Atop a hill, they surprised me with joy. Four youths of an indeterminate age dancing to the music of the Cure. Not in the repetitive, almost mechanical way of the pit downhill. But free, ecstatic, unformed.
Their mere, unselfconscious actions reminded how much at the ACL Music Festival ends up rote. The same flags. The same jostling. The same bodies. (Now I know who keeps open all those 24-hour gyms.)
And nothing seemed more routine than the response to Robert Smith and the Cure. Half the crowd, bouyed by the change in weather, headed west to hear the mopy act from the 1980s. The melodies and harmonies swelled with memories, many of them bittersweet. Yet the masses seemed unmoved, at least as observed from the periphery.
Just as I headed to the gate half way through the two-hour set, the maenads on the hill, as if escaped from some ancient Dionysia, reminded me, not only of dancing into the morning hours on our front lawn in West Campus in the late ’80s, but also of those peak moments from festivals past and present.
So far, I’ve encountered three fresh acts that were easy to embrace: Wild Cub, Colin Lake and Pacha Massive. Also three acts that sent jolts of frenzy into the ionosphere: Passion Pit, Kazkade and Walk the Moon. And one act that sent me over the moon: ACL vets Blind Boys of Alabama, previously witnessed only in snatches from a distance.
But, oh, if I could bottle the sheer euphoria of those three young women and one brave young man on the hill responding to tunes that were written more than a decade before they were born …