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ACL Fest review: Portugal. The Man

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Erin J. Walter

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013

This just in: Portugal. The Man has secretly installed portals from every college in Texas to the lawn in front of the Lady Bird ACL stage. How else to explain the overwhelming sense that every single teen and twentysomething in a 500-mile radius had appeared all at once to experience the Alaska band’s 4 p.m. set?

OK, perhaps it’s possible to credit the crowd to Portugal’s irresistibly catchy, co-ed indie pop, with its upbeat-yet-emotional lyrics about life and death, purpose and belief. Frontman John Gourley and company perform dynamic new single “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” as a collective mission statement: “All I want to do is / live in ecstasy / I know what’s best for me.”

Portugal. The Man has picked up and run with the hedonistic dance torch that MGMT dropped a couple years ago. The quintet’s appeal was broad today — flags that had been on display in every earlier, smaller crowd now seemed to be bouncing in unison on the Lady Bird lawn — and the far-reaching crowd was eating up the harmonies like Pixie Stix.

Dudes who appeared to be swirling their slender hips inside invisible hoola hoops suddenly went wild for “Modern Jesus,” throwing their arms in the air at the first sound of the synth intro and belting along with their girlfriends to movie-montage moments like, “When the wave approaches / Take our ashes to the ocean / Who cares if hell awaits? / We’re having drinks at heaven’s gate.”

Fans spoke of this being their second or fourth time to see Portugal. The Man, which makes sense considering the tireless touring and album-a-year pace the band has kept up since 2007. They played a mix of songs off the new, Danger Mouse-produced album “Evil Friends” and fan favorites like break-out record “Satanic Satanist” and 2011’s “In the Mountain in the Cloud.”

At the end of the energetic set, seasoned music fans instantly knew the strains of “Another Brick in the Wall.” The choice to cover Pink Floyd’s classic, known for the line “We don’t need no education,” felt especially appropriate in the youthful crowd. The clever cover segued into the last original, after which the band nonchalantly took off their instruments and walked away from their believers — save for one member who said a warm “thank you” and took a photo of the crowd (presumably for the school yearbook).

Gentle kidding aside, it would be a mistake to downplay the success of Portugal’s ACL set. As often is the case in music fandom, the kids are definitely onto something. Portugal. The Man has demonstrated chops, drive, and stage presence to last well past its youth. Don’t be surprised if the band is beaming in fans to watch them headline major festivals by summertime. Get your invisible hoola hoops ready for ACL 2014.