Heavy Rain, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver and Levon Helm: ACL Day 2

By David Wharton

Oct 5, 2009 9:32am

The constant downpour of rain didn’t drown the mood at day two of Austin City Limits. In fact, the 65,000 fans — dressed from head-to-toe in rain boots, rain jackets, ponchos, hats and umbrellas — seemed even more energetic than the day before and didn’t mind trampling through huge mud pits at Zilker Park to see their favorite bands perform. Saturday’s lineup included Grizzly Bear, Citizen Cope, Bon Iver, STS9, Dave Matthews Band and Ghostland Observatory, and dozens more. Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear drew in crowds from all over the park at its 3 p.m. set, although many in the crowd weren’t familiar with the band’s music. Hit songs “Knife,” “Two Weeks,” “On a Neck, On a Split,” resonated with the fans, despite the heavy rainfall that began in the middle of their set. After Grizzly Bear’s set, I caught up with a few of the guys from STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9), who released their latest studio album, Peacebleaster, last year. The Santa Cruz-based, five-piece electronic jam band held an aftershow for fans at Stubb’s, a local music venue, on Friday night before their ACL performance on Saturday at 7 p.m. “Austin is great for live music. The city supports it and just makes it a really fun environment,” said David Murphy, who plays the bass, laptop and midi keyboard. “We love playing at ACL because it’s a big city but it’s a little smaller. You go downtown and it’s all about the nightlife and the music. At [other festivals], I think that kind of gets lost. The town is focused on ACL and it’s fun to be a part of it.” Sound Tribe’s instrumental music allows fans to interpret their own meaning or adventure, so to speak, of each song. Because of this, the group says it’s hard for them to pinpoint what type of person their fans are exactly. “The common denominator with all of our fans is that they all love music,” Murphy said. “You have to have a palette for music and enjoy it, and I think that’s why people like our music.” Even though they might not be able to pinpoint the stereotype of their fans, the group has an enormous following from gig to gig, especially in Austin, where they usually perform at least once a year. “The people in Austin are just huge music fans and they’re not afraid to show you they like music and show you they’re having a good time,” said Hunter Brown, who plays the guitar, laptop and midi keyboard. “Some of the other cities seem to be more of chin scratchers — they’ve seen it, been there, done that. Austin has seen it, been there, done that, but they don’t care to still have fun doing it. That’s what’s cool about Austin.” STS9′s new album, Ad Explorata, is coming out this fall and their first single, “Atlas,” will be released on Oct. 6. “We’re really excited about the new album. We got in the studio together and had some things happen musically and discovered things that pushed us in a certain direction. We’re really excited to share it with our fan base,” Brown said. “As artists, we’d like to think it’s the next evolution of where we’re going and that it’s the next progression.” After our interview, I rushed back to Dell Stage to see Bon Iver’s 5 p.m. set (which STS9 was also looking forward to seeing). Justin Vernon, the man behind Bon Iver, initially self-released his well-known album, For Emma, Forever Ago, in 2007 and has gained a record label, and great support, ever since. Vernon, and the four-piece band he tours with, drew the biggest response with hit songs “Skinny Love” and “For Emma.” Levon Helm attracted a massive crowd at his 6 p.m. set on the LiveStrong Stage. The well-known rock musician, whose drums and vocals were a signature of The Band, showed his enthusiasm and passion for music to the crowd. He had four different vocalists, a five-piece horn section, a B-3 organ, an accordion and three guitarists for his performance. Although Helm did not participate in the vocals (he recently became cancer-free after having throat cancer for a few years), he amped up the crowd with hits like “Chest Fever,” “The Shape I’m In,” and “It Makes No Difference.” STS9′s 7 p.m.-performance began in the midst of a downpour. Fans continuously chanted “S-T-S-9″ for a solid 16 minutes, worried the group might not perform because of weather conditions. When the group came out on stage, the crowd was that much more excited to see the performance. Fans threw their energy — and a lot of glow sticks — toward the stage, pumping up the band even more. The result was an awesome performance that made standing in the rain well worth it for any fan. Ghostland Observatory, a local Austin duo of Aaron Behrens and Thomas Ross Turner, was the highlight of ACL on Saturday. The multi-colored laser light show caught the eyes of fans from all over the park, drawing in the most energized crowd of the day. Just as it seemed the performance couldn’t get any better, the University of Texas Marching Band came on stage in full brass and full uniform for hit song “The Band Marches On,” showing Ghostland Observatory’s enthusiasm for having a headlining spot. The massive crowd was constantly jumping and throwing their hands in the air even hundreds of yards away from the stage, and it was clear that their faith in Behrens and Turners was not misplaced. Tens of thousands of fans waited to see headliner Dave Matthews Band close out the second day of Austin City Limits. “What a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” Matthews said to the crowd as he began his first-ever performance at ACL. The band’s set included fan favorites, “Ants Marching,” “Why I am,” “Two Step,” and a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House.” Although the band’s performance might not have been as visually appealing as Ghostland Observatory’s, Dave Matthews Band lived up to their well-known name and the crowd’s response to their performance is proof that the band has some of the most loyal fans around.(by Emily Watkins / ABC News On Campus)(photos by Kiah Collier / ABC News On Campus)

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