The Killers close ACL Fest with Petty tunes, ‘Brightside’ and a lot more

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The end of the Austin City Limits Music Festival’s first weekend seemed scripted from the moment the Killers were announced as the Sunday headliner on the American Express Stage: The Las Vegas rock band known for hard-hitting anthems would send everyone home with a grand finale of their all-time biggest hit, “Mr. Brightside.”

Brandon Flowers performs with the Killers at ACL Fest on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Contributed/Candice Lawler/C3 Presents

It took about five minutes for Brandon Flowers and his bandmates to tear that page out of the playbook. After opening with an explosive rendition of the late Tom Petty’s “American Girl” — following suit with one of the weekend’s biggest trends — the band doubled down by ripping straight into “Mr. Brightside” as their second song. How to follow that? Did they overplay their hand up front?

READ MORE: The Killers at ACL Fest 2017: Is ‘Brightside’ big enough?

Not at all, it turns out. The one-two punch was so exhilarating that it set the tone for a terrific last hour-and-a-half of the fest, but in truth, the Killers have a pretty deep catalog after 15 years together. “Mr. Brightside” may have rightfully put the band on the map when their debut album “Hot Fuss” came out in 2004, but they have other songs that are even better, and that made it easy to keep the momentum going.

The show seemed cathartic for the band, which was performing for the first time since 58 people died when a country music festival in their hometown became the site of a horrific mass shooting a week ago. The band was flying home from Australia at the time.

During a break in “The Way It Was,” the Killers’ fourth song, Flowers expressed solidarity with the band’s fans. “Coming from Las Vegas, and as musicians, I want to say thank you,” he said. “Don’t you ever let any (expletive) get in the way of doing what you want to do.”

The band’s fans returned that spirit in kind. They sang along loud and clear when “Smile Like You Mean It,” another favorite from “Hot Fuss,” followed “The Way It Was.” They erupted ecstatically when “Human,” arguably the Killers’ best pop song, turned up a little later, one of three selections from the band’s underrated 2008 album “Day & Age.”

Another tune from that record, “A Dustland Fairytale,” didn’t generate quite the same crowd response, but it might be the band’s crowning achievement, almost cinematic in its piano-driven emotional sweep. They followed that with another Petty song, this time keeping it quiet for a stripped down take on “The Waiting.” The Killers’ brand of rock is so grandiose and ambitious that one might not have pegged them as big fans of Petty, but Flowers said the icon’s death hit him hard. “We’re grateful for all he did,” he added graciously.

RELATED: ACL Fest musicians pay tribute to Tom Petty

From there, it was a hard sprint to the finish, through crowd-favorites “Read My Mind” and “Runaways” (from 2006’s “Sam’s Town” and 2012’s “Battle Born,” respectively) and headlong into “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Against the odds, it was an even more powerful set-closer than “Mr. Brightside” would have been: The audience spontaneously and repeatedly chanted its key line, “I got soul but I’m not a soldier,” needing no cue from Flowers.

The band’s lone misstep was the first song of the encore. “The Man,” the lead single from the band’s new record, is embarrassingly bad, a machismo brag that might be intended as tongue-in-cheek but doesn’t come across that way. It’s almost painful to hear a lyricist of Flowers’ caliber sing about being “USDA certified lean.”

The red flag is right there in the new album’s credits: No less than 14 co-writers are credited on the tune, a sure sign of a song that has been beaten to death by committee. (The Killers had never done that before, and hopefully never will again.) If any further proof were needed, just listen to the crowd: The thousands who sang along without prompting on many songs throughout the night had comparatively much less connection to “The Man,” despite the promotional push it has received.

The new album’s “Run for Cover,” a much stronger song with an unfortunate title under the circumstances (it’s a relationship metaphor), fared better mid-set. A minor surprise: Those were the only two songs from the new album to be played. “Wonderful Wonderful” hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last week, the first Killers album ever to do so.

Another “Hot Fuss” song (“Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”) and the “Sam’s Town” selection “When You Were Young,” the band’s second-highest-charting single after “Mr. Brightside,” filled out the encore of a remarkably solid show. If the Killers don’t quite have the longevity of recent-past ACL Fest rock headliners such as Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Radiohead, they proved more than worthy of their big-stage moment, a fitting finale to an emotional first weekend in Zilker Park.

The Killers perform at ACL Fest on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Contributed/Candice Lawler/C3 Presents

The Head and the Heart synchronize with the sunset at ACL Fest

Sunset and the Head and the Heart are a good match. When the Seattle indie-folk band played the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2014, their set was slightly earlier in the afternoon, but this time, the sun went down right in the middle of their splendid hourlong set on the American Express Stage.

They were looking right at it as they played, and frontman Jonathan Russell took note. “I know it gets hot here in the daytime,” Russell said, probably thanking his lucky stars that the Head and the Heart is now big enough to play just shy of the headlining slot. “But there are few places that get more beautiful when the sun sets like this.”

Their music fits the occasion. A marriage of memorable melodies, multi-part vocal harmonies and primarily acoustic instrumentation, the Head and the Heart’s sound sometimes seems like it’s refracting the twilight on a night like this.

It’s possible that many of those in the crowd, which appeared to get more packed near the stage as the set went on, were staking out places for headlining band the Killers an hour or so later. But judging from the throngs who sang along on fan favorites such as “Lost in My Mind,” plenty were there specifically to hear Russell and his five bandmates: keyboardist Kenny Hensley, violinist Charity Rose Thielen, bassist Chris Zasche, drummer Tyler Williams and recent addition Matt Gervais on guitar.

There was no Tom Petty cover in this set — kind of a shame, as this is a band whose lineup would lend itself very well to Petty’s more acoustic material — but a midset highlight was their rendition of the Crowded House pop classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” which they recently issued as a single. Other standouts included “Let’s Be Still,” the title track of their 2013 album, which started quiet and gradually built up steam; and “Shake,” the standout track on that record.

Several selections came from last year’s “Signs of Light,” after which co-founder Josiah Johnson went on hiatus. The band hopes to bring him back at some point, but in the meantime, Gervais (who’s married to Thielen) has become an integral part of the group, sounding even more vital in his role than he did when the band taped the “Austin City Limits” TV show earlier this year.

 

Rainbow Kitten Surprise sweats it out on the big stage at ACL Fest

“OK, who drew the short straw? Rainbow Kitten Surprise? Congratulations, you get to play straight into the sun at the peak of the afternoon on the hottest day of ACL Fest.”

Stage placements don’t go like that, of course, as everything’s worked out well before weather forecasts arrive. But the North Carolina band definitely got a tough assignment at their first Austin City Limits Music Festival. The upside: They were on one of the fest’s two biggest stages. The downside: It was, to paraphrase singer Sam Melo, “hot as (add your favorite expletive here).”

Still, the five high-spirited organic-rockers made the best of it. “Hey, you’ve got your friends with you,” Melo encouraged sweaty festgoers midset. “Me too. It’s the only reason I’m out here.”

Indeed, Rainbow Kitten Surprise seems like a tightly bonded bunch. As a vocalist with no instrument responsibilities, Melo is free to engage in frequent bursts of physical expression, from high kicks to swirling twirls to near-leaps into the crowd. Bassist Charlie Holt often mirrors his jumps and dips, his moves accentuated by grunge-worthy hair that rivals the length of Melo’s grizzly-caliber beard.

Singer Sam Melo and bassist Charlie Holt of Rainbow Kitten Surprise perform during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Drummer Jess Haney and guitarists Ethan Goodpaster and Darrick Keller round out the lineup, which covers a lot of stylistic ground during the course of the set, from rock to soul to funk to pop to hip-hop and more. The vocals stayed up-front throughout, a credit both to the band’s arrangements and the skillfulness of their sound crew, which got a well-deserved shoutout from Melo near the end of the band’s hourlong performance.

The crowd thinned out a bit for the second half of their set, likely more because there’s little shade at the American Express Stage than for any musical reasons. Melo kindly tossed cans of water to a few folks in the crowd at one point. A couple of intriguing new songs mixed in with older material, including one that appeared to be called “Free Fall” — as close as they came to a Tom Petty tribute, though they probably could have pulled that off well if they’d tried.

And no, there were no rainbows, nor kittens, nor really much in the way of surprises. We’ll forgive them for that band name, though, because they seem like a nice bunch of guys. Here’s hoping they get a little cloud cover for Weekend Two.

Our picks: Here’s who you should go see on day three of ACL Fest

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 Austin City Limits Music Festival is Oct. 6-8 and 13-15 at Zilker Park. See all our previews and follow live coverage at austin360.com/acl.

You will hear “Mr. Brightside” from the Killers — and a whole lot more — during the band’s Sunday night headlining set at ACL Fest. Anton Corbijn/Contributed

See all of our weekend one picks here. 

DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH 

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.

12:30 p.m. Mélat (Tito’s): In the months since we made her the first Austin360 Artist of the Month of 2017, the sultry soul singer has been on a steady rise. Catch her on the come-up.

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.

3:15 p.m. SuperDuperKyle (Miller Lite): It’s easy to knock a YouTube star with a catalog of bubble gum raps who rocked a lavender denim combo at the VMAs, but just try to feel bad about the world while listening to his sunny rhymes.

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.

PETER BLACKSTOCK

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.

1:15 p.m. Charlotte Cardin (BMI): The captivating Montreal singer’s sophisticated indie-pop tunes in English and French draws on jazz and electronica influences.

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.

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ERIC WEBB

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.

 

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

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

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

PHOTOS: Saturday at ACL Fest 2017 Weekend 1

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

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Golden Hour @aclfestival #SHC

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We are in fucking Austin TX… good morning!

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#ISeeYoutour

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Passed through Marfa, TX on the way to ACL yesterday

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3 reasons Tove Lo’s R-rated ACL Fest set was not for the faint of heart

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Dark-pop singer-songwriter Tove Lo ain’t your parents’ pop star. The NSFW Swedish songstress sings about sex, drugs, hard drinking, and other late-night exploits and has more in common with Peaches than ABBA. Here are three reasons her ACL Fest 2017 set Saturday night may have raised a few eyebrows among the uninitiated.

(Katrina Barber/C3Presents Marketing)
  1. She doesn’t shy away from sexuality.
    A crowd of teenagers scream-singing along the chorus of “Talking Body” (i.e., “If you love me right we [expletive] for life”) probably isn’t something the folks with lawn chairs wandering by from the Wine Lounge expected to hear. Nor might they have expected to see a sparkly-faced Tove Lo dancing in front of a giant illuminated vagina icon, an image pulled from her last album, Lady Wood.
  2. She flashed her fans.
    Exposing her chest is a regularly scheduled occurrence at Tove Lo’s live shows. In her native Sweden, Lo says attitudes about sexuality and nudity are much more relaxed. But here those two things can elicit some big reactions. (During her Saturday night set, that reaction was a thundering round of cheers and applause.)
  3. Her lyrics aren’t exactly radio-friendly.
    You’d be hard-pressed to find a non hip-hop or DJ act at ACL 2017 with a bigger arsenal of F-bombs in their lyrics. Granted, it’s not that Lo’s lyrics are so profane as it is that most ACL acts are kind of squeaky clean. But, heck, there are even a couple song titles from the set I can’t type out here…

PHOTOS: Tove Lo performs Saturday night at ACL Fest Weekend One

It would be easy to assume it’s all a cheap shock tactic, but, seeing Lo’s performance, her choice in lyrics and subject matter doesn’t come across as forced or fake. It feels candid and real while still being danceable and fun. It worked, and the massive crowd fanned out along the lawn at the Barton Springs Stage was enthralled and moving nonstop. Not even a lengthy sound issue that resulted in Lo leaving the stage briefly could derail her set’s momentum.

While parts of Tove Lo’s performance may have skewed R-rated, her interactions with her fans Saturday night were Hallmark Movie–level wholesome and heartwarming. Beyond jumping down from stage to embrace a sweaty throng of thrilled front-row watchers, Lo called out a fan from deep in the crowd she had met in Austin back in 2015 and then took and wore on stage a custom shirt he made for her. The scene played out on the big screen by the stage, and if the look on that adoring fan’s face didn’t give you some feelings, your feeler might be broken.

Tove Lo plays Emo’s Thursday, Oct. 12, before returning to ACL Fest next weekend.

She said/he said: For Chance the Rapper, all of ACL Fest is a gospel choir

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Chance the Rapper, the Chicago hip-hop prodigy, hit the stage for his Austin City Limits Music Festival headliner slot on a motorcycle … with pyrotechnics at his back. Austin360’s Deborah Sengupta Stith and Eric Webb break down what happened after that.

Chance The Rapper, American rapper from Chicago, Illinois, performs on the Honda Stage during Weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on Saturday Oct. 7, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

DSS: I’m just going to kick this off by saying, watching a rapper turn an Austin City Limits Music Festival headline set crowd into the city’s biggest gospel choir is something I never expected to see. With the harmonies and the Jesus shout outs it really did feel like we went to church. But with more pyrotechnics.

PHOTOS: Chance the Rapper at ACL Fest 2017

EW: When “Jesus is all I got” is your biggest turn-up line, you know you’ve got a reeeeeal different kind of show on your hands. Coming from the background I do (which is as Christian as you can get without any snake stuff), I would say that Chance is living out his witness in the way that it looks like in the textbook. Which … is the Bible. His words have come rolling off his tongue, his actions can be seen in his work, and now Chance’s fans are singing praises in a massive festival concert venue. Blessings come down, indeed. So, Deborah, you went to see Jay-Z last night. Compare/contrast?

DSS: Chance 2017 > Jay-Z 2017. In terms of energy there’s really no comparison. Sure, Jay had the massive sing-along hits and the bigger crowd, but Chance has the fire, the mission. Jay came to play some songs he knew we’d love then jet back home to be with his babies. Chance came to have an experience with us, to move us. Also, Chance is an ensemble player. His brother is his drummer. His right hand man, Nico Segal, is a trumpet player. He wanted us to know he was there with his whole instrumental crew, the Social Experiment. They’re all part of his movement. Jay-Z had a band, but they were hidden behind a giant sculpture of a balloon dog.

Kristen Kilpatrick, center with sign, who has been at the fest since 11AM to secure a front row spot, cheers as Chance The Rapper takes the stage during weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on Saturday Oct. 7, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

EW: That’s a thing that struck me, as well. There’s this concept of your “friend family” that’s taken root with people in my generation (though I know it’s nothing new — Armistead Maupin wrote about “logical families” in the ’70s). It’s so affecting to see Chance bring his people with him, the people that are just as much a part of this thing called “Chance the Rapper” as Chancelor Bennett is. At least, I identified with it and respect it. Now, I did not witness the Hova-ning on Friday night, but I can attest that Lil’ Chano was anything but phoning it in. His showmanship was so all-consuming that I was reminded of Florence Welch, from when Florence + the Machine headlined ACL Fest a couple years ago. How a single person can enrapture A LITERAL PARK FULL OF PEOPLE is beyond me. On “All We Got,” the man entertained me just by counting off beats with the fingers on one hand. He swiveled his hips so subtly on “Juke Jam” that you might have missed it if a siren of woo’s didn’t erupt. It was a total “young Frank Sinatra” moment. Or pick your heartthrob.

DSS: Florence is a great comparison. I think a lot people were affected by both of those sets in similar ways. I, for one, cried at both of those shows. During “All We Got” I was thinking about how hard he’s trying to heal the world, just send something beautiful and positive out there, in the face of so much adversity. “Very recently I made a strong switch to a new path,” he said at one point in the set, no doubt, in reference to the fact that his latest album “Coloring Book” is straight gospel rap. He thanked the audience for sticking with him. Watching him sit on the stage and sing “Same Drugs,” I felt tears streaming down my face. It’s such a poignant and painful story about the people we sometimes must leave behind as we evolve. Are we planting the seeds for a Florence/Chance collab?

EW: I am willing to take any steps, legal or otherwise, to make this happen. Speaking of other musicians, I quite enjoyed the medley of Chance’s verses from “The Life of Pablo,” the latest album from Kanye West. Yeezy is Chance’s mentor, and the images of the two projected on the Honda stage screen invited me to consider their differences. Kanye, the man for whom ego exists as a concept. Chance, humble without peer. Several times, he downplayed the fact he could draw the size of a crowd that he did. “With the lights on it’s even more people,” he said. “Turn the lights off.” It all seemed self-effacing in the way, say, a Taylor Swift “who, me?” schtick would not. And man, he brought this massive moment down to such a person-to-person level. Before “Sunday Candy,” he asked, “I’m Chance. What’s you guys’ names?” To think that he played that same song in the same park just two years ago, when so much has changed for him. And for the world, for that matter. Come back, 2015! OK, final thoughts?

Chance The Rapper, American rapper from Chicago, Illinois, performs on the Honda Stage during Weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on Saturday Oct. 7, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

DSS: Final thoughts: It was a bit odd that his set was scheduled to run til 9:30 p.m., but actually ended at 9:08 p.m. Chance and ‘Ye DEFINITELY don’t do the same drugs no more, sometimes all you need is happy thoughts and every ACL headline set should have pyrotechnics. You?

EW: Mic drop for Deborah. For me, one thing is abundantly clear: Chance isn’t going anywhere, because he moves people. And I don’t mean just physically or just emotionally. After “Blessings” turned Zilker into the Sermon on the Mount at the top of the set, he said “Yeah, we got a show,” and the lights went dark. And before launching into “All Night” (a personal fave), he told us that “there’s a lot of brave people here tonight.” That’s what we look for in music: Someone who can show us something about ourselves. For Chance, it’s how to have the courage of your convictions.

Spoon steals the show after a spectacular skydive at ACL Fest

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You don’t know how it feels to have a hard act to follow until you’ve taken the stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival right after three skydivers parachuted onto the grounds while the fest’s P.A. played Tom Petty singing “Free Fallin'” recorded at the Heartbreakers’ 2006 ACL Fest appearance.

Britt Daniel of Spoon performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday October 7, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

That was Spoon’s opening act Saturday night in Zilker Park. But there might not have been a single act in the lineup more suited to the task as Britt Daniel and his bandmates immediately went about proving as soon as they began. The night’s headliners (Chance the Rapper, Red Hot Chili Peppers) were still to come, but the hometown heroes packed the Miller Lite Stage far more than anyone had all weekend, and they kept the huge crowd enthralled for a solid hourlong set.

Britt Daniel, right, and Alex Fischel of Spoon perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday October 7, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It’s much to the indie-rock band’s credit that although co-founders Daniel and drummer Jim Eno are hitting middle age, their fan base still stretches well into a younger generation. Many twentysomethings danced and sang along as the band reeled off 13 songs from their past five albums, including four off this year’s “Hot Thoughts.”

PHOTOS: Spoon at ACL Fest 2017

It helps that Daniel and Eno have been keen on recruiting younger players into the band’s ever-shifting lineup over the years. Gerardo Larios (formerly of Austin band Money Chicha) and Alex Fischel, the group’s most recent additions, largely laid the foundation with mood-setting keyboard work. Daniel punched through the haze with cutting vocal and guitar leads as Eno and bassist Rob Pope, who’s been with the group for 10 years, kept precise and often thunderous time throughout.

Rob Pope, left, and Britt Daniel of Spoon perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday October 7, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Daniel made sure to salute the band’s home-turf fan base. “We’ve been doing shows all year; it’s good to finally be playing here,” he stressed a few songs in, noting the band’s return from extensive touring after they unveiled “Hot Thoughts” during South by Southwest in March. “This is where it all started, right?” he asked the crowd, as they launched into “Don’t You Evah” from 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.”

“I Turn My Camera On” and “My Mathematical Mind,” two songs from 2005’s “Gimme Fiction,” were clear crowd favorites, but really everything the band played was well-received, amid a set that was carefully selected and skillfully paced. Daniel was a maelstrom of sound and motion throughout, often sinking to his knees for a shredding solo, or thrusting his arm in the air as he sang.

Britt Daniel of Spoon performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday October 7, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It was only toward the very end of the set that some of the crowd began to migrate up the hill for Chance the Rapper’s set that was about to begin. Most stayed with Spoon till the end, a heavy and muscular version of “Rent I Pay” from 2014’s “They Want My Soul” that stressed Spoon’s guitar-rock roots more than its later-era keyboard atmospherics.

While they’d played, the sky had faded from the last embers of dusk into the onset of another ACL Fest night. The memory of their set would linger, long after dark.

Britt Daniel of Spoon performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Saturday October 7, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

ACL Fest 2017: Red Hot Chili Peppers stretch out on hits old and new

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With a 20-plus-year catalog and more than a dozen hits that are part of the backbone of the alternative rock canon, it was justifiable to wonder how the Red Hot Chili Peppers would change up their well-known party funk personas for their Saturday night headlining set.

Suzanne Cordeiro/ For American-Statesman Flea, Chad Smith, and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform on Day 2 of the 2017 ACL Music Festival held at Zilker Park in Austin.

The answer: they stretched things out, expanding to a seven-piece at one point with two keyboardists and a second bass player joining founding member Flea’s distinctive sound. While there were hits aplenty the band didn’t hold back from running through lesser-known material from its more recent records, showing how singer Anthony Kiedis has grown as a singer who can croon and sustain when needed.

PHOTOS: Red Hot Chili Peppers at ACL Fest 2017

In a savvy move, the band members dropped short instrumental workouts in between several songs, adding intrigue for the crowd and chewing up roughly 20 minutes of their 95 minute set. That could’ve tested the patience of the audience very easily, but when they repeatedly stuck the landing on modern rock classics like “Suck My Kiss” and slightly more rigid take on “Give It Away,” not many of the cheering thousands gathered in front of the American Express stage were complaining.

Ice Cube ensures ‘It was a good day’ at exhilarating ACL Fest set

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Don’t try to clown on Ice Cube. He’ll beat you to the punchline.

“A lot of y’all thinking, ‘That’s Ice Cube up there!'” the rapper born O’Shea Jackson said from American Express Stage during his Saturday night set at ACL. “That motherf***** do movies. Ain’t that Ice Cube that do them crazy-ass Coors Light commercials and s***?”

Suzanne Cordeiro/ For American-Statesman Ice Cube performs on Day 2 of the 2017 ACL Music Festival held at Zilker Park in Austin.

That was, in fact, the same Ice Cube of “Friday” and “Are We There Yet?” infamy. But lest the rabid throng forget the red-blooded MC’s original day job, he raced through a flurry of classics from his solo career and N.W.A tenure with jaw-dropping precision. Atop a collection of instantly recognizable, pulverizing beats, the rapper spat bars that were wickedly funny, aggressively masculine and unfailingly profane.

“For all the people in here who didn’t think Ice Cube could get onstage and still rock the mic, I got one thing to say to yo’ ass,” Cube smugly told the audience. “You better check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self!”

There was, of course, a palpable irony to watching the 48-year-old gazillionaire MC deliver the vitriolic one-two punch of N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” and “Gangsta Gangsta” before a crowd of mostly white, twenty-something college students—not to mention the father who swayed to the anti-authoritarian tirades with his toddler perched upon his shoulders. But Cube’s been in this business long enough to sell his past as present, even if his only connection to his gang-banging days now is 2015’s blockbuster biopic, “Straight Outta Compton.” Besides, this crowd was in no mood to fact-check; they simply wanted to rage.

The rapper gave them plenty of opportunities to do that, from the furious N.W.A diss track “No Vaseline” to the shockingly anti-PC boasts of “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It.” Like all seasoned performers, Cube divided the crowd and forced them to out-scream each other. Unlike most of these performers, he threw several crisp hundred dollar bills onto the stage and bet against his hype man WC (pronounced “Dub-C”) to see whose side would prevail.

Thankfully for Dub, the consensus seemed to be a draw.

“Y’all can’t do too much sinning tonight,” Cube joked to the audience before shutting his set down with the woozy feel-good funk of “It Was a Good Day.” “I’m gonna see y’all at church in the morning.”

Little did he know, they were already there.