This weekend I went to the Austin City Limits music festival for the first time. Getting tickets is no easy task. You have to register with their website many months in advance and if you’re really lucky, you’ll get picked to get very cheap tickets early on. Mostly, though, you live in hope of receiving a code to buy tickets several months before the festival. Even then, you have about one hour to log on during the designated time slot and get tickets before they sell out. I bought my tickets last spring with the idea that I’d be living closer in and could easily take a bus to the event as parking is the biggest hassle of the festival. Alas, the house fire pushed all of my plans back for many months, so I was stuck driving in from the suburbs. Luckily, the high school nearby was allowing parking for a donation of $20, which would go towards their band program. I was happy to oblige. After all, my daughter played for band one year and it was a good cause. Also, it was less than a mile to the festival so well worth the cost.
Much as I love Austin, I know that I don’t fully take advantage of many events here. Mostly I’ve been too busy working and volunteering and parenting, but there’s also the money factor. Paying for summer camp and school events and now college doesn’t leave much left over. One year, after another visit to my sister in NYC, I bought season tickets to our Broadway Across America series. It wasn’t quite the same as seeing the shows in New York, but it was certainly more affordable. The next year’s offerings weren’t quite as appealing to me, so I passed. I kept meaning to find an alternative, but somehow I didn’t. This was the year I was going to change it up and start treating myself again.
People come from all over the U.S. to attend ACL and the other big music festival here, South by Southwest. This year was the festival’s 10th anniversary, so it was about time I got myself over there. I printed out the schedule and circled the few artists I knew. Stevie Wonder was the big act this year, so I’d go to that, for sure. I got my friend Pam to recommend some bands. She’s passionate about live music and follows the music scene closely as does my colleague Brendan. I figured I’d get a nice variety with their suggestions and I did. There’s nothing quite like live music. I may not usually listen to bluegrass or variations of country, but when it’s live, it’s all good. I wandered around from stage to stage; there was a little bit of everything going on. The day ended with Stevie Wonder and it was packed. During the day there would be at least three to four different shows spread throughout the park, but now it was down to two, and it seemed like most were at the stage waiting for Stevie.
It’s been a long time since I was last at an event crowded with tens of thousands of people. The sky was darkening, adding to the mood. Once Stevie began playing and singing, the crowd began dancing and singing along. A lot of the people around me were in their 20s, not even born when Stevie began his career, but they all seemed to know his songs as well as the baby boomers among us. It was kind of cool, actually. Towards the end of the show, I managed to squeeze myself out of the crowd, walk across the park (was it this big earlier in the day?), and begin the half mile or so walk to my car. I was exhausted. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been drinking enough water in the seven hours or so I’d been there. Being on my feet that long was hard on my back, too. Also, despite the burn ban, plenty of people had been smoking. A lot of pot, too. I don’t think I’ve inhaled that much pot since my college days. It was a little disheartening for me to realize that I didn’t really have the stamina to last all day. Walking over the bridge towards the school parking lot, I heard a couple behind me talking. The man was complaining about the heat, the huge crowds, and all the walking. A fellow baby boomer, I assumed. Then he told the woman, “I’m just not a festival dude anymore.” Dude? I glanced back and saw the man speaking. A tall, strong-looking guy about 30. Somehow that made me feel a little better.