For the second straight day, the Miller Lite stage came alive around the noon hour with a splendid and creative set by a local act. The Austin City Limits Music Festival sometimes gets flak from hometown folks for its low percentage of Austin acts in the mix, but those performers who get the chance tend do take full advantage of it.
Israel Nash certainly did on Saturday, following Friday’s kickoff performance on the same stage from electronica act Bayonne. Backed by a three-piece band and leaning heavily on the searing psych-country runs of pedal steel guitarist Eric Swanson, Nash kept a gradually growing crowd fully engaged with songs that straddle the borders of several genres, as most of Austin’s best performers historically have done.
Comparisons to Pink Floyd’s acoustic side and Neil Young’s high-pitched vocals come to mind, though Nash ultimately carves out his own sonic identity. Pushed forward by the rhythm section of bassist Aaron McLellan and drummer Joshua Fleischman — “he just moved to Austin a couple of weeks ago,” Nash announced of the latter — the quartet generated quite a bit of volume and intensity, ending a few songs with fevered jams.
Nash also didn’t shy away from socio-political commentary. “Sooner or later, we’ll surrender our guns, but not until we’ve shot anyone,” he sang at the end of one tune. He introduced another by saying, “This is our song about standing up against the man, because why not?”
Early on, there was some sound bleed from Jazz Cartier’s set on the Cirrus Logic stage across the field, but that grew less apparent as Nash and his band kicked up the volume as their set continued. He closed with a hard-rocking cover of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity,” prefacing it by telling folks to “spread music, spread love … it will change the world.” For 45 minutes, Nash and his band did their part toward that end.