Kongos brightens up ACL with accordion alt-rock

Johnny Kongos of Kongos performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival on Sun., Oct. 12, 2014 at Zilker Park in Austin, TX. Ashley Landis for American-Statesman
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Johnny Kongos of Kongos performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival on Sun., Oct. 12, 2014 at Zilker Park in Austin, TX. Ashley Landis for American-Statesman
Johnny Kongos of Kongos performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival on Sun., Oct. 12, 2014 at Zilker Park in Austin, TX. Ashley Landis for American-Statesman

Johnny Kongos of Kongos performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival on Sun., Oct. 12, 2014 at Zilker Park in Austin, TX.
Ashley Landis for American-Statesman

Kongos brought their positive, accordion-spiced alt-rock to a sprawling, enthusiastic crowd under gray skies at the Samsung Galaxy Stage.

The South African band of brothers’ most unique surface-level feature is the use of the aforementioned accordion, but this was no polka. There are hints of Alt-J in the guitar, and while there were glimpses at undercurrents of genres from around the globe not usually found in songs suited for Top 40 play, they have a knack for anthems that feel immediately familiar.

Kongos closed with their hit and live clap-bait “Come With Me Now,” which was the biggest crowd pleaser — with hints of zydecco, honky-tonk, house music and unexpected vocoder. Other highlights included “It’s a Good Life,” a song begging to be used in the intro credits to a feel-good family sitcom; their fun mashup cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together” over the instrumental sample from Dr. Dre’s “What’s the Difference” (imagine that: a Beatles cover that doesn’t make you want to roll your eyes so far into the back of your head that they never return); and “I’m Only Joking,” a song that sounds at times so inspired by Battles’ “Atlas” I thought it might be a cover, which I don’t mean as a dig — more people should strive to sound like Battles. Get on it, bands.

“Man, it’s good to be back on Austin. We’ve been here like five times this year — any excuse,” Dylan Kongos said. “We were in Mexico City at 6 a.m. this morning so we’re running on little sleep.”

Sleep will likely be in short supply for the guys in the foreseeable future. The band is heading to Europe next, where they’ll be touring through November.


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