Austin City Limits

Spencer, Nick and I in a sea of 70,000 people

This past weekend, my two best friends and I went on an adventure that will forever be one of my most prized memories. Austin, Texas has always been a music Mecca in America, so I didn’t need much of an excuse to go. When the lineup for Austin City Limits was released, and we saw that Nick would be performing, our decision to go was made. Let’s not forget that the line up included Father John Misty, Vince Staples, Echo Smith, Twenty One Pilots, A$AP Rocky and Drake…Yeah we were not going to miss this show, so we drove down to Austin for the weekend and the adventure began.

A sixteen hour drive was ahead of us, and the only thing that could keep us focused through the night was binging the artists we were about to see live. We got into Austin around eleven a.m. on Thursday and immediately crashed. We wanted to rally for our first night in ATX. We went out bar hopping on the all too famous Sixth Street. Typically not our jam to hit a tourist spot, but what the hell, we had to start somewhere. We wandered into the Chuggin’ Monkey, purely based on the doorman coaxing us with the allure of cheap-ass beer. Dollar tall boys…Uh yeah you got us sir. There was a band setting up when we walked in, and I didn’t think anything of it. When they got fired up and started to play, they surprisingly commanded my attention. How good the guitar sounded intrigued me; it was so raw and pure. I listened for a bit and went back to beer and meaningless conversation. Then a woman walked in and sat in with them. She sounded pretty damn good as well. This was far from a venue. The PA was questionable and the band was not even filled out. When I started to pay closer attention, I was astonished by how great they sounded regardless of their environment. Well above average. I loved that they had a friend come and sit in to sing a few tunes with them. That is one of the things I love most about the music community; when there is collaboration and support. Not only did this woman come to support their show, she came to play with them. That shows commitment and dedication; when an artist shows up to just play and perform with friends for no money. She wasn’t on the bill, but it was an opportunity to create. This was a great experience at a bar with dollar beers. Solid first night I’d say.

Saturday was the festival. Now personally I hate festivals. I don’t like standing all day in the sun, dehydrated and miserable to see the best acts 7 hours later. The crowds are miserable! I just want to hear some good music, but we were here for ACL, so lets take the experience in. The Wind and the Wave played at 11:45, so we were forced to get our asses up and into the festival early. They killed their set. I really dig their sound. Patricia Lynn has an incredible voice live. Super powerful and stable, in tune and her rhythmic feel in the pocket is perfect. A lot of times singers get a significant amount of help in the studio, or take a lot of passes to get the sound you hear on the record. It is really refreshing when you hear artists that can back that shit up live. After the Wind and the Wave we went and caught Echo Smith’s set at the main stage. I was astounded by their following. I had seen them last year in Houston on Warped Tour, and they had a decent crowd, but nothing like this. There were probably 10,000 fans! Having a few radio hits and opening for Taylor Swift will do that to your fan base, I imagine.

I misread the start time for Vince Staples and ended up catching an artist I didn’t know, Charlotte OC. There are no words for how amazing she was. She immediately captivated us in her performance. Her music is electronic and a more pop influenced FKA Twigs. Her stage presence was great. I don’t think I have ever seen a more powerful performance. She was so committed to pouring her heart out on that stage. She left it all there. Her passion was mesmerizing. There were only two other musicians on stage. She performed a song that was just her, playing an electric guitar and singing. I fell in love at that moment. The raw passion in that song had me lamenting and hanging on every word. Do not miss an opportunity to see her live; you will not regret it. This setup of two people on stage is definitely the direction things are heading. Put as much as possible in the backing track, and eliminate the risk and expense of live musicians. It’s safer and more consistent. Lets face it, its more money for the front man if you don’t have six other musicians to pay.

We wanted to have good spots for Drake later that evening so we began squatting at three, at the main stage. I had never heard of Twenty One Pilots, but they left a lasting impression. Talk about entertainers. That was the most energetic show I have ever seen, and the crowd eats that shit up. This guy climbed on top of the entire stage rig and performed a song up there. That shit was high! There was no chance of survival if he fell. I was amped after their set.

Little did I know we were surrounded. The crowd had settled in with the same idea we had. There had to be 20,000 people there after their set. The next seven hours of my life were pure hell.

We were seriously trapped. Nowhere to go. The heat was taking its toll and people were passing out all around us. The only option was to crowd surf their bodies out of the mess. You could not get out of the epicenter of that crowd if you tried. We had assholes trying to get back to their friends trying to shove their way past us. There was no room for any sort of movement or rearranging. I cannot express how tight we were crammed in there. We looked at each other and realized we are in this shit. We can do it. Recognize that all of the bull shit we are going through was for Drake. Those were by far the most painful frustrating hours I have endured for a concert. My legs were aching, I was dying of thirst but could not chug water, because there was no hope of getting out of the crowd to take a piss. The sun was blistering hot, and so we waited.

When the magical hour finally came and Drake took the stage everything we had just endured melted away. By this time there were 70,000 fans and we were only 25 yards away from the stage. I loved being in the thick of that crowd for the concert. Hearing the roar of 70,000 people screaming “Hotline Bling”, jumping and mobbing purely because you had no choice. You literally have to go with the crowd or be trampled. 70,000 people sharing the same moment, and having suffered just as much as the person next to them, all just as big of a fan. That shit was spiritual. Not only was I sharing this moment with that massive crowd, but I was building a memory with some of the most important people in my life. When the finale fireworks went off to the crowd singing Drake’s “Legend”, that was a moment I will never forget. The euphoria that I felt from a song in that moment is my addiction. Music fueled everything we went through that weekend. We will not remember any of the pain and misery from that day, but we will remember that moment forever.

Art did that. Art had me feeling higher than any drug ever could. Art is the reason we drove 900 miles over night. Art is why we spent money we should not have spent, just to be a part of a moment. Just to experience an hour and a half with 70,000 people. That is beautiful. That is my addiction. That moment is the culmination of Drake’s life, of the work that he has put into his life. 70,000 people singing his words! Drake worked for that shit. He sacrificed his life for that moment. He gave us his life, and in those moments we all feel connected and inspired, all from one man’s life. That is powerful to see the influence of one man’s work. Drake, Twenty One Pilots, Charlotte OC, A$AP Rocky, Father John Misty and the Wind and the Wave-all of these fucking incredible artists pouring themselves out on stage, and exposing a vein for thousands of strangers. I will never forget the memories forged in Austin that weekend.