Poliça’s synth pop heals broken-hearted ACL Aggies

Minneapolis synth pop storm chasers Poliça (Polish for “policy”) run on vocalist Channy Leaneagh’s massive pipes and bass player and producer Ryan Olson’s rowdy licks. There’s two expertly justified drum kits stretching rhythms as a dude in glasses off to the side twists knobs on his keyboard, mounted on a guitar case. The five-piece band donned dark gear Saturday at the Austin Ventures Stage, soothed grieving Aggies and nervous Longhorns alike with gorgeous atmospherics.

But, mostly, we were glad they made it this time. Performing with Gayngs, Olson and Leaneagh found themselves in a label dispute and stuck in Austin sans instruments back in 2010, forcing the band to cancel its ACL date.

If you’re a headphones and desktop band you’re main outdoor festival objective is hypnotic balance. You want a loyal cluster locked in, nodding and indifferent to distractions. You also want to conquer curious stragglers with inviting siren calls like “Chain My Name.”

To that end Poliça hummed, incorporated maracas for added sugar, and won. I can truthfully say that at no point was my phone scoped out for Texas v. Baylor updates.

Is Rey Pila the coolest band performing Saturday at ACL?

Heartthrob leather jacket. One scruffy, skinny-jeaned guitarist with a Fender Stratocaster. Another with a Fender Telecaster. A bassist in a snapback ball cap. Lothario, party life synth pop that leans on the ’80s. Profile-wise, a relative unknown in America but that’s appointment niche, Saturday afternoon BMI Stage billing. As such Rey Pila is a Vice-certified indie crew that poses a threat to bands like Twin Shadow, and that makes it one of ACL’s coolest brands.

The Mexico City band closed with single “No Longer Fun,” and sparked a passionate singalong from fans. About that base–a hearty crew of middle and upper class Mexicans. Brown bros in Tigres jerseys, fair-skinned bros in Barcelona jerseys. Several green “El Tri” shirts, and of course three waving flags. Makes sense: Mexico City is barely a two-hour flight from Central Texas, and also our fair region has seen a spike in migration this decade from well-to-do Mexicans ditching cartel violence in places like Monterrey.

The Mexico City roots are paramount to Rey Pila. Every word singer Diego Solórzano dispensed was an English-language lyric, but in between it didn’t take long to keep it real and speak in his native language, “I’m gonna talk to you guys in Spanish. It’s easier. So . . . How are you guys doing?”

Predictably, the Spanish address got roars of approval. Yet there is a clear commercial appeal to singing in English while homaging your favorite Pitchfork fodder (Rey Pila has worked with producers that crank out LPs from bands like Beach House, Wavves, and TV On The Radio), but it does make for some basic lyric writing: “hold me now it’s hard for me to say,” “every time I go to bed all the bad things come out,” “dance until you start a fight.”

But the dance floor pull of songs like
“Alexander” was irresistible. And in between the Brooklyn posturing the Mexican fans would blow up the front with cheerful, brotherly “Otra! Otra!” chants. Solórzano obliged and walked into the crowd long enough to high five and take selfies.

Glitch Mob’s infectious electronica garners ACL party’s approval

The Glitch Mob performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Glitch Mob performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Los Angeles three-piece EDM trio The Glitch Mob is a generational dividing line. It’s at ACL operating in an under-21 bubble that doesn’t care about OutKast’s reunion. Friday’s dusk, laser-honed Miller Lite Stage set was interstellar and nourishing.

The Mob is edIT (Edward Ma), Boreta (Justin Boreta), and Ooah (Josh Mayer), all three operating similar switch boards and mining the technology for synth melodies, many snagged from February’s “Love Death Immortality.”

EDM lives on its game crowds and Friday’s featured flurries of glow sticks, hands in the air, dueling Mexico flags, one neon tank top that read “I love haters,” a confused gentleman with a Dallas Stars No. 1 foam finger, and a guy with a large flask: “It’s rum, rum, and Gatorade,” he said.

Picture three Benihana chefs at the skillet, squarely in the pocket, and there’s your stage setting (plus dramatic, “Matrix”-recalling light fixtures). Their sample pads featured big buttons and each member tinkered fluidly. They sampled ’90s techno pioneers like Prodigy’s seminal LP “Fat of the Land,” White Stripes, and some gorgeous, swelling orchestral stuff. Two nearby Glitch Mob show veterans complained about the lights, but the strobe pulses seemed plenty hypnotic just the same.

St. Vincent, pink risers, a Colorado flag, McLovin combine for defining ACL set

St. Vincent performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival Photo by  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
St. Vincent performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival Photo by JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Lifting off with a suffocating opening line of catalog favorites “Rattlesnake” then “Digital Witness” then “Cruel,” highly coordinated Manhattan rock robot St. Vincent stormed the ACL castle Friday afternoon, hurled prize game on the dining table. Each came with extended, ravenous guitar solos.

“A very special, very warm, warm welcome to the freaks and the others of Austin, Texas,” the artist (real name Annie Clark) said after the breathless trio of tracks.

She had this aside about hot air balloons, bed sheets, and childhood imagination and about how when pretending, “each time, sadly, gravity prevailed.”

It’d have to do stage banter-wise. In blue hair and eye shadow, black heels and dress, St. Vincent has ditched the earnest, warm virtuoso persona and is in cold, experimental, mechanical animal mode. It’s like when Lil Wayne did that whole “I’m from outer space” thing in that it was cool and the music backed up the swagger.

February’s eponymous release, her fifth and most digestible studio album, is overrun with pulsing, fresh electro beats–the kind bros in v-necks couldn’t help but air drum to here. Her sound was a beach-invading torrent, the bass drops and kick drum combos were too much for my ears up front in a great way. St. Vincent has the subversive festival invasion performance art thing down pat: lull you with soft, winding tracks that mix with pleasant indie rock home playlists, then channel noise through gluttonous, buoyant guitars live. The drummer’s noise cancellation headphones were fair warning.

Visually, her three-piece band was nicely accompanied by sea foam green blocks, three center stage pink risers. St. Vincent stood atop the decorative mini-pyramid and roared–she looked like Zuul from “Ghostbusters.”

At the end I spotted actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from “Superbad”) rocking out like a man possessed in a Boston Red Sox cap. Suddenly St. Vincent is on a security guard’s shoulders, wearing a fan’s floral head dress and waving another’s Colorado flag. Take no prisoners.

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Reggae royal Jimmy Cliff delivers indomitably positive ACL address

Jimmy Cliff performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival. Photo by Ashley Landis, For American-Statesman.
Jimmy Cliff performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival. Photo by Ashley Landis, For American-Statesman.

Shout out to the area man with the white-guy dreads, Orioles jersey, and Imperial beer-dispensing backpack. I pointed out that his beers were falling out left and right, and he was exceedingly mellow, “It’s the bag that gives.” Another Jimmy Cliff enthusiast toward the front barked “Jimmy!” during every lull.

If you’re the type of Caucasian male that likes calling strangers “brother,” the unofficial reggae secretary of state’s Friday Austin City Limits Festival set was essential real estate.

But Cliff, wearing shiny gold (silk, probably) garments, proved more transcendent royal than genre cliche-affirming vessel for gnarly marijuana highs. Opening with “Rivers of Babylon,” Cliff sat on a folding chair as eight percussionists in matching orange tees thumped away. The unit morphed into a full-service ensemble, complete with stab-landing horns, by song No. 2.

The 66-year-old reggae icon is an industry grandfather. Some resume-building facts: he’s the only living musician with an Order of Merit (state-sanctioned Jamaican honor for achievement in the arts); Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2010; contributed work to the “Cool Runnings” soundtrack.

More importantly his present live show is clean and arresting. Cliff plus an organ and backup pipes is Kingston heartache and a premier soul balladeer effort. He gets rebellious about Afghanistan and lands blows. His cover of Cat Stevens’s “Wild World” kinda rules. Hits like “The Harder They Come” and “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” pulse with big vocals and young man exuberance.

It’s the kind of leg-stretching, finger-pointing gig that makes you want to cross your legs and camp out along the Honda Stage’s rails through OutKast.

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