You could roam, as the B-52s put it during their early afternoon set Sunday on the AMD Stage. But as Mudstock 2009 came to a close (let the debate about the later-in-the-year dates begin) most members of the muddy-stocking clan were losing their lightness of step. Happy faces were still abundant, however, and the artists recognized that anybody willing to stick it out through the stench in the trenches deserved nothing less than the best.
Sparkled in the sunlight, the honeyed harmonies Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson were one more gift. Meanwhile, a stick in the mud could have done worse than alternate between AMD and XBox 360 in the park's western corner before queuing up for Pearl Jam at sundown.
The two stages offered up a stew of British-based whippets. One revelation was the White Lies, the latest in this year's parade of Bunnymen echoers. Giving credit where's its due, led by young Harry McVeigh, the lads dressed in matching black dress shirts and black jeans shrugged off the swelter with a danceable swagger. "We're from the UK," said McVeigh, "we're not used to this heat, we're used to the rain."
Like a latter-day Duran Duran, WL turned the crowd on with "Taxidermy" and the band's breakthrough "To Lose My Life." Sweat and the stink were eye watering by the time the Arctic Monkeys took the stage next door at AMD. The Scottish punks played a jittery, paranoid set including their hit "I Bet That You Look on the Dancefloor." Frontman Alec Turner had the decency to remove his sunglasses when talking to the crowd. But the White Lies had already straightened us out.
"Community" is a concept that gets tossed around by the bucketful when Austin starts considering its place in the musical cosmos. When it came to the tag team of Ben Harper and Eddie Vedder, the new musical partners improved upon the notion. Mud makes bonds, and these two friends teased the crowd during their teeter-totter closing clinics at either end of the park.
Harper said "hi" to his friend Lance and made a pitch for Waterloo, "one of the last great record stores on the planet." Then Harper joined Pearl Jam on stage. The surfing singer had already told the ecstatic crowd, "You look like a fucking ocean," and he eventually came down to splash in the mud with his fans. As reported elsewhere, Pearl Jam managed to rip the roof off the mother sucker. Good to hear "Worldwide Suicide," "State of Love and Trust" and "Do the Evolution."
Time and again, kudos to ACL and the performers. The crowd, no matter if they'd come from down the street, across the state, or in a massive gang of guys from down in Mexico - we counted one group of 15 dudes pogo-ing merrily during Arctic Monkeys - those folks willing to stick it out got what they deserved. Rock and roll salvation.