Austin City Limits 2016: Bombino’s blistering festival oasis

Bombino wasn’t much of a talker Friday during his Tito’s stage ACL appearance, but he put everything in its right place at the 15-year-old festival.

The Tuareg guitarist born Omara Moctar planted a flag in the tent, and united the space under its shade as an oasis for thirsty passersby already out of gas. There’s a front coming tomorrow, but it’s been a summer-in-Texas hot kickoff to weekend two.

Bombino performs on the Tito's Handmade Vodka Stage during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on September 30, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

Bombino performs on the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on September 30, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

This is lyrical noodling that rolls like the desert hills of the 36-year-old’s native Tuareg, Niger. Or Arizona or wherever–it’s universally arresting stuff. It’s NPR dad rock that works for the scenesters, burnouts, and the dude wearing a Crossroads Guitar Festival T-shirt from 2004. (Eric Clapton was joined by Tommy Shaw and Jeff Back on that one. Killer.)

Donning a blue robe, Oakley-esque bubble shades, and a white scarf, Bombino and his three-piece band won on groove-laden six-minute jams built around his guitar’s timing and direction.

It thrills guitar nerds, but cursory searches reveal pained blues: “My brothers! Far from your ancestral culture, your personality disappears along with your spirit,” reads the epigram for his latest video for “Akhar Zaman.” The clip is dedicated to the world’s refugees.

Produced by Dave Logstreth of the Dirty Projectors, this year’s “Azel” comes amid a mournful stretch. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year the northern African guitarist lost a first cousin, former bandmate, and a mentor “quite suddenly.”

For Austin City Limits attendees, however, joyful and hypnotic respite.


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