Austin on two wheels – ACL Fest
by Al Pastor
Robert Smith wasn’t wasting any time. Perhaps he heard the forecast. (Heavy rains washed out Sunday’s Austin City Limits Festival.) The band raced through their set, their sound, his voice, unmistakable. The songs were unfamiliar, but that wasn’t surprising. The last time I’d heard The Cure was over 30 years ago. They opened for Siouxsie and the Banshees at the Southampton, England Gaumont. It was, I think, November, 1979. To a recently-arrived exchange student, it was a big deal, my first UK concert. Neither band was familiar. It did seem odd when one of Siouxsie’s band flung down his guitar after a few songs, and left the stage, feedback blaring. It turned out to be an auspicious moment. He’d quit, right then and there.
I figured the theatrics were part of the act. Robert Smith stepped in. My friends and I did like them. The next day we bought their single, “Boys Don’t Cry.” It didn’t even have a picture sleeve. Thirty years later, I gave the single to a young and very dedicated Cure fan. He looked up the exact show. I suppose I might’ve reconsidered when he told me the rare 45 was worth $50, but I was happy to see it find a home with someone so elated. Just getting to the downtown theater was an adventure. It took several buses, the last meandering through Southampton’s red light district. Near campus we waited for the first bus, bordering a rough area called the flower estate, where college students were routinely harassed and even beaten.
Saturday night of ACL Fest, riding my bike towards Zilker Park and the music,
I was stopped at a light. One of the dozens of pedicab drivers told me he’d just gotten a $100 tip. Another said he’d had a rough night with a bad flat. Another told his passengers that he’d worked a 12-hour day. I followed along in the midst of the nighttime pedicab parade. Navigating between the chariots took some dexterity and courtesy. Hearing the weary peddler, another, who happened to have his dog sitting on his back seat, said to no one, “I wish I’d had a 12-hour day.”
It looks like hard work. Some of the drivers are creative. One was dressed in a full-length leotard with a bolt down it, like a generic super hero. Another wore a ballet dancer’s outfit (female, thankfully). Some of the carts had awnings, like Victorian horse drawn cabs. The drivers were all quite jovial and energetic. There were dueling soundtracks, glitter, sparkle. They waited in a very long line for weary concert goers.
The highlight was seeing so many bikes. The racks were jammed. The photos show the same spot on Saturday afternoon, when ACL Fest folk were still arriving, and then at night as The Cure were finishing up their set. Barton Springs pool was predictably deserted and idyllic. The drum beat was just perceptible under water, but it wasn’t unpleasant.
Maybe it was just the pleasant vibe, the memory of a concert adventure long ago, or the fun in ducking and whizzing by the crowd. The bonus was just getting home before the rains imposed themselves on the night. But seeing all those bikes! Wow. How ‘bout that?