ACL Fest 2017: See the fest from the artists’ points of view

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Ever wondered what the Austin City Limits Music Festival looks like from the stage? Or wondered how the artists might spend their downtime in Austin?

Weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 6, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

PHOTOS: Saturday at ACL Fest 2017 Weekend 1

Social media is a wonderful tool, and lots of this weekend’s ACL acts posted photos of their sets to Instagram. Read on to see what Zilker Park looked like from the stage for Foster the People, Mondo Cozmo, R.LUM.R and more.

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Golden Hour @aclfestival #SHC

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We are in fucking Austin TX… good morning!

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Passed through Marfa, TX on the way to ACL yesterday

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📸 @jbajsem

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ACL Fest: While Jay-Z played, many on social media wondered: Where’s Beyoncé?

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Ever since Jay-Z was announced as an Austin City Limits Music Festival headliner, it was widely speculated that his better half, superstar Beyoncé (maybe you’ve heard of her) would be joining him.

We even speculated ourselves: “There’s been rampant speculation about whether or not Beyoncé would make an appearance at ACL Fest. Queen Bey has not played Austin since the early aughts, when Destiny’s Child played the Star of Texas Rodeo (then called Rodeo Austin). We at Team 360 have been conservative on the ‘Yoncé/ACL odds…Beyoncé is no ordinary human being, but she’s a rigorous perfectionist who wouldn’t hit a stage unless she felt 300% ready.”

Beyonce and Jay Z attend Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

More: Jay-Z fans make fast friends as they stake out a front-row spot at ACL Fest

Sadly, Queen Bey did not perform during her husband’s set Friday night on the American Express stage at Zilker Park. But that didn’t stop her fans on social media from wondering where she was.

Better luck next time, y’all. Hov is on next weekend’s lineup, but a Beyoncé appearance isn’t likely next Friday either. But there’s always a chance.

Fest-goers share safety tips, refuse to ‘let fear paralyze’ at ACL Fest in light of Las Vegas shooting

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Last Sunday’s events in Las Vegas, when a gunman opened fire at a country music festival and killed 58 people, then himself, and injured hundreds more, came as security was already being tightened at the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park. Fest-goers were told earlier in the week to expect “a full and complete airport-style search prior to entry.Refunds were offered to fans who didn’t want to attend because of safety concerns.

End mass shootings sign
Logan Cassidy of Ohio, who works in sales at Dell Technologies, holds up a sign as part of the Walk for Vegas effort on Oct. 6, 2017, at Austin City Limits Music Festival

More: Going to ACL Fest? Austin police chief shares his 3 tips for safety

But on social media Friday, the first day of ACL Fest 2017, fest-goers were sharing safety tips, promoting love over hate and paying tribute to the Las Vegas victims. One attendee even marched to Zilker Park from Austin City Hall holding a sign that said “End Mass Shootings.” There was even a marriage proposal. Several of Day One’s acts spoke up about the shooting, too. Read on to see what people had to say.

Did you see any moments of remembrance of Las Vegas? Let us know in the comments.

Shovels & Rope exude DIY rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasm at Emo’s


Listening to Shovels & Rope’s latest album “Little Seeds,” one wonders how the duo can pull off its sound live. The rollicking folk-rock Americana of the married couple from South Carolina skews closer to the White Stripes than it does The Civil Wars. Drums, bass, keys, guitars, harmonica, a mandolin and more lined the stage before the couple’s set at Emo’s Thursday night, right next to two empty chairs. Any doubts as to whether two people could make much of a racket with just a few instruments were quickly cast aside after a few songs.

Shovels and Rope with guest Matthew Logan Vasquez perform at Emo’s in Austin, Texas on March 30, 2017 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

Moving effortlessly between instruments as well as their song catalog, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst gleefully seemed to conjure a full-band roots rock concert out of thin air. At one point, Trent was playing the bass drum, the keyboard and the harmonica while Hearst furiously strummed a guitar and sang about how “the rich is rich and the poor is poor and the money you had ain’t good no more.”

More: See photos of the concert here!

Even without knowing the words to some of the songs, it wasn’t hard to get swept up in the sheer Do-It-Yourself joy the two felt on stage. Trent and Hearst swapped seats and instruments at least five times throughout the show. One feels like the decisions on which instrument to play were made organically — either one could have sat down at the keyboard or strapped on a guitar at a moment’s notice. The end result was a show that was a little rough around the edges but was all the better for it because of how much fun Trent and Hearst seemed to be having.

The songs, however, weren’t all fun and games. Mixed in with the raucous “I Know,” the witty “Buffalo Nickel” and the scuzzy Chuck Berry tribute “Hail, Hail” were songs that dealt with the aforementioned class woes (“Gasoline”), the over-medication of children (“Johnny, Won’t You Come Outside”) and the worries that come when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (“Mourning Song”).

That thought-provoking subject matter combined with Shovels & Rope’s DIY ethos to create a listening experience that is best experienced live. Trent and Hearst made all the tone switches and instrument changes look so effortless that one almost thinks they too could start a rollicking folk duo if only they had the right partner. (I left Emo’s with a plan to go start a garage band with my friends, my lack of musical talent be damned). But, as with all partnerships (marital or musical), this one is impossible to duplicate.

Does a Texas music museum belong in Austin? Not all at Capitol think so


Plans to build a new state music museum have sparked emotional commentary from Austin and Houston lawmakers and musicians alike, according to the Houston Chronicle. A bill filed in the Senate would lay the groundwork for such a museum to be built in Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World.

Ray Benson / Photo by Stephen Spillman for the American-Statesman

Senate Bill 1147, authored by state Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills,  would establish a Texas State Music Museum and Texas Music Foundation in downtown Austin just across the street from the Bullock State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art. Proponents of the bill say it would create a cultural destination for tourists in Austin; detractors say other cities should get to compete for the location of the museum.

Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson appeared before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee Tuesday to argue for the Austin location. Benson said the museum should be “in the state capital where people come, where it should be,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

However, Houston-based Texas Music Library and Research Center president Jim O’Cherry disagreed, saying that to pick one Texas city over others is unfair:

“It’s unfair to the people who have been involved in making this history, and unfair to the people of Texas who don’t live in Austin,” O’Cherry said, according to the Chronicle.

Complicating the issue is that the Houston-based Museum of American Music History received state designation for a similar project years ago, but the state never coughed up the $10 million in federal funding needed to get the project going.

From the Chronicle:

“This is about the state reneging on its promise to Houston. This is about the state competing against private museums,” MAMH founding member Stephen Williams said. “This is about Austin wanting to get something through a law that it couldn’t get through a statewide competition.”

Under SB1147, no state money would be allocated for the new museum. Instead, it would be privately operated by the State Preservation Board, which also oversees the state capitol building and the Bullock. Money would instead be raised by private donations.

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee left the bill pending Tuesday afternoon.

More: Click here to get your 85th Texas Legislature news from the American-Statesman

What do you think? Should Austin be home to the Texas State Music Museum? Should Houston? Or should any Texas city be able to compete for the location? Let us know in the comments.

Jon Pardi, Lindsay Ell, Kip Moore, others to perform Daytime Village show at iHeartCountry fest

The iHeartCountry Festival returns to the Frank Erwin Center May 6, but before the big act featuring headliners like Dierks Bentley and Jason Aldean, fans will get to see country stars Jon Pardi, Lindsay Ell, Kip Moore, Chris Janson, Tucker Beathard and Kane Brown perform for free at the iHeartCountry Festival Daytime Village show.
The lineup was announced Monday morning in a news release.
The Daytime Village was added as a free outdoor event at the North Box Office Plaza at the Frank Erwin Center for the festival two years ago. Last year’s Daytime Village featured Maren Morris and Chris Lane, among others.

Related: Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, more will return to iHeartCountry Fest at Erwin Center

As for the iHeartCountry Festival, which is more of a marathon concert than a festival, it will be hosted by Austin/Nashville radio personality Bobby Bones and will feature Moore, Jason Aldean, Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, Brantley Gilbert, Rascal Flatts, Old Dominion, Jake Owen, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Kelsea Ballerini and Bones’ band The Raging Idiots.
For those keeping track at home, that’s 12 acts, only two less than last year’s behemoth set. And like last year, it will only feature one solo female performance.

More: The 5 best moments of the 2016 iHeartCountry Fest

The event is sponsored by iHeartMedia, the parent company of iHeartCountry, which operates nearly 150 country radio stations across the nation— all of which will broadcast the concert live. It also will be streamed online; those details will be announced soon at are on sale at and by phone at 512-477-6060. The iHeartCountry Fest is one of many concert events that iHeartMedia presents during the year.

Gone Country: Hear Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s new duet ‘Speak to a Girl’


The wait is over, country fans. The new duet from Faith Hill and Tim McGraw is now available to stream.

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 28: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill attend Lionsgate Hosts the World Premiere of “The Shack” at the Museum of Modern Art on February 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

“Speak To A Girl,” the first single from McGraw and Hill’s recently announced duet album, moved to country radio and Spotify at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The song, abut the proper way men should speak to women, seems to be a commentary on the state of modern country music’s “Hey, girl” fascination. It’s also a blend of the two country star’s stylings as of late; McGraw’s quiet, “Damn Country Music” laid-back acoustic sound meshes well with Hill’s pop sensibilities and soaring vocals in the back half of the song.

“When songs can be timely and really move you and really have a message, then you know that you have something special,” McGraw told Nash Country Daily. I think that this song really is a special song. It’s special for us, having three daughters—me being a husband and Faith being a mom of three daughters and growing up in a world of all women like I did, I think it’s just a really special song.”

Hill added in the same interview: “It kind of gives you a landscape of how to speak to a girl, and what the important parts of language are when it comes to communicating with one another—with a woman. It’s about truth and honesty and respect. The biggest one being respect.”

Related: Texas Tech study says women in country songs are more objectified than ever

“Speak To a Girl” was written by Shy Carter, Dave Gibson and Joe Sparger and co-produced by Byron Gallimore, along with McGraw and Hill. Thursday is the song’s release date, but the couple plans to perform it at the ACM Awards on April 2.

Earlier this year, the couple wrote and recorded a new duet for the Christian film “The Shack” called “Keep your Eyes on Me” that now sounds like a precursor to the sound they have now.
The couple will also once again go on tour with one another in April. Their “Soul2Soul World Tour” kicks off in New Orleans April 7, and they both just left their respective labels to sign record deals with Arista Nashville in February. McGraw was previously at Big Machine Records (after leaving a whole career at Curb before that), while Hill was at Warner Bros. The contracts are separate, and include separate solo albums as well as the duet album, but this decision by one of the best-selling duos of modern country was clearly good business.
McGraw is currently in the middle of a late-career renaissance thanks to “Humble and Kind,” “How I’ll Always Be” and “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” (which was also a duet with Hill). Hill’s last hit was “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” and hasn’t had a solo hit since 2005’s “Sunshine and Summertime.
The decision to tour together, sign on the same record label and release a whole duet album together is great for McGraw’s and Hill’s fans, but it’s also a sad indication of the state of the country music business for women. Faith Hill has sold more than 40 million records worldwide in her career, and she’s also scored five Grammy wins and earned 18 Top 10 songs on the Billboard country charts (eight of which went to No. 1). But the only way she can get any sort of press these days is by touring with her husband (or by being interviewed by Fox News about “aging gracefully.”)
But maybe they wanted it that way; McGraw and Hill have three daughters, and the youngest one is almost done with high school, so maybe they didn’t want to have both parents trying to tour and release albums while raising three kids.
Either way, it’s sad that Hill’s solo work has gotten less attention over the years.
At any rate, “Speak To A Girl” is wholesome country that actually has something to say in a time when the genre desperately needs it. Take a listen on Spotify below.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at

Garth Brooks performs surprise St. Patrick’s Day SXSW show for lucky crowd at Broken Spoke

Garth Brooks plays a surprise show at The Broken Spoke during South by Southwest on Friday March 17, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Garth Brooks doesn’t officially take the stage at Auditorium Shores until Saturday, but he capped a day that included a South by Southwest keynote and the reveal of his new single with a surprise acoustic show at the Broken Spoke Friday night.

Strolling on the stage promptly at 11 p.m. wearing a Lone Star Beer T-Shirt with a flannel and a Garth Brooks hat, the country superstar immediately launched into “Friends in Low Places.”

Photos: Garth Brooks surprise show at Broken Spoke during SXSW on March 17

What followed was a speedy 40-minute set that included 17 songs, mostly his, that the capacity crowd of old fans and young spring breakers was all too happy to sing along and dance to.

Brooks looked ecstatic on stage, and some fans in the crowd happily lucked into the St. Patrick’s Day show, arriving without knowing he was even going to be there.

After closing with early hit “The Dance,” he returned to do a quick rendition of “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”

“If the honky tonks were like this that I was in, I never would’ve left them,” he said as he left the stage.

Brooks plays tomorrow night. Tickets are sold out.

You don’t have to have Garth Brooks’ albums on your phone to get into his SXSW show, but it helps


A fine-print sentence in a ticket confirmation email for Garth Brooks’ sold-out Saturday show at the South by Southwest stage at Auditorium Shores makes it sound like fans will have to clear an additional hurdle to get into the event.

Garth Brooks announces a free show at Auditorium Shores during SXSW during a news conferenceon Friday, March 17, 2017. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

After the standard terms and condition language about ID verification and re-entry into the venue, there’s a sentence about downloading and showing the Amazon Music App on your phone.

“Also, be ready to show your favorite Garth Brooks album via the Amazon Music App on your mobile device upon entry to the show.”

A confirmation email sent to a Statesman employee who got tickets to Brooks’ show. Highlights added.

Brooks, who famously shunned streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music in the past in favor of his own service,, discussed his months-old partnership with the streaming service today during his SXSW keynote speech.

Brooks chose Amazon because of its reputation for catering to the customer, he said in the speech. He also liked that Amazon also still deals in CDs: “Anyone who tells you the physical world is done is probably someone who isn’t dealing with physical” product, he said.

More: Garth Brooks talks up Amazon deal and the value of songwriters at SXSW keynote

A representative from Amazon told the Statesman that the app download “isn’t mandatory, but a great way to listen to Garth before the show.”

More: Is this Garth Brooks SXSW tweet shameless? Let’s let the friends in low places decide

But simply downloading the app doesn’t guarantee access to its services. To do that, you have to buy a subscription from Amazon to link with your Amazon account— $7.99 a month or $79 a year for Amazon Prime members, and $9.99 a month for non-Prime members. Every one of Brooks’ albums is currently streaming on the service. Wal-Mart and Target have previously exclusively sold his albums upon release.

And what if you want a ticket for the show, but missed the noon release time? If you have $1,000, you might be able to snag a ticket or two.

Peter Blackstock contributed to this report.


Gone Country: Fort Worth blue collar band Grady Spencer & the Work return to Saxon Pub


Grady Spencer & the Work are about to play the Saxon Pub for the fourth time in less than a year. For an Austin band, that’s pretty routine. But for a Fort Worth band, it’s pretty unusual. And for this four-piece from Cowtown, that first gig at Saxon almost didn’t happen.

Grady Spencer, of Grady Spencer & the Work. (Photo submitted.)

“I think one of the bands had a cancellation for the show that we did, and we got like a week’s notice to come down and play,” Spencer said. “But Saxon is such a legendary place that we had to jump out at it.”

That first show was almost empty, despite some family and friends in the audience. But by this February, through word of mouth and some great Spotify streaming numbers, the bar was packed when the group came back to town. Tonight, they’ll play again at Saxon at 10:30.

The group, comprised of lead singer and guitarist Spencer, bassist Johnny Hatcher, guitarist Trevor Powell and drummer Blake Sager, specializes in a Texas sound that’s rooted in Americana, blues and dirty roots rock. Texicana, if you will.* Their name comes from their own blue collar backgrounds; Spencer works as an HVAC construction worker for TDIndustries in Fort Worth, Hatcher repairs espresso machines and Powell works at a logistics company.

“The music we make has a kind of rough, dirty, gritty vibe, which fits,” Spencer said.

“As a kid, I wanted to be a rock star, but now as an adult, I’m like, ‘Yeah, just being able to pay my bills would be nice,'” Hatcher said. “People expect us to be like, rock stars, and we tell them we still have day jobs and they’re like,’Whaaat?!'”

In their home city, they’re pretty close to becoming rock stars. A re-cut version of “Things To Do,” a song off of their 2013 album “Sleep,” was recently commissioned by Visit Fort Worth to be the soundtrack to a tourist video for the city. Spencer says the song, which features the line “Bless my soul and take me back to Fort Worth” in the chorus, was never meant to be a single.

“I always tell people I thought that song was going to be a filler, like I was just trying to get the album count to double digits, and I guess we just really underestimated how stoked people get to hear their city in a song,” Spencer said.

As of this writing, the song has been streamed on Spotify more than 800,000 times.

The group got started when Spencer moved to Fort Worth about 6 years ago and quickly met Sager and Powell through the at Paradox Church in downtown Fort Worth. He had started doing some solo work here and some open mic stuff there, but was looking for a band.

“So I played with those guys at church a few times, called em up, and then it just grew from there. Johnny was a friend who we met through another band, and he just kind of jumped in and fit right in.”

Since then, the band has released two albums, “Sleep” and 2016’s “The Line Between.” The Work’s songwriting deals with the illusion of fame and money (“Things to Do”) the importance of prioritizing the right relationships in life (“Winning Wrong”) and even a fable about bringing a knife to a gunfight (“Guns and Knives”). There’s also an undercurrent of the group’s shared church background that’s right under the surface in songs like “Anatomy of a Sinner” and in the album title “The Line Between.”

“My inspiration for songwriting is my life, my relationship with my wife, things like that. But [“The Line Between”]’s album title is kind of a reference to Jesus, but I wanted to do it where it was just right under the surface to where you don’t have to dig that deep to see that theme, but it’s not so in your face that we couldn’t play it to a room full of drunk people,” Spencer said. “So hopefully the lyrics will resonate with people on a different level.”

Powell adds that their routine of playing in a church Sunday after playing in places like Saxon on a Saturday leads to some fun interactions.

“What’s cool is you tell them that you have to be at church the next morning after playing Saturday night, and that opens up some conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.”

The group is putting together a third album, which Spencer said he is “maybe halfway done with” writing. But for now, they’re busy touring all over Texas putting on a great live show.

“The underlying goal for all of us is to do music for a living, whether that’s touring or recording or something like that, where we’re not going on construction sites or fiddling with Starbucks machines every day,” Spencer said.

No matter what happens, you can count on this band to put in the work, on and off stage.

Grady Spencer & the Work take the stage at the Saxon Pub tonight at 10:30. Show is 21 and over and tickets for $10 can be bought online or at the door.

*This term was originally coined by my buddy Drew Curd, who first introduced me to Grady Spencer & the Work’s music.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at