ACL Fest: 9 sets that will lift your spirits

Anyway you slice it, summer 2017 has been rough. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes: Mother Nature threw it all at us this year. We’ve seen a lot of devastation. Is your soul feeling weary? Music helps. Here are nine Austin City Limits Music Festival sets that will lift your spirits

(Solange performs at ACL Fest weekend one. Photo by Greg Noire/courtesy of C3 Presents)

Chance the Rapper: (8 p.m. Sat., Honda) When “Jesus is all I got” is your biggest turn-up line, you know you’ve got a reeeeeal different kind of show on your hands. Coming from the background I do (which is as Christian as you can get without any snake stuff), I would say that Chance is living out his witness in the way that it looks like in the textbook. Which … is the Bible. His words have come rolling off his tongue, his actions can be seen in his work, and now Chance’s fans are singing praises in a massive festival concert venue. Blessings come down, indeed. — Eric Webb

Solange: (7:15 p.m. Fri., Barton Springs) “I’m weary of the ways of the world,” Solange sang. The singer’s voice is light and clean on recordings; its power is startling live. She digs into soulful runs. A man shouted, “Sis, you better say it.”

Solange said it. She told the microphone how she tried to drink it, dance it, work it, sleep it, sex it, read it, run it, write it, cry it away. “Cranes In the Sky” made the woman who caught the beach ball dab at her eyes with a triangle of tissue folded until it was fat. There’s a final note at the end of the recorded version of the song that’s piercing in its height. Solange hit it live, and people couldn’t seem to believe their ears. — E.W.

Tarriona Ball of Tank and the Bangas performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Sunday October 8, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tank and the Bangas: (11:45 a.m. Sun., Homeaway) Tarriona “Tank” Ball is a slam poet who grew up in the shadow of Jazz Land. The band’s numbers meander, expand and contract as the music takes them where it wants to. That skill with verse made for a few folks likely smiling through their tears on “Rollercoaster.” Tank, playing pastor and best girlfriend, gave a spoken-word ode to the thrill of love and being free. It became an exhortation to find the one whose heart skips a beat for you. — E.W.

Tomar and the FCs: (11:30 a.m. Sat., Miller Lite) Our Austin360 Artist of the month for October is Austin’s new king of rock ‘n’ soul. On funky numbers like “Heart Attack” and “Do You Feel It,” he moves across the stage fluidly, coaxing the crowd into motion with a toe-tapping, shoe-shimmying shuffle and a wide open smile. On the gut-twisting slow burners, he reaches inside and goes deep. This is no flash-in-the-pan romance. Williams belts out melodies with a time-weathered heart so open and raw, so earnest and real, it ignites a beacon of hope for the broken. In a summer marked by disaster and devastation, songs like “Day-By-Day” and “No One Is Alone” are a healing salve for aching souls. — Deborah Sengupta Stith

Mondo Cozmo: (1 p.m. Sat., Barton Springs) “This is what never giving up looks like,” Josh Ostrander said during his Saturday set on weekend one. After decades kicking around the Philadelphia indie music scene in relative obscurity, the artist better known as Mondo Cozmo seemed blown away by his newfound success at his early Saturday set on weekend one. The level of emotion added a triumphant vibe to his soaring rock anthems that split the difference between Bruce Springsteen and U2.  — D. S.S.

DRAM performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dram: (4:15 p.m. Sun, Honda) Taking the stage for his ACL Fest set stage clad in a plaid bathrobe, bejeweled pineapple sunglasses and sandals with socks, it was clear R&B singer/rapper Big Baby Dram has come to embrace his role as the free-spirited Muppet of the hip-hop world. He’s a living cartoon character with windmill dance moves, a blunted drawl and easygoing flair. He has two catch phrases that become mantras for every set. “If you love your mama say ‘Yay-ooo'” and “Spread love.” Try to shout them out without smiling. — D.S.S.

Muna: (1:15 p.m. Fri., Homeaway) If Muna’s about anything, it’s about celebrating yourself without apology and without regret. “I Know a Place,” in that sense, serves as the band’s most vibrant anthem. Gavin explained that the band wrote the song for Pride in 2015, and that fact elicited exhilarating cheers from the audience. To put yourself out there and be who you are means physical risk, Gavin said, and that’s become more apparent than ever in recent years. Maskin urged the crowd to make the Honda stage their “place” on Saturday. — E.W.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Andrew McMahon: (2:15 p.m. Fri., American Express) Defiant hope means a lot coming from McMahon. The singer famously battled leukemia, which put a hold on his music career. His on-stage presence — twisting his spine away from his piano and toward rapturous fans as if he can’t stand to not be with them; using that piano as another stage level; striking the keys like a cobra on “Dead Man’s Dollar,” his own fangs bared when he opens up his arms and tells his fans he wants to make a life for them — is irrepressible joie de vivre from a man who knows what’s at stake in this life. — E.W.

Songhoy Blues: (3:15 p.m. Sun., BMI) Formed in exile in Bamako after radical fundamentalists took over their region of Northern Mali, the band has killer chops, and they play like rock stars. But it’s the magnanimous joy lead singer Aliou Touré and his crew radiate while they sing and dance that reinforces every notion we have about the incredible, life-affirming power of music. — D.S.S.

 


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