Deap Vally riles Killers fans with raucous, sex-positive ACL Fest set

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And the humblebrag of the weekend goes to: Deap Vally.

“I see that Garbage t-shirt out there,” singer/guitarist Lindsey Troy told an audience member during the band’s Sunday afternoon ACL set, her lips curling upward salaciously as the words left her mouth. “I bought the same shirt. We toured with them this summer. Sex is not the enemy!”

She and drummer Julie Edwards then blasted into “Walk of Shame,” the snarky, sex-positive garage rocker off the Los Angeles duo’s brilliantly titled debut album, “Sistrionix.” Troy attacked her battered Fender Mustang as she shouted the song’s brash, narrative-rewriting chorus: “’Cause I got places to go / But I’ve got no change of clothes / Baby I don’t feel no blame / I’m gonna take this walk of shame.”

To compare Deap Vally to the groundbreaking all-female punk bands of yesteryear based purely on gender would be horribly reductive, though Troy’s carnal howl does at times recall the Runaways’ Cherie Currie and L7’s Donita Sparks. But the frontwoman’s blunt-force riffs also nod to the libidinous, bluesy thunder of Eagles of Death Metal, while her interplay with Edwards’ explosive, unhinged drum breakdowns channels another garage rock duo you may have heard of — the White Stripes.

Lindsey Troy of Deap Vally performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Sunday October 8, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As the first band to grace the American Express Stage on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Deap Vally had the unenviable task of winning over diehard Killers fans who hugged the barricade and prayed for a respite from the sun’s unforgiving rays. Troy fully rose the occasion, bellowing with every iota of strength, “AUSTIN CITY LIMITS! WHAT THE F*** IS UP!” She unleashed primal shrieks both sultry and savage on “Heart Is an Animal,” her guitar work simultaneously cacophonous and controlled.

The set highlight came during the defiant, empowering “Smile More,” off last year’s raucous “Femejism.” Troy playfully but firmly rejected the male gaze as she hollered: “”Stranger in the bar tells me to smile more / I look at him and I ask, ‘What for?’ / I am happily unhappy, man / And no, I don’t wanna shake your hand.”

At the time of this writing, Troy and Edwards will probably be holding a meet-and-greet at the Waterloo Records tent, where, unlike the subject of “Smile More,” they promised to shake the hands and sign the cleavage of their fans. It’s unlikely many audience members will ditch their front-row Killers spot to go hang out with them. But I kind of hope they do.

Car Seat Headrest earn their 2 p.m. set time with sleepy ACL Fest performance

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Will Toledo is Car Seat Headrest. Will Toledo is a staggeringly prolific songwriter, a brutally confessional lyricist, an exemplary champion of DIY ethics even as his humble indie rock project has signed with Matador Records and achieved previously unfathomable levels of success.

But Will Toledo is not a rockstar.

AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 7, 2017 – Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.(Erich Schlegel/Special Contributor)

Reality smacked hard during the Seattle-by-way-of-Virginia quartet’s 2 p.m. set at the Honda Stage on Saturday, where they played to a noticeably smaller and more listless crowd than the one Mutemath dominated at the same time and place on Friday. There’s no questioning Toledo’s songwriting chops — dude’s released 10 studio albums and a handful of EPs since 2010 — but the 25-year-old frontman could not be bothered to show any vital signs onstage beyond pushing his blocky shades up his nose after every song.

The singer and guitarist pays obvious deference in both his languid posturing and slurred vocals to reigning garage rock revivalists the Strokes, but as the New York indie rockers proved themselves at this festival two years ago, even Julian Casablancas struggles to do a convincing Julian Casablancas onstage — and that was with the momentum of a headlining set on their side. Toledo’s heart was in the right place, but he hasn’t earned the right to slack off before a sleepy afternoon crowd yet.

Thankfully, his bandmates knelt before a different altar, one of good-natured crowd banter and rock star histrionics. Lead guitarist Ethan Ives slashed through the muddy tumult with tuneful, trebly licks, looking more Woodstock than ACL with his voluminous curls, tucked-in brown t-shirt and prominent smiley face belt buckle. Ives took lead vocals for a powerful cover of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger,” his guitar work oozing subtle sensuality and his vocals hinting at a deep well of longing bubbling beneath the surface.

AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 7, 2017 – Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.(Erich Schlegel/Special Contributor)

Toledo, meanwhile, added airy falsetto backing vocals, proving his strongest suit was playing second fiddle to his bandmates.

Still, there’s no denying the great strides Car Seat Headrest have made in the past year, and any sort of inclusion on Austin’s biggest conventional music festival is a huge win for them. Drummer Andrew Katz acknowledged as much: “The last time we played Austin was South by Southwest, I think 2015,” he said. “The crowds were much smaller.”

“2016,” Toledo deadpanned (and he was right — they played the 450-capacity Central Presbyterian Church), before launching into the remarkably on-the-nose “”Drugs with Friends.” The audience grabbed hold of the opening lyric, “I get to know myself every weekend and I’m weak,” and by the time Toledo reached the chorus, he had achieved his own makeshift anthem as fans chanted in unison: “Drugs are better than friends are better than drugs are better than friends!”

Will Toledo is not a rockstar. But he knows how to read a crowd.

Skepta spits dizzying bars and summons joyous mosh pits at ACL Fest

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Twenty minutes into his Friday afternoon set on the Homeaway Stage at Austin City Limits, Skepta made a deal with his audience.

“Can I spit some lyrics, please?” he asked the crowd before barreling into “Skepta Interlude,” which first appeared on Drake’s album-playlist hybrid “More Life” back in March. “Let’s get f—king lyrical.”

Skepta performs during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It was a strange request, as the rapper had been getting lyrical all along. The 35-year-old British MC — real name Joseph Junior Adenuga — couched his dense statements inside pummeling grime bangers that kept droves of fans moving for the entirety of his hourlong performance. Skepta knew his late-afternoon set was not the time for introspection. This audience wanted bars.

So that’s what he delivered. The MC emanated braggadocio as he bounded across the stage and spat dizzying boasts off “Hypocrisy”: “I’ve got fifteen different iPhones / But I am so not phony / They try to disrespect me / when they’re online especially / But everything cool when they check me.”

Everything is definitely cool with Skepta after last year’s “Konnichiwa” landed him on several year-end lists, and nobody was trying to check him during this set. The rapper’s motor-mouthed delivery and thick accent prevented most of the audience from rapping along with his furious tongue-twisters, but boy, did they dance. Shirtless bros and and hipster girls two-stepped ebulliently, their life forces replenished by rumbling bass drops as the sun tucked mercifully behind the stage.

“The energy is correct for the titles you’re screaming right now,” he told the audience before playing breakout single “Shutdown,” which currently has more than 44 million Spotify streams. “Front to the back, left to the right: pits,” he demanded.

As with many things in his triumphant past year, Skepta got exactly what he wanted.

Mutemath singer shreds a mean keytar and crowd-surfs on a mattress at ACL Fest

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Mutemath lead singer Paul Meany might have taken the lyrics to recent single “War” a bit too literally, as he immediately did battle with a faulty microphone at the beginning of their Friday afternoon set at Austin City Limits.

“Let it go, I could but I won’t, I gotta fight it,” the spirited frontman sang as his mic crackled in and out throughout the band’s electrifying opening number. Sound problems right out of the gate can frazzle the most seasoned performer, but credit to a visibly frustrated Meany for laughing off the technical snag and leaning on his bandmates to power through the otherwise triumphant show-starter.

Paul Meany of Mutemath sings with his 6-year-old daughter, Amelia Meany, at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 6, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The New Orleans quartet might have taken the Honda Stage at 2:15 p.m., but spiritually, they blasted through a dusky co-headlining set, sparing no rockstar indulgence over the course of their invigorating hourlong performance. Meany shredded a mean (ha-ha) keytar solo from atop the piano on which he later did a nimble handstand; rode a blinking mattress across the audience during the obligatory crowd-surfing portion of the set; and led the throng in a rousing singalong to anthemic set-closer “Typical.” But the frontman owed the best-received moment of the performance to his daughter Amelia, who strutted the stage with pink noise-cancelling headphones clamped on her ears and duetted with her father on “Pixie Oaks,” earning roars of applause from the already-huge crowd.

These flourishes allowed Mutemath’s set to stand out, but their sheer virtuosity made the songs soar. Guitarist Todd Gummerman filled the space with massive, textural chords and catchy leads, while touring drummer Dave Hutchinson deftly blended slippery fills and pummeling beats, giving the band’s spacey prog-pop a far more muscular bent than on record. These technical elements all locked beautifully into place on the amplified baptismal funk of “Achilles Heel,” as Meany sang, “You gotta hold ground, but you can’t stick around forever.”

Maybe so, but they at least stuck around long enough to enliven the sun-drenched festival-goers as they began their exhausting weekend. Neither artist nor audience could ask for more.

ACLFest 2014 Fashion: Of flash tats, hot pants and flowers

Austin City Limits Festival hits a weird spot in the world of festival fashions – not as wild as Burning Man; not as chic as Coachella; and not quite as unpretentious as festivals of yore like Woodstock. Somewhere in the middle is where ACL fashion can be found.

The new hotness for 2014 was flash tats – sparkly gold and silver temporary tattoos worn on any exposed piece of flesh, from ankles to eyebrows. Everywhere you looked, flash tats were winking in the sun – and vendors in the ACL Fest art market were adding to the numbers.

And while the ever-popular flowered crown remains the top accessory of ACL Fest, beaded headbands and chains that run along the hairline and forehead are the up and comers looking to challenge the mainstay.

High-waisted hot pants and crop tops topped with fringed kimonos were popular among the younger set, while vintage flowing tops and maxi dresses could be found on the fashionable ladies late-20s and older. Teal and hot pink warred against basic black, white and beige for most popular colors, and hair that could be braided was likely to be braided.

Looking around Zilker Park also gave the impression that the 90s were making a reappearance among festgoers, with plastic chokers, halter crop tops, belly chains and sunflower prints abounding.

But the key to looking great at ACL Fest is balancing practical weather concerns (whether it’s blistering heat or drizzling, chilly rain) with looking effortlessly cool.

Here are some of our favorites from both weekends. See our photo gallery for more.