACL Fest lineup from 2002.
Honda Stage, 1 p.m.: Now would be a good time to post up for Social Distortion.
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