Foals: The U2 of indie rock run wild at ACL Fest

Foals sound like what I assume U2 sounds like to people who actually like U2: jumbo-sized rock music that makes the masses move. (I’d actually be pretty happpy to wake and find Total Life Forever in my phone’s music library.)

Yannis Philppakis of Foals performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Friday September 30, 2016.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Yannis Philppakis of Foals performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Friday September 30, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

At 4 p.m. Friday, Foals kicked their set off with “ohh ohh” anthem “Snake Oil,” with its muscular, jet-take-off guitar and banging backbone of bass. It’s a massive track, like most of theirs, big enough to fill a stadium, or, in this case, the eastern end of Zilker Park.

Singer Yannis Philippakis started the set with his eyes shielded by infinitely black shades, swapping between a pair of battered, battle-damaged electric guitars with each new song. A few songs in during a mid-song jam, he took a casual stroll through the crowd, before, in one of those classic all-time top rock star moves, he walked back to stage right on key to return to his vocal duties, continuing to unleash soaring, eyes-closed, full-throated screams like he never left.

The band was at their most playful for “My Number,” with its big, bad disco bass, sharp shots of snare and glimmering, gutting math-rock guitar. A slight slow-song lull mid-set was capped off with the burning build of the lovely “Spanish Sahara” before the band closed with “What Went Down.”

The amped-up energy served as an appropriate warm-up to the evening’s main event, Radiohead. (Following, of course, the incomparable Flying Lotus.) No surprises, while the crowd was receptive and responsive–and plenty were clearly there just for Foals–some fans were continuing a day-long campout for Friday headliner Radiohead.

“Radiohead is my favorite band, so it’s worth it to wait here nine hours,” said José Miguel at the rail nearest the stage. Miguel traveled from Lima, Peru, for this, his second ACL Fest. With the Peruvian flag hanging in front of him at the stage, he was still going strong during Foals set after seven hours standing front and center, and while Radiohead was the main draw, he was loving the Samsung Stage’s lineup.


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