Thursday, September 21, 2006

A fun time at ACL

ACL Festival was terrific, and they made a lot of improvements from last year. It's still no Coachella, but it's getting there. I saw some great shows on Friday and Saturday, including the inimitable Willie Nelson! Standing to my left at that show was a burly bruiser who was dipping chewing tobacco. Cowboys and Hippies indeed!

But Sunday was the wildest day by far. Since it was my 5th consecutive night of live music (Thievery Corporation and John Digweed the two nights before ACL), I was exhausted. Mrs. Hippie joined me on Sunday, but since she was running a mild fever we decided to arrive late with the sole intention to get good spots for Tom Petty. After grabbing one water each we traipsed through the throng and found a decent spot for the pre-show, the Flaming Lips. We had no intention of leaving, neither for water nor for restroom breaks, and it appeared others were equally resolved. But when the Flaming Lips ended, many folks left to grab water and run to the bathroom one last time. We pushed forward.

When Tom Petty came on, it was phenomenal. I could see his effulgent smile from my spot only 50 feet away from the left speakers. Unfortunately the sound mixer crew had to crank up the output for the massive crowd of >50,000 viewers, and Mrs. Hippie and I succumbed to the nausea of the "Brown Note."

The brown note, according to an urban legend, is an infrasonic frequency that causes humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance.
The note was tested on the television show MythBusters using Meyer Sound subwoofers on par in quantity and quality with those used at major rock concerts.[1] The experimenters on the show tried a series of frequencies between 5 and 10 Hz at 120–160 dBSPL, but they were unsuccessful in producing the rumored effects. They all reported some physical anxiety and shortness of breath, even a small amount of nausea, but this was dismissed by the participants, noting that sound at that frequency and intensity moves air rapidly in and out of one's lungs.
Heh, to debunk this they had to find volunteers willing to crap their pants! Well we certainly retained more dignity than that. But our night had peaked and it was time to go. It was far better to see two songs up close than to see the whole set from a half-mile away. And I had a nagging feeling about the storms rolling in.

We fought hard to push back out through the dense crowd, but it's amazing how fast folks will clear space for you when you say "she's feeling sick!" about the cute girl you have in tow. We raced ahead as the sea of people parted before us, and when we found some room we donned our rain ponchos just as the first large drops of rain burst upon us. My camping instincts warned that the rain would be fierce.

Tom Petty finished his fourth song by the time the rain came, but we were just out of earshot. A friend later told me he stopped playing at that point while everyone stood in the rain; I think he picked back up again but I'm not sure. Mrs. Hippie and I were wet, but not soaked, by the time we made it under the Mopac bridge. The storm had subsided enough when we crossed the river that we decided to chill at Magnolia's and grab a bite to eat. Cabs were hard to find. Finally we made our way on foot back to the car, about two miles away from ACL.

ACL is never worth attending for the big names unless you're willing to battle the crowd for a good view. But as usual I found a great selection of new bands, some of them local, that made the whole experience worthwhile.

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