(Check back for GRAMMY.com's GRAMMYs On The Road artist interviews from the Austin City Limits Music Festival.)
By Lynne Margolis
Day three of the 11th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, was warm and sunny, but mud and humidity from Saturday's downpours — and more than 75,000 partying people — made navigating Sunday's offerings challenging. To see GRAMMY winners the Civil Wars or the Red Hot Chili Peppers — or any other act — you had to wade through crowds that seemed more like walls than people.
Some Lumineers fans hoping to reach the small stage on which the rising Americana band performed (followed by Texas favorites Old 97's and the Randy Rogers Band) encountered a traffic jam so massive they were told "don't even try."
The Civil Wars' AMD stage set followed one by super-hot hometown guitar hero Gary Clark Jr. Just a week before the release of his first full-length Warner Bros. album, Blak And Blu, he broke an ACL fest daytime attendance record, according to Warner Bros. Records publicist Rick Gershon. Gershon said festival promoter C3 Presents reported 25,000–35,000 people had entered the park in time to view Clark's 2:15 p.m. show — and nearly all of them apparently faced his stage.
Clark later said his third ACL fest performance was his biggest hometown gig yet.
"I was here for the first ACL festival [in 2002] and played the little tent," he recalled. "I did [the BMI stage] last year. And it just keeps getting bigger. I mean, I came home to more love, so it's all good."
As festival producer Bill Stapleton, founder of C3 Presents parent company Capital Sports & Entertainment, noted, ACL fest "[is] where the baby bands grow up."
The soft-spoken Clark, who speaks most eloquently through his lightning fingers, undoubtedly gained even more fans with soulful renditions of "Please Come Home," "Things Are Changin'" and his signature tune, "Bright Lights."
AMD stage headliners the Avett Brothers are still riding the popularity bump they received from performing with Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons on the 53rd GRAMMY Awards telecast. Their exuberant set, scheduled against rocker Iggy Pop, drew at least as many listeners as Clark's. Though mostly acoustic, Scott and Seth Avett and their band played with electric energy, pumping the audience with onstage calisthenics and their brand of harmony-laden pop, rock and folk. New tunes from their recent release, The Carpenter, including "Paul Newman Vs. The Demons," which featured Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, were just as well-received as familiar ones such as "Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise, " "Kick Drum Heart," "January Wedding," and "I And Love And You."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers closed the festival with a funk-filled set that drew fans spanning multiple generations. Augmented by fantastic lighting and video montages, they created a dancing sea of tired but wired festival fans already looking forward to next year.
(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR's Song of the Day and newspapers nationwide, as well as several regional magazines and NPR-affiliate KUT-FM's "Texas Music Matters." A contributing editor to The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen from A To E To Z, she has also previously written for Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine.)