Hello Readers! My apologies for being out of pocket the last couple of weeks. I was in Austin for my annual pilgrimage to the Austin City Limits Music Festival. It’s a special weekend that I share with my daughter, Sierra, and granddaughter, Luca Bella. I’ve written about it before. This festival is an annual three-day music festival in Austin’s Zilker Park. There are more than 130 bands on eight stages, and they include rock, country, folk, indie, Americana, hip-hop, reggae, and bluegrass. They attract a crowd of about 65,000 visitors each day.
This was our third year and each has had standout moments. Last year’s highlight for me was a performance by Alison Krause and Robert Plant. It was the third time that I have seen Plant live. The other two were when Led Zeppelin was still together and touring and both of us were, well, much younger.
There are always a few headliners that I’m familiar with, but usually most of the music and musicians are new to me and while I can’t stand some of them, I always come away from the weekend with some new favorites. This year I became a huge fan of a young Somali-Canadian named K’Naan, (“Traveler” in Somali.) Luca and I found ourselves singing along with the rest of the crowd at his venue, to reggae, rap and hip-hop – oh yes I did.
But, the biggest impact to this year’s festival wasn’t made by a band. It was the rain and the mud, and the mud, and the mud. Friday could not have been more perfect. Our day started at 11:00 a.m. with clear blue skies, warm temperatures and brand new, thick, green grass. After the dust bowl of previous years, the concert promoters paid some 3.2 million dollars to the city of Austin to replant the entire park. For this reason, and to give the lawns a good head start, the festival was actually postponed for a month. I had made Luca Bella a new “fantasy” dress and she immediately took off her shoes, twirling around and running wild – within our sight. I lost track of the number of people that took pictures of her and one of them ended up on the official ACL website. Two dear friends of mine joined us and a great time was had by all…on Friday.
We didn’t have tickets to Saturday and had other things planned, and as it turns out, that was providence. It rained, make that, poured, all day and night. My friends kept in touch with us via texting, and troopers that they are, they stuck it out until closing at 10:00 p.m. The groups I most wanted to see would be playing on Sunday. Fashion went by the wayside as we tried to prepare for the scene. Luca wore jeans tucked into her cowboy boots, and when I tied my hair up in a scarf, she had to do the same. I actually sacrificed my own cowboy boots, letting Sierra wear them and I wore a pair of her old Dr. Martens, jeans tucked in as well.
The first thing I noticed when we got there was the smell. It smelled like a septic tank…times ten. I live near a feedyard and believe me, I can identify that smell! I pulled my t-shirt up over my nose. Luca did the same. The skies were alternately dark and light, but it never rained on us. It didn’t have to. The mud was so thick - not deep, but thick - that it crept up over the toes of our boots and hung on like something out of “The Blob.” At least half of the crowd was barefoot, having given up the idea of even trying to stay semi-dry. The other half was wearing every single rubber boot that had been for sale in and around the city of Austin the previous week. Concert promoters had tried to help by placing large slabs of plywood over the most traveled routes, but you took your life in your hands navigating the slippery path with people crowding you on all sides. The truly adventurous, (inebriated frat boys), took to sliding their way around the park.
I stuck it out for The B52’s rocking performance and then grabbed the kid and headed to the truck. She was begging to remove her boots and go barefoot again, so I had to make good our escape. While her mother and friends spent the rest of the day and evening standing up, wading through stinking mud, Luca and I could be found in the comfy, cozy seats of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, dining on pizza, popcorn and malt balls.
Newspaper reports called it a repeat of Woodstock and gave a reason for the smell. It seems the parks department used sewage water to get that grass going. Told ya. Crews are happy to report that the root system is still there and once the “sludge mud” is removed the grass will no doubt come back “better than ever,” in time for next year.
I’ve already bought my three-day pass.