Swag's Austin City Limits Festival Pages - 2003 Diary
Memories and thoughts on ACL 2003
Favorite sets, bands I've seen before:
- Robert Randolph
- Kermit Ruffins
Favorite sets, bands I saw for the first time:
- Polyphonic Spree
- Yonder Mountain String Band
- Leftover Salmon
- Charlie Hunter trio
Favorite Johnny Cash Tribute:
- String Cheese Incident, covering Ring of Fire
- Gary Clark Jr. starting his set with an acoustic guitar, playing a
Robert Johnson song, before picking up his usual electric and wowing the crowd.
- String Cheese Incident bringing out the original Pink Floyd flying pig
as they covered Another Brick in the Wall.
- South Austin Jug Band, playing an extended bluegrass jam, throwing in
lots of teases, everything from Voodoo Chile to the King of the Hill
theme song. Now that's a segue that you don't hear often.
- Beatle Bob showing up; he spent most of his time at the HEB (Jam) stage, and even
introduced Polyphonic Spree.
- Speaking of Polyphonic Spree... Wow. They have a quickly
growing buzz, and it's easy to see why. I've heard some live recordings from them,
but even that does not do justice to the experience of seeing them live. A harp, a
flute, a french horn, a 9 member chorus - this isn't your every day rock band.
Seeing them, in white choir robes, jumping up and down and dancing and singing,
they've managed to capture the joyousness of Gospel (and then some) performing secular
- Way cooler than last year, especially Saturday and Sunday.
- But where did that rain come from? All week, they had said 10% chance of
precipitation, and instead we got on-and-off drizzle and light rain for most of Saturday
and Sunday. Fortunately, the ground soaked up the water well, so mud was not an
- Bigger than last year, but handled well. No long waits to get in. Shuttle
waits about 10-15 minutes, unless you waited till the very end of the day to leave.
Food lines were (mostly) reasonable, beverage lines were almost non-existent.
- I saw some Port-o-John lines, 10 minutes or more, but plenty were available with no
wait, if you knew where to look. Next to the food court, lines were long, but 100
yards away, just past the Kids tent, no wait at all.
- The crowd for REM was big. Too big. Late arrivers were so far back that the
music was not loud enough. The first time I've seen that problem at ACL.
This Fest is getting expensive.
- By extending from 2 days to 3, it should be more cost effecient, as the expense
of setting up the grounds, handling ticketing, and so on, is all spread out over more
days. And the crowds, as expected, were bigger. Last year, 75,000 attended;
this year, about 150,000. But ticket prices went up, especially last-minute (up
- The food is too expensive. Most items cost $5-6. Compare that to Jazzfest,
where $3-4 is the typical price point. I paid $5 for 6 smallish hot wings; and $8
for a medium sized iceberg salad with a tiny portion of turkey on top. What's more,
many dishes are only available with sides, forcing you to buy the chips, fries, etc with
your entree. If they food court is supposed to be a showcase, they should un-bundle
the sides, to encourage folks to try more, smaller servings, instead of one big meal
- Parking, free last year, was $3. That's still pretty cheap, but consider that
those garages are free on weekends the other 51 weeks of the year.
- Why does beer have to cost $4 a can? Jazzfest only recently raised it from $2 to
$3. I can buy a case at Sams for $12, which is 50 cents a can. With the volume
that the Fest does, plus the Heineken sponsorship, I'd be surprised if they pay more than
a quarter. Even $3 should be plenty of profit.
Changes I noticed for 2003
- Added a 3rd day, Friday
- Added a new stage, for Singer/Songwriters
- Started charging for parking in the downtown garages ($3).
- No separate line for wristband redemption; this saved a bunch of time.
- Set up sand volleyball area as kids play area.
- Beer was a uniform $4 (last year, Mich Light was $3.75).
- Unless you bought early, ticket prices went up. Single day $35 at the gate, vs $25
- More food vendors. A few popular booths had 20+ minute waits, but 80% of the
vendors, lines were 3 minutes or less.