Austin City Limits is one of the biggest premiere music festivals in the world. Hundreds of today’s most popular and up-and-coming artists are invited to play to thousands of devoted music fans from all across the country. The city of Austin essentially shuts down to make way for the huge event. This year’s line-up included such acts as The Eagles, Muse, The Strokes, M.I.A., The Flaming Lips, LCD Soundsystem and much, much more.
My sister, Amber, and I had the amazing privilege and opportunity to attend ACL this year and witness two fantastic performances by two of our favorite bands: Switchfoot and Muse.
Saturday night, we joined the masses as Muse, one of the headliners for the festival, was to perform. We had seen the band once before, when they toured with U2 last year. But, this time was special because Muse was playing a full setlist and we had the chance to experience their energy up close and personal.
Seeming as if they had just stepped off of their spaceship, Muse wandered onto the stage and launched into “Uprising.” The crowd loudly joined in the chorus, sometimes singing over the band. The catchy “Supermassive Black Hole” followed and the energy levels continued to climb. For “New Born,” the stage and crowd was showered in streams of green lasers, forming a map in the sky. The lighting show was one of the most impressive and enthralling displays we have ever witnessed at a concert. Equally as impressive performances of “Map of the Problematique” and “MK Ultra” followed.
Lead singer Matt Bellamy took a seat at his glass topped piano and began to play “United States of Eurasia.” Continuing on the musical high, the song led into Muse’s version of “Feeling Good.” Amber’s personal favorite of the night, “Undisclosed Desires” came next. The atmosphere was very vulnerable while Chris Wolstenholme’s prominent bass line lent a backbone to the performance. The setlist continued with “Resistance,” which featured a powerful bridge. Bellamy then broke out into a Jimi Hendrix-esque version of the “Star Spangled Banner” on his guitar, much to the audience’s delight. The band pounded out one hit after the other starting with “Hysteria” and “Time is Running Out.” Then came the crowd’s opportunity to provide percussion to the very lively “Starlight.” The show closed with the intense and iconic “Stockholm Syndrome” and the band certainly didn’t play coy (neither did their lighting technician).
The show climaxed with the encore performances of “Plug in Baby” and “Knights of Cydonia,” leaving the crowd in an excited frenzy. Whether or not Muse is actually from the future, for whatever reason, they have chosen to share their other-worldly musical prowess with the rest of us.
Sunday evening, we had the opportunity to go backstage for Switchfoot’s show. It was their first time playing at ACL and the band was excited and anxious to be there. They opened their set with “Stars,” which was well received by the crowd. Lead singer Jon Foreman immediately began to climb up the sides of the stage and flaunted his excellent showmanship skills. The band tried to hook the crowd early on by playing their most popular song, “Meant to Live” and then played a cover of The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” Noting the crowd’s reaction during the song, one of the stage hands standing behind me said, “That was a good call! Who came up with that one?” Jon injected a frantic energy into the performance and didn’t leave an inch of the stage untouched.
The band followed up with the inspiring “This is Your Life” and sadly ironic “Mess of Me.” Within the environment of ACL, where drug and alcohol abuse is seemingly ubiquitous, Jon boldly proclaimed “There ain’t no drug, it’s not enough, I’m breaking up, the sickness is myself…” My personal favorite of the night was “Your Love is a Song.” I found myself emotional in light of the circumstances and knowledge that I was there because of ordained events that were 7 years in the making.
Switchfoot made the most of their ACL platform and didn’t pull any punches with “Free.” The song had an explosive ending with Jon, Jerome Fontamillas, and Chad Butler pounding away on the drums and Drew Shirley drawing out a lengthy guitar solo. Needless to say, the crowd loved it. They rounded out the show with a solid performance of “Dare You to Move.” Before playing the closer, “The Sound,” Jon proclaimed “Austin, Texas this is your song…” It was a fantastic ending to a great concert and experience. If there weren’t many Switchfoot fans in the crowd that evening, there sure are now.
Afterwards, we had the chance to speak to keyboardist and guitarist Jerome Fontamillas. He admitted that he was nervous before playing since it was their first time at ACL. The band had just arrived that morning and hadn’t seen any of the artists at the festival, though Jerome wanted to see Muse the night before. When we asked about the new record “Vice Verses,” he said that they would be tracking it next month and we could expect a summer 2011 release date. He was very friendly and gracious and we appreciated the time he took to talk to us.
Overall, our Austin City Limits experience was a great one and we would encourage anyone looking for a weekend of good music to check out the festival next year!