Normally, you can spend a weekend in October enjoying the Austin City Limits Music Festival. This year, for the first time, the Austin, Texas, festival needed two weekends to host the 130-plus bands on the eight scaffold-built stages at Zilker Park.
On Day 1 of the first weekend of the festival, Austin gospel group Belles of Joy performed “I Saw the Light” on one stage. Amongst the scattered wristband-clad hands, a toddler with white ear plugs did his best to clap along.
That afternoon, country crooner Holly Williams (Hank Williams’ granddaughter) took the BMI stage. Williams and the three other members of her band, including Kings of Leon member Chris Coleman, performed songs such as “Waiting on June."
Later on, the band fun. appeared on the AMD stage. Fun. frontman Nate Ruess and his band bounded around the stage and performed songs including “We Are Young,” “Carry On,” and a Rolling Stones cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Meanwhile, singer Jake Bugg took the Austin Ventures stage performing songs from his self-titled 2013 album, including his single “Lighting Bolt." At Vampire Weekend’s AMD stomping grounds, the band delivered such songs as their ditty “Holiday."
Depeche Mode performed on the AMD stage, with lead singer Dave Gahan twirling with his mic stand as if it were a dancing partner as his band performed such songs as “Welcome To My World,” “Walking In My Shoes," and “Policy of Truth.”
Muse capped off the night with one of the largest crowds of the day. Although audio problems seem to have plagued the set on and off, it didn’t appear to faze the fans.
On the second day of the festival, 21-year-old Austin native Max Frost, who was recently signed to Atlantic Records, stepped onto the Austin Ventures stage at noon and performed his single “White Lies.” The female group HAIM took the AMD stage and delivered such songs as “Fallin,” “Don’t Save Me,” and “The Wire," followed by the Portland, Ore.-based band known as Portugal. The Man.
Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos and his band took to the stage next, sprinkling their set with mixes from their "Gossamer" and "Manners" albums as well as their hit "Sleepyhead."
At the nearby Honda grounds, Campton rapper Kendrick Lamar performed numbers including “Backseat Freestyle” and “Problems."
The dark was setting in when Kings of Leon came on. “Texas," frontman Caleb Followill said to the crowd, “I promise we won’t take as long to get back to y’all as this last time.” The Tennessee rockers ripped through songs across their seven-album history such as “Crawl,” “Back Down South," and “Molly’s Chambers.”
Robert Smith and his band The Cure performed at the same time, delivering such songs as “Wrong Number," “Disintegration," “One Hundred Years,” and “The Lovecats.” As the hour approached 10 p.m., the time at which Austin decrees the music must stop, Smith said, “If we play this really fast, we might end before they pull the plug," and the band launched into "Boys Don't Cry."
Tired hands attached to sun-faded wristbands were dragged across gate scanners on the late morning of the third day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The final day consisted of 44 scheduled acts in the span of 11 hours.
A small plane with a red-lettered sign reading “The Mowgli's Love You” flew over the Mowgli's' stage as the eight-piece LA band woke up the crowd on the Bud Light platform. Over on the AMD platform, East Coaster musicians MS MR performed – the female lead singer, Lizzy Plapinger, has the pipes of a rawer-throated Florence Welch.
A short while later on the Honda stage, British band Noah and the Whale made spelling fun with “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N” while Franz Ferdinand and his fellow Scots led a sea of fist-pumpers to their song “Take Me Out” on the Samsung stage.
The band The National opened with “I Should Live In Salt” from this year’s "Trouble Will Find Me" album and plunged through new tracks throughout their hour-long set on the AMD stage. Frontman Matt Berninger continually tossed mic stands to the side of the stage, the photo pit, and other locations until he ended up on his third stand only 20 minutes into the set. Somewhere around the time The National was performing the high-energy “Able,” Berninger jumped offstage and launched his body into the masses, dragging his mic and the thin chord attached to it along with him.
Across the park, country rocker Eric Church performed “Springsteen” from the Samsung Galaxy stage. Although the Grammy-nominated artist got lost in his guitar riffs and the second verse – “I’ve actually forgotten the words” he said, seeming a little dumbfounded – he soon got back on track. At the Bud Light stage, the French electronic group Phoenix performed their hit “Lisztomania."
That night on the AMD stage, the group Atoms of Peace performed, led by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and consisting of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s bassist Flea, R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker, longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, and Brazilian instrumentalist Mauro Refosco. Between the five men, more instruments were passed along on stage than are often found in a middle-school band room.
Later that night, Lionel Richie arrived on the Samsung stage. The singer, wearing a black vest, performed a set that included “Sail On,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Lady (You Bring Me Up When I’m Down),” and “Dancing On the Ceiling."
“All my friends at Austin City Limits,” Richie told the crowd, “I’m mighty glad you stayed."
Laura Roberts is a Monitor contributor.