My Taste of ACL: ACL Fest Nights with Yves Tumor and Rina Sawayama

todayOctober 29, 2023 44 4 5

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Adrianna Elias 

Music Journalist

So, picture this: a broke college student from West Texas, hoping for a miracle invitation to the coolest event in Austin—Austin City Limits (ACL). I would daydream about a conversation going down like this: “Hey, Adrianna, it’s so good to see you! You’re incredible and so cool. Wanna go to ACL for free?” Cue the celestial glow as a super-hipster clearly made for an Austin, Texas, festival wristband magically appears on my arm.

But reality hits when you have $60 to your name and a burning desire to witness Kendrick Lamar hitting the stage in your city. My lofty dreams had to take a back seat. So, I hopped in the car with my equally FOMO-infected partner, and we drove over to the Scoot Inn for a date with Yves Tumor.

Yves Tumor, along with Izzy Spears, took the stage at the Scoot Inn on Oct. 7. I even spotted some familiar faces from KTSW at the show, which was cool since we got to swap stories about the gig afterward. Yves Tumor’s performance was an otherworldly blend of dreamy shoegaze and, at times, a gothic groove. Yves himself exuded the aura of a genuine rock star, decked out in leather and grooving to the music with every word like a dancing fire. Izzy Spears was exactly who you might expect to open for Yves—I had not heard of him before, but he instantly won me over with his punk attitude and unapologetic stage presence.

Stage lit up red with man performing
Izzy Spears opening for Yves. | Adrianna Elias

The show went smoothly until it got rowdy and had to be cut short because Yves would not leave the stage. The crowd was relatively tame filled with fans stacked against the barricade and tech guys from a startup that didn’t know who Yves was until a kid, no older than 15, decided to join the party on stage. He was running around, with security (slowly mind you) trying to reel him in, but they were unsuccessful. Yves had had enough and yelled, “Hey, stop the music!” The kid ran off stage, but Tumor wanted to make a point. He sent the teenager back up there with the memorable words, “Be the star that you think you are,” and had the whole crowd chant “Bring him back” for the rest of the night. It was a wild scene, and it was easy to spot the true Yves fans from those who were not so thrilled with his treatment of the kid. 

The crowd at Rina Sawayama’s show
The crowd at Rina’s show. | Celine Vasquez

Concert etiquette, or lack thereof, seems to be a hot topic of conversation post-pandemic. People throwing things on stage or jumping on stage while artists perform is unacceptable and dangerous. You can’t treat entertainers like animals or objects, which is what seems to be happening now. Yves, however, was in no rush to get off the stage, and the concert ran past time. Eventually, the sound team for the venue left their post, and Yves’s mic was cut – that was the abrupt end to the show. Despite all the chaos, I had a blast and as I always say, watching an artist perform live changes how you consume their music later. I developed a newfound appreciation for Yves that night, and their music felt even more punk when experienced in person.

Two people performing on stage.
Yves and their guitarist performing. | Adrianna Elias

Later that night, I had the unbelievable chance to meet Izzy Spears and Yves Tumor. Izzy was just as energetic and engaging as you would expect. He took pictures with fans and even pulled a lucky one aside for some social media-worthy flicks. Yves eventually materialized from behind the wooden doors backstage and among the flashing camera phones managed to keep the crowd at bay. I did not get a picture, but I did say hey and I was completely starstruck that he was right there. He was doing what any rockstar might and autographing the merchandise fans had picked up. Meeting artists at smaller venues with my partner seems to be a recurring theme, and I did not want to push my luck by doing too much. It was insane.

Fast forward to Rina Sawayama’s performance at Stubb’s on Oct. 11. I managed to snag a cowboy hat at this show, and what’s cool is that Rina wore one just like it later on. She is from New Zealand and jokingly said, “It’s giving Texas,” as part of a western-themed skit where she pretended the show was over and critiqued her own concert—and here I am, writing about that moment now.

Three women on stage performing
Rina and her backup dancers. | Celine Vasquez

I missed Disko Cowboy’s set because, to tell the truth, I’m chronically late to most events in my life. I arrived in time for Empress Of, who made perfect sense as the opener for Rina. She reminded me of Charlie XCX with her outfit and performance, exuding a super-positive and empowering presence, a hype opener and the perfect performance to walk into.

When Rina finally took the stage, it was pure theatrical magic. You could tell she’d planned every detail meticulously, treating the show as her artistic masterpiece and she was taking the performance seriously.

She opened with more serious and somber songs like “Hold the Girl,” then had an outfit change into a black tank and hit us with “STFU!” remixed with “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit. Later performing a cover of the legendary “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. This was amazing, watching the crowd divide from people who love “XS” and “Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)” vs. those who love songs like “Frankenstein.” The song is on Spotify if you want to hear the track, but experiencing this song live was another experience.

Woman performing on stage
Rina hitting the cleanest high note performing STFU! | Celine Vasquez

Her backup dancers helped tell the story that Rina was trying to tell, adding to the very queer experience that was her final song “This Hell.” Where she wore a red get-up with a red cowboy hat like mine and danced with a whip. (My partner recorded this whole performance funny enough.) 

“This Hell” serves as the frontliner for “Hold the Girl,” a cheeky pop track that, as Rina put it on Twitter, “celebrates community and love in a time when the world feels like a bit of a mess.”

The buzz around the single began in May 2022, during the final leg of The Dynasty Tour. Pamphlets were sent out to journalists with the charming message: “RINA IS GOING TO HELL / AN INVITATION TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.” Rina even got the audience chanting “Got my invitation to eternal damnation” and “Get in line, pass the wine, we’re going straight to hell” during her performances.

Sure, artists venturing into country music from other genres isn’t groundbreaking, but Rina Sawayama adds her unique flair to the songs, proving she’s all about having a good time – and maybe stirring up some change along the way. She kicks off the song with a nod to Shania Twain with the iconic line, “Let’s go, girls!” from “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” You can even catch a hint of Shania’s country-pop influence in the first few seconds of the track before the song takes a glam-rock turn. The song playing as the concert ended and we walked out of the venue. 

Just like Shania’s phrase in the song’s context, “This Hell” might be seen as an open invitation to explore LGBTQ+ and feminist themes, pop culture references, and subtle innuendos sprinkled throughout the song. Rina uses the track to critique evangelists who often tote around homophobic signs. As a proud member of the LGBT community, she’s been vocal about sexuality and homophobia, most notably on her SAWAYAMA track “Chosen Family.” To promote the song, Rina had posters plastered on UK streets proclaiming, “RINA IS GOING TO HELL,” a direct reference to the song’s lyrics. It’s worth noting that many religious communities continue to preach that same-sex love is a sin, dooming participants to hell (although not all.) And when Rina mentions “you” in the song, she’s referring to her “Chosen Family,” to whom she’s dedicated a whole song on her debut album, SAWAYAMA. A solid track to end the night for a crowd of her community. 

What struck me was how different the audiences were for Yves and Rina. Yves attracted a crowd of alt-punk, leather-clad, queer and gender-questioning young adults at the Scoot Inn, while Rina’s gig at Stubb’s drew fans of girly-pop, brightly dressed Ariana Grande enthusiasts, and indie lesbians. Live music truly has a way of leaving a lasting impact, and these nights were no exception.

Written by: Danielle De Lucia

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