Liz Phair brings joy and buoyancy to sold-out Mohawk show

By Kayleigh Hughes, special to the American-Statesman

Early on in her set at the Mohawk on Thursday night, Liz Phair took a moment to grin at the audience and observe, “I think I see the first Liz Phair mosh pit out there.”

Liz Phair at the Mohawk. Kyser Lough for American-Statesman

It was a perfect way of summing up the energy that the lovestruck audience sent Phair and her band from the moments the lights dimmed until the last raucous cymbal clash of their encore. The sold-out Sept. 27 show was packed with Phair die-hards, young and old, who knew all the lyrics to every song and vibrated with energy.

Phair and her band more than gave that energy back. After an intimate, limited-date tour earlier in the year in which Phair and sole guitar accompanist Connor Sullivan played groundbreaking songs from the early demo tapes she recorded as Girly Sound, the rock ’n’ roll queen is now midway through a string of dates with a full band that brings her sharp songwriting to life in a totally different way.

PHOTOS: Liz Phair and Speedy Ortiz at the Mohawk

In a savvy move to differentiate the rock-show tone of the current tour from the more stripped-down summer anniversary shows, Phair kicked off her set with the propulsive track “Supernova” from “Whip-Smart,” the follow-up to her iconic debut, “Exile in Guyville.” In fact, Phair and her band blasted thrillingly through five songs from various eras of her career (and three guitars) before giving the crowd a track from “Guyville,” a driving, heavy version of “Never Said.” The run of tracks was a welcome reminder in the midst of the “Guyville” anniversary conversations that Phair has been pushing her sound forward and mixing rock and pop subgenres for the past 25 years, while always retaining her wit, intellect and curiosity as a songwriter.

Throughout the night, she hit on all the favorites, from swooning pop hit “Why Can’t I” to ferocious anthems such as “6’1”” and “Polyester Bride” to the beloved encore necessity “Divorce Song.” She gave them all rich, full arrangements, resulting in a set that felt cohesive and served as a reminder that Phair is a veteran, an expert and a true one-of-a-kind artist. (At a certain point, I gave up counting the number of perfectly timed guitar changes. Phair has a collection that makes my heart flutter.)

During the show, Phair also made a point of acknowledging the killer set by opening act Speedy Ortiz, shining a well-deserved light on the feminist indie-grunge-rock band, who delivered an incredibly tight, vibrant, righteously furious performance earlier in the evening. Between the shredding and the hooks, lead singer Sadie Dupuis urged the audience to vote multiple times and allowed sexual assault victims like herself and anyone feeling particularly enraged with the news cycle a chance to take a giant, cathartic scream with her.

Phair brought her own sense of catharsis to the rest of the night, but in a different way: through joy and buoyancy. So much of her music serves as searing indictments of patriarchy and raw explorations of womanhood, and she and her band managed to channel that into an almost blissful musical energy, allowing the pleasure of performing together and connecting with an adoring audience to be its own hard-won and enjoyed victory.

En Vogue’s set and a tribute to Draylen Mason set powerful mood at Austin Urban Music Fest

By Kayleigh Hughes, special to the American-Statesman

The weather could not have been better on Friday night for the musical celebration that went down at Auditorium Shores during Austin’s 13th Urban Music Festival. On a crisp, clear night with a big full moon hanging bright in the sky, families, friends and lovers — our photographer snapped some great photos of a newly engaged couple — gathered to embrace the power of music, browse handmade art and fashion from local entrepreneurs, and, of course, sing and dance to one of America’s greatest girl groups, En Vogue. (Shoutouts to City Council Member Ora Houston and new Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk, who both made appearances onstage.)

En Vogue performs Friday, March 30, at the Austin Urban Music Festival at Auditorium Shores. Photo by Tess Cagle/For American-Statesman

Texas Jazz Explosion rocked it out as the first musicians of the festival’s evening stage show. While every performer in the group had a chance to shine with the kinds of solos and improvisations that make jazz performances so special, flute player Althea Rene stole the show with a presence and star quality I’ve never seen in a flutist.

FROM 2014: Soul Tree Collective trains young R&B musicians for the Austin Urban Music Festival

Singer Vivian Green took the stage next, delivering soulful R&B to a fun and receptive crowd. Green showcased her powerful vocals with songs from throughout her almost two-decade-long career as a performer, pulling out feelings of heartbreak, empowerment, sensual desire and playful nostalgia at various turns. Giving her backup singers plenty of opportunities to highlight their own strong voices, Green fostered an environment of collaboration and sharing, both on the stage and with the audience, who she encouraged to love themselves and had singing and dancing for almost her entire set.

Behind the scenes, the kids of Soul Tree Collective, sharply dressed in all white and glowing with youthful energy after performing onstage earlier in the day, donned pins honoring fellow musician Draylen Mason, who was killed in the recent Austin bombings. The gifted 17-year-old Mason was a bassist in Soul Tree Collective, the Austin nonprofit that supports and trains local young R&B musicians, and his life was honored throughout the evening. The young performers got to speak with the members of En Vogue backstage, even singing a few bars with the iconic group.

Members of Austin’s Soul Tree Collective hang out with En Vogue backstage on Friday, March 30, at the Austin Urban Music Festival. Photo by Tess Cagle/For American-Statesman

And before En Vogue took the stage, the Urban Music Festival took time for a moving tribute to Mason, showing videos and photographs of the remarkable young man and calling for the entire crowd to shine their cell phones and light up the night for him. Looking out at thousands of tiny dots coming together to form a sea of light, you could feel the weight of loss and the equally strong sense of community support that builds love and keeps people close during hard times.

It was a cathartic moment of release when the celebrated headliners finally took the stage, charging immediately into one of their most-loved tracks, “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get it)”. Dressed in cool black ensembles, Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett rocked choreographed dance moves and a vibrant energy that shows just how consistent these musicians have been throughout their remarkable career. During their concise, carefully planned set, the trio delivered hit after hit while taking several moments to speak directly to the crowd.

After the group poured out a performance of “Give It Up Turn It Loose,” Ellis spoke of Mason, requesting a moment of silence and dedicating En Vogue’s show to the memory of the young musician. Then, in what was perhaps the highlight of a night full of them, the musicians burst into an electrifying performance of “Free Your Mind” in honor of Mason.

LOOK BACK: At 10, evolved Urban Music Festival carries on afro-centric vision

Playfully warning that Salt-N-Pepa were not onstage with them tonight and that “you don’t wanna hear us rap,” Ellis provided an introduction for the group’s smart, contemporary arrangement of the beloved single “Whatta Man,” which had the audience dancing, swaying and more than once shouting declarations of love toward the stage.

That evening, the savvy performers of En Vogue brought a celebratory experience to Auditorium Shores, sharing in the joy of the audience as they belted out one of the greatest soul, disco and R&B medleys of all time. From Diana Ross, Cheryl Lynn and Donna Summers to the Emotions, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, Ellis, Heron and Bennett held a crackling time-traveling party through some of the best of music history. The kids of Soul Tree Collective, stationed right up front, grooved along with as much passion as audience members from older generations.

Finishing with smash hit “Hold On,” En Vogue took their leave with an elegant choreographed bow and some final dance moves as they left the stage, closing out the night with one final reminder of what music can do for all of us.

(Urban Music Fest continues Saturday, with gates at noon and music starting at 3 p.m. Saturday’s headliners: Zapp, Dave Hollister and Johnny Gill. Soul Tree Collective is scheduled to play at 5:15 p.m. followed by a tribute to Draylen Mason at 5:45 p.m.)

• PHOTOS: See more from Friday at Urban Music Fest (including that newly engaged couple)

SXSW 2018: Spider House’s All the Friends Ball serves as a handy SXSW Music primer

Bryan Rolli
For the American-Statesman

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“How does one cover a showcase, ever?”

My friend’s text gave me pause as I drove to Spider House for All the Friends Ball, the annual concert that kicks off South by Southwest with an all-day showcase of Austin’s finest, freshest and freakiest musicians. How was I supposed to cover a 13-hour showcase that hosted 50 artists across five different stages? Truth be told, I had already missed the first half of the day’s festivities, but that still left me with several dozen artists from which to choose. Would I stick with those I already knew and loved, or check out a bunch of fresh faces? Should I camp out at one stage all night, or would I be better off racing back and forth and gleaning as much as possible from five minutes at each set?

As it turns out, All the Friends Ball serves as a tidy microcosm of SXSW’s music section at large, and should be covered thusly. In other words: Ease into things, let the music lead you, and please, don’t try too hard to have fun.

This approach proved successful for the crowd that ambled toward the Spider House patio to catch Whiite Walls’ twilight set. The sleek disco/funk quintet turned the patio into a dance floor with peppy, percussive guitar licks and infectious keyboard melodies, as one enthralled fan watched from the side of the stage and drummed furiously on his leg.

Blastfamous USA is the new protest rap project featuring indie hip hop artist ZEALE with production duo NGHT HCKLRS. (Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

If Whiite Walls warmed up the nighttime crowd, Blastfamous USA worked them into a righteous frenzy an hour later on the same stage. The blistering indie-rap trio, consisting of combustible MC Zeale and production duo NGHT HCKLRS, delivered a flurry of high-octane, hook-heavy bangers that could incite a riot in the streets just as easily as they incited a mosh pit at Spider House. Zeale raced across the stage and beckoned viewers to jump, march and pump their fists in solidarity, his leather-clad figure silhouetted against the Spider House sign.

“You’re standing too far back, come closer—unless you’re a blogger, then you can be cool and stand back,” the rapper teased. Joke’s on him; even the bloggers wanted to be up front.

Fans of more guitar-driven fare got their fill as well, sometimes from multiple acts at a time. Marmalakes dazzled on the patio with their psychedelic indie rock, while Otis the Destroyer coaxed a sizable congregation over to the chapel stage to watch their rough-and-tumble garage rock. Veteran punk trio XETAS pummeled the ballroom stage — literally, digging the headstocks of their instruments into the floorboards — and turned the dense crowd into a whirlwind of flailing limbs. One overzealous fan took the tumult as an excuse to do chin-ups on the venue’s support beams, earning a rightful tongue-lashing from bassist Kana Harris, who wasn’t about to cede her spotlight to a belligerent jock riding high on testosterone.

The crowd at last year’s All The Friend’s Ball. (2017 American-Statesman)

XETAS’ raucous performance counteracted an intimate, riveting ballroom bar set from SOBBRS, the sobriquet adopted by electro-pop savant Jesus Acosta. Taking cues from the lush, ethereal production and brooding hooks of Lorde and Banks, SOBBRS made a strong case for electronic-oriented music on a predominantly analog lineup; the audience happily obliged.

Closing out the night in the ballroom were Black Pumas, the psychedelic soul sextet helmed by Grammy-winning producer, guitar wizard and Grupo Fantasma alum Adrian Quesada as well as local crooner Eric Burton. Black Pumas just released their first single, the divine “Black Moon Rising,” on Friday, with a full-length debut expected this summer, yet they already seem destined for greatness. Watching them enchant a half-full, sleepily satisfied ballroom felt like the beginning of a meteoric career, just as All the Friends Ball felt like the beginning of a fruitful SXSW. If the rest of the week can foster such authentic joy and discovery, we might just make it out of this thing alive after all.

Review: ACL Live isn’t ACL Live without St. Vincent

By Bryan Rolli, special to the Statesman

“There is no place in the world I’d rather be than right here in Texas,” Annie Clark — better known by her stage name, St. Vincent — said three songs into her Thursday night ACL Live set, beaming as the audience applauded wildly.

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, plays Thursday, Feb. 22, at ACL Live. ERIKA RICH/For American-
Statesman

I, on the other hand, would have preferred she move 6 inches to the left.

A moving curtain obscured three-quarters of the stage for the first several songs of Clark’s 90-minute performance, blocking many viewers’ lines of sight. Not exactly the best way to build momentum, but if the show opened with a smolder instead of a roaring flame, it also served to represent Clark’s metamorphosis into a live solo artist. The avant-garde pop star’s decision to perform without a backing band on her Fear the Future tour has polarized some fans, but her steely determination and cacophonous outbursts proved so captivating that, by the time the curtains opened completely to reveal the singer in a pink leather bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, it was clear St. Vincent would be running her own show. (She plays a second show Friday night.)

• PHOTOS: See a full gallery from Thursday’s St. Vincent show

Clark has divided her current tour into two acts, the first a chronological romp through her first four albums: 2007’s “Marry Me,” 2009’s “Actor,” 2011’s “Strange Mercy” and 2014’s “St. Vincent.” As the demure pop leanings of her earlier material gave way to more abrasive sonic textures, the author lost herself amidst the explosive beats and disorienting strobe lights. She wrung dissonant slabs of noise from her signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitar and spat off the stage during “Cheerleader,” swishing the lyrics around in her mouth before delivering them with a sneer: “I don’t wanna be your cheerleader no more.”

She wasn’t. We were all hers.

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, plays Thursday, Feb. 22, at ACL Live. ERIKA RICH/For American-
Statesman

Moments like these showed Clark’s penchant for vintage arena rock largesse, but she displayed pop star candor when she unstrapped her guitar and sat down in the center of the stage to sing the vulnerable alt-ballad “Strange Mercy.” Artists often use their stage personas to build a wall between themselves and their fans, but Clark eagerly engaged the audience between cathartic performances.

“We all know the world is on fire right now and everything is insane. We’re at a crucial arc in human history,” she said before playing electro-funk banger “Digital Witness,” whose “What’s the point of even sleeping?” refrain sounds like Prince’s “1999” updated for disenfranchised millennials. “But you know what? There’s always something to dance about. There’s always something to be joyful about. So let’s (expletive) go!”

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, plays Thursday, Feb. 22, at ACL Live. ERIKA RICH/For American-
Statesman

Clark devoted act two exclusively to her latest album, October’s “Masseduction.” A close-up of the singer wearing a stupefied expression swelled on the video screen behind her and gave way to the album’s crackling opener, “Hang on Me.” Surrealistic videos of crumbling telephone cakes, bandaged women receiving plastic surgery and hyperspace time travel accompanied other songs, and Clark hurled herself into the material with such vigor that an already-spirited act one turned out to be merely a warm-up. She ripped tasteful solos on the hypnotic “Los Ageless” and the sensual “Savior,” and she silenced the room with the spellbindingly melancholy “Happy Birthday, Johnny.”

Before playing the yearning, towering “New York,” which solicited the loudest applause of the night, Clark thanked the audience for their enthusiasm and boasted that she had “been to at least two keg parties here when my sister was at UT.” She buttered them up further by changing the song’s opening line — “New York isn’t New York without you, love” — to something more geographically appropriate: “Austin isn’t Austin without Texans.”

“It’s a little bit of circular logic, but just go with it,” she deadpanned after the ad-lib. And go with it, we did — because ACL Live isn’t ACL Live without St. Vincent.

MORE STORIES YOU MIGHT LIKE

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Review: Please, Dream Syndicate, don’t stay away so long next time

By Wes Eichenwald, special to the American-Statesman

After a three-month, 40-city tour of Europe and the US behind their first new album in nearly three decades — 2017’s “How Did I Find Myself Here?” — past and present alt-rock heroes the Dream Syndicate played their final live date, at least for a while, Saturday night at ACL Live’s smaller showcase, 3TEN, a sleek, 350-capacity black box.

The Dream Syndicate play Saturday, Jan. 20, at 3TEN at ACL Live. It was the band’s last show on their current tour. Photo by Wes Eichenwald/Special to the American-Statesman

Although the band has been reunited since 2012 (after disbanding in 1989), the past few months have been a time of major reconnection and re-affirmation with their transatlantic fanbase; Austin was just one of many cities where they hadn’t played since the late ‘80s. Anyone at 3TEN would tell you the triumphant 90-minute show was worth the wait, but might also add: What took them so long to return?

The up-close-and-personal venue worked well for the tight, theatrically minded quartet. Four Clark Kent types, they are, really, regular guys who, from the first waves of sonic wash, transform into paisley Supermen. For me, and likely for many old fans in the audience, the highlight was the regular set’s climax, “The Days of Wine and Roses,” from their 1982 debut LP of the same name.

ALSO SATURDAY: In that Austin moment, I swear Bon Iver was infinite 

Guitarist/bandleader Steve Wynn doesn’t sing the lyrics so much as declaim them, like an actor putting over his signature monologue with panache. Guitarist Jason Victor, Wynn’s bandmate and foil from the Miracle 3, kept playing hard, but at some point Wynn stopped, neither singing nor playing, just standing trancelike, eyes closed. The others then also froze in place and just stood (or in drummer Dennis Duck’s case, sat) silently – for 30 seconds? An eternity? – before crashing onward to a shattering conclusion.

In the Dream Syndicate’s early years they were seen as a throwback to ‘60s guitar rock with clear influences from punk, bucking the synthpop era with literate, noirish narratives of desperation and catharsis. There were guitar heroics aplenty, but nothing was self-indulgent; it was all in service of a greater purpose.

“Filter Me Through You,” a standout from the new album, blended seamlessly with older material such as “Armed with an Empty Gun” and “That’s What You Always Say.” 1984’s “The Medicine Show” was another peak, with Wynn and Victor’s guitar dueling augmented by Duck and bassist Mark Walton, working up to a triple-time raveup.

Clearly enjoying themselves, the band treated the crowd to several generous encores, ending with “Boston” (from 1986’s “Out of the Grey”), into which they interspersed several bars of Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” In all, nothing short of spectacular.

Wynn gave props from the stage to Austin for being the first place outside their California home base to embrace the band. (In an email, Wynn mentioned this went back to 1982 when longtime KUTX/KGSR DJ Jody Denberg began playing their songs and the band played here many times at fondly remembered venues like the Soap Creek Saloon and Liberty Lunch.)

That old Paisley Underground label the Dream Syndicate carries only goes so far. You wouldn’t be wrong to call it ‘80s nostalgia you can get behind without guilt – the alt-‘80s, the non-tacky ‘80s – but that doesn’t really do justice to what the band does. As with many artists, going against the trends has proved a winning formula for surviving and transcending them over time. It’s really more of a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or you could just as well go with “timeless classics.” As for Steve Wynn, in my book he’s assumed the long-vacant title of Chairman of the Board, alt-rock division.

Opening act Erika Wennerstrom, a longtime member of Heartless Bastards currently working solo, won over the early crowd with songs and a personal presence connoting honesty, strength with a vulnerable edge, clarity, and a winsome, yearning voice. Major points to her, too, for deciding to stop in the middle of a song to reprimand some people who were talking rather loudly over it: “I’m sorry,” she said, “but if you don’t want to listen you can go outside, it’s warm out.” Which was true enough.

Who to see Sunday at ACL Fest, weekend 2

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You can’t see them all, no matter how fast you move from stage to stage. Team Austin360 is here with some Austin City Limits Music Festival picks to help refine your game plan. The second weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival is Oct. 13-15 at Zilker Park. See all our previews and follow live coverage at austin360.com/acl. Read our full picks for weekend one here.

Danny Brown, an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan, performs on the Honda Stage during weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on Sunday Oct. 8, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Sunday

11:45 a.m. Tank & the Bangas (HomeAway): It’s hard to make it out to the field before noon, but the theatrical mishmash of jazz, hip-hop and R&B from this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner will set your day off right.

1:30 p.m. Jamila Woods (Tito’s): A “Blk Girl Soldier” leading a neo-soul revolution.

2:15 p.m. Danny Brown (Honda): Real talk: The unhinged maniac rhyme styles from his 2016 joint “Atrocity Exhibition” might be very weird during daylight hours, but you owe it to yourself to check it out anyway.

4:15 p.m. DRAM (Honda): A freewheeling rap/R&B prankster who performs with irresistible jubilation.

6:15 p.m. Run the Jewels (Honda): The internet-born, unlikely aggro-rap heroes we didn’t know we needed.

7:30 p.m. Zhu (Barton Springs): Keep it moving (and avoid seeing anyone over 30) as you head into the home stretch with synth-driven dance music.

8:15 p.m. Gorillaz (Honda): In this bizarre comic book world we seem to have slipped into, closing the fest to the sounds of a cartoon band touring on a record called “Humanz” seems very appropriate.

Sunday

11:45 a.m. Tank & the Bangas (HomeAway): The eclectic New Orleans ensemble won this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest, and they’re a unanimous pre-noon choice in our staff picks as well.

12:30 p.m. Deap Vally (American Express): The guitar-drums duo of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards rocked the house opening a tour for Blondie and Garbage earlier this year.

2:15 p.m. Rainbow Kitten Surprise (American Express): They’re neither rainbows nor kittens nor surprising, but the North Carolina group finds an agreeable groove somewhere between indie-folk and alt-rock realms.

3:15 p.m. Whitney (Barton Springs): Formed from the ashes of indie band Smith Westerns, the Chicago group accents its soulful music with melodic flourishes of keyboards and horns.

4:15 p.m. Milky Chance (American Express): Acoustic guitars and DJ samples combine in the modern folk music of this German ensemble.

5:15 p.m. First Aid Kit (HomeAway): Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg have emerged as one of the most appealing vocal duos in pop music in decades.

6:15 p.m. The Head and the Heart (American Express): Co-founder Jonathan Russell stepped up in the wake of Josiah Johnson’s hiatus to keep the indie-folk-pop outfit on track, as evidenced by an auspicious “Austin City Limits” TV taping earlier this year.

8:15 p.m. The Killers (American Express): The Las Vegas rockers ride into town a couple weeks after the release of “Wonderful Wonderful,” their first album in five years after leader Brandon Flowers issued a solo album in 2015.

Sunday

11:45 a.m. Tank & the Bangas (HomeAway): You will be gobsmacked by Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s magical flow and bone-rattling belting. The sprawling band collides like electrons of joy in video performances. A must-catch.

12:30 p.m. Bibi Bourelly (Honda): Au courant R&B in the vein of Alessia Cara and SZA; wrote “Bitch Betta Have My Money” for Rihanna. Not sure what to make of her “school of hard knocks” storyline despite an art world bigwig mom and guitarist dad with his own Wikipedia page. Can’t argue with that gut-punch of a voice, though.

1:30 p.m. Jamila Woods (Tito’s Handmade Vodka): I am tempted to write a pithy line about Sunday and church for this divinely soulful Chance the Rapper collaborator. I’ll refrain from trying to make it pithy.

2:15 p.m. Danny Brown (Honda): Let’s get weird! The reigning king of oddball rap should be a surreal afternoon draw.

3:15 p.m. Whitney (Barton Springs): Kick back and take a break with a little strummy, sunny, Southern-seasoned alt-pop.

4:15 p.m. DRAM (Honda): In the year of Chance, an unflaggingly optimistic hip-hop voice like this should get a prominent spotlight. No bad vibes welcome.

5:15 p.m. First Aid Kit (HomeAway): Swedish sisters whose romantic (and at times all-too-relatably mournful) harmonies transport you to an alternate reality where everyone is Benjamin Braddock and we all own Budweiser horses.

6:15 p.m. BADBADNOTGOOD (Tito’s Handmade Vodka): This Ghostface Killah-aligned, boundary-breaking jazz outfit took me on a multisensory journey under a tent at the last Fun Fun Fun Fest. Ready to break out the ol’ senses again.

8:15 p.m. The Killers (American Express): Why go see Damon Albarn’s singing doodles when an impossibly handsome man in an impossibly sparkly blazer could make you feel both human and dancer? Come out of your cage. You’ll do just fine.

Who to see Saturday at ACL Fest, weekend 2

[cmg_anvato video=”4187029″]

You can’t see them all, no matter how fast you move from stage to stage. Team Austin360 is here with some Austin City Limits Music Festival picks to help refine your game plan. The second weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival is Oct. 13-15 at Zilker Park. See all our previews and follow live coverage at austin360.com/acl. Read our full picks for weekend two here.

Benjamin Booker performs at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas on Friday November 6, 2015, at at Auditorium Shores.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH

Saturday

11:30 a.m. Mobley (Miller Lite): The catchiest pop act to come out of Austin since Spoon.

12:15 p.m. Capyac (Tito’s): Electro-funk dance party anyone?

1 p.m. Mondo Cozmo (Barton Springs): Swells of joy will spill across Zilker Park as Joshua Ostrander’s triumphant pop anthems draw friends and lovers together in a swaying top-of-lung singalong.

2 p.m. A$AP Ferg (American Express): After dropping a solid 2016 release that was introspective and aspirational, this year’s followup was a largely forgettable journey back into standard trap tropes with sex and drugs aplenty, but if you’re looking to turn up, this is the spot.

3 p.m. Benjamin Booker (Miller Lite): On his new album, “Witness,” Booker maintains the same anarchic punk approach to gut-bucket blues that won him fans with his self-titled debut three years ago, but he’s matured as a songwriter. Vulnerability creeps in as he downshifts into confessional gospel and wistful folk.

READ MORE: Review of Benjamin Booker at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015

4 p.m. Thundercat (Tito’s): A fearless jazz weirdo and acclaimed Kendrick Lamar collaborator who crafts surprisingly accessible story songs out of technically mind-boggling riffs.

5 p.m. The Black Angels (Barton Springs): The legacy of Austin psychedelic music blazes on with “Death Song,” the rich collection of reverb-soaked rock these next-generation fuzz fanatics wrote in the shadow of the 2016 election.

6 p.m. Ice Cube (American Express): If you’re wondering where Cube’s set will fall on a scale of “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” to “Are We There Yet?” listen to his new single “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” No roses will be handed out during this year’s legacy rap performance.

7 p.m. Tove Lo (Barton Springs): Sexy, suave pop to shimmy you through the transition from day to night.

8 p.m. Chance the Rapper (Honda): Chancelor Bennett is one of the most authentic hip-hop voices of his generation, and he is determined to use his superpowers for good.

SATURDAY

11:30 a.m. Mobley (Miller Lite): A recent Austin360 Artist of the Month, this eclectic up-and-coming talent is also representing the city internationally as part of this year’s Project ATX6 class.

READ MORE: Austin artist Mobley’s soulful pop packs a meaningful punch

12:30 p.m. Rattletree (Austin Kiddie Limits): Rhythm and melody intertwine in the marimba-fueled sounds of this group that puts a contemporary spin on African traditionalism.

1 p.m. Grace VanderWaal (HomeAway): The 13-year-old ukulele-playing singer-songwriter and “America’s Got Talent” alum will preview songs from her debut album, due in November.

2:15 p.m. Parker Millsap (Tito’s): A rising star in Americana music, Oklahoma troubadour Millsap made a memorable “Austin City Limits” TV debut last fall.

3 p.m. Benjamin Booker (Miller Lite): Soul, pop, blues, rock ’n’ roll and more influence the music of this Florida-raised guitarist and singer-songwriter.

4 p.m. LĪVE (American Express): The 1990s alt-rockers split up for awhile, but they’re back in action with frontman Ed Kowalczyk at the helm for the first time in nearly a decade.

5 p.m. Angel Olsen (Miller Lite): The indie-rocker made waves with her 2016 album “My Woman” (including an “Austin City Limits” TV taping), and her band includes Heather McEntire of acclaimed North Carolina group Mount Moriah.

7 p.m. Spoon (Miller Lite): Local hero Britt Daniel’s indie juggernaut puts the A back in ACL Fest, especially given that their current lineup features a majority of Austinites for the first time in years.

8 p.m. Chance the Rapper (Honda): Whoever was booked here would win the time-slot battle by default, because the band across the park is the must-avoid Red Hot Chili Peppers. As fate would have it, Chance is also well worth seeing, one of the freshest voices to hit hip-hop in years.

ERIC WEBB

12:15 p.m. MUNA (Honda): Queer positivity set over who-knows-what-lurks-these-streets pop melodies? Take my money!

2 p.m. Car Seat Headrest (Honda): Their indie bedroom confession rock ripped at Sound On Sound Fest last year.

3 p.m. R.LUM.R (BMI): One of those R&B up-and-comers whose voice Prometheus rush-delivered straight from Olympus. Influences namecheckedinclude: Sufjan Stevens, Linkin Park, Sade, Dave Brubeck, John Mayer. …

4 p.m. Thundercat (Tito’s Handmade Vodka): Elastic, sexy funk that promises many “Um, how does a person do that?” moments.

6 p.m. Cut Copy (Honda): I’ve always thought Cut Copy is what the most popular band in the world would sound like if disco never died.

7 p.m. Tove Lo (Barton Springs): Sweden’s most dangerous pop star, kicking the toxic gender roles right in the meatballs.

8 p.m. Chance the Rapper (Honda): There’s a sweet sense of lineage to Jay-Z (arguably the most famous living rapper) headlining Friday night and one of the most vibrant young rappers of today, who leads a movement all his own, taking a big stage the next night. Hard to imagine this one won’t leave you feeling revived.

ACL FEST FASHION: Practical tips from veteran fest-goers for staying fresh at the park

Herbie Hancock brings ageless classics to ‘ACL’ taping

By Wes Eichenwald
Special to the American-Statesman

When two venerable artistic institutions join forces for the first time, most would agree that it qualifies as a capital-E Event of some note. Judging from the studio audience’s response to the tight 90-minute set from Herbie Hancock’s quartet Thursday night – Hancock’s “Austin City Limits” debut – that was definitely the case.

 

Contributed by Scott Newton Courtesy of KLRU-TV

 

Introducing his band after the opening number (“Overture”), Hancock said, “We like to go a little crazy up here sometimes, so bear with us.” In fact, the show, which was livestreamed on ACLTV’s YouTube channel, was on the whole a classic demonstration of muscular, percussive, propulsive ‘60s and ‘70s-rooted jazz along the axis of Coltrane and Tyner – and, yes, Hancock’s old boss Miles Davis.

At 77, Hancock – trim, fully invested in the music and clearly in charge – seemed as ageless as the six numbers from various points in his long career that he’d selected for the evening.

Hancock, seated at an electric piano at stage right, and his seasoned band – drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist James Genus, and Terrace Martin on alto sax and keyboards – ably performed the trick of getting a late-night vibe going by 8:10 p.m., about five minutes into the proceedings, with Genus taking the early lead with rapid-fire runs and Hancock easily sparring back. Occasional synth-funk and drone in the mix insinuated a sci-fi feel but were more a side dish to the classic, crowd-pleasing main course.

Both Genus, who also plays in the “Saturday Night Live” band, and former child prodigy Martin, who’s perhaps better known as a producer – in fact, he’s producing a forthcoming Hancock album – could easily lead their own combos. Martin’s sax occasionally ventured into smooth-jazz territory, but Hancock’s fine-tuned band never lost track of the framework. “Come Running to Me,” from Hancock’s 1978 album “Sunlight,” with its Vocoder space-age filigrees, segued seamlessly into “Secret Source,” a newer composition but no less characteristic of the keyboardist, with notable alpha-musician runs from Martin.

The quartet then took on “Cantaloupe Island” (from Hancock’s 1976 jazz-funk fusion album “Secrets”). By the encore, the funk classic “Chameleon,” the crowd was on its feet and Hancock, strapping on his keytar, took center stage at last, as if to remind everyone just who the star of the evening was, though no reminder was needed. At the end he did a little celebratory dance with Genus on stage, and then it was 9:30, done and done.

Set list:
“Overture”
“Actual Proof”
“Come Running to Me”
“Secret Source”
“Cantaloupe Island”
“Chameleon” (encore)

Who to see Friday at ACL Fest, weekend 2

[cmg_anvato video=”4187029″]

You can’t see them all, no matter how fast you move from stage to stage. Team Austin360 is here with some Austin City Limits Music Festival picks to help refine your game plan. The second weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival is Oct. 13-15 at Zilker Park. See all our previews and follow live coverage at austin360.com/acl. Read our full picks for weekend one here.

Mark Foster of Foster The People performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 6, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH

Friday

2:30 p.m. Valerie June (Tito’s): Your midafternoon soulful roots music break.

4:15 p.m. Vulfpeck (American Express): A Michigan-based funk band that jams way harder than you think they should.

5:15 p.m. Skepta (HomeAway): The biggest crossover from the U.K. grime scene since M.I.A. spits aggressive rhymes into an anxiety-fueled electro grinder of bass-heavy beats.

6:15 p.m. Bonobo (Tito’s): Lovely dinner time interlude: Immerse yourself in in aural texture as British producer Simon Green brings his lonely dreamscape of electronic orchestration to life with a full band (right next door to the food court).

7:15 p.m. Solange (Barton Springs) Her 2016 masterwork, “A Seat at the Table,” is a cry of resistance that doubles as a salve to the soul. Every moment of her South by Southwest 2017 show was gorgeously choreographed, and this sunset performance should be sublime.

8:15 p.m. Jay-Z (American Express) I feel terrible for the XX, who hosted a pair of entrancing evenings at ACL Live earlier this year but who won’t be ready to brush that “Dirt off Your Shoulder” at this point in the night?

MORE: Don’t miss these bands at Weekend 2 of ACL Fest 2017

PETER BLACKSTOCK

2:30 p.m. Valerie June (Tito’s): The Tennessee singer-songwriter’s second major-label album, “The Order of Time,” reaffirms her status as one of roots music’s most distinctive rising stars.

3:15 p.m. The Lemon Twigs (Miller Lite): Indie-rock teen siblings Brian and Michael D’Addario make a triumphant return to Austin after winning this year’s Grulke Prize for Developing U.S. Act at South by Southwest.

4:15 p.m. Crystal Castles (Honda): Take a late-afternoon chill-out with the long-running Canadian electronic music act, with new singer Edith Francs joining founders Ethan Kath and Christopher Chartran.

5:15 p.m. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (Miller Lite): With a self-titled album on Fantasy Records, the most musically prodigious child of Willie Nelson is in the midst of a big year, and there’s a collaboration with his dad and brother still to come.

6:15 p.m. Foster the People (American Express): The Los Angeles indie-pop band is touring behind its recently issued third album “Sacred Hearts Club.”

7:15 p.m. Ryan Adams (Miller Lite): It’s the rock songwriter’s first Austin appearance since the release of his new album “Prisoner,” following the last-minute cancellation of a South by Southwest show in March.

8:15 p.m. Jay-Z (American Express): He’s the biggest of this year’s admittedly subpar batch of headliners, and there’s always the outside chance of a Beyonce cameo.

MORE: Hip-hop at ACL Fest: Chance is better than Jay-Z, plus 5 must-see acts

ERIC WEBB

Friday

1:15 p.m.: Muna (HomeAway): Queer positivity set over who-knows-what-lurks-these-streets pop melodies? Take my money!

2:15 p.m. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (American Express): *ACL Fest emo throwback act alert*

3:15 p.m. James Vincent McMorrow (HomeAway): Falsetto and heartbreak under the sun. Not the ideal venue! But worth your time nonetheless.

5:15 p.m. Skepta (HomeAway): … how does he spit bars that fast.

6:15 p.m. Foster the People (American Express): They once spun perfect pop-rock crystals like “Houdini”; they’ve sounded more like the lobby of an L.A. juice bar with each album leading up to this year’s “Sacred Hearts Club.” Goodwill from their 2011 golden-hour ACL Fest crowdpleaser leads me to believe this could be worth it.

7:15 p.m. Solange (Barton Springs): With gallery-ready show design and lyrics that recite the poetry of black identity in the middle of American crisis, this is an “I was there when” choice.

8:15 p.m. The XX (Honda): Seeing Hova is a perfectly reasonable choice. I’d avoid the crowds and all that “living legend” baggage and say something loving with Jamie, Romy and Oliver.

Roger McGuinn guides Austin audience through a six-decade musical journey

By Wes Eichenwald, special to the American-Statesman

In recent years, there probably haven’t been too many reviews of Roger McGuinn’s solo concerts that fail to mention either his age – currently 75 – or the enduring clarity and versatility of his tenor voice, which helped define 1960s commercial folk rock via the Byrds, the group he co-founded in 1964 with Gene Clark and David Crosby.

Roger McGuinn. Photo contributed by John Chiasson

Dressed largely in black and gray, with a rakishly tilted hat, McGuinn spoke and sung his way through a nearly two-hour account of his six decades in the music world on Saturday at the Paramount Theatre.

Alternately standing and playing, and sitting in a chair amid potted plants, three guitars and a banjo – the instruments seeming as organic in this setting as the plants – McGuinn, in a self-directed interview of sorts, conversed easily about his early life in Chicago, becoming inspired to perform from hearing Elvis on the radio (upon which he sang a few bars of “Heartbreak Hotel”), and spun tales of his eventful life, from his early days with folk groups the Chad Mitchell Trio and the Limeliters and pop singer Bobby Darin to later encounters with Bob Dylan and the Beatles. McGuinn spun a hypnotic mood in his stories-behind-the-songs tour de force, weaving a connecting thread between the likes of “Rock Island Line” and old sea shanties and gospel hymns, through to the Byrds hits “Mr. Spaceman,” “Eight Miles High,” and “Chestnut Mare.”

Roger McGuinn’s simple stage design for his solo concert tour. Contributed by Wes Eichenwald

With the precision of the folk-music archivist he’s been for over 20 years, McGuinn noted that he’d last played the Paramount in May 1991 and said some kind words about the efforts to preserve and maintain beautiful old theaters. McGuinn knows something about historical preservation, archiving a large number of traditional folk songs on the “Folk Den” section of his website and recording a four-CD set from the archive.

If McGuinn was at the right places at the right time to ride the waves from the cresting folk scene at the dawn of the ‘60s through his glory days with the Byrds, he also made clear he was willing to throw twists and turns into his musical career – as when, refusing to have the Byrds be pigeonholed as either folk rock or psychedelic, he related how they went to Nashville in 1968 to record the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album, helping to pioneer country rock in the process.

McGuinn showcased his vocal versatility on “Mr. Tambourine Man,” singing it first much as Dylan did in the original version, then as McGuinn reimagined it with an ear to radio airplay, with the help of Bach and his inner Beatle filter (from the first time he heard the Beatles, McGuinn recognized folk chord changes in the songs and realized the potential of “Beatleizing” songs with folk bones).

The audience of mainly graying baby-boomers ate up McGuinn’s clinic, rising easily for more than one standing ovation. Yet it wasn’t just a nostalgic exercise, it was a compelling journey to the still-beating heart of ‘60s folk, rock, and assorted creative exercises from the mind, throat, and hands of a master musician.

MORE MUSIC:

Review: Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas at the Erwin Center

Tribute: Remembering Charles Bradley, who died Sept. 23

Review:  A tour de force from Tedeschi Trucks Band at ACL Live