ACL 2012.

I’ve come to the conclusion that ACL is all about the crew you roll with.

That’s the case for me, anyway. Granted, there were plenty of terrific acts this year — huge, multigenerational acts, Iggy Pop and the like — but can I admit something? At ACL, it’s the little moments I like the most.


I’m not a music blogger, exactly (and there are already a ton of great ones out there), so it’s always somewhat of a puzzle for me to write my post-ACL wrap-ups each year. I’m also not the kind of person who watches a band and thinks, “excellent use of electronica ambience with subtle acid rock influences” — or something. So I’m just going to tell you a couple stories from the weekend, OK?

Here’s a fun one.

So on Friday, Megan and I went to this private tasting for a new microbrew based in Portland. It’s called Churchkey, and Austin is one of a tiny handful of cities getting it.

There are many novelties to Churchkey, such as its steel can, its flat top, the fact that you have to open it with an actual churchkey.

And then, there’s its cofounder.

Dude! Any Entourage fans in the house? That’s totally me and Vinny Chase! (I.e., Adrian Grenier).

Adrian started Churckey with his graphic designer buddy, Justin Hawkins (on the left). Over dinner one night in Portland, the two got to talking about microbrews … and the days of yore before pop-top beer … and Justin just so happened to live across the street from some home brewers … et voila, Churchkey was born.

While talking about the environmental aspects of their company, and specifically their cans, Adrian remarked that they were, in fact, “reinventing the steel.” Har har. The whole room groaned good-naturedly, but you know inside, all the ladies in our group were thinking, “OMG, witty! He so WITTY!!!”

Hearing the two discuss their product, it’s clear how passionate Justin and Adrian are about this venture. Brian, the guy on the right in that picture above (and the one who supplies the beer/beverage knowledge in this operation), told us about the first time he overheard a stranger talking about Churchkey. “I got so giddy!” he said. “I asked my wife if she thought I should go introduce myself, and she wisely told me … no,” he said.

Churchkey will soon be available at Roll On Sushi here in town, and then other bars to come.

After that fun and slightly unexpected interlude, my first official day of ACL was Saturday. Amy, my friend Fannie, and I strolled out there early afternoon, and I immediately made a beeline for my beloved pulled pork sandwiches at ACL’s food court. Which, media-wise, I’m not sure receives the attention that it should: People, have you eaten at ACL’s food court? I’m going to go ahead and assume that you have. I wish I was a cow with multiple stomachs, so I could sample more meals there. One for  crispy shrimp and avocado Mighty Cones, one for pulled pork BBQ sandwiches from Stubb’s, one for warm cookies from Tiff’s Treats, and one for mint mate tea from Daily Juice, so I can trick myself into thinking I’m being healthy.

On Sunday, I actually was healthy — kind of. That was the day I hit up the Hope Farmer’s Market area of the food court, new to ACL this year, and got myself an egg salad sweet potato sandwich from The Seedling Truck.

You can’t tell here, but this was the kind of sandwich so big I girlishly trilled, “oh I’ll just eat half now, save the rest for later! Couldn’t possibly eat the whole thing!”

Three minutes later, it was entirely gone.

But where were we? Ah yes — a music festival!  We were at a music festival. Food is just so distracting sometimes.

You know what else is distracting? Awesome tattoos.

I chased this guy down based on his “Mom” tattoo, and when I asked if I could take a picture of it, he said: “Well this is a lot better” and revealed his giraffe. He was right! That giraffe is utterly fantastic.

We got a little rained on that day — Saturday — but in between saxophoney sets for Big Gigantic and nostalgic sets for The Shins, we didn’t mind that much. Bassnectar came on that evening near our camp-out spot, and I was shocked to find myself digging dubstep as much as I did. “I’m 30 now, I don’t listen to things like that anymore” is my knee jerk reaction these days to abundantly synthy stuff, but though my head says that, the hips don’t lie, as the great Western philosopher Shakira once said.

The next day was sunny and perfect, and would bring one act I was dying to see: Gary Clark Jr. I ended up catching him in the media tent, but was too shy to ask for a picture with him. So instead, I lamely stood behind another photographer while she took pictures of him … but look!

Hey girl. This one’s for you.

I caught his eye, which tends to happen when you stare unblinkingly at a person standing approximately six feet away from you.

As you can see, Gary is one stylish dude. Had I more gumption, I would have told him that I’m so happy he’s having a moment right now in the national spotlight, that I saw him play down on Red River once when he was a lot younger, and that I think his music is sexy as hell. I would have also told him that I saw him at a grocery store once, and followed him for a few aisles. Too much?

Sweet Laurie Gallardo, me, Amy

Sunday night, I opted for Crystal Castles over Red Hot Chile Peppers — please don’t hate me, members of my fellow 90s music cohort — and watched insane little Alice Glass crowd surf approximately 15 times during her own set. Amy and I stood next to a poi dancer during the show, immediately prompting my brain to go: “OOOH what if I became a poi dancer!” Because as we all know, that is how my brain operates. I am happy to report however that I have successfully restrained myself from ordering poi balls in the mail and swinging them around the house, which you know just wouldn’t end well for my cat.

The last picture I snapped as we walked away on Sunday, a glowing stage in the black night.

So it was a simple, lovely affair for me this year, this ACL. The first where I didn’t attempt to fight my way to the front of a crowd, the first where I didn’t try to elbow my way into the photo pit. Just floated among the grounds with friends, letting music swell in my ears for a little while, then fading out Sunday with the river of reluctant retreaters, back to our Mondays and jobs and normal bedtimes. Sigh.

Farewell, ACL! Farewell, fellow ACL goers! Farewell, Gary Clark Jr…I’ll see you at the grocery store.