ACL Fest solidifies Pete Yorn’s place in revisionist history

“Do you remember Pete Yorn?” I asked this question to multiple people at ACL Fest and got a blank stare in return. Am I the only one who remembers Pete Yorn? As evidenced by the crowd at the Miller Lite Stage Sunday afternoon, I was not. Good thing, too.

In case you don’t remember Pete Yorn, he put out an album (one of many, but one I’m going to focus on–his strongest) that I feel, now with more than a decade of retrospection is, is worthy of consideration for the label “classic,” the acclaimed and spellcheck-hating 2001 debut Musicforthemorningafter. Yorn’s debut was the first in a trilogy, one that got weaker with each follow-up, but, hey, I can basically count the number of satisfactory planned trilogies on three fingers.

Whatever it is about Yorn’s debut LP, it’s stuck with me. In searching for ways to to hush via singing my (once) baby girl, I often found the words to the maybe-lullabye-inappropriate “Life on a Chain.” (Look, whatever… babies don’t understand words.)

For whatever reason, Yorn’s initial batch of songs clicked with me (and stayed with me) years later in a way that many albums I listened to many more times did not. For example: I’ll still butcher the words to “Pyramid Song,” and that’s just as weird a song to sing a kid to sleep.

Pete Yorn performs on the Miller Lite Stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 2, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

Pete Yorn performs on the Miller Lite Stage at ACL Fest on October 2, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

Sunday at ACL, singer-songwriter Yorn, sporting pepper stubble, a trucker hat, shades and tapered jeans tucked into combat boots, played opposite the early afternoon sun. In his banter during this, my inaugural Pete Yorn live experience, was an Elvis accent, adding an earnestness I never noted before to his music.

All the things about Yorn that I should mark as cons don’t bother me with Yorn. For example, I feel there’s a special place in hell for harmonica players, but for some reason I’m willing to give Yorn a free pass.

Yorn’s hint of lime to his live show cocktail are subtle touches of drum machine beats, an element that was still noteworthily fresh out of Y2K. Today, it still felt fresh enough to warrant mention.

But why the talk of revising history in talks of Musicforthemorningafter? Consider its strongest single, “For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)”–a live-in-the-moment anthem of Flaming Lips “Do You Realize?” potency that will one day get its moment in the sun as the colossal hit it should have been. Yorn played it mid-set and the song clearly clicked with the mid-afternoon crowd.

Yorn closed with a crowd-wide sing-along to “Strange Condition.”

If you too have a soft spot for Pete Yorn, you can catch him at ACL Fest weekend two–same Pete Yorn time, same Pete Yorn location, 3 p.m. Sunday.

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