Joe's Road Trip 2011

Road Trip Day 6: Rain Dance at Austin City Limits Festival

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Lynsey Addario / VII for TIME

Throngs of people attend the Austin City Limits music festival to listen to Coldplay, Kayne West, among other artists in Austin, Texas, September 17, 2011.

Austin, Texas

It rained here yesterday, briefly but furiously–for the first time since June. I attribute it to the arrival of Swampfrau, who has mystical powers that are enhanced by the presence of fabulous bass lines. In any case, the rain came and went in the hour before we arrived at Zilker Park–and it was pleasantly cloudy when Brandi Carlile took the stage for a fine, rocking set, especially her tribute to Johnny Cash. Here’s a brief capsule of some of the other things we saw:

Ray LaMontagne–I don’t know. My wife and daughter love the guy. But to me he sounds like a folk-roots Rod Stewart. He definitely didn’t grab me yesterday–a bit too laid back, when I was hoping, if not to actually rock, at least to sway. We abandoned him after 4 songs and headed over to

Big Boi–formerly of Outkast, who most definitely did rock. But lacked the real verbal brilliance of other rappers. I also hate to admit this, but the continued, repetitive use of the word mo-fo has gotten a bit old for me. The four-syllable scansion is seductive, and of obvious attractive to musicians, but save it for when it can startle and inspire. I imagine that even the delicious Mexican street corn they sell here can get old if you eat it too often.

Lynsey Addario / VII for TIME

Bright Eyes–Good set. I’m a fan of Conor Oberst’s songwriting and his band was excellent. Great rendition of “Walk Away” (if that’s the name of the song). Afterwards, we were getting ready to stroll over to see Mavis Staples when we were waylaid and blown away by…

Santigold–Yes, she’s derivative of MIA, but it’s a brilliant derivation and much more fun than Maya. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a band–I mean, like, the drummer too–go thru three costume changes during the course of a set. The choreography–which included a human horse and parasols–was brilliant and the music was non-stop compelling. She was, without doubt, the best thing we saw all day–and such a tough act to follow that we decided not to stick around for Coldplay or Kanye West.

Today’s schedule may well include Black Dub (Daniel Lanois’ latest band, with Trixie Whitley), Iron and Wine, and Fitz and the Tantrums. Then, we’ve been invited to an Arcade Fire taping of the Austin City Limits TV show.