Foo Fighters fans, flags and flashtats were widespread on the first night of ACL Fest as Dave Grohl and his merry band of thrashers headlined the Samsung Galaxy Stage, a job that almost demands a group that can deliver a giant wall of noise. Mission accomplished.
A mass migration from Gary Clark Jr.’s set at the neighboring HomeAway Stage resulted in the Foos’ audience stretching a long way back, far enough that even the video feed on the jumbo screens flanking the stage seemed small. So it helped that Grohl’s calling card is a loud and proud parade of both guitars and vocals, neither of which were affected by the small matter that he still can’t walk after breaking his leg on tour earlier this year.
The much-talked about Foo Throne flashed with red and white lights, providing Grohl a nice vantage point from which to conduct proceedings at center stage. Opening with a blitzkrieg of crowd favorites “Everlong,” “Monkey Wrench” and “Learn to Fly” — the last of which also was featured in a before-noon set by the grade-school Barton Hills Choir — the band pulled a few surprises as the set progressed.
An acoustic delivery of “Big Me” from the first Foo Fighters record was a nice touch, though it didn’t carry well to those in the far reaches of the huge crowd. Grohl’s extended introduction of guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and keyboardist Rami Jaffe led to some extended hijinks, including a couple minutes of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”. (Later in the set, Hawkins took a vocal lead on a majestic bash at Pink Floyd’s “In The Flesh?”)
One moment that surprised none, but delighted all, was Gary Clark Jr.’s cameo on “What Did I Do/God As My Witness,” reprising his role on the song from last year’s “Sonic Highways” album and the “Austin City Limits” TV taping that accompanied it.
That everyone knew it was coming didn’t make it any less fun, though it did beg the question of whether other Austin pals from Grohl’s punk rock past might also emerge. There were no stage sightings of Big Boys or Scratch Acid members — but hey, there’s always weekend two, right?