By Steve Scheibal, special to the American-Statesman
It’d be cool to be Rihanna. It’d be cool to be Joan Jett, too. It’d be sweet to be both Rihanna and Joan Jett at the same time.
Seems hard though. Probably possible, but definitely hard.
Grace Mitchell — a 19-year-old singer with an easy voice, lots of charisma and a ton of comfort with her audience — is giving it a shot. She was dealt a pretty sparse crowd Friday afternoon, drawing a set on ACL Fest’s giant Samsung stage over the lunch hour. But she played it like an arena, dancing, prowling, strutting, slinking, head-banging, crawling-while-ooohing and otherwise traversing the platform in about every way it could be traversed.
Mitchell’s music draws heavily from pop and rock, and both genres seem close to her heart. Her voice has an effortless pitch that easily handles the range of paces she puts it through.
Her songs don’t always flow so neatly, though. Her first couple seemed to have popped straight out of FM, complete with compulsively danceable beats and from-nowhere sound effects. So it was a little jarring when her guitarist opened the third one with a raw power chord.
It’s not that Mitchell needs to choose her silo — her refusal to do so will probably yield some great songs and a solid brand. But she isn’t so much bending genres right now as she is dancing between them. She has a quilt of influences, and she flew it proudly on Friday, but she’s still turning it into a sound.
In the meantime, she puts on a great show. A couple of times on Friday, she implored the audience to dance some fraction as hard as she was. “We’re gonna play a really lit set tonight,” she said, apparently forgetting how high the sun was just then. With a great voice, some good moves, a handful of hooks and stage presence for days, she knew what she was doing.