Flags are as much a part of ACL Fest as sunburns and scheduling conflicts. (Neko Case, Atoms for Peace and Phoenix all overlapping? Come on!) I chatted with a few flag flyers this afternoon about their banners and what they thought of this year’s festival.
Todd Lee and his wife Alex Bolton have history with the festival. They’ve been coming every year since the first Austin City Limits Fest back in 2002. They even got engaged during Arcade Fire’s set in 2011. For the past three years, they’ve been bringing along Peggy Flamingo, whose name is a nod to U.S. figure skater Peggy Fleming. Rather than a flag, Peggy is a neon-pink flamingo hat atop a telescoping pole seated in a fishing pole holder staked into the ground by their blanket. (Even their blanket has a bit of a history with the fest: It’s a Goodwill purchase that has made it out to ACL Fest every year with them.)
As for Peggy, Lee said, "People are drawn to it. It brings to mind front yard flamingos — keeping Austin weird."L
Peggy Flamingo was designed specifically to be unobtrusive to those behind her. "It’s annoying when you see people with flags in the front blocking everyone’s view," Lee said. "If you’re going down front, put up your flag or get a taller pole."
Best show this weekend? Passion Pit
Coming next weekend? "We’re old, man, and it’s the same acts… The lineup is a little down this year. I think the two weekend thing has affected the quality," he said. "[C3 is limiting themselves] by only having bands that have 10 open days." Lee said he’d like to see ACL Fest schedule two weekends of different acts, like Jazz Fest. "It’s just not fan friendly."
Game of Thrones
James Barrett was seated not far from the Bud Light Stage, where he’d been camping all day with a custom-made Game of Thrones flag: A black silhouette of a direwolf — the sigil of House Stark — inscribed with the words "Winter Is Coming." He brought the same flag last year. This is his sixth ACL Fest.
"I don’t really move around. I just post up at the stage I like the most," he said. As for his flag, Barrett said he was skeptical at first: "I used to think people were tools for bringing flags, but now I’ve seen how useful it is."
Best show this weekend? Kendrick Lamar
Worst show this weekend? Paper Diamond
Coming next weekend? Maybe. "I have tickets, but I’m trying to get rid of them. Tickets are normally gold, but they killed the market this year," Barrett said. "I tried to sell one to a scalper, and he offered me $30."
Chris Iammarino stands out in a crowd. Shirtless, he has the letters "ACL" shaved in his chest hair. Iammarino is in town from Houston for his third fest, and he’s brought a different flag each year — flags made by an artist friend who bases her design off one of the acts from that year’s lineup. This weekend he has a Depeche Mode-inspired flag attached to a tent pole. "It always takes a little effort," he said, "But, this is like Christmas to me. This is like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Halloween combined."
Best show this weekend? Portugal. The Man
Coming next weekend? No. "One weekend a year is all I can handle."
Chris Williams has been to seven ACL Fests but this was his first year to bring a flag. "So people can find me — I’m the guy with Leonardo," Williams said as he made the stuffed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll dance on the towering telescopic pole it was attached to.
Best show this weekend? Kings of Leon and Kaskade
Worst show this weekend? "Kendrick Lamar — he didn’t rap enough. He relied on the crowd too much, and we didn’t know all the words."
Coming next weekend? Nope. He’s planning on watching the Texas-OU game on TV.
Cintia Morales brought a bundle of six Elmo balloons, though she currently has five. "I gave one to a friend going to another show so it would be easier for us to meet up," she said. This is ACL number three for Morales but her first time bringing a banner. She said it helps her and her show-hopping friends spot each other. "We stay like 30 minutes at one stage and then hop to another," Morales said. "We just brought balloons yesterday, but they kept blowing in the wind and hitting everybody. So, today we attached them to a pole."
Best show this weekend? Vampire Weekend and fun.
Worst show this weekend? "I’m probably going to leave early tonight. I’m not really in to the two headliners [Atoms for Peace and Lionel Richie], and I have to work tomorrow."
Coming next weekend? "No, there’s not really a point. I’m going to rent some paddle boards and listen to the music from the lake."
Siblings Lindsay, Lauren and Wyatt Gardner brought a light-up umbrella crafted to look like a jellyfish. They call him "George Jelly" and his back reads, "R U Jelly?" The Gardners said the jolly jellyfish is perfect when trying to keep 20 people together.
Best show this weekend? Kendrick Lamar
Coming next weekend? "No, I live here, but [my siblings] are just in town for the weekend," Lindsay said.