1 – A huge crowd showed up. With a pair of headliners representing rap and EDM, Saturday’s ACL lineup is arguably the biggest departure from the fest’s rootsy origins to date. But thousands turned out for Simpson’s 4 p.m. set proving there’s still plenty of room for meta modern country music at the fest.
2 – Few words were spoken. This is the man who sings “sex is cheap and talk is overrated” so we probably shouldn’t be surprised that he didn’t offer much in the way of stage banter, but the lack of interaction was striking. “Where the (expletive) you at Austin!” He yelled at the beginning of the set. The crowd cheered wildly. Then he didn’t speak again for 30 minutes. It’s fine to let the music speak for itself but a little engagement would have pulled the crowd in more. Case in point: a singalong on “Long White Line” fell flat probably because the audience missed their cue (because there was no cue).
3 – Interesting sonic choices were made. Simpson is known for his rich, deep voice, so classic country it almost crackles with vinyl pops, but his musical take is often quite progressive. The theremin flourish at the beginning of his cover of the Stanley Brothers “Medicine Springs” deserves an award for best use of psychedelia in a honky took tear jerker and his glorious remake of “The Promise” might be the best cover of the fest. Beyond that his band was rock solid and offered great variations in style and tempo.
4 – Best C3 staff/fan interaction. “Cheese me!” a dude in the audience called to a C3 staffer by the Honda stage soundboard. She tossed him one of the Cheez-Its she was eating and he caught it in his mouth. Another C3 staffer tossed him his own snack pack as a reward.
5 – No one two stepped. OK, a few people two stepped, but the lack of country dancing going down while Simpson laid down perfect dancehall grooves was alarming. I walked the entire perimeter of a crowd of thousands and saw a total of maybe four couples getting their swing on. I am very disappointed in you, Texas.