If the Austin City Limits music festival had a custom-made perfume, it would consist of two parts body odor for every one part marijuana smoke. Spraying the scent would spread a cloud of dust throughout any space, and the bottle would come embedded in a nest of dry grass and burrs (or "stickers," as they call them down south).
Through some of the hottest days imaginable, 65,000 music, beer and sloppy food fans endured the smells, stifled air and pit stains common to the 3-day festival in Austin, Texas' Zilker Park. With temperatures hitting their highest at 107 degrees on Sunday, the glaze of sweat coating everyone's skin collected the dirt kicked up by their flip flops (and periodic cowboy boots).
Headliners ranged from Widespread Panic to Franz Ferdinand and the wussy-but-charming Coldplay. The $105 all-weekend bracelet proved well worth the seven stages of nonstop tunes.
Day 1: The Day That Didn't Sell Out. The lineup suited the older, more country-oriented crowd (Lucinda Williams, the Allman Brothers Band and Lyle Lovett and his Large Band). On the schedule was dios (malos), the adorably twittering Mates of State (just imagine the sex this married duo has after a gig played to tens of thousands) and D.C.'s own Thievery Corporation. Thievery Corporation brought out the most beautiful woman alive: a Brazilian in a multi-strapped, gold tank top (and not much else). The primarily Caucasian (and Texan) crowd fawned over her dripping Portuguese as they awkwardly but unashamedly tried moving to the world beats.
Day 2: The Day That Almost Didn't Happen. It began with Aqualung, the most forgivably boring Brit band trying to make it right now, and after an hour of pending death from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Ireland's The Frames picked up the slack. The band made it from Dallas to Austin in less than two hours (a feat which was later explained to be impossible), and sped through most songs because of their fast-paced mindset. When two black helicopters roared above the stage, lead singer Glen Hansard quipped, "Look everybody, it's Oasis!"
Death Cab for Cutie highlighted their new album "Plans" to a crowd that wanted to hear tracks from "Transatlanticism" from start to finish. Cheers were loudest for "Title and Registration" and "The New Year" and sub par for oldie (and superb goodie) "President of What?"
Best band outfitted in Gap clothing (and, let's face it, overall) goes to the Walkmen, who, though they say they're from New York, actually hail from D.C. After a strong same-set showing at the tiny Sixth St. Parish Friday night, the band had not withered. Vocalist Walter Martin's neck veins bulged like a sock stuffed in an unblessed's tight pants.
Brits Bloc Party played to what they said was the largest audience they've ever seen, and the crowd persisted through their set instead of attempting to come within a football field's length of next-door stage headliners Oasis. The band's signature whine pervaded songs from their latest album, "Don't Believe the Truth," and it wasn't until "What's the Story Morning Glory?" cascaded over the hills that the crowd seemed pleased.
Day 3: The Day When Texas Had No Breeze. Fans waved poorly constructed Heineken fans at their faces, poured $2 bottles of water on their already damp skin, and hardly used the rows of port-a-potties thanks to dehydration (read: sweating all of the liquid out of one's pores before it reaches the bladder). Sunday's highlight was most definitely the Arcade Fire, who, while dressed head-to-toe in long-sleeved, inappropriate layers, still managed to get the crowd roaring to the opening "whoa" chorus of "Wake Up." Afterward, as the ever-persistent sun filled its unspoken vendetta against the masses, some reclined in the music-less shade while others gave it the old middle finger and braved ogling the Decemberists.
Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos picked up libidos with his ambiguous orientation and uber-sexed hip wiggles. The band played mostly new songs, and while hearing old favorites like "Michael" was refreshing, shielding one's eyes to find hairy and shirtless cowboy hat wearers bouncing to a song about same-sex attraction is not so appetizing.
As the dust swirled in midair on the last night, the crowd began using bandanas as face masks on their trek to see Coldplay. Chris Martin's piano filled the atmosphere with sounds satisfying to most (but definitely not all) show goers, and with a sigh, the bronzed and exhausted crowd walked through the cartoon gates for the last time.