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A love letter to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: On a Friday at ACL Fest

Thom Yorke and Radiohead perform on the Samsung Stage during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on September 30, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

Thom Yorke and Radiohead perform on the Samsung Stage during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on September 30, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

SUBJECT: About last Friday night…
DATE: 10/04/16 9:23 a.m.
TO: thom.yorke.68@aol.com

Wow. Last Friday night was really something. You were incredible.

Remember me? I was the one a little off to the side. (I don’t mean “a little off” like I’m a little off. No! Just that I was to the side of the stage.) I had a messenger bag and a big lukewarm beer — next to the people with not one but two babies without ear protection? (Good hearing is wasted on the young, I suppose.) Remember me? 

Well, I remember you. We (technically: me, you, and a few thousand others) hung out last time you were Austin. And the time before that, back in 2011.

I mean, three hangouts now? We’re basically BFFs. Should we be Facebook Friends? LinkedIn connections? Should we get matching bracelets or something? We should totally get matching bracelets. I’ll bring one to the fest this weekend — if I don’t see you before then.

Since we’re such good friends now, real talk. Your set at ACL Fest 2016 weekend one? I liked it. I think other people did too.

I died hearing the guitar-heavy take on “Burn the Witch.” Those cinematic strings really sing on the album, but a brand-new bonus guitar solo just for the live version? Whoa. The guitars really bore their fangs throughout your set. “2+2=5” was especially ferocious and I loved the noodling guitars at the end of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.” Kudos to you. Please give my compliments to Jonny and Ed as well.

One minor gripe, just between us pals: I do wish you and the guys would mix things up when playing the hits from the older albums. You seemed to go wild experimenting and jamming out on “The Gloaming” and “Bloom,” adding in new touches and tweaks, but it seems like anything from the pre-Kid A days is a bit by the numbers…

Speaking of which, who knew I liked “The Numbers” so much? Not me! This Friday, if you could somehow convince me that “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” isn’t a throw-away track and the Achilles heel on an otherwise masterpiece of an album, I’d be especially impressed. (Though, if I’m making setlist requests, I have a few other requests I’d like to prioritize, for your consideration.)

OK. I gotta go eat some tacos. (Don’t worry, they’re vegetarian, my animal-loving bro.)

Look forward to hearing from you!
-Eric

SUBJECT: You shouldn’t have!
DATE: 10/05/16 10:24 p.m.
TO: thom.yorke.68@aol.com

If I’m being honest, I was a little hurt when I didn’t hear from you. “He’s traveling,” I told myself. “But… what if he doesn’t want to talk to you?” my mind shot back. Then I saw you with some other guy, chumming it up over synthesizers at Switched On and, well, it was hard. I was in a bad place — until I got your package in the mail this afternoon.

It’s glorious — the best $86 I’ve spent on music this year! And, though I don’t have the means to play it, I just know the 3/4-second snippet of old Radiohead master tape included with my special edition copy of A Moon Shaped Pool includes the chilling (life-changing) opening four notes of “Everything in its Right Place.” That was very cool of you to do that for me.

Bonus: That bonus track “Ill Wind” is solid. Any chance you might play that here in Austin Friday night? If not that, give me something! Playing “The Bends” AND “Fake Plastic Trees” for the first time in years in Mexico City the other day has me a little jealous. (No, I shouldn’t say “jealous.” I’m not the jealous type, Thom. Sorry. Forget I said that.) Let’s just say, I hope I get some of that rare and often-unplayed setlist love in Austin Friday night.

Oh, I jotted down your setlist last weekend. I even made a playlist of it on Spotify, in case I want to relive the evening without watching a cellphone recording on YouTube that includes drunk people screaming along the lyrics.

See you Friday!
-Eric

Radiohead plays ACL Fest Weekend Two 8 p.m. Friday.

Radiohead @ ACL Fest Weekend One Setlist 
“Burn the Witch”

“Daydreaming”
“Ful Stop”
“Airbag”
“How Soon Is Now?” (The Smiths cover)
“2+2=5”
“The National Anthem”
“Bloom”
“Lotus Flower”
“The Gloaming”
“Exit Music (for a Film)”
“The Numbers”
“Identikit”
“Reckoner”
“Everything in its Right Place”
“Idioteque”
“Bodysnatchers”
“Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
“Give Up the Ghost”
“Paranoid Android”
“Nude”
“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”
“There, There”
“Karma Police”


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