ACL Music Festival 2010: Looking In From The Outside.

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What do you do when you don’t have the money for a high class show, like $180 for a three-day music festival in Austin’s Zilker Park?


ACL 2010 watching Muse from the other side of the fence.
A fan of Muse records part of the show with his phone, from a torn section of the fence.

I’m not sure where the term “live music capital of the world” came from, but I do know what it means.  At least whatever some old smokey told me years ago.  It seems like a good explanation and I’m gonna go with it.  If you know otherwise, please use comment area at the bottom of article.

Somewhere along the line someone convinced me that Austin’s music scene wasn’t necessarily about how many bands were playing in the city on any given night.  Nor was it about the quality of music, and it definitely wasn’t about a band getting signed into a record deal.

The reason it’s the music capital is because of the availability of live music.  Anyone can see a show, with or without money.  Music venues and clubs range in price from full blown roadshow ($36-80), to the mid-range ($12-29) down to the standard cover charge ($5-9) and at the risk of cliche, last is the most important of all..the free clubs.

There’s tons of clubs with creative and talented live bands that perform in the hopes that the patron will buy a beer or drop some tips in the jar.   Every night of the week, and probably year round.  Whether you have the funds or not, you have a great chance of seeing a good band if you just step out the door and walk around town, or better yet, check the chronicle.


the entrance to Austin City Limits 2010
The mock theatre entrance for ACL 2010.

After the scene started getting the recognition it boasted for, suddenly the world really was coming to Austin to help fill those boots.  So far two festivals have become the giants on the calendar year.  They aren’t the first festivals, as even I recall River Fest, and they won’t be the only ones for long.  But for now, each spring the city is host for South by Southwest (SXSW) and in the Fall,  Austin City Limits (ACL).

These mega music festivals are all by themselves on the high end of the price tag.  I’m not sure about SXSW, but I heard this year’s ACL was $180 for three days or $80 for one day.  Which makes me want to ask, “How much for just one rib?!”


the path for media, within ACL festival.
As I was taking this picture of the media entrance for ACL, security was too busy looking at me and didn't notice Katya riding right into the event.

Well, if you live here there’s a good chance you can see many of the bands that play ACL.  You’ll have to wait for awhile, as there’s no telling when they will pass through town.  Eventually, they will come to Austin and perform.  But for those that don’t want to wait, the good thing about ACL is it’s an outdoor concert.  The two largest stages are located on opposite ends of the fields, and thankfully are close to the border of the fence.  So if you can do without actually seeing them, but can be happy to just hear them, then you can do that for free.


the fence line of ACL festival.
Walking or riding the perimeter of the festival, you can hear music from most of the stages.

Last year, and years before, I heard the fence was only a single and was relatively close to the stage.  But this year the organizers of ACL decided to make it a double fence that resembled the likeness of a moat crawling with security, and to push it all the way to the physical border of the park.  To complete the fence border, there is also shade cloth that prohibits viewing through the chain link.  But die-hard fans are not easily pushed away and definitely will not just stay home if they don’t have tickets.


There are some places near the Budweiser stage that will produce great sound quality.  It’s here where you’ll find small groups of people swaying and dancing just along the trees, and some climbing the trees to look over the fence.  On Friday night, Phish was playing and someone decided to rip the shade cloth and peek through a small hole, trying to get a glimpse of the performers.  Security didn’t like this at all, so they stood there and flashed anyone with light that was trying to peak.


fans watch from the outside of the festival's fence.
Fans of Muse watch and listen from outside the fence, near the Budweiser stage.

By the next night, when Muse was playing, the small holes had become huge torn sections that were even taped back and resembled drawn curtains.  Police and security alike were standing in front of the gaps and shining flashlights at the frenzied group of fans.  The effort to deny us peaked when a semi was called in to park in front of the gap. Everyone booed and the moment I pulled out my camera to take aim, he pulled it forward and left.  Fans cheered but it was only a short time later that police on ATV’s appeared and pushed people back.  This outer fence was the official line for the event, but local police used fear to push people back further.  They had no right to do so, but who wants to argue with someone wearing a badge and carrying a gun?  People were intimidated enough to step back, but no one would actually go away.  It’s a free park, after all.


the view of Muse from a torn part of the fence.
Shooting through a torn part of the fence.

Who knows what will happen next year.  Apparently ACL organizers want to take away even the chance to listen to some tunes.  That’s just not what Austin is about.  Besides, if they don’t want people to be able to hear the music from the hike and bike trail that runs nearby, then maybe they should just hold this event indoors.

A policewoman on an ATV clears the area by the fence at ACL 2010
A policewoman on an ATV clears an area by the fence at ACL 2010