Austin City Limits came to a close on Sunday night with the final day in a three-day event that hosted more than 130 bands and 70,000 people in Austin's Zilker Park. Each day the gates to the festival opened at 11 a.m. with the Star Wars theme song to welcome those motivated to indulge in the full-day experience, and the air of finality was thick from the get-go on Sunday as revelers and music lovers plotted their performance paths for the day with great consideration.
A finer fit to kick off the day than Mariachi El Bronx could not have been found, and the costumed alter-egos of Los Angeles hardcore gods The Bronx bewildered and amazed at the AMD Stage just after the noon hour.
Kicking off with a fantastic rendition of their recent single "48 Roses," the band won over the skeptical confused in the crowd with pure passion and excellence.
The band with the single worst indie name on the circuit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., brought a fun blast of indie pop to the Honda Stage shortly thereafter, delivering a colorful set of hip shakers and hand clappers that laid a solid case for their debut album, It’s a Corporate World.
Next up came an ill-advised visit to The Walkmen, dressed to the nines and underwhelming en masse. A sizable crowd had collected for their set in the mid-afternoon sunshine, but many could be found streaming away minutes after they took the stage. However, the band's cover of “I Fought The Law” – which they dedicated to all the police officers who’ve ever detained them over the years – was a definite crowd-pleaser.
It was only a matter of time before I was pulled over to AWOLNATION, the hugely accelerating project from frontman Andrew Bruno. Let nobody tell you that these guys are dismissable – AWOLNATION's brand of electro-industrial riffage and passionate intensity drew an incredible response from the crowd, who couldn't seem to get enough of what these musical chefs were cooking.
Featuring several jams from their critically acclaimed debut, Megalithic Symphony, the band found themselves recipients of by far the greatest crowd response at the Honda Stage all weekend long.
The brutal two-man assault of Death From Above 1979 followed, an incendiary triumph of a duo that reunited this past February, following almost 5 years of inactivity. Singer-drummer Sebastien Grainger wailed like a man attacking a pack of wolves as he worked the kit, pushing the intensity of their performance to frenzied levels. Here's hoping these cats stick around long enough to make another record.
Headliners Arcade Fire closed the festival with a set similar to what they've been playing at festivals for the past year and a half, featuring a heavy dose of material from their Suburbs album. Serving as something of a hometown show given that the Butler brothers grew up in the nearby Woodlands, it was an endearing bit of confessional when frontman Win Butler admitted that they actually begged to play ACL.
A searing rendition of "Month of May" unlocked a barrage of high-energy numbers that kept the hips shaking for the rest of the duration. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" beguiled the crowds before the dark hypnotics of "We Used to Wait," while their last song, "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," found Régine Chassagne dancing around the stage, waving ribbons like a giddy child. The slow-boil beginning had risen to a frenzied energy, a celebration shared by tens of thousands under the Texas moonlight.
A fine finish to another wonderful Austin City Limits. See you next year!