ACL Music Festival 2015: Top 10 Moments (So Far)
Gary Clark Jr. joins the Foo Fighters, Future joins Drake & more weekend one highlights.
With a slew of massively talented acts to choose from -- a good handful of them slated only for the first weekend (Oct. 2-4) of ACL Music Festival's 14th edition held at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, it was no simple task narrowing down the many moments to a simple top 10. Nevertheless, we prevailed.
Check out our picks below:
10. Future with Drake
The Atlanta rapper's surprise-yet-logical appearance (he was already slated to be in Austin as he replaces Brandon Flowers on Friday of weekend two) with the Canadian rapper Saturday on the Samsung Galaxy Stage was a welcome change of pace from the headliners' usual rundown -- watching one man bound across a huge stage gets tiresome quickly. To boot, the songs they played -- "Jumpman" and "Big Rings," both off collaborative No. 1 mixtape What a Time to Be Alive -- were two of the only full tracks performed. A set largely comprised of single-verse snippets, meaning tons of total stops, killed the mojo repeatedly.
9. Father John Misty's faked fan filming
By all rights, Father John Misty's turn at ACL fest on Saturday was his strongest festival appearance of the year. The Honda stage was his largest platform yet and he positively owned it with his well-trained pipes, acrobatic dance moves (anyone else catch that series of laying-down pelvic thrusts at the set's end?), witty banter and frequent trips to the monitors and barricade. To that end, he made his way down to sing face-to-face to his front-row faithfuls during "Bored in the USA." At one point, he grabbed a phone from a willing fan and rotated its camera toward his face, to the crowd, and back … only to reveal hilariously afterward that the camera had been turned off the entire time. "It's not even recording. You don't deserve this," he said sarcastically, handing back the phone.
8. Royal Blood's crowd-surfing finale
Yes, Royal Blood drummer Ben Thatcher routinely vacates his elevated drum stand at every show to go crowd-surfing for a moment, but a particularly rowdy performance of "Out of the Black" leading up to it – during which bassist / vocalist Mike Kerr commandeered the Foo Fighters' catwalk to get his massive early afternoon audience chanting wildly – resulted in that much more of a euphoric finale.
7. Waxahatchee covering Lucinda Williams
If it's the wrong time of day or setting, Alabama-based indie rock outfit Waxahatchee can come off a little bit humdrum. That's not meant as a slight to frontwoman and lead songwriter Katie Crutchfield – the pitch of her voice is mightily pleasant. On this particular occasion, at the outset of the Sunday (Oct. 4) lineup, it served as a nice ease-in to Weekend One's third and final day. Besides, material off new album Ivy Trip, sounded a bit grungier and fuzzier, a mode that lent itself splendidly to a noisy yet just-twangy-enough cover of Lucinda Williams' "I Lost It."
6. The Strokes pulling out the deep cuts
Biggest beef with the Foo Fighters' set: it was their 20th anniversary and they didn't play anything out of the ordinary – any deep cuts, if you will – off their 1995 self-titled debut. Where their longtime diehards might've felt a bit snubbed, the Strokes provided for their fans masterfully. Sure, they powered through everything obligatory ("Last Nite," "Hard to Explain," "Take It Or Leave It" and the like) but they also unearthed some underrated rarities like "Killing Lies" and, to end the main set, the first performance of "What Ever Happened" since 2011.
5. The Decemberists' "quiet song"/eaten-by-a-whale scream
"We're going to try to play a quiet song," said the Decemberists' frontman Colin Meloy about halfway through the band's Sunday afternoon set on the Honda stage. "Ah, the festival quiet song … you know, the ol' festival killer," he chided. The tune in question was a down-tempo acoustic ballad, "Carolina Low," off January full-length What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. It's a darkly spun number, one that reflects the contemplative, less pop-focused leanings that permeated the band's early songwriting circa 2002-2003, and it had its desired effect. Most of the audience's front ranks listened in a reverent hush, letting the pretty tone and a cool breeze wash over them simultaneously. That lovely moment, juxtaposed with an oppositely energizing catharsis stemming from the sight of thousands screaming like they were being swallowed by a whale – as is tradition on closing cut "The Mariner's Revenge Song" – culminated into one of the best singular shows of the weekend.
4. Leon Bridges.
That period is intentional. Fort Worth gospel and soul man Leon Bridges veritably killed it Friday afternoon on the Honda stage. For a 26-year-old whose debut album (Coming Home) just dropped in January, it was a small miracle that he drew as large as he did. Then again, he's got the voice and swagger of a seasoned Motown pro, and he busted out half another album's worth of new material – "Lonely Road," "Out of Line," "That Girl Can't Make Up Her Mind," "Mississippi Kisses" and "In My Arms" – on top of that. All of it sounded pristine. Seems fair to surmise that an ACL Fest encore (not counting the fest's impending second weekend, of course) won't be far off.
3. Alabama Shakes' entire set
Here's Alabama Shakes' set list from Saturday evening on the Honda stage:
"On Your Way"
"Don't Wanna Fight"
"Gimme All Your Love"
"You Ain't Alone"
"Over My Head"
Now do yourself a favor and go make a playlist of these songs in that order. Listen to it. Turn up the volume. Louder. Listen to it again. And again. And again. Now you're getting it. With the predominately cookin' cuts off April sophomore release Sound & Color mixed in with those already fantastic first album tracks (quite a few of them mellower waltzes), the Shakes have cooked up a failsafe recipe for fest headliner status. It was a crime that they didn't close a night of ACL this year, and it's equally criminal that Weekend Two ticket-buyers will have to do without them.
2. Gary Clark Jr. with Foo Fighters
Yes, the Foo Fighters are pro enough that they could've pulled off a face-melting rendition of latest Sonic Highways single "What Did I Do? / God as My Witness" without Gary Clark Jr. shredding the blues solo at the end on his cherry-red Gibson SG. But Clark did inherit that very axe, which he wielded for the bulk of his own magnificently raucous set on the HomeAway stage just an hour or so earlier, from Foos' rhythm guitarist Pat Smear when they recorded the track together in Austin's PBS Studio 6A more than a year ago. As Dave Grohl told it from atop his fancy throne, "He made [that guitar] his f – ing bitch, and then Pat was like, 'Keep it." Clark's appearance added the dash of epicness needed to elevate Foo Fighters Weekend One set from just-another-run-through-the-hits to one-for-the-books.
1. Everything about Jillian Hervey of Lion Babe
Recently, New York neo-soul duo Lion Babe has been getting some attention for their feature spot on new Disclosure cut "Hourglass," not to mention the wave of kudos they've ridden since releasing breakout single "Treat Me Like Fire" back in 2012. But after witnessing them live as Sunday's opening act on the Honda Stage at 12:45 p.m. (CT), it became clear that those buzzworthy events were just expediting the path of a group that would've eventually found widespread success on its own. Producer Lucas Goodman is the mastermind behind the largely funk-infused music (and toting a live band to play it replete with backup singers was especially key here). But frontwoman Jillian Hervey is the real golden goose. Scratch that. She would eat that goose alive. Sunday afternoon, she was the embodiment of a lion babe: she's got moves and a literal wild mane like Beyoncé and Solange combined (see: her performance during "Whole," "Jungle Lady" … heck, any song in their catalogue) and she can spit like Lauryn Hill if she sees fit ("Jump Hi," ya'll). Combine that with her fearless physical display throughout – vertical high-kicks, tumbles and twirls executed as lithely as a gymnast, and a hypnotizing gyration of her generously exposed thighs and backside (shown off in a hiked-up leotard and open kimono) that made her look straight-up deadly. If you're headed to ACL's second weekend, do yourself a favor and go see this superstar before you can't afford the ticket.