The Best and Worst of ACL Fest, Weekend 1
Photos by Marco Torres
Best Act That We Didn't Understand How They Were Making Noise: The Glitch Mob With a battery of touchscreens and drum triggers, The Glitch Mob dropped what was the most impressive set of electronica on the festival, which is saying a lot on a bill that features some of the biggest DJs in the world. Their set was a fun mixture of originals and remixes, including a filthy cover of "Seven Nation Army." Tired of seeing dudes peering down at laptops? The Glitch Mob got your back, even if you're not exactly sure what's going on up onstage. CORY GARCIA
Best Cover Song of ACL 2014: Jimmy Cliff Although most people will probably pick Pearl Jam covering "Imagine" by John Lennon, or the Replacements covering "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5, my favorite cover of the weekend came early Friday afternoon at the Honda Stage. Ska and reggae legend Jimmy Cliff really got the festival going with his energy and beautiful Caribbean vibes, leading the crowd to sway their arms from left and right on several occasions.
But it was his cover of "Wild World" by Cat Stevens that made the hot sun and cool breeze feel oh so sweet as we sang along with Mr. Cliff and his band. It was the first of many memorable moments of Weekend 1. MARCO TORRES
Best Act Crossed Off the Bucket List: Outkast There was a worry about which version of Outkast was going to show up at ACL; luckily for those whose only shot at seeing the duo was this performance, we got the version that featured an Andre 3000 who seemed to be having a pretty damn good time being up onstage. Plus, gotta love a performance that features the entire crowd doing the whole "The stars at night/are big and bright" clap thing as the lead into "International Players Anthem." CORY GARCIA
Best Southern Playalistic Moment: OutKast The bucket list is getting shorter for most people this year, with OutKast celebrating their twentieth anniversary by touring at more than 40 music festivals and showcases this year. Although I missed them at Coachella, I did catch them at Hangout Festival back in May, and it was glorious. Then it was announced that they would play Austin, and my hip-hop heart skipped a beat.
Above, I captured one of my favorite photographs of my career on Friday night when "Bombs Over Baghdad" boomed through the loudspeakers. I was reminded of riding around Houston with my best friend Derek, listening to ATLiens over and over and over. To see them was cooler than being coo, and the happiness that radiated through the crowd as they sang along was simply amazing. This is was festivals are all about, and Outkast in the year 2014 is a memory that will last for a lifetime. MARCO TORRES
Best Band That Didn't Really Fit on the Bill: AFI Is non-EDM slam-dancing allowed at ACL? While the DJs may have been the ones who got the crowds moving most of the weekend, it was nice to see some punk aggression, even if it was surrounded by a whole bunch of gothic morose. "A Single Second" and "Days of the Phoenix" still jam the way they did back in high school/college (depending on your age, naturally) and they didn't even seem that out of place in the light of day.
Still, not what one normally thinks of as an ACL band. That said, we support any small step that eventually leads to a Slayer main-stage performance. CORY GARCIA
Best "I Remember 1999" Moment: Slim Shady It was Warped Tour '99 when I remember seeing this young white dude rap about drugs and mummies and killing people. That was the year The Slim Shady LP catapulted Marshall Mathers into mainstream popularity. Fast-forwarding 15 years, when the news that Eminem would headline ACL 2014 broke, I practically jumped for joy when I was picked as of the fortunate hand-selected photographers to shoot his set.
Another joyful jump! With the crowd changing "We Want Marshall!" at the top of their lungs, Eminem finally hit the stage for a mix of pop hits, political commentary, and rap classics. I may not be nineteen anymore, but I can still rap every word to every track he played from his first two LPs. I guess there's a little Stan in all of us. MARCO TORRES
Best Act That We Feel Band For Sleeping On For So Long: Zoe Apparently Zoe have been doing their thing for roughly forever and I've just had no idea, and that's on me. This Mexican alt-rock group floored me and were the best thing I caught all weekend. They have a nice retro sound, Cure-like at times, but can go in to some blissful, almost ambient jams that were just stunning.
It was like being introduced to an entire new world I didn't know about, but one that I'm glad I've discovered. Go out of your way to see these guys if you get the chance -- they're the real deal. CORY GARCIA
Best "Am I Dreaming?" Moment: Juanes After taking photos of Juanes on Saturday night, I walked through the crowd gathered at the Austin Ventures stage and felt a great sense of connection, both with the music and audience. He was singing his hit "A Dios Le Pido," a gorgeous and lively love song with many memorable lines and flowing lyrics.
As the blue and white lights from the stage illuminated the faces of fans in the crowd, I could see them sing and dance as if lost in the fog of love and heartbreak. It reminded me of the music video for Pharrell Williams' "Happy," where each new body expresses his or her joy through song and dance. With a United Nations list of Latin American flags waving in the air, this is where I felt the most at home during the whole festival. MARCO TORRES
Best Use of Festival Grounds: Austin City Limits I've been to a lot of festivals, and I'm not sure I've ever been to one laid out quite as nicely as ACL. It's huge, but it never feels that way. Its laid-back atmosphere means there are plenty of places to just chill and not feel like you're about to be trampled (at least during the daytime, anyway).
Amazingly, isn't a ton of bleedthrough from one stage to another, even though most of them are facing each other. The promoters get a lot of things right, and a lot of festivals would be wise to take a staging lesson or two from them. CORY GARCIA
Best Dance Party at ACL: Chromeo/Fitz & the Tantrums I like and tolerate EDM as a fun and stimulating experience, but acts such as Calvin Harris and Zedd are not dance music. The real dancing at this year's fest was at Fitz & the Tantrums (who play Houston's House of Blues tonight) and Chromeo. No need to wait for the bass drop with these two acts, they get you shaking your tailfeather from the first note. Good times! MARCO TORRES
See the worst of ACL Fest's first weekend on the next page.
Worst Act Crossed Off The Bucket List: Eminem It's not that Eminem doesn't have a mystique anymore, it's just that in this post-Kanye world his seeming disinterest in engaging with his audience sticks out like a sore thumb. When you show up to see Eminem, you hope to get one of the greatest rappers in history, not a standoffish dude out of sync with his backing tracks who lets his hype man do the bulk of the talking.
Sure, it was cool, I guess, to finally hear "'Til I Collapse" live, and the crowd will always be down due to the strength of his catalog, but what should have felt like an event just left me thinking, "I could be at Skrillex right now." CORY GARCIA
Worst Act That Is Still Going To Be Huge No Matter What I Write: Iggy Azalea I'll give her this: Iggy is a much stronger, more confident performer at this stage in her career than Nicki Minaj was. She's got a good look, she's got a single that is catch as all getout, and yet watching her I was just left cold. Now sure, maybe I'm not supposed to be feeling a great swell of emotions from "Fancy," but I feel like I should feel something.
Instead it just felt like another part of her set, and then it was over, and then she was gone, and none of it seemed important. Put grains of salt and all that; everyone else seemed to be having a great time. CORY GARCIA
Worst Selection To Headline ACL This Year: Lana Del Rey She may not exactly be a headliner, but she was definitely one of the more popular attractions at this year's ACL Fest. And although Lana Del Rey sang beautifully and looked very lovely in the sunset of an October afternoon in Texas, her set wasn't exactly festival material. Too slow, brooding, and depressing for my taste. And given that many of her hits are more popular because of their dance remixes than the original song, I feel like her prime-time slot could have been filled with someone else. MARCO TORRES
Worst Thing About Leaving the Festival: Walking Past Scalpers Listen, I'm not here to knock anyone's hustle. Times are tough, and we all do what we have to do to survive. That said, the scalpers at this festival were noticable more aggressive than any other show I've ever been to, and the amount of them running around was kind of mind-boggling.
Yeah, I get it, the bigger the show, the more money there is to be made, but watching anyone with a spare ticket have multiple people hit them up at once was just weird. And no, I don't want to sell you my three day wristband on Friday...I gotta go be disappointed with Eminem first. CORY GARCIA
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