The best of Beck: ACL Fest fans sound off

Beck performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 10, 2014.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Beck performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 10, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Asking a hardcore Beck fan to name their favorite Beck song is a bit like asking a parent to pick their favorite child: You know they know the answer, but they feel guilty saying it out loud. With that in mind, I bothered some Beck fans (and one person who had no idea who “they” were) who were posted up front before the prolific, genre-swapping songwriter took to the Samsung Galaxy Stage tonight.

Drew Alston of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
How he picked Beck over Outkast: “Who else out there in the past 60 years has put out sheet music? …And for someone who is so quirky, he puts on a heck of a live show.” [Drew has seen Beck three times.] He’s delightfully weird without being pretentious.”

Favorite Beck song: “Elevator Music”

Most anticipated non-Beck ACL Fest act: The Replacements


Dani Spataro of Long Beach, California
How she picked Beck over Outkast: “Outkast sucks. I saw them at Coachella and they were low energy… I’ve been listening to Beck since seventh grade.”

Favorite Beck song: “I’m not good with song titles, but I like the dancier ones… Also, I love his hat.”


Mike Albert of Austin
How he ended up at Beck over Outkast: “Both were really big when I was younger, but I was really into ‘Mellow Gold’ and ‘Odelay’… My wife and I were debating it. She was leaning a little toward Outkast, and I was leaning a little toward Beck, so we split up.”

Favorite Beck song: “Paper Tiger”

His ACL must-see who hasn’t starred as a disembodied head on an episode of “Futurama”: “I should go see Pearl Jam, if I can make it that long Sunday. It’s a marathon.”


Andy Tiwari and Chelsea Clinton of San Antonio
How Chelsea picked Beck over Outkast: “Beck has like a thousand more good songs.”

Andy’s favorite Beck song: “Devil’s Haircut”

Chelsea’s fave: “Nausea”

Person Chelsea shares a name with but totally isn’t: Chelsea Clinton

Andy’s other ACL must-see: Eminem


Liz Brown of Houston
How she picked Beck over Outkast: “I would have gone and seen Outkast if they had just put out “‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.'”

Favorite Beck song: “‘Hell Yes.’ I like happy Beck better than sad Beck.”


Jeff Sande of Dallas
How he picked Beck over Outkast: He hadn’t and was weighing his options — a sweet spot for Beck, who regularly tours, or taking his chances trekking across the park for Outkast, who are a rarer catch. “Next time you see [Outkast], they might be 10 years older.”

Favorite Beck song: “Where It’s At”


Daniel Sanchez of Austin
How he picked between the two headliners: “Beck. There was no question.”

Favorite song: “Devil’s Haircut”


Truman Matheny of Austin
Favorite Beck song: “E-Pro”

Other things we talked about: Nothing. Beck started and he bolted.

Well, there you have it. According to my super-scientific survey people like happy Beck more than sad Beck and they really want to hear “Devil’s Haircut.” Good thing he opened with that. You can check out a full review of Beck’s weekend one set or see the setlist from tonight’s show below to see if Beck played your Beck favorite song.


  • Devil’s Haircut
  • Black Tambourine
  • Think I’m in Love
  • Soul of a Man
  • One Foot in the Grave
  • Blue Moon
  • Sissyneck
  • Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover)
  • Hell Yes
  • Girl
  • Timebomb
  • Loser
  • E-Pro
  • Sexx Laws
  • Debra
  • Where It’s At

Interview: James Bay talks Texas, fans and the fast track to fame

James Bay performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Photo by Jay Janner/American-Statesman
James Bay performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Photo by Jay Janner/American-Statesman

Sam Smith isn’t the only sensitive, soulful singer-songwriter in Austin this week on loan from England. James Bay is a 23-year-old import who draws comparisons to Ray Lamontagne or Jeff Buckley — not bad company for a relative newcomer. (His debut EP came out last year.) I chatted with James Friday after his ACL Festival set.

You played earlier today and you’re back here next week. What are you doing with the rest of your day?

We’ve got some time, which I’m over the moon about. I’m going to see Paolo Nutini, and I wouldn’t mind catching Sam Smith, too. We’re going to Dallas tomorrow and then San Antonio, where we’re going to do a show with a band called Broken Bells.We’re spending a good chunk of time in Texas. We drove in through the most ridiculous electrical storm last night. It was like terrifying in a brilliant way — lightning everywhere literally for an hour every second.

Have you been to Texas before?

I played in Austin last year supporting an artist called ZZ Ward at the Parish, which was a great venue. And we played Houston and Dallas last time as well — all short stops though.

You’ve opened for some amazing artists, including fellow ACL Fest act Kodaline, Beth Orton and a little-known band called the Rolling Stones. What’s the ride been like for you going from getting into music to landing gigs like that in such a short time?

If I took any longer to think about it, it would maybe get the better of me. The key has been to go with it and go for it; I like to do as much as I can. The coolest thing in the world is when you turn up for the first time at something like Austin City Limits Festival and the crowd — it might not be all of them yet — but they’re singing the words and that kind of blows my mind.

An even surer sign you’ve made it: you’ve got a Wikipedia page now.

Oh, really? I didn’t know that! That’s news to me. A year ago, I think I searched it — not even for that, but I put my name in Google to find out more about this place in Canada.

The body of water, James Bay. But there’s no relation there?

No direct relation. No blood relation, but I do hope to go there some day and bathe in the water.

Well, what has your experience been like so far online? Do you ever see strange things written about you or, like, descriptions of your music that surprise you?

Not too much yet. I don’t go chasing that stuff, to be honest. But a few friends showed me this thing once though: Should people who like Michael Bublé go see James Bay? Like: “You like Michael Bublé? Check this out!”

I guess that counts. Other than that pretty clean. Nothing against that guy, though. He’s incredible.

You’ve got some hardcore fans out there online though. For example, a commenter on one YouTube video said, “His voice is my sexual orientation.” I feel like you should be using that in promotional materials or something.

Wow… How? I just wanna know how. We’re on the cusp of inventing a new sexual orientation. That’s incredible.

In the real world, what’s the strangest fan encounter you’ve had so far?

The funniest one was in London. Someone ran up and tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was James Bay. I said, “Yes.” And she said, “I recognized you by your shoes.” It was these shoes [pointing to his dark brown leather  chukka boots]. That was just bizarre — just innocently bizarre.

If you hadn’t ended up being a musician, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

I’d be trying my hardest to do something with art, in terms of drawing. I like to paint. As a child, way before I thought about music as any kind of career, I was fascinated by drawings and illustrations and animation. In my mind, I never quite followed it down to the point of “this is going to be my job,” but I would still be trying to figure out how to turn that into work. Because I love to do it, and I have this urge to follow the things I love — much harder than focusing on earning money. That’s why I moved away from parents house and played guitar and found a place to live without earning much money for a little while. But so far I’ve landed on my feet a bit.

What’s next for you?

I’m touring with Hozier at the moment, which is really cool. Sadly, he called in sick the past couple nights, but word on the street is he’s going to be all right pretty soon. It’s a lot of fun to be touring with him; I’m a big fan of his. It was even really cool, the other night in Atlanta, when he couldn’t do it, they gave me the stage. They told all the people who already bought tickets that I was going to be headlining, and 500 people still came down.

I’m going to be touring until the beginning of November in the states, and then I go home for a week and then I have a headlining tour in the UK, and a few of those shows are already sold out, which is really incredible.

James Bay’s latest EP, “Let It Go,” is out now and is streaming on Spotify or Soundcloud.

ACL Fest Gameplan: Latin Favorites

Colombian rock star Juanes will perform at the ACL festival. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Colombian rock star Juanes will perform at the ACL festival. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

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

Today, the gameplan is for those who mostly want to catch some Latin favorites.

The strategy: Go off the beaten path and explore the global grooves of Latin America.

The playlist:

Essential gear:

  • Comfortable dancing shoes: No one is judging.
  • Twitter: Share the news about these lesser known bands with the world and tell fest organizers how much you enjoyed them. Maybe we’ll get more Latin beats next year.

Non-essential gear:

  • ACL App: Since unfortunately you can’t make an entire weekend out of only listening to global grooves from Latin America, check out the line-up for other world music artists like Beats Antique who play Middle Eastern rhythms with an electronica twist.

The gameplan


4:15 p.m.: Anita Tijoux (Sculpture- Weekend one) (Zilker-Weekend two) Don’t miss the chance to catch one of Latin America’s best MCs. She rhymes in Spanish, but you don’t need to understand the language to get into her laid-back flow. The French-Chilean artist has captivated the Latin alternative music scene and the hip-hop world with her four studio albums and great live shows.

6:15 p.m.: Ozomatli (Sculpture- Weekend one) (Zilker-Weekend two) Get ready for the pachanga that’s guaranteed to make your hips shake with cumbia goodness. The LA-based band’s infectious genre-blending beats range from hip-hop to salsa.


1:30 p.m.: Zoé (Miller Lite) Kick off your afternoon with a cosmic experience filled with psychedelic rock and experimental beats to loosen you up for a fun night of music ahead. You’ll be in good hands with the veteran Mexico City quintet who has been rocking around the world for more than 15 years.

2:30 p.m.: Rey Pila (BMI) Spend some afternoon chill time with this Mexico City quartet’s blend of new wave and synth rock. They even have their own alternative version of “Lady in Red.”

7:30 p.m.: Juanes (Austin Ventures) There isn’t a better way to end your ACL Latin music experience than with Colombian pop-rock superstar Juanes. With 19 Latin Grammys under his belt and more than 16 million albums sold worldwide, Juanes, who is also known for his global humanitarian work, brings an energetic live show and draws plenty of loyal fans.

ACL Fest artist spotlight: Benjamin Booker

Artist: Benjamin Booker

From: New Orleans, Lousiana


At the fest: Sat. 1 p.m., Austin Ventures; Continental Club aftershow Oct. 10, 11 p.m. 

About the artist: A gut-bucket blues rocker with an anarchic punk rock sensibility, Booker developed his sound kicking around the Crescent City working for Americorps in the years after he graduated from college with a degree in journalism. A few of his demos made their way into circulation and with a distinctive sound marked by gravelly voice and blistering guitar riffs muddied by menacing distortion he rapidly attracted a host of influential fans, most notably Jack White, who took the young artist on tour as an opener earlier this year.

His set is early, and it’s in a tough time slot, programmed against rising rock band Spanish Gold. If you can’t quite swing it, or if you’re not going to the fest, by all means, go buy tickets to his aftershow at the Continental Club on Friday, Oct. 10. It’s an evening with the potential for much magic.

Could share a bill with: Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, Buddy Guy, Bruce Springsteen

Paolo Nutini, Bleachers, Lucius, Lake Street Dive to play KGSR ACL Fest live broadcasts


Radio station 93.3 KGSR FM is hosting two morning live broadcasts at Threadgill’s during the first weekend of ACL Fest. The broadcasts kick off bright and early at 8 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 3 with a performance from anthemic indietronica act Night Terrors of 1927. The Friday morning broadcast, which includes a combination of performances and artist interviews, also features an appearance from Jack Antonoff’s Fun. side project Bleachers who scored one of summer 2014’s feel-good hits with  “I Wanna Get Better.” Paolo Nutini, Robert Ellis, Arum Rae and James Bay will also play the Friday morning broadcast.

On Saturday, Oct. 4 earlybirds will be treated to a performance by excellent Norwegian R&B artist Bernhoft at 8 a.m. Anarchic New Orleans blues rocker, Benjamin Booker, buzzy Brooklyn indie pop outfit Lucius and Boston band Lake Street Dive, who play a countrified version of jazzy soul are also scheduled to perform. Austin bands Saints of Valory and The Nightowls round out the Saturday bill.

A $5 donation to HAAM buys you admission to each day of the morning broadcasts and the first 100 people to arrive will receive a free breakfast taco. Schedule and more information.

Austin at ACL Fest: Meet Sphynx

As we ramp up to two weekends of Austin City Limits Music Festival we’re doing a series of spotlights on local bands playing the festival, the true presence of Austin at ACL. Today we check in with glam pop trio Sphynx. Lead vocalist and guitarist Tony Kamel took a few minutes to help us introduce his band and explore his experience of the festival. Vocalist/guitarist Aaron Miller took a few minutes to answer our questions.

What are three words that describe your band’s sound?

Glam dance funk.

What’s your most memorable onstage moment of 2014 so far?

We headlined the outdoor stage of The Mohawk during free week and had a great crowd. That winter, we learned Asia’s ‘Heat of the Moment’ during rehearsal and decided we’d bust it out. It was a wild experience to do that song in front of a packed house on the outdoor stage. Everyone sang along and it’s probably as close to hair metal stardom as we’ll ever get. We’re okay with that.

What’s your favorite memory from ACL Fests past?

We ran into Matt of Matt and Kim after ACL 2010 and he invited us to an after party where Local Natives, Two Door Cinema Club, and Matt and Kim played at The Charles Johnson House. We had seen all of those bands earlier in the day and it was a very cool experience to see them in a small setting like that.

Name three songs you can’t wait to hear at ACL Fest 2014.

Outkast – “Ms. Jackson”
Phantogram – “Fall in Love”
Belle & Sebastian – “Another Sunny Day”

What’s the one thing out-of-towners should do before leaving Austin?

Get some breakfast tacos! We’re speaking from experience, as our last meal before tour, and first meal when we get home, is breakfast tacos. We recommend Taquerias Arandas, Taco Deli, El Chile, and Tamale House, but it’s pretty hard to go wrong with local Mexican restaurants.

Got any ACL Fest pro tips?

This may go without saying, but don’t bring an umbrella. We’ve heard a lot of “no umbrellas” chants over the years, panchos are the way to go here. Also, get there by noon on the first Friday because sometimes really cool bands play The Austin Ventures stage at that time.

ACL Fest Gameplan: Kick Back & Relax

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

Today, the gameplan is for those who mostly want to take it easy and perhaps leave before the sundown headliners.

Music fans crowd together for shade under the big tree in the middle of the Austin City Limits Festival on Saturday, October 12, 2013. RODOLFO GONZALEZ/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Music fans crowd together for shade under the big tree in the middle of the Austin City Limits Festival on Saturday, October 12, 2013. RODOLFO GONZALEZ/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The playlist: ACL Fest Gameplan: Kick Back & Relax

The strategy: Don’t sweat the buzz-band throngs and the big-name draws; take roads less traveled toward an easygoing fest experience.

 Essential gear:

  • Portable chair: It’s called “kick back,” which is kind of hard to do if you’re standing around all day.
  • Blanket: Because sometimes “kicking back” leads to “stretching out” when you’re on our deluxe relax-o-plan.

Non-essential gear:

  • iPad, if you want to catch up on some light reading between sets.
  • Binoculars, if your chair-and-blanket camp is remote enough to require long-distance visual assistance at times.

The gameplan


11:15 a.m.: Penny & Sparrow (Austin Ventures, weekend two only). The local duo’s sweet, simple acoustic pop sets our gameplan mood nicely.

12:15 p.m.: Asleep at the Wheel (Honda, weekend one only). Western swing is get-up-and-dance music, yes, but it’s also some of the most enjoyably breezy stuff you’ll hear all weekend.

1:15 p.m.: Jones Family Singers (Bevintel). Their Texas gospel music is all about a good time, but don’t be surprised if they get you up out of your chair.

2:15 p.m.: Jimmy Cliff (Honda). Like gospel, reggae is great feel-good music. Groove along if you wish, but this stuff is prime for lawn-sprawl chillin’ too.

3:15 p.m.: James Bay (RetailMeNot, weekend two; 12:15 p.m. at Samsung Galaxy weekend one). British acoustic soul-pop singer gets a little intense at times, but his music’s mostly laid-back enough to fit the bill.

4:15 p.m.: Lonely Biscuits (BMI, weekend two only). Because how could a band called Lonely Biscuits not be a kickin’-back good time? They’re a bit jammy, but that works on this mission.

6:15 p.m.: Jon Pardi (BMI, weekend one only). There’s not much mainstream country at ACL Fest, but Pardi will provide a swig of devil-may-care beer-drinkin’ fare.

7:15 p.m.: Blackberry Smoke (Austin Ventures). Southern-rock’s a little risky, as you never know when your stone groove might get driven off the edge by a “Free Bird” overdrive. But it’s worth a shot, if twee glee with Belle & Sebastian across the park isn’t your speed.


11:15 a.m: Blue Bear (Austin Ventures, weekend one only). The local indie-popsters are skiffle-ish enough to start the day off right.

12:30 p.m.: Spanish Gold (Samsung Galaxy). These semi-local heroes’ tune “Day Drinkin'” is practically an anthem for the Kick Back cause.

2:30 p.m.: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avnue (Honda). Brass will amp up the volume a bit, yes, but a dose of Crescent City jazz is almost a requirement for our gameplan.

3:30 p.m.: Ralph’s World (Austin Kiddie Limits; 2:30 p.m. weekend two). You don’t need to have kids along to appreciate the carefree joy of the AKL stage. Plus this band plays that Banana Splits song!

4:30 p.m.: The Head and the Heart (Samsung Galaxy). Late-afternoon sets on the Samsung Stage might be a bit too buzz-heavy, but Seattle’s indie-folk six-piece has the right vibe to be an exception.

5:30 p.m.: Lucius (Austin Ventures). Steer clear of the Icona/Azalea hyped showdown and bask in this Brooklyn pop band’s beautiful sunshine.

6:30 p.m.: Avett Brothers (Honda). This is about as “big” as we’ll get on the Kick Back agenda, but the Avetts’ acoustic charm works as a good daylight-ending Saturday finale.


Noon: Wood & Wire (Austin Ventures, weekend two only). Bluegrass pickin’ will get you grinnin’ easy like Sunday morning.

1 p.m. Reuben & the Dark (Miller Lite). A little too anthemic, perhaps, but this gameplan pretty much demands a Canadian act, eh?

2:15 p.m. Jamestown Revival (Bevintel, weekend one only). Hometown acoustic groovers’ “California (Cast Iron Soul)” is just the right jam for our mindset.

4 p.m. Johnnyswim (BMI, weekend one only). This soulful Nashville duo is a bit strident but mostly buoyant enough not to harsh our mellow.

5 p.m. Jenny Lewis (Austin Ventures). Hipsters might make this too crowded for comfort, but Lewis’ country-tinged indie style works for what we’re after here.

6 p.m. Replacements (Samsung Galaxy). The reunion shows no doubt will be rowdy, but frontman Paul Westerberg once did a tour in which he allowed fans to lounge on a couch onstage, so he’s pretty much the architect of the Kick Back & Relax gameplan.

ACL Fest artist spotlight: Temples


Artist: Temples

From: Kettering, England


At the fest: Fridays, Oct. 3 and 10, 1:15-2:15 p.m., Miller Lite Stage; official late-night shows Saturday, Oct. 4, at the Parish (sold out) and Sunday, Oct. 5, at Stubb’s (opening for Interpol)


Temples has pulled off the Austin music hat trick: After playing South by Southwest in March and Psych Fest in May, they’re back for a full slate of shows at ACL Fest, with two late-night gigs during the first weekend in addition to their afternoon shows both Fridays.

That’s a rare feat for a non-local act, but it’s doubtful the English foursome, which started out as a studio band just two years ago before transitioning to live performances, has worn out their welcome. Confidently walking the fine line between progressive invention and retro classicism, Temples harkens back to British Invasion rock bands but puts its own distinctive contemporary spin on the form. At times heavy and psychedelic, at times buoyantly melodic – sometimes within the same song – Temples appreciates rock ’n’ roll’s muscular power but doesn’t need to sacrifice basic pop instincts to come on strong.

“Shelter Song,” the leadoff track on their 2014 debut album “Sun Structures,” is a prime case in point of the band’s appeal. Here’s how it sounded when they played the song in the Waterloo Records parking lot earlier this year:

Could share a bill with: Gomez, the Kinks, Ian McLagan & the Bump Band.

ACL Fest Artist Spotlight: HAERTS


Artist: HAERTS

From: New York City


At the fest: Sunday both weekends, 11:30 a.m., Miller Lite stage

About the artist: Not a typo.

Darkly dance-ready like MS MR but aloof like Mazzy Star, multinational band HAERTS slots right into today’s not quite ready for Top 40 niche. When history looks back on the early 2010s, it will be remembered as a time when this kind of mystic-futuristic electro-pop had its moment.

The band, with members hailing from Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., credit some of their upward trajectory to astrological fortune, which sounds about right after listening to the moody but kinetic cipher “Hemiplegia.” The track’s title refers to a semi-paralytic condition occasionally experienced by singer Nini Fabi; one time when HAERTS was in the studio recording, Fabi suddenly lost her capacity to speak thanks to her hemiplegia. That tension between desire and ability, the band’s bio says, is meant to echo through their lyrics.

HAERTS has collaborated with fellow musician and producer Jean-Philip Grobler (of synthy outfit St. Lucia, whose album “When the Night”was a 2013 pop standout) on tracks for their forthcoming LP. Gobler’s sumptuous hook surfing rubs off a little on the more sonically elusive band in “Wings.”

The band’s early ACL set is good real estate for indie up-and-comers, and HAERTS has been on the tip of the musical tongue for a hot second. Similarly bubbling names like Dan Croll, alt-J and First Aid Kit have all recently played for the committed noon-ish discovery crowd, who are looking to score a new musical find before the latecomers infest.

Could share a bill with: St. Lucia, Sky Ferreira, Wye Oak, MS MR

ACL Fest student ticket sale scheduled for Sept. 27

As in past years, ACL Fest is giving high school and college students a shot at buying sold out 3-day passes to the festival at earlybird prices. A limited number of $200 passes to both weekends of the festival will be available at the ACL Festival Box Office on Barton Springs Road across from the Barton Springs entrance to the festival grounds on Sat. Sept. 27. The sale starts at 10 a.m. and will continue until passes are sold out.

Students must have a valid high school or college ID to participate. Numbered placeholders will be distributed to students in line at 9 a.m. There is a limit of 4 passes per person, per weekend. In past years the line has started to form early, so expect a long morning but leave the keg of beer at home. Student day rules state there will be “absolutely no alcohol” and they “reserve the right to refuse to serve anyone”…mmm-kay?

More info