Review: ACL Day 1

Mo SkyAfter much fanfare and hullaballoo, the 2006 Austin City Limits music festival finally arrived yesterday. After missing last year’s festival for an out-of-town wedding, my Friday experience was mostly a familiar rerun of previous incarnations.

Despite the extreme popularity of the festival, Friday morning crowds are still (relatively) sparse enough to enable end-to-end stage hopping and close proximity to the bands. By mid-afternoon, the early-going intimacy and ease gave way to crowds, and the performances increasingly became a soundtrack to the festival rather than a first-person experience.

Temperatures were quite warm for most of the day, and while they remained well below last year’s damnable triple digits, the sun was intense and merciless for both bands and fans. Thankfully, CSE has once again made incremental improvements to help manage the festival around the inevitable heat. Their investment in water sprinklers meant that most of the grass remained intact on Friday, and free water stations were a boon to those caught short on water. I’d still like to cut peak attendance by about 10% and ditch the annoying SoCo market that abuts too closely to the food lines, but overall it was an enjoyable day at the festival.

Getting home was another matter. The post-festival bus lines seemed as chaotic (and long) as ever, making me wonder if there is any effective way to manage such a mass exodus. My initial walk home was relatively clear thanks to a few new street closures, but this seemed to just push the usual crush of overflow parking further back into the neighborhood. To top things off, a water main burst along my street, cutting off both water and street access as crews continue to work on repairs.

I lay in bed last night, unable to come down from the energy of the festival. Or it could have been the sting of my obligatory sunburn. Or the cacophony of heavy equipment. But regardless, I ran down the day’s events and conveyed silent thanks for the weather, the plethora of artists, and the joy that is ACL Fest. And, most especially, that by leaving town tomorrow, I wouldn’t suffer through any more of it.

My photos from ACL are posted on Flickr

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