ACL Fest Gameplan: Hear the Hits

There are many ways to approach a huge event like the Austin City Limits Music Festival. This year, in addition to our regular critic’s picks and artist spotlights we’re offering game plans, various strategies for how to approach the festival depending on what kind of experience you’re looking to have. For each game plan we’re providing both a suggested schedule and a playlist. Today, the Top 40 lover’s gameplan.

Clockwise from top left: Eminem, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lorde, Foster the People.
Clockwise from top left: Eminem, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lorde, Foster the People.

The playlist: Hear the Hits

The strategy: Forget all those obscure bands you’ve never heard of. You want to scream out the lyrics to your favorite radio jams at the top of your lungs.

Essential gear:

  • Instagram – Post a shaky-cam video of Iggy Azalea shakin’ it to make your friends jealous.

  • Phone charger – See above.

  • Flag – You’re scoping out the big ticket, big draw shows. If you have any hope of meeting your friends there, you’ll need a landmark. If you have any hope of spotting yourself on the aerial cam … you’ll need a landmark.

Non-essential gear:

  • Extra cash – Your game plan isn’t focused on scoping out every new band you can find, and you won’t be getting to Zilker until lunchtime, anyway. Gotta have nacho money.

  • Headphones – But who knows! You might get curious and want to check out someone you’ve never heard of. That’s what Spotify Premium is for.

The gameplan

Friday

2:15: Capital Cities (Samsung Galaxy) The “Safe and Sound” dance bros are your first safe bet for festival karaoke.

3:15 Bleachers (Miller Lite): You know Jack Antonoff from fun.’s ubiquitous “Some Nights” and “We Are Young.” Summer alt-radio has been kind to his side project’s heart-on-sleeve “I Wanna Get Better.” (Bonus: Potential Lena Dunham sighting. The “Girls” star is Antonoff’s girlfriend.)

5:15 Sam Smith (Miller Lite): Stay with him. If he doesn’t do an acoustic “Latch,” your money back.

6:15 Foster the People (Samsung Galaxy): There’s not a track from 2011’s “Torches” that you won’t recognize. Better yet, the “Pumped Up Kicks” dance-poppers put on an electrifying live show, with surprisingly strong vocals from frontman Mark Foster.

8:15 Outkast (Honda): This is it. You have laid awake at night, dreaming of one day shaking it like a Polaroid picture with Andre 3000 and Big Boi themselves. You are the speakerboxxx. You are the love below. Go to them, Lucy Lius and babydolls. Get on the floor.

Saturday

4:30 The Head and the Heart (Samsung Galaxy): Truth be told, Saturday is a little light on hitmakers. But you can go down in the valley a little ways with your sorority sister’s favorite feel good folksters.

5:30 Iggy Azalea (RetailMeNot): We would recommend Icona Pop at the same time, but your window for enjoying a live performance of “Fancy” grows treacherously thinner by the day.

6:30 Lana del Rey (Samsung Galaxy): S-s-s-summertime, summertime radness.

7:30 Major Lazer (RetailMeNot): You have gotten sloppy to “Bubble Butt” on Dirty Sixth and you know it. (Bonus: Diplo’s dancehall spasm-inducer “Pon de Floor” is sampled in Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls).” It’ll be like Queen Bey is right there!)

8:30 Eminem (Samsung Galaxy): If you wanted to hear hits and you bought a pass this year, you’ve been waiting months to hear “The Real Slim Shady,” “My Name Is,” “Lose Yourself,” “Love The Way You Lie,” “Berzerk,” “The Monster,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Sunday

2:00 AFI (Honda): Slather that extra-long front bang with gel and thrash, Rock Band style, to “Miss Murder.”

3:00 Cults (Austin Ventures): You’ve heard their one and only hit “Go Outside” on “The Vampire Diaries,” “90210,” “Gossip Girl,” and every time you’ve walked into Urban Outfitters.

4:00 Fitz and the Tantrums (Honda): If you haven’t heard “The Walker” this year, you’ve been ensconced in a hyperbaric chamber.

5:00 Phantogram (Miller Lite): It’s a toss-up between this electronic duo and other electronic duo (and inexplicable holdovers from 2007) Chromeo, but “Don’t Move” was in “Pitch Perfect.” That’s as good a tiebreaker as any.

6:00 Spoon (Honda): Austin rock royalty who are in no way “The Underdog.”

7:00 Lorde (RetailMeNot, weekend two only): Get saved. Amen.

7:00 Zedd (Miller Lite, weekend one): But if you’re only going to weekend one, this time slot should be a no-brainer with the German DJ/Ariana Grande collaborator.

8:00 Calvin Harris (Honda): Pearl Jam may have “Even Flow,” but this Scottish beat maestro has “Summer,” which is arguably the song of the season.

ACL Fest artist spotlight: Lucius

It’s coming: Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over Zilker Park Oct. 3-5 and 10-12. Leading up to the fest, we’ll shine the spotlight on some of the artists you might not have heard of in this year’s lineup. 

Lucius. PETER LARSON/COURTESY GIRLIE ACTION
Lucius. PETER LARSON/COURTESY GIRLIE ACTION

Artist: Lucius

From: Brooklyn

Online: ilovelucius.com

At the fest: Saturdays, Oct. 4 and 11, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Austin Ventures Stage; official late-night show Friday, Oct. 3, at Emo’s (opening for The Head and the Heart)

About

It was hard to argue with the selection of mesmerizing Baltimore indie band Future Islands as this year’s recipient of the South by Southwest Grulke Prize, but my vote went to this utterly beguiling five-piece outfit from Brooklyn. Starting early with a public TV fundraiser at the Parish and continuing through formal showcases and day parties, they won over crowds wherever they went – even rising to the unenviable challenge of an early-afternoon slot at a Convention Center ballroom.

Everything revolves around dual frontwomen Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, whose highly stylized and coordinated stage presence draws attention but is merely a complement to the magic they make onstage with their vocal and instrumental talents. Backing members Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri flesh out the group’s music, which blends keys, synths, guitars and percussion into a modern pop sound that’s as inventive as it is instantly appealing.

They’re smart lyrically as well. The single “Turn It Around” revolves around a revealing chant in the chorus that hints at Lucius’ ability to bring fresh perspectives to their art:  “She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”

Could share a bill with: Wilco (indeed, Laessig and Wolfe were special guests of Jeff Tweedy’s recent “Austin City Limits” taping), Arcade Fire, Sam Phillips.

ACL Fest artist spotlight: Miniature Tigers

It’s coming: Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over Zilker Park Oct. 3-5 and 10-12. Leading up to the fest, we’ll shine the spotlight on some of the artists you might not have heard of in this year’s lineup. 

Miniature Tigers
Miniature Tigers. JAY JANNER/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Artist: Minature Tigers

From: New York, N.Y.

Online: miniaturetigers.com

At the fest: Sunday, 1-1:40 p.m., both weekends on Austin Ventures Stage

About the artist

Synth-ish indie dreamers Miniature Tigers named their 2012 album “Mia Pharaoh.”  They named their most recent album, released earlier this year, “Cruel Runnings.” Name one good reason not to support a band that does things like that.

The New Yorkers now have four full-length albums under their belts, and not one of them sounds exactly like another. Their first, “Tell It To the Volcano,” is guitar-heavy with a twee bent; their second, “Fortress,” is a little rougher around the edges, with some garage rock scuzz thrown in the mix; and the aforementioned electro-drenched “Mia Pharaoh” is full of faux-80s workout video vibes and winking sleaziness.

For “Cruel Runnings,” Miniature Tigers vocalist Charlie Brand said he went for a nostalgia factor, citing Weezer’s Blue Album as a touchstone. The first single, “Swimming Pool Blues,” definitely shies away from the ironic jazzercise-cool of “Mia Pharaoh” in favor of big-hearted hooks and singalong refrains; the shadow of Phoenix’s “Bankrupt!” looms large.

But overall, there’s less Rivers Cuomo apparent in the shoulderpad synth of new tracks like “Oblivious” than there was in 2008’s Survivor-aping “Cannibal Queen.” The early afternoon ACL set should be a pleasant enough hangover cure for Saturday night partiers shuffling back into Zilker.

Could share a bill with: Ra Ra Riot, Animal Kingdom, The Format, Phoenix

 

ACL Fest artist spotlight: Vic Mensa

It’s coming: Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over Zilker Park Oct. 3-5 and 10-12. Leading up to the fest, we’ll shine the spotlight on some of the artists you might not have heard of in this year’s lineup. 

Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa

Artist: Vic Mensa

From: Chicago, Ill.

Online: vicmensa.com

At the fest: Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m. (weekend one only)

About the artist: The 21-year-old rap prodigy emerged from the Save Money hip hop collective, home to fellow Chicago rising star Chance the Rapper. With a fresh style, Mensa seems comfortable dropping his quick-witted lyrics over everything from melodic throwback grooves to slick club beats. In 2013, support spots on J. Cole and Wale’s What Dreams May Come tour and a string of European dates with Danny Brown helped elevate his profile at home and abroad and earlier this year XXL magazine annointed him part of the 2014 freshman class.

Before this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival, Fader Magazine executive editor Jessica Robertson pegged Mensa as one of 2014’s top artists to watch. “He’s a nice counterpart to Chance the Rapper,” she said. “He also has that weird interesting eclectic thing happening too. I love hip-hop that’s sort of on the fringe. Hip-hop that takes chances.”

 

ACL Fest Gameplan: Shut Up and Dance

There are many ways to approach a huge event like the Austin City Limits Music Festival. This year, in addition to our regular critic’s picks and artist spotlights we’re offering game plans, various strategies for how to approach the festival depending on what kind of experience you’re looking to have. For each game plan we’re providing both a suggested schedule and a playlist. Today, we kick off with the groove fanatic gameplan.

Arlo Bush of Lake Highlands and Jessica Estrada of San Angelo dance to the music of Bomba Estereo at ACL Fest on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. ASHLEY LANDIS/FOR AMERICAN STATESMAN
Arlo Bush of Lake Highlands and Jessica Estrada of San Angelo dance to the music of Bomba Estereo at ACL Fest on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. ASHLEY LANDIS/FOR AMERICAN STATESMAN

The playlist: Shut Up and Dance

The strategy: Hit as many body rocking sets as possible for a three-day dance marathon full of euphoric grooves.

Essential gear:

  • Comfortable shoes – you’ll regret those cute platform sandals before the sun goes down.
  • Ear plugs – you’ll be close enough to the stage to feel the full-body bass, right?
  • Water bottle – even if you don’t choose to alcoholically lower your inhibitions, staying hydrated is crucial to make this thing work.

Non-essential gear:

  • Brightly colored skirts, sundresses or tees
  • Anything that glitters or glows in the dark

The gameplan

Friday

Noon: Sphynx (Austin Ventures, weekend one only) The local trio comes armed with leopard print skinny jeans, catchy hooks and glam pop jams, everything you need to set a body in motion.

2:15: Capital Cities (Samsung Galaxy) Bop around in “Kangaroo Court” with the groovy L.A. duo

3:15 Bleachers (Miller Lite) You don’t have to shut up for this one. In fact, if you dance madly in the middle of Zilker Park while screaming “I Wanna Get Better,” it will probably feel amazing.

6:15  Ozomatli (Zilker Park) Switch your hips to the hip-hop laced cumbia grooves of this L.A. powerhouse.

7:15 p.m. Glitch Mob (Austin Ventures) Champions of the L.A. beat scene throw down furious, driving electro dance tracks.

8:15 p.m. Outkast. (Honda) As Andre 3000 once said, “If you don’t move yo feet, then I don’t eat.” The ATLiens know what’s up.

Saturday

11:15 a.m.Riders Against the Storm (Austin Ventures, weekend two only). Yes, it’s early, but the local hip hop duo’s new song is called “Booty Sweat.” ‘Nuff said. .

11:30 a.m. Chain Gang of 1974 (Retailmenot) Cool anthemic indietronica to kick start day two.

2:30 p.m. Trombone Shorty (Honda) Deep pocket funky grooves and blasts of NOLA brass.

5:30 p.m. Icona Pop (Miller Lite) Last year’s sensation, the Swedish electro pop duo drops eurocool dance tracks for the 90s (expletive) in all of us.

6:30 p.m. Beats Antique (Zilker Park) Middle Eastern rhythms, a gypsy punk aesthetic and a live belly dancers on stage. Get your shimmy on.

7:30 p.m. Major Lazer (Retailmenot). Super-producer Diplo leads the hottest dancehall throwdown north of the Carribean.

8:30 p.m. Skrillex (Honda) Sure Dr. Dre lays some bangin’ beats but truth be told, Em’ doesn’t care if you dance, Skrillex does.

Sunday

11:15 a.m. Hard Proof (Austin Ventures, weekend one only) Wake up your body and soul with Fela-inspired afrobeat rhythms and a wall of brass.

2 p.m. Bernhoft (BMI) The Norwegian R&B artist is an up and coming dance floor master.

3 p.m. Gramatik (Miller Lite) An inventive producer from NYC via Slovenia who chops up dusty old grooves and recreates them as modern bangers.

4 p.m. Fitz and the Tantrums (Honda) Good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ soul.

6 p.m. Lettuce (Bevintel Stage weekend one, Zilker Stage weekend two) Thousands of indie rockers will flock to see Spoon and the Replacements leaving plenty of room for soul fanatics to “Do It Like You Do” with the Brooklyn collective.

7 p.m. Chromeo (Retailmenot) Slick and sexy electro funk straight outta Montreal.

8 p.m. Calvin Harris (Honda) The Scottish DJ and producer hosts the final throwdown of the weekend.

ACL Fest artist spotlight: Lake Street Dive

It’s coming: Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over Zilker Park Oct. 3-5 and 10-12. Leading up to the fest, we’ll shine the spotlight on some of the artists you might not have heard of in this year’s lineup. 

Lake Street Drive. JARROD MCCABE
Lake Street Drive. JARROD MCCABE

Artist: Lake Street Dive

From: Brooklyn

Online: lakestreetdive.com

At the fest: Fridays, Oct. 3 and 10, Austin Ventures Stage

About

Formed in Boston when its members were attending the New England Conservatory of Music, Lake Street Dive has risen from humble beginnings to become one of the most promising acts in American roots music in the past few years. Their 2010 Signature Sounds debut (after a couple of self-released records) brought them to national attention, but it’s this year’s “Bad Self Portraits” that has been the breakout, earning them spots on late-night TV shows and major festival bills.

Singer Rachael Price is the immediate calling card; her soulful, expressive voice conveys passion with melodic grace while avoiding over-the-top melodrama. There’s magic in the quartet’s instrumental interplay as well, with Mike Olson, Bridget Kearney and Mike Calabrese weaving jazzy underpinnings on trumpet, guitar, upright bass, drums and percussion.

Lake Street Dive has earned a reputation for creative covers: A street-corner version of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” which appears on their 2012 mostly-covers EP “Fun Machine,” has garnered more than 2 million views on YouTube. But they’re at their best on their own material, as on this version of “You Go Down Smooth” (from the new album) recorded live in Nashville:

Could share a bill with: Bonnie Raitt, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, St. Paul & the Broken Bones.

ACL Fest artist spotlight: My Brightest Diamond

It’s coming: Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over Zilker Park Oct. 3-5 and 10-12. Leading up to the fest, we’ll shine the spotlight on some of the artists you might not have heard of in this year’s lineup. 

Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. JULIEN BOURGEOIS/PRESS PHOTO
Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. JULIEN BOURGEOIS/PRESS PHOTO

Artist: My Brightest Diamond

From: Detroit

Online: mybrightestdiamond.com

At the fest: Sat., Oct. 4, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Bevintel Stage; Sat., Oct. 11, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Zilker Stage

About

A University of North Texas music grad and Arkansas baby, multi-instrumentalist Shara Worden’s sonic influences and biography are probably inseperable. Anyone who grew up the daughter of a Pentecostal organist mother and accordion player father, traveled to Russia to record an early EP, studied opera in New York and pals around with The Decemberists is going to sound like a clattering, soaring, indie pop Rube Goldberg.

The key to Worden’s best known musical project, My Brightest Diamond, is knowing that she’s bosom buddies with emotional-bro-slash-chill-mystic Sufjan Stevens. Worden and Stevens are frequent collaborators and share a contemplative spirituality and orchestral geekiness to their music. Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label released all three of the band’s albums, with fourth LP “This Is My Hand” set to drop Sept. 16.

For a taste of My Brightest Diamond’s sound, look no further than her most well-known song and her most recent. On 2011’s “I Have Never Loved Someone,” Worden’s windy operatics envelop a gorgeous baroque lullaby. On new single “Pressure,” Worden sounds like latter-day David Bowie leading a marching band. My Brightest Diamond’s late afternoon ACL set could be a lush respite before the second-tier acts go on. Hopefully, her more ponderous instincts won’t melt into the late afternoon heat.

Could share a bill with: Arcade Fire, Björk, Bat For Lashes, a Tilda Swinton DJ set (which is a thing, as it should be)

J. Roddy Walston & the Business rock the house at “Austin City Limits” taping

J. Roddy Walston & the Business tape "Austin City Limits" at ACL Live, Tuesday, September 2, 2014. SCOTT NEWTON/COURTESY OF KLRU
J. Roddy Walston & the Business tape “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live, Tuesday, September 2, 2014. SCOTT NEWTON/COURTESY OF KLRU

Whether it will translate onscreen with the same intensity remains to be seen – we’ll have to wait till the show’s airdate during the “Austin City Limits” 40th-anniversary season – but the lasting image from Tuesday’s taping by Southern rock band J. Roddy Walston & the Business at ACL Live was that of Walston pounding his piano keys, his long hair flailing back and forth in head-banging fury as his band reached the fiery final bars of “Brave Man’s Death.”

The song, a highlight of the band’s 2010 self-titled album, was a mid-set peak in a blazing hourlong performance. The Richmond, Va., foursome held nothing back throughout: Guitarist Billy Gordon delivered powerful leads and solos and added falsetto harmonies with bassist Logan Davis, who anchored a ferocious rhythm section with superkinetic drummer Steve Colmus.

At the center of the storm was Walston, whose distinctive stage antic is that he can’t decide whether he wants to be a lead singer or a pianist. He constantly shuttles between sitting at the piano and standing at the microphone. What at first seems unsettling eventually is endearing, as it becomes clear Walston is simply letting the emotion of the music guide him.

Focusing on songs from last year’s “Essential Tremors” but adding a few earlier tunes (including the traditional-based “Sally Bangs” from their 2007 debut “Hail Mega Boys”), Walston and his bandmates were masters of style and sound. As songwriters, they’re not particularly inventive, staying within a fairly defined framework of hard-driving rock ’n’ roll, but they sell the material with unbridled passion and soulful fervor.

And when they do get hold of a really strong tune, everything clicks. “Same Days,” a standout on “Essential Tremors,” bounces along to an instantly memorable pop melody spiked by chunky riffs from Gordon; it’s less in-your-face than much of the band’s music, but it stands out as a three-minute master stroke.

Walston gave the song his all, leaving the stage halfway through and singing directly to the standing-room audience from the floor. The camera crew had to do some dodging to accommodate him, but it gave them a good opportunity to see precisely how the band connects up-close with its audience, even in a large room.

J. Roddy Walston & the Business will be back next month for shows at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 3 and 10, as well as a sold-out after-show on Oct. 11 indoors at Stubb’s.

This week’s playlist: ACL Fest aftershows

Fitz and The Tantrums. TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Fitz and The Tantrums. TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As Deborah Sengupta Stith wrote earlier this week, ACL Fest did right by music fans this year, scheduling a smorgasbord of side parties around the festival’s two weekends. Pre-sales started this morning, but tickets officially go on sale for these gigs Friday at 10 a.m.

This week’s playlist offers a sampler of the acts playing the ACL aftershows. Most of these artists also appear on our ACL Fest 2014 playlist, but some are just in town for these dates only, like Tegan and Sara and Rhye. Also, catch up on new tracks from Jenny Lewis and Spoon, who both released albums within the past few weeks. For a taste of what you can expect at these aftershows, listen to live performance recordings from The Preatures and The Head and the Heart. 

Check out the ACL Fest 2014 Aftershows playlist, now on Spotify.

Review: White Denim taping of “Austin City Limits”

White Denim tapes an episode of "Austin City Limits" at ACL Live, Aug. 4, 2014. SCOTT NEWTON/COURTESY OF KLRU
White Denim tapes an episode of “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live, Aug. 4, 2014. SCOTT NEWTON/COURTESY OF KLRU

After a 40th season of tapings that so far have included two all-star marathon gatherings, a highly anticipated career-spanning set by Beck, the debut of Jeff Tweedy’s new band with his son on drums and a Nick Cave tour de force that Joe Gross called one of the show’s “best performances of all time,” it seemed inevitable for “Austin City Limits” to have an evening that was more, well, ordinary.

Austin band White Denim’s taping on Monday night at ACL Live had no special guests or historical significance or landmark aura about it. Still, it served an important purpose in carrying on ACL’s tradition of supporting local artists. The hometown boys clearly were psyched for the opportunity; at one point, leader James Petralli marveled, “I can’t believe I got to play ‘I Start to Run’ on television.”

Whether that song actually makes the 30-minute broadcast cut remains to be seen, given that much of White Denim’s hourlong set consisted of extended jams that seemed to meld several tunes together. Such a structure played into the band’s mercurial and exploratory aesthetic, but it will be a challenge for the ACL editing staff to decide what fits and what doesn’t, as two of those excursions went for 10 minutes or more.

On the other hand, the jam-heavy approach made this a fairly ideal show for ACL’s relatively recent addition of online livestreaming. Those tuning in to the show’s website Monday night could watch the taping as it unfolded, allowing the performance to have an immediate impact that reached beyond the full house of fans who filled ACL Live to the upper reaches of the venue’s third level.

Stay tuned for an announcement next week about the first few broadcasts of the “Austin City Limits” fall season. A two-hour 40th-anniversary primetime special will air Oct. 3, combining footage from all-star concerts shot in April in June. New weekly episodes will begin the following night.