Austin City Limits, Day 1: Miike Snow, Beach House, Vampire Weekend




Last weekend in Austin, it was time again to pack up your folding chair and pull on your cowboy boots for Austin City Limits. The nights were cool, the days awash in sun so glorious that Miike Snow’s Chris Carlsson and Pontus Winnberg had to double over and shield their eyes in order to read their synth displays. As frontman Andrew Wyatt pointed out from the stage on Friday afternoon, “It’s still summer over here!” The three of them came out in silver masks; seeing as they’re not mystery men anymore, there was no surprise when the masks came off-although there was a bit of one when Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig strolled on for Miike Snow’s techno remix of “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.” Throughout the set, it almost seemed as though it was their buoyant electro beats keeping the beach balls aloft in the front rows.

And then Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach muscled Zilker Park back to the analogue era. The Black Keys have hit a sweet spot with their meat-and-potatoes garage rock; their latest release, “Brothers,” is their best-selling album to date, and the two of them managed, as usual, to generate plenty of blunt force. Back at the press corral, meanwhile, Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Thomson was lifting his shirt mid-interview for VH1 cameras and yelling, “We got a situation!” This was a different type of blunt force.

Beach House’s music seems to float lugubriously into childhood memories of campfires and summer romances. Alex Scally gave the irresistible opening guitar lick on “Gila” some extra bounce, while Victoria Legrand took a break from her haunting vocals to send the crowd some warm and fuzzy vibes.  “You’re the most loving, patient, happy people—and full of tacos,” she congratulated them.

Over at one of the smaller stages, Tijuana-based electro act Bostich + Fussible did their best to get those tacos to come back up.  Judging from all the dancing going on, the Nortec Collective headliners were one of this year’s major audience discoveries—and they didn’t even bust out a light show. Producers Pepe Mogt and Ramon Amezcua played the technicians, working on iPads and turning around occasionally to punch buttons on an audio console that resembled something out of a Connery-era James Bond movie, while a guitarist, accordionist and trumpet player spiritedly worked the front of house. The result, as in “Shake It Up,” is a crowd-pleasing collision of Kraftwerk and mariachi. They’re opening for Hot Chip in San Diego this week—not a bad gig.



Shortly afterward, Vampire Weekend went south of the border, in its own way. “Horchata” is an eminently hummable pop tune, even if all that’s to be gleaned from the title is that Koenig can spin cutesy rhymes (“balaclava,” “aranciata”). Still, he kicked his legs around nicely in rolled-up skinny jeans, and he and his preppy pals put on a great show. You may not fully realize it until you actually witness the effect of Vampire Weekend’s sophisticated but sprightly music on the kindergarten set, but it’s fantastically kid-friendly. “Sesame Street” should forget Katy Perry types and get in touch.

Thomson, the drummer, had by now changed into a Phish t-shirt.  Even The Strokes singer Julian Casablancas gave a shout-out to Friday’s big closing act—and his band (like Phish, recently reunited) was going up against them in the same time slot. In any case, the veteran Vermont jammers wasted no time launching into an uptempo rendition of “Down with Disease.” They delivered the expected virtuosity, and the crowd responded.  Not by lighting up, necessarily—the smell of you-know-what started intensifying near the Phish stage long before Jon and Trey and company came on—but with more jubilant displays. During “Possum,” it started raining glowsticks—the only precipitation all weekend.