Monday, September 18, 2006

Austin City Limits - Day Three

Almost glad I missed the rain. Almost.

ACL Fest: Good times reigned for all

Downpour on final day didn't dampen music or fans' spirits

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's axiomatic that not all the world loves a winner. But it's equally true that everyone loves a scrapper. Thus, it was that Austin rocker Patrice Pike received a heroine's welcome when she stepped onstage Sunday, the last day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park.

Freshly returned from the pop culture wars of the TV cage match dubbed "Rock Star: Supernova," Pike asked what is surely the most superfluous question of the day: "Do ya still love me?" The answering roar would have gratified an Egyptian pharaoh.

Sunday morning, the festival was soaked by a downpour that led ACL organizers Charlie Jones of Capital Sports and Entertainment and Charles Attal of Charles Attal Presents to assure that the show would go on, even if some of the event's eight stages had to "power down" to protect bands and fans.

But the rain had stopped by 12:20 p.m., giving way to partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 90 degrees, and none of the day's more than 40 acts was delayed. Showers returned about 9 p.m., during the festival's final act: album-rock standard-bearers Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Official attendance figures were not available Sunday — when the schedule also included alt-country darlings Son Volt, Jewish reggae sensation Matisyahu and experimental-music monsters the Flaming Lips — but the festival drew 65,000 attendees per day Friday and Saturday, Capital Sports officials said.

Austin Mayor Will Wynn, who came to the festival Sunday after attending a conference in California, praised how smoothly the event came off.

"The logistics get better every year," Wynn said. "The money that comes into the parks department is excellent. It further promotes Austin as the world's live-music capital. It's very impressive."

Early showers sent fans scurrying to the covered Washington Mutual Stage, where refugees heard the gospel of the Durdens while an audience member sold plastic garbage bags for $1 each.

The rain offered benefits both tangible and ethereal.

"The rain has helped so much," said Tannifer Ayres, festival medical coordinator. "We've had a minimal number of patients, and it's really calmed the crowd down."

Two people had been taken to the hospital — one for asthma, another with heart or diabetic problems — by 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Ayres said. Medical crews treated about 40 people by the early evening for various conditions, according to Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

Carol Young of the bluegrass trio the Greencards took the showers in stride.

"It's a bit of a bummer," Young said, "but it could be a good thing. It changes the whole vibe. There's not as much pressure to be perfect."

The spirit of good will shown to Pike reverberated outside the park. While Barton Springs Road turned into a virtual swap meet of head shops and bottled-water merchants during ACL weekend, several residents of the Mobile Manor R.V. Park provided free water, food and a cooling station (a garden hose set to "mist") for festival-goers.

"We were thinking of ways to make some money," said David Sloan, who's lived at Mobile Manor for 15 years, "but then we saw everybody else trying to capitalize, and we thought, 'Let's just give stuff away.' We're having a ball, making lots of friends."

This was the first ACL Festival for Todd Kimmel, 29, from San Diego, but it probably won't be his last.

"Today went really well," Kimmel said, while waiting in a beer line. "I heard there was some trouble with buses on Friday, but today was great."

Austin resident Jason Robbins, 32, is an old hand at ACL festivals.

"I've been to every day of every year," Robbins said, standing in a fast-moving food line. "The first year was pretty horrible. It was hard to get in and out; getting food took forever. It's 10 times better now than it was the first year."

Reporters Joe Gross, Patrick George and Michael Corcoran contributed to this story.