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Lana Smoking & Other Stories from Austin City Limits 2014

Three days in a park within walking distance of the Texan state capital, Austin’s centre where music runs like water sounds ideal, right? Well, it almost was but I didn’t leave England to stand in a muddy field! Ok, it wasn’t ankle Glasto kind of mud but still…

The two weekender music extravaganza kicked off for the second time on Friday with a show stopping headline set from hip hop duo Outkast who brought the hits out for the Texan crowd. Earlier in the day Bleachers rattled through their energetic debut record Strange Desires, fronted by the charismatic Jack Antonoff whilst the Scottish Paolo Nutini battled with the afternoon heat and won with his soulful tone. Fellow Brit Sam Smith pleased the huge crowd watching with charm and THAT voice which has made him so popular over here. Childish Gambino brought the tempo back up as he chaotically bounced around the stage like it was his playground.

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The blue skies and soaring temperatures were replaced with a morning downpour and a bleak outlook, luckily the rain never reemerged and it wasn’t cold. Interpol performed a career-spanning set but the afternoon belonged to Iggy Azalea who drew a huge crowd. The Australian rapper brought hits and enthusiasm to ACL as she shook her bum, threw her middle finger in the air and caused hysteria amongst her young fan-base.

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Lana Del Rey should probably take a leaf out of Iggy’s book as she seemed to forget people were watching as she posed with a cigarette (at a non-smoking festival) and signed autographs for fans on the front row instead of singing… With Eminem headlining the second night Austin needed a boost following Lana’s draining set and Major Lazer delivered with an impressive light show, dancers and air horns turning the festival into a party.

With a massive crowd comes huge expectations and Detroit rapper Eminem gave everything and more. Over the course of his ninety minute set, backed by a band, an impressive female vocalist and hype man Mr Porter Marshall Mathers covered the highlights from his 15 year career from big singles (My Name Is, Lose Yourself, Stan) to old classics (Kill You, Criminal), you couldn’t fault him for the amount of material and energy he brought with him.

There was still patches of mud in Zilker Park as Sunday came around but as temperatures go it was perfect festival weather. Cults and Gaslight Anthem performed in the early afternoon but it was former Rilo Kiley member Jenny Lewis who teased the sun out with her folk tinged pop. Once a tv child star, the LA ‘friend of the stars’ looked at ease on stage as she took tracks from her recent record, The Voyager whilst looking sharp in a suit. It was one of those festival moments that just felt right, Sunday afternoon, sunshine, sing-a-longs.

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It’s been a crazy year for teen sensation Lorde who had only just released the flawless, Grammy winning Pure Heroine an album documenting the traumas of turning into an adult, bringing her an adoring and young fan base who waited hours for the New Zealander’s final US tour date. It seemed like the whole festival had come to check out what all the fuss was about but the sea of people didn’t seem to phase the young star who seemed humbled by it all without affecting her enthusiastic performance. Every word Lorde sang, the crowd sung louder, every time she flung her masses of hair about the crowd bounced higher, excitement levels went into overdrive as she performed Royals, suddenly the sky was filled with thousands of camera phones, with good reason, as pop songs go it is brilliant. She could have probably stood on stage and played Candy Crush on her phone for an hour and still received plenty of love but if there was any doubters out there then this would have converted them.

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Remember when dance music was made by DJs who stood behind a pair of decks in a box at a club, it wasn’t really something you’d watch, America changed that when they repackaged it as EDM, turning geeks into superstars and making Calvin Harris one of the highest earners in music today. The Scot who now resides in Vegas is a big deal in the States and closed the festival with huge tunes, bigger beats and an impressive light show turning faceless music into a spectacle. The perfect way to end a great weekend in the friendliest of cities.

–Matt Pinder

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