You ought to have seen Ought. The brainy retro art-rockers have a sound that seems clearly (and wonderfully) shaped by post-punk heroes of ole, ranging from The Fall to Television to Talking Heads. Or, to compare them to bands of the past decade: they blend The National’s stoic indifference with Parquet Courts’ heady, sing-spoken lyrics, bleak but danceable Franz Ferdinand guitars, and an air of Interpol gloom.
Though the Montreal-based band claim their throwback underground sound is an unintentional coincidence, it proved a most serendipitous one for the small group of early-rising fans gathered at the HomeAway Stage just before noon Saturday at ACL Fest 2017.
“We played Stubb’s last night at like 1 a.m. Was anyone there?” singer and guitarist Tim Darcy asked. A lone cheer rang out in response. “Yeah, we didn’t want to wake up this early either. You can go back to sleep after this.”
Darcy is slender and all arms and legs. Behind sunglasses, he conveys the carefree, cool persona of an artist who survives on cigarettes and old rock-n-roll records.
Mid-set, the band dove into what may ultimately prove their magnum opus, “Beautiful Blue Sky,” a sublime 7-minute, chorus-less track about small talk and feigned sentimentality with casual acquaintances that is both crushing and lovely. “I’m no longer afraid to die, because that is all that I have left,” sings Darcy in his British-sounding slur, followed by a David Byrnes-ian, “Yes! Yes!”