September 24, 2008
This weekend will be an epic smackdown: burnt orange vs. Birkenstocks. 100,000 football fans vs. 60,000 music fans – some of them might even be from Arkansas, but don’t assume they are just because they’re standing barefoot in front of the Drive-by Truckers stage making hog noises. Trying to clear the sinuses of a day’s worth of Zilker Park dust and ragweed pollen can make anyone sound like a 1,200 pound Berkshire, even if it’s just a 90 pound emo kid. If it rains, there’s a good chance the Foo Fighters mosh pit will greatly resemble a hog wallow as well, but just because people are half-naked and covered in mud doesn’t necessarily mean they’re from Arkansas. It’s a pretty good sign, yes, but it’s not a lock. Think about Woodstock and Bonnaroo and Kerrville. Those people were dirty and smelly, but they couldn’t have all been from Arkansas. Sometimes outdoor music festival fans just look like they’re from Arkansas. For instance, those really cute, sexy shorts you normally only wear with open-toed sandals? Can’t do that at ACL. You could rock that combo at, say, the Longhorn game, even though it’s not necessarily wise considering you’ll be dragging them through the garbage slough underneath the bleachers while trying to get to your seat, but there’s at least a chance you might make it home without coating your piggies in Skoal spit, popcorn husks, and nacho cheese. At the Austin City Limits Music Festival, however, wearing open-toed shoes is sheer fucking lunacy. Unless you’re superhuman, at some point you’re going to have to expose your bare dogs to a porta-potty floor – or worse yet, negotiate the sewage swamp that leads to it. Maybe you can get right with that, but traditionally only the dirtiest of dirty hippies (not to be confused with people from Arkansas) can walk that walk. Going open-toed at ACL takes a mind either brave or simple enough not to be troubled by things like E. coli, hookworm, tetanus, impetigo, or the condemnation of more fastidious friends. Fortunately, for most people, pragmatism takes hold and those cute, sexy shorts get paired with something really dorky like hiking boots, track shoes, or Crocs, which technically are open-toed but have the advantage of holding up well to a pressure washer. Even still, if you wear Crocs to ACL on Saturday, you can rest assured that by the time Robert Plant and Alison Krauss break into a rousing, hillbilly banjo pickin’ version of “Black Dog,” the song title will be a reasonably accurate description of either of your feet. Later, if you should have the audacity to ask your date for a post-festival foot rub, be prepared to have your feet splattered with the regurgitated remains of a fried-avocado wrap. Fortunately at ACL, most people keep their eyes turned upward. What’s happening onstage is usually more exciting and less nauseating than what’s going on down at foot level. This year, the ACL lineup is particularly spectacular, so there shouldn’t be much shoe-gazing going on. Get your pass while you can, or you may end up with all those shoeless Razorbacks at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.