Making Our Way to the Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin City Limits 2016: Dave and I at the Mumford and Sons Concert.

Austin City Limits 2016: Dave and I at the Mumford and Sons Concert

I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. I tossed and turned. Between tossing and turning, I checked my email, Facebook and Instagram.  My alarm went off. It was 3:00 a.m. Full of middle-of-the-night-melancholy, I contemplated leaving the boys for the weekend. It never gets easier. I hit snooze and before my alarm went off again. It was 3:15 a.m. I showered, shaved my legs, dressed, put my make-up on and blow-dried my hair (with a round brush no less). At almost 4:00 a.m, I looked at Dave sleeping peacefully. I felt slightly jealous as I contemplated waking him. It only takes him approximately 1/10 of the time it takes me to get ready. Time, not jealously reminded me what I needed to do. I urged Dave awake and asked him to change the sheets. Weird. I know. See. My mom was going to spend a night while we were away. I needed her to have clean sheets. When I noticed that the quilt was hanging to the floor on one side, I tried to help him. Clumsily, I grabbed the quilt.  Then I thought, “we don’t have time for this.”

With clean sheets now on, I let the bed be. That is when I realized how congested and clogged my left ear was.  In hopes of easing my ear pain for our flight,I vaguely recall taking a large handful of vitamins and some Sudafed. Then I looked around and double checked. As Dave walked the luggage to the car, I woke both boys up and kissed them good-bye.

Sunrise and reflections at the Denver Airport

Sunrise and reflections at the Denver Airport

Dave and I were on our 5:30 a.m. flight. So I could sit next to Dave, I gave a girl my seat and took her middle seat. Then I looked around at all the filled airplane seats and thought,

“All these people woke up in the middle of the night and made it here too. Crazy.”

Dave and I on our SLC - DENVER flight seconds before I threw up.

Dave and I on our SLC – DENVER flight seconds before I threw up.

The airplane doors shut. The airplane engine started and the plane made its way to the runway. I put my hoodie on, zipped it up, and cinched the the hood as I put it on over my head. I plopped my head on Dave’s knee. The plane began to take off. Within seconds, sweat dripped down my neck, around my upper lip and across my forehead. I felt dizzy. In hopes of cooling off, I pulled my hair back in a ponytail. I popped up, looked at Dave and pointed toward the seat pocket in front of me. Dave used his husbandly super powers and knew I needed a barf bag.  As I took my hoodie off and pushed up my sleeves, I convinced myself I would not puke.  It literally took less than 10 seconds for Dave to locate the bag, open it and hand it to me. Once the bag was in my hand, I glanced at the seat-belts-must-be-on sign and knew. I lowered my head and began to heave. I could not stop. Soon, the bag was full. I was oddly impressed that I was actually able to puke in a completely full plane — during take-off no less. I looked up. The seatbelt sign was still on. That is when I noticed the girl next to me was curled around the aisle side armrest. I smiled. She literally moved as far away as she could.  I do not blame her.

Finally a flight attendant walked by offering drinks.

“I need to use the bathroom.” I said.

“You will have to wait.” She insisted.

Then I realized she had no idea that I had just (epically) vomited during take-off. In that moment it also occurred to me that maybe the entire plane had not heard my (most impressive) wrenching. For clarity,  I held my full barf bag up in the air and said,

“What would you like me to do with this?”

I think she jumped a little and told me to use the bathroom at the front of the plane. With the seatbelt sign finally off, I made my way past first class section, when I was immediately scolded for using the wrong bathroom.  

“She told me to come up here.” I urged.

Then I prominently held up the full bag of barf.  I watched the flight attendant’s eyes as he  horror-gasped and motioned me to the bathroom.

I believe he made an audible “ew”  while he dramatically grabbed a tissue. In an instant, the tissue became a hazmat suit or a talisman. With his protective gear in hand, the flight attendant promptly covered each knob and handle.

He must have noticed me watching him, because that is when he firmly stated,

“I don’t want to get sick.”

“Dude, we are on a plane.” I thought.

Then I said (out loud), “I am not sick, sick. I have motion sickness. See, I took vitamins and Sudafed on an empty stomach. My ear is plugged…”

He feigned reassurance, and grabbed another tissue.

That is how our Austin City Limits weekend began…

Dave and I moments after entering the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Day 1, Austin, Texas

Dave and I moments after entering the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Day 1, Austin, Texas

On the next flight I cried when I realized I would not be able to lay my body across the fixed-arm bulkhead seats. Then I feel asleep.

Alive, we arrived in Dallas. Yes. That is what I just said. We arrived in Dallas (not Austin) to meet our friends. They live there.  We hopped in their car and drove I-35 to Austin, stopping at a Race Trac gas station, another random gas station, and a Target Starbucks, which was located next to another Texas megachurch. On route, Dave activated our 3-Day Austin City Limits Festival armbands and Rachael, one of our Dallas hosts, sat with me in the back so we could catch up on years of missed conversation.

I think between all the barfing, crying and road tripping, I convinced myself that once we arrived in Austin I would be able to take a nap, shower and brush my teeth. It was not to be. We arrived at the Hyatt Regency Austin. Thank you, Hyatt points and Diamond Status (from living in a Hyatt hotel way back when). You enabled us to get a great room with an awesome view.  We checked in, made our way to our room. I did brush my teeth, change my clothes and discuss the virtues of wearing my running clothes, including my tall compression socks for a festival venue — (best wardrobe plan ever)!

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Feet at the Corinne Bailey Rae Concert, austin, Texas

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Feet at the Corinne Bailey Rae Concert, Austin, Texas

Corinne Bailey Rae is performing way up at the front. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Corinne Bailey Rae is performing way up at the front. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

LL Cool J Day 2  Austin City Music Festival was AWESOME!

LL Cool J Day 2 Austin City Music Festival was AWESOME!

I put my wristband on just loose enough so I could remove it each night —  #protip. We walked back to the car and drove to the secret parking spot, attended by John, the very kind, white-bearded, hat-wearing dude. We paid him ($30) and walked another mile or so to Zilker Park, the site of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

On our way we walked along policemen protecting the streets and hipster-locals, who were refreshingly nice. As we walked, we crammed the streets with the other concert goers: girls wearing super high cut-offs, people who take festivals way too seriously, and frat boys who don’t. We were inundated with ticket scalpers (men running up and down the street asking to buy our arm bands), vape smokers blowing their flavor-filled vape-y smoke, and hundreds of bike taxis. We walked by a flash tattoo stand selling overpriced gold and silver temporary tattoos. Of course there were people covered in real tattoos too. I looked around and looked some more. I kept looking for what I had imagined Austin would be. I imagined Austin would be a much more tightly packed, urban setting, such as Portland’s Pearl District or Minneapolis’ Uptown. Yes.  Austin is hipster-y cool and urban, yet it felt oddly spread out and suburban (kind of like Salt Lake City).

Dave carrying our REI Flex Lite Chairs through the crowd, ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Dave carrying our REI Flex Lite Chairs through the crowd, ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

We arrived at the festival gates around 4:00 pm. It was dusty, hot and packed. In a blurry daze (because I was tired, not high), we set up our chairs, watched bands, filled our water bottles (you can’t bring liquids in and are searched), and ate festival food (gluten free tamales). I jumped and danced to South Africa’s crazy band, Die Antwoord. We moved to another stage, lost Dave along the way, and found him way in the back. My friend spread out her big red blanket and we  sat down. On the ground I took pictures of people’s feet. Then I stood up to watch. I could not see. My view: a couple making-out through Corinne Bailey Rae’s entire set. The blanket served its purpose, except for the part where I felt like I might get trampled at any moment. As a result of the trampling potential, I highly recommend bringing REI’s very comfortable and easily packable Flex Lite Chair. We packed those chairs in our carry on. Dave packed them in his concert backpack. We set them up and easily took them down all weekend. Our friends liked the REI Flex Lite Chair so much they bought two on our second day. (No, REI is not paying me to say this).

I could not believe I was still standing. Austin City Limits Music Festival Day 1 ended with Radiohead. I was still awake because I had dreamy high hopes of singing my heart out to Radiohead’s classics, such as, “Creep,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” or, “High and Dry.” Dream shattered. Even with the distraction of an obnoxious and drunk concert goer (he was accosting people in the row in front of me), Thom Yorke gave the proverbial middle finger to his fans, opting for ambient and unrecognizable songs. Radiohead’s set literally put me to sleep (*see attached photo). Nap taken. We decided to leave. I loved people-watching our way back to the car.

Me literally asleep during the Radiohead Concert. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Me literally asleep during the Radiohead Concert. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

The following two days brought more excitement, concert smoke and inappropriately dressed people. We also experienced Austin. Austin’s South Congress Street was my favorite. It brought us to Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Yum. I loved the Maple Sweet Potato Mashed Potatoes and all of the hipster souvenir shops. Who doesn’t want to wear a shirt that has the word “baller” written across a Ball Canning Jar  or a print of Mr. Spock playing the harp? Off of Congress, Dave found the best giant-sized, homemade donuts at Gourdough’s (Big Fat Donut Trailer). I must admit I was tempted to throw my celiac to the wind and take a bite.  I held strong. We ended our weekend well, eating at the local favorite, the Magnolia Cafe. Sure, the arctic breeze the air conditioner provided resulted in cold tacos and solid gingerbread pancake butter. Nevertheless, the experience was awesome. We spent our time discussing the impressively bearded man in the corner. Of course the bearded man prompted Dave to Google “beard contests.”  Thank you, Austin.

Hanging Out at Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas

Hanging Out at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas

In the end, my favorite part of our Austin City Limits weekend is seeing the festival’s final act: Mumford and Sons. In truth, Mumford and Sons are the reason I was there. Hey Thom Yorke here is a #protip: play to your audience. Would it kill you to regale us with “Creep?”

Here is how the Mumford and Sons experience played out: It was our last day. I knew our friends wanted to kayak in the river that runs through Austin. They live in Texas and have kayaked before. With time running short, I suggested we see the city. I will say now that kayaking may have been the correct choice. Nevertheless, our friends were game and did their best to show us Austin. We hopped in their car. Within minutes we found ourselves driving up the windy streets of one of Austin’s trendy city neighborhoods. We stopped and got out of the car. In seconds I had white shoe-covering booties covering my feet as we attended a realtor’s open house (true story). We were close to South Congress Street, so we stopped for what I would now call an unproductive souvenir-buying attempt. In the hot Austin sun we walked up and down along shops and trendy cafes. I loved spending a half hour talking to the people at Texas National Outfitters. Their boots are awesome. Moments later, and as we crossed to the other side of the street, we were accompanied by an armless man screaming,

“Hillary Rodham for Clinton.”

Somehow our pace matched ours as he accompanied us screaming for several more blocks. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit he did stop to sing “Hillary Rodham for Clinton” with a band that was playing along the street.  Now at the car, I was hungry and tired of festival food so we opted for Whole Foods. Thank goodness Dave is a team player and enthusiastically proclaimed,

“Hey, this is the birthplace of Whole Foods, let’s go.”

For the first time that weekend, I was actually able to find something I like to eat. I consider that a win. I am certain our friends were not as enthused. As we pulled into the Whole Food’s parking lot my friend declared:

“I do not like going to grocery stores!”

Our friends were good sports. I think they may also see it as a win because the were able to (1.) use a clean bathroom, and (2.) apply some yummy perfume.

Where Dave and I sat firmly planted in the hot sun (for hours). We prevailed and our Mumford-and-Sons view was excellent.

Where Dave and I sat firmly planted in the hot sun (for hours). We prevailed and our Mumford-and-Sons view was excellent.

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Back at the festival we made it past security (twice) because the first person did not like our friend’s (Whole Foods) chocolate bar and was going to confiscate it.  Instead of throwing it out, they went through another line and hid it better. Now inside, we walked and danced our way to the very front left side of the main stage. Mumford and Sons were slated to go on at 8 p.m. It was around 4:30 p.m. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were in the middle of their set when our friends (wisely) disappeared. Dave and I committed to our plan, which was to be as close to the front as possible. We danced. We sang and I listened to the women next to me harmonize (or try too) at the top of her lungs. The Night Sweats played their last song, “SOB,”  and the crowd went crazy. By the end of the song, I was not only dancing and singing, I was jumping and screaming. The band finished. Dave and I made our way as close to the front as possible, the barrier on the left side. It was the fence that separated the commoners from VIP section.  We sat down and spread all four backpacks (yes, our friends’ too).  With our backs against the fence and the hot sun on our face, we waited. At 6:00p.m. we dug our heels in (literally) for the Chris Stapleton performance. Women of all ages pushed, shoved and grabbed at me. Their attempts were no match for my determination. Truth be told, Chris Stapleton is another artist I do not know. His hairy-sexy-beast persona won me over. His performance was awesome. I especially enjoyed his “You are my Sunshine” duet with his wife, Morgane.

Mumford and Sons, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Mumford and Sons, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

By the time Mumford and Sons began (shortly after 8:00 p.m., Dave and I had befriended a group of Louisiana high school girls, who offered to act as a barrier between me and the crowd, two very nice and self-assured college kids, a brother and sister, and the security guards manning the entrance of the VIP section. During the concert the guards passed water to us and we would pass to the crowd.  When they gave us beer, we gave it to the brother and sister. Our Dallas-based friends had come and gone and were sitting off to the side. I will tell you what: Every sweat inducing, hair pulling, full-bladder suffering moment was worth the wait. The music began to play. The crowd began to scream. Then Marcus Mumford began to sing as the audience sang along. Instead of playing obscure ambient noise (I’m still not over it, Radiohead), Mumford and Sons played to their audience. The energy was electric! They played new stuff for a little while, but before they lost us, they got back to songs we knew. They played “Ghosts that we knew,” a song that carried me through me last late miscarriage. I cried while Dave and I sang. We held hands.  We pinched each other. We pinched ourselves. In a flash, all the bad, boring, vomit-y, and uncomfortable moments of the weekend washed away. We were here. I was jumping. Dave was singing and my compression socks were making it easy. Thank you Mumford and Sons, you do a show right.

View from our room on the 15th floor, Hyatt Regency, Austin, Texas

View from our room on the 15th floor, Hyatt Regency, Austin, Texas

And thank you, Austin, Texas, and your City Limits. We really enjoyed our weekend with you.