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Austin City Limits Gets In The Way Of College Football

We’re moving into the meat of the college football season and it’s time to start paying attention to those other conferences.  And what a weekend, full of upsets and huge wins.  Of course, I missed all of it as I stood in a really dusty field under a blistering sun and saw a lot of bands.  So, in honor of Austin City Limits and my expanded focus on the national scene, here’s how each band I saw at ACL reminded me of a college team this season.

Feel free to ignore this as a ramblings of a guy suffering from heat stroke.

Fleet Foxes are the next hot young band that is getting tons of hype for the greatest album of the year.  Which means in about five years no one will remember them, but if they did they would chant “Overrated!” at them.  This is clearly Mizzou.

The Fratellis
bitched the entire time about playing early in the day.  The lead singer was barely awake and they gamely pushed through their set despite the early hour and the heat.  But it was a giant disappointment.  Florida also disappointed in the early slot, losing to Ole Miss.  Beware the early start, you won’t play your best.
Drive-by Truckers closed a blistering set by telling the story of his stepfather who overcame terminal cancer.  Like another outfit from Alabama who overcame a terminal disease (the Mike Shula Era), there is the triumph of redemption.  Also, DBT, like Bama over Georgia, kicked some serious ass and had the best show of the day.

Man Man is one of my favorite bands on the planet.  They are a great live band as well, but playing on a big stage in a huge field was not their venue.  The raw power of their shows sort of dissipated in the blue skies.  Welcome to the big leagues, and they just weren’t ready for it.  TCU went to Oklahoma and got their ass kicked.  They weren’t ready for the big leagues either. 

Erykah Badu
came on 10 minutes late.  She spent the remaining 50 minutes lecturing us while only occasionally singing a song.  She is clearly a being from another planet because I, like everyone else in the audience, ate it up with a spoon.  She is, as she said, bigger than religion.  She is better than all of us and ruled all of us.  She is Oklahoma, the #1 team in the nation. 

MGMT played some dance tunes.  We danced.  They delivered exactly what they promised and no more.  Solid and unspectacular.  It’s South Florida, who just keep winning while blowing nobody’s doors off. 

John Fogerty
peaked a long time ago.  It was nice he was there, and he trotted out some of the hits, but he’s only a shell of his former self as a performer.  Miami once was good.  Great, even.  They show the occasional flash, but the old Miami never would have lost to UNC. 

The Black Keys
got jobbed with only a 45 minute set instead of the usual hour.  They were awesome and played to a packed crowd, but they were just short of headliner status despite playing last on their assigned stage.  LSU might be the least-talked about #2 team ever.  It’s like we’re coming up with excuses why they aren’t the headliner this season.

Iron & Wine
is the most overrated band on the planet.  OK, they don’t suck, but they are not nearly worth the hype they have gotten.  And in the end, sandwiched between Black Keys and Beck, they just came off as whiny.  They are Georgia.  This is why everyone is skeptical of UGa each season in the national title hunt.

Beck is the headliner.  Playing to a packed house, you couldn’t even move during the set, which was absolutely great.  Beck is, um, well, no one right now.  No one is dominating football like Beck dominated the festival. 

Five Times August
, the M’s, and every other act which played the local stage played their hearts off were a great addition to ACL.  Actually, it’s the soul of ACL.  Bring in the big bands, and we get to see these small bands play hard to little praise.  It’s every non-BCS team playing well like Utah or Boise St.

Nicole Atkins
, I’ll be honest, I had never heard of before the weekend.  She played the early slot on Sunday and, frankly, she played one of the best sets of the festival.  It was a complete surprise, and a pleasant one at that.  Come on, who saw Penn State being this good this season?  And how great of a show is the white out?

The Kills were awful.  We gave them three songs before walking out.  Kind of like the entire Big East this season. 

Octopus Project is an impenetrable art band from Austin.  They were really good, but they were a complete enigma.  Another thing from Austin is really good while also being an enigma, and that’s Texas.  After running through the Sisters of the Poor again, we still have no idea how good they are. 

Flyleaf was by far the loudest band of the weekend.  Good old fashioned heavy metal (with a chick lead singer) interspersed with sermons to convert us all to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  BYU’s been bringing the heavy lumber to pummel their opponents.  And come on, they are Mormons. 

Neko Case had a perfect set almost completely under the radar.  She wasn’t one of the big names, but she came out and sang perfect songs in her perfect voice.  In case you haven’t noticed, Oklahoma State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Texas Tech have all quietly put together undefeated seasons so far.  Neko Case is so cool, she gets more than one school, all of them still perfect. 

Blues Traveler put on a competent set, and John Popper looks a lot better than he did when this band was actually popular.  The crowd was a bit smaller than expected due to the far hipper and more local Okkervil River playing at the same time, but those who tuned in got to see an underrated band put on a good show.  Virginia Tech is below the radar after their early season loss, but have now strung together some wins, including a big one in Nebraska this weekend.  Guess who is now the ACC favorite? 

The Raconteurs are a really good side project, but at the end of the day, it’s just the White Stripes without the White Stripes.  So you end up walking away wishing you had seen a different band.  Maybe we should have seen Gnarls Barkley instead.  Wake Forest is surprisingly still the team to beat in the ACC (if it’s not VT) even with the out of conference loss to Navy.  It just highlights that we really wish a different team was the ACC power right now.  Though Jim Grobe, like Jack White, is pretty awesome. 

Tegan and Sara played some cutesy tunes and had some truly witty back and forth banter.  I left happier than I had been when the set started, but at the end of the day, I also knew they weren’t in the same league as the other headliners.  Hey, Ohio State is a good team and they may even win the Big Ten, but raise your hand if you want them in the BCS title game again.  Didn’t think so.

The Foo Fighters closed out the day.  Look, they are a huge band and immensely popular.  They’re also pretty darn good.  But I saw Nirvana.  I saw Sunny Day Real Estate.  And the previous incarnation of this band was simply better.  USC doesn’t stink.  They are actually really good.  But this ain’t the 2004 team.  Heck, it’s not the 2005 team, either. 

Next weekend, I’m staying home.