jam session.

October 18, 2016

My musical education was fostered very early on. While my mom favored '90s country and the Eagles, my dad inundated us with the very best of classic rock, incorporating the steering wheel and dashboard of his F250 (lovingly known as Ol' Blue) as his percussion elements, head-banging along the drive from point A to point B, offering us performances unrivaled by anyone who'd ever graced the cover of Rolling Stone.

I spent an inordinate amount of my junior high evenings, hunched over my beloved boombox, recording top 40s music from 97.5 on a beloved cassette tape, complete with broken bits of DJ introductions and hokey, local commercials. Think TLC, Sheryl Crow, Blues Traveler, Lisa Loeb.

The highly coveted CD burner was unveiled during my high school years. Two words: game changer. Cue my best friend, the budding entrepreneur, who debuted her bootleg CD business in the hallways of Lorena High School--five bucks a pop for a custom mix , complete with jewel case and laminated playlist insert. Fun fact: I very recently found two of the CDs she made me--aptly dubbed "Meg's Mix" and "Meg's Mix 2" which are every bit as quality as you can imagine (BBMak, Coyote Ugly soundtrack, Mandy Moore, to highlight a few). She had minimal competition (looking at you, Ben Geeslin), so was obviously an overnight success.

For as long as I can remember, my every memory has a song interwoven within it... whether it was my Mimi cooking in the kitchen to "Unchained Melody," to my mom blaring "Hotel California" while cleaning, to my parents rocking the Beatles Anthology (cassette) on roadtrips across the country... and of course the break-up ballads, what we girls danced to in the locker room, and finally, the jams that filled up our ipods once Apple tapped (no pun) into that little gem (still have mine, by the way. Both of them.)

(is it any wonder my favorite movie is Almost Famous?)

Thankfully, my tastes evolved. I transitioned from whiny boy rock (think Ataris and All American Rejects) and angry girl rock (Liz Phair and the like) to lots of Bob Dylan and some oldies, everything in between--and finally an acoustic/indie/Americana phase that planted itself in 2002 and just never ended. If I was a genre, that'd be it. Strum an acoustic guitar for me and watch me melt.

I first learned about ACL as a Baylor girl... a few of my friends made the 90-mile trek to Austin all in the name of good jams, and I desperately yearned to go too. Alas, the price-tag for a three-day pass far exceeded my measly budget as a coed, and I instead vowed to myself "one day." My "one day" finally rolled around last year, I returned this year, and will go again and again and again. It's just that good.

Disclaimer: my photo game was weak due to my snap game being strong--hence the temperature report on the following. Can't win 'em all, right?

Here I am, your self-appointed ACL tour guide...

I elected the one-day situation, as I wanted to allocate the majority of my vacation with friends and family (all over the great state of Texas).

When I made it down to Zilker Park on Sunday, here's the ridiculous line-up I dove into:

Anderson East
local boy, Mr. Miranda Lambert... always, always gives a quality time and didn't disappoint in Austin. Insane energy, and even better live. I am really loving this shift to an older sound--the drumbeats and the instruments and the melodies that are indicative of "oldies" music coming back around makes me so very happy.

Nathaniel Rateliff + the Night Sweats
All-around amazing performance. I didn't realize they hailed from Colorado--loved the brass additions on stage, he repeatedly thanked the crowd and was incredibly humble. He had the crowd dancing non-stop, in spite of the 85-degree sun beating down.

St. Paul + the Broken Bones
Good, but not all that different than radio airplay. Admittedly, I disappeared to the BMI VIP tent at this point for most of their set... and am glad I didn't miss anything else. But see also: loving the "old sound" revival happening.

Insane, insane, insane. So much energy, so many lights, played a lot of new music. I knew I'd love their show, but they were likely my favorite.

Willie Nelson
Le sigh. Full disclosure: I was maybe most excited to hear Mr. Nelson at ACL... unfortunately, the acoustics weren't all that great and I couldn't hear him well. Apparently Matthew McConaughey introduced him, and I missed that too... I made friends at this show, so I was probably chatting and just distracted--of course. :/

The very deserving headliners. Performed solidly for just over their billed two hours, so many familiar hits and a lot of new stuff too. It was pure magic, and witnessing their ridiculous talent and chemistry all under the Texas stars made it that much more incredible.

If you're planning on heading to a festival, here's my advice:

1. Make a friend who works for BMI.
Ha--okay, so maybe a little harder to hook this one up, but my dear friend Kat got me into their VIP tent for 1) drinks, 2) a better bathroom situation, 3) snacks, 4) TV for football (although on Sunday, this was less of a thing for me), and 5) yeah, maybe a little shoulder-rubbing with their bands. It was nice to sip on my Tito's and decompress from the crowd a little.

2. If you're getting merch, get your merch upon arrival. They always sell out of the coolest designs, so make this a priority.

3. Plan on eating the best food ever. I live for Salt Lick's nachos... (see also: empanadas, tamales, snow cones. Take me back already.)

4. Plan to park downtown (I paid $10 for the day) and shuttle down to Zilker. So much easier than trying to park near the show... I walked four blocks to Republic Square to catch the (free) shuttle that takes 15 minutes to usher on down to the festival.

5. Cell service blows there. Take screenshots of the festival map and line-up so you don't drain your battery further by accessing the internet.

6. Dress comfortably (I wore a tank, sandals and cut-offs). Here's your arsenal:


1. Yes, I toted my Mexican blanket all the way from Nashville. It's the perfect material and size (and theme, mind you) for a day of lounging and jamming out. (ACL allows lawn chairs, but I don't want to carry that junk around).
2. Extra phone battery, for having enough juice to snap the headliners. 
3. Teensy bottle of Purell. Trust me. 
4. Wear a breezy top--it was pretty warm for October. 
5. Bring a water bottle--there are refilling stations all around the grounds.
6. Maybe I'm 100, but I pre-treated my Tito's binge and combated my soon-to-be sore feet in one fell swoop come mid-day.
7. You will get incredibly sweaty and dusty... a bandana totally saved my hair from getting sweaty, and I had an extra one tucked away.
8. Comfy cut-offs. Pockets are awesome.
9. Lip balm is a necessity.
10. Snacks for when you can't break away from a set to get your BBQ.
11. Kleenex because there will come a time in the night when those porta-potties are fresh outta toilet paper.
12. Speaking of the end of the night, it'll cool off. Bring something with sleeves to throw over your shoulders.

There you go... you're festival ready!

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