FESTIVAL RECAP: ACL Friday (Night Lights & Sounds)
Austin City Limits kicked off this year with a bang, and while it’s impossible to see everyone you’d like and tough choices must be made, we at LIVE MUSIC BLOG NOLA did our best to keep up as the day wore on. It’s a marathon after all, not a sprint… Enjoy.
The Wombats: Friday, Oct. 12th – 11:45am – 12:30pm @ Honda Stage
I can’t think of a better way to start your day than some light-hearted ear candy, a few laughs, and a little dancing in the great outdoors, and that’s exactly what Liverpool indie pop trio The Wombats delivered early Friday afternoon. Though it slightly rocky-going at first with a false start on opener “Our Perfect Disease”, Matthew Murphy was quick to laugh it off. “Great times at Austin City Limits. Everything breaks. We are The Wombats and we do this professionally. Traveling around the country fucking up…” Still, all it took was a spontaneous sing-a-long during “Kill the Director” (“This is no Bridget Jones…”) and energetic personal favorite “Girls/Fast Cars” to have the large crowd eating outta the palm of their hand. And why not with plenty of solid material and amusing banter to go around? “We’re from a place called Liverpool. Apparently there was another from Liverpool, but I don’t think they did very well.” Poking fun at the Beatles, jolly good.
Our Perfect Disease; Kill the Director; Girls/Fast Cars; Techno Fan; Moving to New York; 1996; Jump Into the Fog; Tokyo (Vampires and Werewolves); Let’s Dance to Joy Division.
Los Campesinos!: Friday, Oct. 12th – 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Bud Light Stage
If you followed me at all prior to the last weekend, you know I put a lot of stock in the talented and multifaceted Welsh band of “country peasants” called Los Campesinos! And if you are the least bit interested, let me tell you, they did not disappoint. It can be hard being the first band to play the main stage on a festival Friday. Odds are you might be looking out from up there over a range of empty space, but no so today thank goodness. The audience that afternoon was earnest and enthusiastic, punctuating the rare silent moments with heartfelt cheers and shouts of affection. This sentiment was not lost on the Campesinos! as vocalist Gareth Campesinos! responded in kind, “It’s always a pleasure to be in Austin. And I know I’m paid to say that, but there are really shitty places to play in the States but this is not one of them.” (He also had some cheeky remarks concerning stage sponsor Budweiser, but since I like being allowed into ACL, I don’t think I want to touch those…) Highlight of the set for me had to be the playing of their two most recent album’s title-tracks “Romance Is Boring” and “Hello Sadness” back to back – wow – as well as resonant new song “Baby I Got the Death Rattle”. Finally, echoing my exact sentiment, Gareth left us with these words, “Sorry we’re ending a few minutes early, but First Aid Kit is playing next over at Honda so we’re gonna go over there and suggest you do too.”
By Your Hand; Death to Los Campesinos!; Romance Is Boring; Hello Sadness; Letters from Me to Charlotte; We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed; Songs About Your Girlfriend; The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future; Straight in at 101; You! Me! Dancing!; Baby I Got the Death Rattle; Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks.
First Aid Kit: Friday, Oct. 12th – 1:15pm – 2:15pm @ Honda Stage
If you haven’t heard of fairy-esque sister folk duo First Aid Kit from Sweden then start listening to The Lion’s Roar right now; I’ll wait. Truthfully, they were a basket of folksy fun and surely a highlight of the afternoon. I mean, it was, simply put, a fantastic set (see below) brimming over from dedication and vigor and fertile with vocal richness and gentle reserve. For instance, “This next song [“Our Own Pretty Ways”] goes out to freedom of speech and Pussy Riot.” They also performed a beautifully thoughtful version of their favorite Simon and Garfunkel song “America”, having recently performed it for Paul Simon in person when he received the Polar Music Award in Sweden just over a month ago. Popular single “Emmylou” was dedicated appropriately to “the Gram Parsons Foundation and Polly Parsons”, and when asked “just sing little darling, sing with me”, that’s exactly what we did as the enthralled crowd sung their words back to them in hushed voices. Looking at my last note from the set I have simply “Damn! Lush!”; I think that about covers it…
In the Morning; Blue; Hard Believer; Our Own Pretty Ways; America (Simon and Garfunkel); To a Poet; Wolf; When I Grow Up (Fever Ray; dedicated to her); Emmylou; I Met Up With the King; The Lion’s Roar; Sailor Song; King of the World.
Delta Spirit: Friday, Oct. 12th – 2:15pm – 3:15pm @ AMD Stage
Only saw the first couple of songs from the rhythmic powerhouse that is Southern Cali. band Delta Spirit. (Really like that name. Wonder why?) Nonetheless, the huge crowd seemed to be having a hell of a good time, spurred on by set opener “People C’mon”. I mean just try not to be; c’mon, I dare ya. In fact, vocalist-frontman Matthew Vasquez got a bit too excited jumping around during next song “White Table” and fell down backwards on stage. “I ate shit,” he explained, laughing into the mic.
People C’mon; White Table: Idaho; Empty House; Parade; Otherside; Bushwick Blues; Trashcan; Tear It Up; California; Children; People, Turn Around
LP: Friday, Oct. 12th – 2:30pm – 3:15pm @ Austin Ventures Stage
I was really just wandering around near the Austin Ventures stage, taking in the mid-afternoon sights and sounds, when was stopped in my tracks by the band playing there – the most pleasurable surprise of the day. Had to check my schedule to discover it was LP, the stage-persona of the intriguingly enigmatic Laura Pergolizzi, who was definitely channeling some Bob Dylan circa ’66 in the looks department. (Look out Cate Blanchett). However, she certainly has a distinctly resounding voice all her own, full of some secret intoxicant. I still wonder a body that small in stature could produce such a prodigiously pleasing roar. Unsure? Listen to “Wasted Love” and call me in the morning.
Esperanza Spalding: Friday, Oct. 12th – 3:30pm – 4:30 pm @ Barton Springs Stage
I was very happy to make it to Barton Springs in time for Esperanza Spalding and the Radio Music Society, having missed her at Jazz Fest this past spring. I have not heard anyone sing scat jazz in a very, very long time and certainly not with her tender sincerity. Yet, having taken a History of Jazz class in college, I know for a fact I lack the requisite background to accurately report the extents of her talent or the immense challenge that lies ahead of her in the world of today’s popular music. Truly, while I honestly enjoyed watching her perform live, I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would download her music to recreate the setlist and then listen to it in my car. This reaction is nothing new to her as she has been quoted as saying, “They don’t let people like us on the radio these days.” Never mind that though. All she needs to do is keep on doing what she’s doing, and people will take notice, flocking to her again and again, just as they did here today.
Alabama Shakes: Friday, Oct. 12th – 5:30 – 6:30pm @ Barton Springs Stage
If you read music blogs (which, duh, you do…), then I don’t need to tell you a lot about darlings of the indie Blogasphere Alabama Shakes. They have seen a meteoric rise in popularity and media attention since the release of their debut LP Boys & Girls, and they are certainly deserving of all the hype surrounding them. This is particularly true of vocalist Brittany Howard, who has drawn very favorable comparisons to fallen queen of the Kozmic Blues Janis Joplin. And I would be incredibly remiss to say that having the brass section from Antibalas sit in for the last three songs of an already robust performance was a delightfully welcome surprise. Still, having said this, I do wonder if such an intense spotlight poses any danger of over-exposure for the Shakes, especially given a jam-packed schedule of festival appearances. This was my fourth time to see them in quick succession (previously Hangout, Bonnaroo, and pre-ACL at Stubb’s Outdoor), and while each show was enjoyable and energetic, their on-stage repertoire does not leave them a lot of wiggle room for deviation in the set. Indeed, it actually creates expectations which carry some risk of misplaced disappointment, as could be said to have occurred Friday evening when crowd-favorite “Hang On” was left off the setlist. I have never seen an audience stay at a festival stage so long after a show – until the amps were unplugged and rolled away – calling for an encore that would include a soulful cry of “Come on Brittany, You got to come on up!” These concerns are by no means unique to the Alabama Shakes and can/do apply to others (say, Foster the People), but they do bear consideration. I for one can’t wait to see what this talented clan from Athens, Alabama comes up with next because, baby, that well runs deep.
Hang Loose; Always Alright; I Found You; Heartbreaker; Boys & Girls; Be Mine; Mama; Making Me Itch; On Your Way; I Still Ain’t Got What I Want; You Ain’t Alone; Rise to the Sun*; I Ain’t the Same*; Heavy Chevy*.
[*brass accompaniment by Antibalas]
M83: Friday, Oct. 12th – 7:30 – 8:30pm @ Barton Springs Stage
M83 was the best show of the day in my book, a perfect space storm of intergalactic lights and celestial sounds. I certainly didn’t hurt that the sun had gone down and the temperature had dropped noticeably, but that is besides the point. And the point is that Anthony Gonzalez, Yann Gonzalez, Morgan Kibby, and drummer Loïc Maurin are brilliant together. It is a rare fete when a band is able to breathe vibrant life into studio albums as meticulously and painstakingly crafted as the work of genius music mixologist Anthony Gonzalez. For me nothing can touch the otherworldly bliss I humbly received hearing “We Own the Sky” and “Steve McQueen” played together in hypersonic succession. However, the crowd spontaneously combusted like rocket fuel during “Midnight City” when sax man Ian Young literally exploded from behind the stage for his laser-beam-inducing solo, jumping us all into warp overdrive, and then disappearing again just as suddenly. Can’t think of a better place to go to a syn-symphonic Mass than in Zilker after dark with the fluorescent night-lights of a downtown Austin cityscape at your sweaty back. Ian wasn’t done for the night though and made another electric leap out in time to add his brazen voice to the “Outro” towards the end. God, what a feast for the ears and eyes; I wished it never end! Tonight, we own the sky, the city is my church and music its deity…
Intro; Teen Angst; Sitting; We Own the Sky; Steve McQueen; Midnight City; A Guitar and a Heart; Outro; Couleurs
Black Keys: Friday, Oct. 12th – 8:30 – 10:00pm @ Bud Light Stage
Since I was just leaving Barton Springs stage, I hung back in the enormous crowd at Bud Light and waited for the Black Keys to start. They’re opener of “Howlin’ for You” was met with waves of thunderous applause, but when they started “Next Girl”, I felt like I needed to move on to stranger pastures and try something different. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Black Keys fan, and I’m lucky enough to be nearing double digits in show count. However, despite the strength of Brothers and El Camino, my heart still rests in a pile of Thickfreakness at the Rubber Factory, and those days have largely gone by the wayside. It’s the hard part of growing up I guess. You’re proud of the progress and forward strides made, but at the same time, it’d be nice if things didn’t have to change. Still, Dan and Patrick will always have a special place in my youthful discovery of real music and really, no one deserves their level of success more than those two. A truly great Friday night set…
Setlist (because y’all deserve it):
Howlin’ for You; Next Girl; Run Right Back; Same Old Thing; Dead and Gone; Gold on the Ceiling; Thickfreakness; Girl Is on My Mind; Your Touch; Little Black Submarines; Money Maker; Strange Times; Ten Cent Pistol; Nova Baby; Everlasting Light; She’s Long Gone; Tighten Up; Lonely Boy; I Got Mine.
Avicii: Friday, Oct. 12th – 8:15 – 9:30pm @ AMD Stage
As I made my way from the back of Zilker Park toward the AMD stage, you could almost smell “the weird” on the late evening wind. And let me assure you, I found the source of it easily enough. And to be sure, electronic dance music is present in every major festival line-up these days. I’m no stranger to it myself at ACLs past; however, none of my past experiences have seen EDM anchoring a main stage to close out a night here. Hence, Avicii playing at AMD, opposite the Black Keys no less, was fairly novel for me. Plus, I don’t really know any of his stuff besides the inescapable track “Levels/LE7ELS”. All in all, I’d have to say it was a fun ride, if not a bit awkward at times. For instance, at one time I found myself behind a rowdy group of fifteen? year old girls and in front of a father in his forties? spinning his six? year old son around in circles like an airplane about to crash onto a bizarre desert island. That was new. Moreover, Tim Bergling – human counterpart of the metaphysical Avicii – was conducting the evening’s carnival of light and sounds from atop a giant white marionette face that could have been out of Phantom of the Opera or the like. Quite the spectacle to be certain. That being said, I’ll level with you like this: The only “musical” effort that stood out to me of the show was a mediocre remix of Daft Punk’s “Around the World”. So Avicii – maybe be more careful when you attach yourself to the legacy of EDM’s robot godfathers, or don’t be surprised to wake up one day on an oil slick with a cyborg horse head in your lap, okay?
*LATE NIGHT – Anthony Gonzalez DJ Set @ Malverde (400 W. 2nd St.):
Though it was fairly under-the-radar, took over an hour to get in the door, and didn’t start until after 1:00am, Friday night was capped off with an incredibly fun (and free) DJ set orchestrated by M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez. What more can I really say? It was excellent but merely a DJ set nonetheless. By the end of the night, when Gonzalez was whisked away, there were definitely less than fifty of us in the room, so it was a pretty intimate affair. He played a stimulating remix of new – Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”, old – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and a little bit of M83 – “Midnight City”, duh. He’s definitely a quiet and reserved kind of guy, so he never screamed at us over the microphone, never said anything to the room-at-large actually. However, during the set and briefly afterwards, he made the time and effort to shake hands, take a picture, or have a short word with his lingering late-night admirers, even me, haha. Great day. Great night. A happy ending for everyone; no, not that kind of happy ending, perv…
Interested in what went down on soggy Saturday? Check it out HERE.
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