Onstage at ACL

I went to Austin City Limits Music Festival this year thinking it would be no different from every other year. Same heat, same crowds, same good music, same people getting high. Of course, seeing artists like Bjork and Bob Dylan in Austin would be a once in a lifetime kind of thing, but the one show I was really excited to see was Common, who was filling in for last-minute cancellation Rodrigo y Gabriela.

courtesy of Common  

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I arrived pretty early. It was the last day of the festival and we wanted to make the most of it. We started out at the Dell stage, where a band we’d never heard of called The Little Ones were playing. They turned out to be a lot of fun – upbeat, dancey pop. Definitely the best new music I discovered at the festival.

We listened as I perused the schedule for the day. It was early and the park was pretty empty. I realized that if we waited until The Little Ones were finished and the crowd had cleared out, we could camp out at the front of the stage for Common. All we had to do was sit through the Sound Tribe Sector 9 show, and we’d have front-row viewing for Common. The Little Ones finished up; we made our way to the front and began to wait. It seemed like forever, especially while we listened to STS9 (no offense to their fans, but it was a snoozefest). Time almost stood still while Common’s road crew did the sound check.

When Common finally took the stage, the crowd reaction was deafening. Hip hop doesn’t get nearly enough play at ACL, and you could tell everyone was beyond ecstatic to see him. His energy and theatricality had the whole crowd pumped, dancing and yelling with their fists in the air.

About midway through the set, Common played “Drivin’ Me Wild,” the single from his new album Finding Forever. At the end of the song, like something straight out of a movie, Common announced that he wanted a lady to join him up on stage. Clearly, there was no time to hesitate. Everything happened at once. I screamed “I’ll do it!” as a security guard pointed at me and said “You!” I hoisted myself over the barricade.

Ever since I saw the video for “Dancing in the Dark,” where Bruce Springsteen pulls an unsuspecting Courtney Cox from the crowd to dance with him on the stage, I’ve dreamed that someday my favorite musician would do the same for me. But let’s face it, not a lot of artists do that kind of thing anymore. First of all, I’m sure the security risk is too big. There are a lot of crazy chicks out there. I could have been one of them.

“What’s your name?” Common asked me.

“Nicole,” I said, stunned.

“Nicole, where are you from?”

“I’mfromAustinwhat’sup!” I screamed at the crowd.

Basically the whole thing was pretty ridiculous – I don’t really believe it happened. Common had me sit on a stool, and all I was really conscious of was a sea of people waving their arms back and forth and trying my hardest not to look stupid. He performed “Come Close.” I think. The entire thing is a blur. I know there was some definite hugging, and at one point he touched my thigh quite scandalously. At the end he gave me a really big hug and security was nice enough to help me back to my front-row spot in the crowd where I rocked out for the rest of the show.

Although of course nothing could live up to the experience of being touched on stage by Common, here are some of my other festival highlights:

Pete Yorn and the Fire of 2007. Imagine my surprise when I turned around during the first song of Pete Yorn’s set to see huge black clouds billowing not 100 yards away. The show was briefly interrupted by festival staff who politely requested that we step away from the fire if we did not want to get burned. Unfortunately four people were injured in a propane tank fire, but the quick response of emergency crews had the fire out in no time.

Celebrity sightings. CJ from the current season of Top Chef on Bravo was checking out LCD Soundsystem Friday. So what if it took me forever to figure out where I knew him from? Also, word around the festival was that Drew Barrymore and Justin Long were seen making out all over the place.

Bjork is a freaking genius. Seriously. A 10-piece all-girl orchestra in day-glo togas? Lasers? My friend remarked that he enjoyed this show the same way you enjoy the ballet or the orchestra. You might not be enthusiastic about liking it, but you can’t help but see the artistic merit.

Andrew Bird whistles better than anyone on the planet and Ryan Shaw sings like Jesus. If you are not familiar with either, you need to get familiar with both.

The Arcade Fire rocked everyone’s face off. Even though I’m not a huge fan, I found the show enjoyable. Almost as enjoyable as observing just how stupid people look when they are attempting to dance to The Arcade Fire. Which is pretty stupid. I think I saw some Roger Rabbits and Running Mans in there.

Regina Spektor is adorable. Her genuine enthusiasm and joy made her show really fun to watch. At one point she yelled “My job is awesome!” which I found incredibly endearing. After her show I can only assume her face was cramped from all the smiling she did onstage.

Bob Dylan is a legend. Which I’m pretty sure is a nice way of saying that he is old. It was impossible to get within a half-mile of the stage, and it was only fitting that he should close out the festival.

Common at ACL, by YouTube user khadgar346


jealous's picture

i was there! i kept thinking, what a bitch, not because you are, but because i was the most jealous i have ever been in my life. i never get picked for stuff like that. i hate you! common is my fantasy boyfriend. nice story.

Brian Reed's picture

Sorry about the dancing for Arcade Fire. My sweater vest and Buddy Holly glasses were on backorder so I couldn’t be indie enough. I know bands prefer fans to stand immobile. I guess I ruined the show for the Arcade Fire. I hope they come back!