Saturday, October 13, 2012

ACL 2012 Day 1 Wrap-Up

I had to work the morning of the first day of ACL Fest so I had to miss First Aid Kit as well as the War on Drugs but that doesn't mean I didn't get to see lots of great music. The first band I caught a full-set from was The Afghan Whigs. They are a band that I was aware of but who I had I never really listened to. Mr. S. has been a really big fan for years so we were sure to catch them. At times, lead-singer, Greg Dulli sounded a bit like Dave Grohl. Their songs were R&B through an early 90's college-rock filter. Clever lyrics, hooky riffs and propulsive bass-lines. With an abbreviated festival set, The Afghan Whigs used every minute they had available. There was little-to-no stage banter and as soon as one song would finish the next would start. Many people in the crowd were singing along and it made for a great opening set for our festival.

Alabama Shakes - Rise to the Sun video via YouTube

After The Afghan Whigs we made a long, arduous journey across the park to catch the Alabama Shakes. They have a lot of buzz in the Adult Contemporary music world and I wanted to see what all of the hype was about. Getting from the west side of the park to the east side was incredibly difficult. The placement of the stages makes for a complete lack of clear traffic pattern. People are moving to and fro every single direction with varying rates of speed, urgency and focus. We did manage to get into a good position to see Alabama Shakes and they sounded good. I didn't fall head-over-heels in love with them simply because there is so much hype about them. My walkaway critique is that they were no better or worse than any band I've ever seen at the Saxon Pub. It just brings up my standard wondering of why X band and not Y band. Why are Alabama Shakes the next big thing and not LZ Love?

After the madness of trying to move from one stage to another we decided to just get a good spot near the soundboard for M83, which means we listend to Florence + the Machine from an adjacent stage. We could see Flo on the screens and we could hear the band quite well. She has a lot of energy and the crowd really loved it. Her voice was spot-on, my only critique has to do with experiencing it from a far. With the persistant tribal drumming in most of her songs, they all sort of sounded like Revolution after awhile. It became a joke between Mr. S. and I, Flo would start a new song and one of us would sing the chorus of Revolution over it. Most of the time it fit perfectly.

We ended our day 1 with a stellar set from M83. It was my third time seeing them on this tour and fourth time seeing them total. As far as I'm concerned it was the best set of the day and possibly of the festival weekend. I am not privy to the goings on of booking shows and/or festivals but I do not understand how AVICII got a better stage and time-slot than M83. That is neither here nor there, I can tell you that the crowd for M83 was very attentive and involved in the show. The lights were fantastic and after the first couple of songs, which were too quiet the sound was great. The band sounded majestic, powerful, confident and generally superb. I honestly feel bad for anyone who missed out on their set.

We didn't stay for the headliners Friday night, opting to beat the crowds and get home early. I will add, I find it an odd choice that after M83, The Black Keys were on the adjacent west-side stage while AVICII were on the opposite side of the park. It seems like it would have made more sense to put the two electronic acts back to back on the same side of the park? Like I said though, I really don't know how the planning of an event this size really works.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

ACL Festival Preview: Conflicts

Music festivals are a great way to see a lot of bands without a lot of effort. If you're a casual music fan you can just wander from stage to stage stopping when you hear something you like. If you're a serious music connoisseur, you'll want to have a more curated experience, moving from stage to stage like a person on a mission trying your darnedest to catch every band worth seeing. That is where this post comes in. I'm not trying to tell you who to see when or curate your experience for you, I'm just highlighting the points during ACL Festival when it will be most difficult to choose. With the festival happening two weekends in a row in 2013 some of these conflicts will be resolved for people attending both weekends. Catch one act one week and the other act the next week.

Like any music festival there are going to be times when there are two or more bands you'd like to see who are performing at the same time. I can tell you from experience that catching bits from multiple sets can be very difficult especially if it's later in the day. There are stages it is easy to navigate between but it's going to be nearly impossible to get from one side of the park to the other in a timely manner after 4pm-ish. I think one of the biggest conflicts of the festival is going to be the headliners Saturday night. I know that many people are fans of both Neil Young and Jack White, both of whom will be playing at the same time. For those of you lucky enough to be at Jack White's Austin City Limits Television taping Sunday night won't have to make the tough call. Find the most troublesome time conflicts of this year's fest below the break.

Jack White - I'm Shakin' video via YouTube

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

ACL Festival Preview: Locals Only

Like SXSW, ACL Festival receives complaints about not having enough local bands featured. While, I understand this complaint, I also understand the need to book headline-grabbing names for a music festival. While ACL Festival does take place in Austin, it is truly a national festival in the sense that it has to compete with Coachella, Bonnaroo and all of the rest of the big summer festivals. C3 Presents has to be able to draw a crowd to Austin from other parts of the country and/or world. Generally, the festival sells-out before the bands are even announced, which means if they don't book bands that excited their audience they would face some major backlash.

With that all being said, they do make an effort to book bands whom they consider to be up-and-coming local acts. There have been some local sets in the past that have been considered legendary, anyone who caught Ghostland Observatory at ACL Fest can attest to that. Below the break, I have highlighted some of my favorite Austin bands playing the fest this year.

Wild Child - Pillow Talk video via YouTube

Wild Child is a band I've championed for quite some time. They have a pleasant folk-rock sounds with lovely harmonies and radio-ready tunes. You can catch them on the Austin Ventures stage at noon on Saturday.

The Eastern Sea is one of Austin's buzziest bands of 2012 and rightly so. They're also the most different band on this list. While the other three bands play some form of American-roots and/or folk. The Eastern Sea is more experimental, nuanced and indie-rock-oriented. Their latest record Plague is one of the best local releases of 2012. You can be sure that you'll see it on many year-end lists. If you want to see The Eastern Sea at ACL Festival, they'll be on the Austin Ventures stage at 11:20am on Sunday morning.

The Eastern Sea - A Lie video via YouTube

Quiet Company probably has the biggest profile of all of the bands on this list. I have been writing about them nearly as long as I've been writing this blog. They do uber-catchy power-pop about love and life. Their ACL performance will be their last local show before they head on a nation-wide tour. They play the Austin Ventures stage at 11:15am on Saturday.

Quiet Company - You, Me and the Boatman video via YouTube

Wheeler Brothers have been generating a lot of attention in Austin and the rest of the country. They have opened for many of the best American-roots-music bands touring the country today and they are on their way to becoming one such band. You can see them on the Austin Ventures stage at 1:00pm on Saturday of ACL Fest.

Wheeler Brothers - Spent Time video via YouTube

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ACL Festival Preview: Poliça

Photo Credit: Cameron Wittig

Many of the artists I've featured in this week leading up to ACL Festival are artists I featured leading up to SXSW this year. Poliça is one such band. I'm not featuring them again to recycle content, I'm featuring them again because I feel that ACL and SXSW have different audiences and I really believe in Poliça. Their 2011 release, Give You the Ghost is edgy, interesting music with beautiful vocals and loads of percussion. In a live-setting the band is composed of 2 drummers and a bass player, which puts the gorgeous, haunting vocals on center stage. I think a big festival crowd is the perfect showcase for the big music that this band performs and I look forward to seeing them win-over lots of new fans on Sunday. Poliça will be on the Honda Stage at 3:15pm, which is the perfect time for you to arrive on the festival's final day. I know that you're going to be tired from the first two days of music and I can assure you that this is the perfect way to ease you in to the final day.

Poliça - Dark Star video via YouTube

Poliça are also playing a Late night show with Metric at Emo's but unfortunately it is already sold-out.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ACL Festival Preview: Lee Fields & the Expressions

Photo Credit: Judy Miller

I was one of the fortunate few who had the chance to see Lee Fields & the Expressions perform at the Continental Club earlier this year. It was a hot, sweaty, crowded affair filled with people of all ages and backgrounds and it was truly superb. The Expressions are one of the tightest backing bands I've ever seen. Their terse riffs, soulful rhythms and overall bombastic performance had the crowd hanging on their every note. Matched with Lee Fields' gospel tenor this band can do no wrong. If you're a fan of Sharon Jones or Charles Bradley then make sure you're at the Zilker Stage by 5:30pm Saturday to catch Lee Fields & The Expressions. I predict their performance will be one of the most buzzed-about, break-out performances of the weekend and you'll definitely want to be a part of it.

Lee Fields - You're the Kind of Girl video via YouTube

If you can't make it out to the festival, you can catch Lee Fields' Late Night Show with Alabama Shakes at Stubb's. That show actually takes place tomorrow night before the festival begins and there are still has tickets available.

If you can't make it to either performance, you should at least check out the latest record from Lee Fields & the Expressions, Faithful Man.

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ACL Festival Preview: Gardens & Villa

I'm not suggesting that the members of Gardens & Villa have ever smoked pot but I am suggesting that they make lovely, stoner-vibes music. I also know that they hail from sunny California and that these stoner-vibes could also be beach-vibes that I associate with being high. Regardless, their Self-Titled album came out last year and it was one of my favorite releases of 2011. It sounds contemporary while also sounding like the best Talking Heads record that was never made. It's experimental yet still accesible, will melodies that will bore their way into your brain. You will have to get to the park relatively early to catch Gardens & Villa on Saturday. They play the BMI stage at 2pm and I'm not going to lie, this set time will also be featured in my upcoming Conflicts post because they are up against another band I'm a fan of.

Gardens & Villa - Black Hills video via YouTube

This weekend may be your last chance to see Gardens & Villa in Austin for a bit, as I expect they'll be heading back to the studio to record a follow-up record. In other words, you don't want to miss them at ACL Fest on Saturday.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ACL Festival Preview: Oberhofer

Photo Credit: Sebastian Mlynarski

You may, or may not recall that I featured Oberhofer as a band to be on the look-out for during SXSW this year. Well, they're back and I'm here to remind you that they are still a band worth seeing. Chances are you've heard their music in a recent smartphone commercial. It's the one in which the girl takes a video of a band playing on a rooftop and then she sends it to her other friends who are also at the same show, watching the same band on the same rooftop. It's not a great commercial but that song is perfection and if you assholes won't buy their record, they have to get money from somewhere right?

Speaking of their album, Oberhofer's latest full-length record is called, Time Capsules II and it's out now on Glassnote. That's the same label that brought you Phoenix and your precious Mumford & Sons. In other words, they know music and you should pay attention.

Oberhofer - Away Frm U video via YouTube

You can see Oberhofer at ACL Festival on Saturday afternoon. They take to the Barton Springs Stage at 3pm. If you can't make it to this set and/or you won't be attending ACL Fest, you'll have a second chance to see Oberhofer in Austin this month. They are currently touring with Matt and Kim and that tour will bring them back to Austin when they play Stubb's on October 20th. There are still a limited number of tickets available for that Stubb's show.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

ACL Festival Preview: First Aid Kit

Photo Credit: Neil Krug

If you've been reading this site for awhile then you may recall that I featured, Swedish band, First Aid Kit the last time they played ACL Festival. Like many people, I was first introduced to the band when they posted their cover of Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. Their beautiful harmonies and tender performance immediately won me over. Their latest record, The Lion's Roar has earned them a lot of buzz. They are getting airplay on Adult Contemporary radio and people are starting to know who they are. Their time-slot is still quite early on in the festival considering how their star has risen since their last time playing ACL Fest. You can catch First Aid Kit Friday, on the Honda Stage at 1:15pm. Having seen them before, I can assure you that seeing them perform is worth the hassle of getting to Zilker early.

First Aid Kit - Wolf video via YouTube

I know there are people who feel like they can't go to ACL Fest from gates open until gate close but since I am focused on seeing smaller bands on the rise, I recommend that if you're going to cut your day short, leave during the headliners and catch the early bands. Not only will you have less crowd to deal with at the beginning of the day, you'll have an easier time getting out of the festival if you leave during the headliners.

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