Shakey Graves on new album ‘Can’t Wake Up,’ opening for Paul McCartney at ACL Fest

“Can’t Wake Up,” the first new full-length from Austin’s Shakey Graves since his 2014 breakthrough, “And the War Came,” drops on May 4, and sonically, it’s a departure for the Americana standout. The folksy sensibility and witty lyricism are still there, but the new songs emerge through a psychedelic haze. No longer the singer-songwriter with a one-man band who charmed audiences at the Hole in the Wall, he’s now making rich indie rock for a full ensemble.

Shakey Graves in Austin in May 2018. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

Austin fans who pre-purchase the album are invited to a special performance at GSD&M’s Back Lawn at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 3. You can pay for your copy of the album and pick up a wristband for the show across the street at Waterloo Records. Fans who already pre-purchased online should check their email for an invite.

After the release, the artist also known as Alejandro Rose-Garcia embarks on an extensive North American tour, playing large venues across the country including a Stubb’s show in Austin on June 16. Many of the dates are already sold out. He wraps the tour with a headlining gig at Denver’s magnificent Red Rocks Amphitheater in August. Then he’ll be back home for the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October.

We caught up with Rose-Garcia to talk about strange daydreams, the state of the world and what we can expect from his live shows this year.

Austin360: Talk to me about the title of the album, “Can’t Wake Up.” Where did that come from?

It kind of came naturally … really far on. I kind of waited until I had all the music and lyrics and kind of looked at it as a piece and tried to figure out what ties it all together. Something that I subconsciously did was talked about dreams a lot. Not dreams, like specifically dreaming, but fantasy and kind of irrational fears and regret. Just sort of like a bunch of head stuff, when you get trapped in your own head. I guess “Can’t Wake Up” is that. It’s when you get trapped in and you kind of can’t snap out of something.

There’s a hazy, dreamy quality to a lot of the songs.

I feel like there’s something zeitgeist-y that feels like that in the world right now. Not in a negative sense, but it feels like we’re kind of stuck in the middle of something, I’m not sure what. But as humanity we’re like, “We’ll go to other planets and Teslas and free thought and medical breakthroughs,” and also just like burning coal and hating each other … just destroying everything.

Shakey Graves performs for a small crowd of fans, friends, and contest winners at Geraldine’s on Rainey Street during SXSW 2018 in March. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Your sound is very different on this album.

That’s funny too, because it’s still recorded in the same way that I’ve always made music. I made most of it in my house. A lot of the songs are me playing everything. It’s just that I’m into different stuff now. I seek different audio experiences. It’s very surreal.

Is part of it that you can afford to hire a band now? In the early days it was always just you.

That is true, but that also didn’t really affect my recording process, because I would just fake something. … There’s a lot more at my fingertips (now). I can play a piano or a mellotron or play drums or bass. I used to just have a guitar and so, of course, the music that comes out of me is going to be different. But it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t hearing this even when I just had a guitar. And it doesn’t mean that we have arrived at what I actually sound like. I hope to continue to just grow, I guess.

You say that the stuff you’re listening to is different. What kind of stuff are you into right now?

There was a time when I was only listening to prewar music or music from the ‘30s or Alan Lomax. There was something that I really liked about old music. And then also, I’ve always supplemented that with a really odd dosage of contemporary saccharine pop music. I’ve just always liked pop music and really loud aggressive noise music. Somewhere in between that is what I like.

That actually makes sense. I see you as somebody who’s approaching old-timey Americana with a very aggressive attitude.

Absolutely … I was one of those people who didn’t grow up liking the Beatles … kind of revolted against it. Now is the time I’m getting to actually experience the Beatles … and a bunch of the Kinks and stuff like that. A bunch of British pop music is now kind of in the forefront.

Shakey Graves performs for a small crowd of fans, friends, and contest winners during SXSW 2018 in March. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

So you’ve moved from the ‘30s to the ‘60s is what you’re saying?

That’s exactly right … you nailed it.

Speaking of the Beatles, you’re on ACL Fest with Paul McCartney this year. How does that feel?

I’m really excited to check that out. ACL can be a tough festival to watch music at. Even when you play … you still have to fight your way in. I felt much less urge to fight my way to the front to see Deadmaus play. … But yeah, I’ll push my way forward to see Paul McCartney. I’ve never seen him and might not again.

David Byrne’s who I’m the most excited about. I’m reading his book right now and it’s saving my brain. … He put it out a little while ago. It’s called “How Music Works”… as I’m trying to design a new show … it’s helping me brainstorm ways to translate this record … and not have it seem alienating or inconsistent with other songs during the show. And also to make sure that even though there are going to be a lot of new soundscapes on the stage it still feels like you’re watching me do it.

What’s going to be different?

For instance, I play keys a lot on the record. … It’s all the questions. Do I want to stand and play a keyboard? Am I cool with sitting down? What does my stage look like? Can I make sitting down … feel like you’re in my house with me? Is there a way to make synthetic instruments feel homey? I’m going to try. … I have some tricks up my sleeve.

Shakey Graves poses for a portrait during SXSW 2018 in March. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

IT’S McCARTNEY: A deeper look at the 2018 ACL Fest lineup

SXSW: At Scoot Inn, a ‘backstage’ peek at life of a legendary roadie

There were two things happening at the eastern fringe of SXSW on Friday afternoon.

In the sun-splashed dirt courtyard of the Scoot Inn beer garden, the Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion was in the final stretch of a three-day run — Erika Wennerstrom’s enormous voice on “Extraordinary Love” was swamping the place like a tsunami, drowning out pockets of disinterest.

But inside Scoot Inn proper — what was on this afternoon the “Roadie Lounge” — the star of the afternoon was a legend on a different level. Ben Dorcy, who maintained his title of “oldest living roadie” by working until the week he died at the age of 92 last September, was being celebrated with sneak peeks at a documentary 13 years in the making.

Every now and then Amy Nelson, daughter of Ben’s longtime employer Willie, would try to bring the two events together, speaking to the outside crowd of the virtues of “Lovey” — as Dorcy was known to those close to him. But still, a separation remained: The show and … backstage.

For an event honoring the original roadie, it was only natural.

Erika Wennerstrom plays during The Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion at Scoot Inn during SXSW Fri., March 16, 2018 JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

It was fitting that the Scoot Inn would host — it is one of the few Austin bars old enough to encompass the legacy of Dorcy, who was born in 1925, two years before the first jukebox. After serving as gardener and valet to John Wayne, Dorcy would hit the road for 65 years with the giants of country music.

Inside the dark and cool interior of the historic bar, the first 15 minutes of the documentary: “Lovey: King of the Roadies” began with Dorcy aboard Willie’s bus, sharing a joint with his old boss and recounting stories of misbehavior and wild times. It is a professional and polished film of music legends sharing what is legendary to them. Among the many icons on screen, we don’t lose sight of who the star of this show is. There’s Dorcy, shuffling along on his cane, his countenance weathered to sharp angles. In portraits, his eyes are inscrutable. In snapshots with friends, they are alive with joy.

RELATED: Remembering Ben Dorcy, ‘King of the Roadies’ and a Texas legend

“He took care of all these stars with this star power,” Amy Nelson said. “And he had that same kind of star power. He could have been an actor, too. He was hanging around all these amazing people and he chose to serve them.”

Amy Nelson — there on Friday alongside her co-producers of the film, David Anderson and Lana Nelson — co-directed the film with her cousin Trevor Doyle Nelson. Her love for the man who was part of the Willie Nelson Family band, and by extension, her own family, was apparent in her conversation … and also in the years she has spent on the film.

All along, she pictured Dorcy at events like these and on the red carpet at the premiere. “It was hard to keep working on (the documentary) after he was gone,” she said. But Austin’s High Brew Coffee stepped in at that moment to help push the project forward.

Now Amy Nelson says the film is nearly complete and she hopes to have details like publishing and licensing complete in time for the fall film festival season.

Ben Dorcy got his start in the music business working for Hank Thompson, but also was connected to Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash.

Inside the Scoot Inn, Dorcy’s fellow roadies are lined up for free custom earplugs being given out this afternoon by MusiCares. Those not on barstools having their ears peered into are watching the screen as Jamey Johnson sings a cover of “Night Life.” Toward the end of the clip, Dorcy is shown in the plaza of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, when a fellow in a Batman costume sidles up to him. “Where are the drugs going?” he asks. Is it a real moment or a setup? Either way, Dorcy’s reaction is authentic: “Get away from me!” he snarls.

The room erupts in laughter. These pros know, the meek don’t survive 65 years on the road.

RELATED: The Year in Willie, a look back at Nelson’s busy 2017

Dorcy was connected to Willie for many of those years, but he also worked with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Ray Price, George Jones and Waylon Jennings, among others.

In his later years, Dorcy was connected to a similar run of “Texas music” artists: Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott, Cody Canada and, particularly, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.

As it turns out, it’s no accident that Dorcy stayed on the road with the younger generation — those artists and their roadies worked together to take care of the man who had no living relatives.

“All of these fellow roadies were becoming like his sons,” Amy Nelson said. “They would network and figure out where Ben was going and where he going to work and where he was going to spend the holidays and how they were going to pay his rent.”

“It was amazing to see this brotherhood and how they came together to take care of their fellow roadie.”

It was in this spirit that Joel Schoepf (former roadie who now works for John T. Floore Country Store) and John Selman (Willie Nelson stage manager) created the Live Like Lovey foundation, to help benefit other roadies who need financial assistance.

A silent auction at the Scoot Inn on Friday, featuring items ranging from Willie-signed bandanas to original Jerry Garcia art, helped raise funds for the roundation. Looming over the auction was a huge framed movie poster for the “Lovey: KIng of the Roadies” documentary.

Before he died in September, Dorcy did see a cut of the hour and 40 minute film about his life. His judgment?

“He loved it,” Amy Nelson said. “After 20 minutes, he was like ‘I like it.’ And when it was over he said, ‘I love it.’”

“Thank God.”

Herbie Hancock brings ageless classics to ‘ACL’ taping

By Wes Eichenwald
Special to the American-Statesman

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

 

Contributed by Scott Newton Courtesy of KLRU-TV

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACL Fest 2017: Lemon Twigs deliver high-energy baroque rock ‘n’ roll

[cmg_anvato video=”4187029″]

“You should see me when I’m really getting hot.”

That tongue-in-cheek line came courtesy of Brian D’Addario, who was no doubt roasting Friday afternoon as his band the Lemon Twigs took over the Miller Lite stage with an hour of high-energy, dramatic and hooky-as-hell baroque rock ‘n’ roll.

Brian D’Addario of The Lemon Twigs performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 6, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

D’Addario – who fronts the buzzed-about band with his brother Michael – punctuated his time at the front of the stage with regular exaggerated kicks, jump splits and a showman’s swagger well beyond his years. Things were less over the top when Michael D’Addario took over on guitar and vocals, with his brother and keyboardist Danny Ayala frequently exchanging instruments throughout the set, which at times recalled the weirdo chutzpah of Ween and Of Montreal’s dramatic pomp.

Live,  the band trades some of the intricate orchestration of last year’s “Do Hollywood” LP and the just-released “Brothers Of Destruction” with rock bombast and energy. That meant that “Baby, Baby” saw multi-part A capella harmonies switch into zealous overblown rock riffing in a snap, and pulled off without a slip.

The high point come on future yacht rock staple “These Words,” sounding like the best Steely Dan deep cut you’ve never heard. That being a sterling compliment.

It says a lot when a band covering Roky Erickson’s “I Walked With A Zombie” is the most restrained part of a set. That’s what happens when a band’s lead guitarist pops his guitar strap and is still pulling off jump splits and delivering searing solos without missing a beat.

Geezer Butler talks Black Sabbath legacy before final US show (ever)

Black Sabbath is on its final tour, and the band's final U.S. show is Saturday, Nov. 12, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Photo by Ross Halfin
Black Sabbath is on its final tour, and the band’s final U.S. show is Saturday, Nov. 12, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Photo by Ross Halfin

Black Sabbath is the band that invented heavy metal, no question about it. Bands had riffs before them, but guitarist Tony Iommi made the riff as an object of worship, blasting it through down-tuned guitars and amps loud enough to carry the gloomy worldview penned by bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler.

Black Sabbath were not interested in hippie politics; they wanted to show the darkness of the world for what it really was, and provide a light in the process. Through them later came the innovations of groups like Metallica, Judas Priest and countless others who traffic in heavy riffs combined with heavier subject matter. And for better or worse, they gave the world Ozzy Osbourne, the Satanic panic turned festival namesake turned reality TV star. They created metal 46 years ago, and now they’re going to retire in peace.

RELATED: AUSTIN’S BROWN SABBATH HONORS METAL PIONEERS

They’re on their farewell tour, succinctly and appropriately named “The End,” and the final show of their US leg will be in San Antonio on Saturday. For central Texas, this will be the last time to pay tribute to the creators of metal, and with San Antonio’s historically strong support for metal, it’s a fitting last stand. Butler took a little time to reflect on the band’s legacy and how they’ve stay relevant for so long.

Austin360: Is there anything new or different that you’ve realized about your career and your impact on music now that you’ve embarked on this last tour?

Geezer Butler: When we started out we didn’t expect to last more than a few years, never mind almost 50 years. I never thought it would turn into a lifelong career. It has been especially pleasing to know that we have influenced so many bands, and that we are still relevant after all this time.

How do you make sure fans remember Sabbath the way you want?

I feel that we are still musically at the top of our game, and we are aware that these last shows are the way people will remember us, so each show is very important to us. We put everything into our performances, and that is very important to us, to be the best we can be for our fans.

San Antonio has historically had a strong metal community. What does it mean that your final U.S. show is there?

San Antonio has always been a great place for us to play. The fans are very passionate, and I think it is the perfect place to end our American shows.

Do you find that Sabbath’s darkness has not only carried over to the modern age well, but is perhaps more relevant than ever? Do people lose sight that there’s an emphasis on peace and coming together within all that darkness?

Since we started, we have been largely misunderstood by the media. Our fans knew what we were about; they weren’t looking for things that weren’t there in our music. We were reflecting the darkness in life, but offering ways to overcome it, largely through love and peace.

Sabbath were met with derision early in their career, and Ozzy Osbourne in particular has been seen as an antichrist of sorts as part of a moral panic. Now, Sabbath is very much a part of the mainstream. Is it interesting to go from so hated to so loved?

I think it comes from longevity; the shock of the new wears off pretty quickly, and hate turns to acceptance. After all, Elvis was seen by some as a kind of demon when he started, playing the “devil’s music,” and you can’t get much more mainstream than him now.

Charles Bradley released a soul version of ‘Changes’ that is just amazing. He put a lot of heart into it and really just shows what a wonderful song it was to begin with, even though he comes from a different place. What is it about the music you’ve created that transcends genre?

I love the Charles Bradley version of “Changes”; I think it is one of the best covers I’ve heard. Good songs are good songs, no matter how they are interpreted.

What will it mean once this tour is all said and done (aside from maybe a nice vacation)? What do you think about your legacy?

It will be bittersweet. It has been a great achievement lasting so long and still being relevant — it’s something to be proud of, but my life will be very empty without the band. I hope our music will be around for a very long time after we’ve gone.

Sabbath is always described as ‘heavy.’ What is the heaviest Sabbath song?

Probably the song “Black Sabbath.” The riff is very dark and brooding, but the lyrics are a warning against the darkness.

Sound on Sound: Phantogram strikes back

Phantogram plays Friday at Sound on Sound Fest at Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade. Photo contributed by Chad Wadsworth/Sound on Sound Fest
Phantogram plays Friday at Sound on Sound Fest at Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade. Photo contributed by Chad Wadsworth/Sound on Sound Fest

Without the chops, Phantogram goes buried in Spotify playlists as another synth-leaning buzz band. But the grandiose-scheming four-piece act on Friday showed the Dragon’s Lair stage what they’ve been cooking since 2014’s “Voices.”

Barreling right into “Black Out Days,” the band’s catchiest song to date, the Greenwich, New York outfit went fearless and shed the recent past. It was a cylinders-firing mission statement: We’re festival headliners now, get acquainted.

“You guys like that one don’t you?” singer and keyboardist Sarah Barthel said after trying out cuts from October’s new album “Three.”

“You guys ever drink for no reason?” she asked later. “We call that celebrating nothing.”

As she told the Charlotte Observer, producing songs for fellow Sound on Sound performer Big Boi gave Barthel the confidence to find a more bold stage persona who experiments with fashion. Friday night she donned thigh-high leather boots, shorts, and blonde hair. And while Barthel and co-songwriter, guitarist, and producer Josh Carter were not short on confidence, the new direction meant experimental, sorrow-laden music.

In January, Barthel’s sister committed suicide. Onstage she seems to have channeled the loss with all-in musical escapism. Even 2013’s “Fall in Love” blanketed takers with blaring, pulsing keyboards.

This was thunderous rock star headlining. This was industrial, lunch pale light and magic; an essential appearance by a band that’s made the leap to “night festival slots only.”

Ingrid Michaelson got a tattoo before her show in Austin

Ingrid Michaelson is in town, and everybody knows there’s only one way to spend a rainy Thursday afternoon before playing a show at Stubb’s: Mosey on down the street and get tatted up at True Blue, of course.

A-list: Ingrid Michaelson at ACL Live, 6.8.15
A-list: Ingrid Michaelson at ACL Live, 6.8.15

The singer, in town on her “Hell No” tour, got a tattoo of a firefly in memory of her mother, Elizabeth Egbert. Egbert was a sculptor and the executive director of the Staten Island Museum before she died in August 2014 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

She tweeted the photo of her new ink, writing, “In memory of mama who I see in the fireflies.” It’s a reference to lyrics in her song “Light Me Up” — “And I want to see you with my eyes / But I see you in the fireflies / And how extraordinary is that.”

It’s not the first time Michaelson has gotten a pre-show tattoo for her mom. She got one in November 2014 before a show in Calofrnia, according to her Instagram.

What a sweet tribute.

 

Joey Purp paints portrait of an artist as a young man

Rapper Joey Purp from Chicago,Ill., performs on the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage on the second day of weekend two of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 8, 2016.  Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Rapper Joey Purp performs Saturday during Weekend Two of the 2016 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Erika Rich for American-Statesman

By Steve Scheibal, special to the American-Statesman

It’s Purp, “like the color purple, like the word ‘purpose,'” Joey Purp explained as he neared the end of his remarkable ACL Fest showcase.

When the Chicago rapper took the stage early Saturday, it had all the trappings of a dance party. His DJ fired up the crowd with extended cuts from Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, and then Purp bounded out to beats that were fine-tuned to make people bounce.

So it was jarring when he broke into the first track from his mixtape “iiiDrops,” rapping about witnessing a murder, seeing what it meant to both the victim and the killer, and living under the cloud of untimely and violent death.

Purp’s arresting flow and clear voice sucked the crowd into the story, so much so that the dance party had pretty well ground to a halt when the song wrapped up.

“You still with us, Austin, Texas?” he asked.

“There’s a lot going on in Chicago right now,” he said. “It’s up to us to have a critical discourse about it.”

To some degree, Purp’s set was dedicated to that conversation. He was the only one with the microphone, but he welcomed his audience into his songs and stories, gave them chants to repeat and made it as easy as possible to dance.

If the party occasionally got a little serious, Purp’s bright presence, big smile and sharp raps kept it from dragging. For a lamentably short 45 minutes, he propelled the audience with the exuberance of an artist who has a story to tell and knows how to tell  it — and who’s risen to the point that he can at least see the brass ring.

As he closed, he had someone take a picture with the audience. “Put your twos up for Tupac Shakur,” he said, and the crowd gleefully threw peace signs in the air.

Everyone, from Joey Purp on back, felt lucky to be in the shot.

 

Nothing But Thieves blends influences behind a powerful voice

Conor Mason of Nothing But Thieves plays the Honda stage at ACL Fest weekend on Saturday October 1, 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Conor Mason of Nothing But Thieves during Weekend One of ACL Fest. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Steve Scheibal, special to the American-Statesman

Nothing But Thieves took ACL Fest’s big Honda Stage early Saturday afternoon sounding like a band that would’ve been quite happy blaring out of a ’90s alternative rock station. But right around the time that the uninitiated were steeling themselves for Stone Temple Something-or-Other, Conor Mason started singing.

Mason sings with sweeping range and spot-on pitch without ever sounding technical. He packs fury into the band’s rockers and heart into its ballads, and his falsetto rovings are impressive without ever seeming contrived. Comparisons to Jeff Buckley are apt, though Mason sings with more fire.

That kind of voice is a handy thing to have around, and the English band takes full advantage of it. Rather than reheated grunge, Saturday’s set blended those punk and metal elements with full-throated Brit Rock. It created a fierce, full sound infused with clever hooks, propelled by sharp musicianship and an especially tight rhythm section.

Certainly, there were influences to pick out — a bit of Soundgarden here, some Blur there. But Mason’s voice makes it something else. It’s not necessarily different, but it still sounds new.

Austin City Limits 2016: Bombino’s blistering festival oasis

Bombino wasn’t much of a talker Friday during his Tito’s stage ACL appearance, but he put everything in its right place at the 15-year-old festival.

The Tuareg guitarist born Omara Moctar planted a flag in the tent, and united the space under its shade as an oasis for thirsty passersby already out of gas. There’s a front coming tomorrow, but it’s been a summer-in-Texas hot kickoff to weekend two.

Bombino performs on the Tito's Handmade Vodka Stage during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on September 30, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)
Bombino performs on the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on September 30, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

This is lyrical noodling that rolls like the desert hills of the 36-year-old’s native Tuareg, Niger. Or Arizona or wherever–it’s universally arresting stuff. It’s NPR dad rock that works for the scenesters, burnouts, and the dude wearing a Crossroads Guitar Festival T-shirt from 2004. (Eric Clapton was joined by Tommy Shaw and Jeff Back on that one. Killer.)

Donning a blue robe, Oakley-esque bubble shades, and a white scarf, Bombino and his three-piece band won on groove-laden six-minute jams built around his guitar’s timing and direction.

It thrills guitar nerds, but cursory searches reveal pained blues: “My brothers! Far from your ancestral culture, your personality disappears along with your spirit,” reads the epigram for his latest video for “Akhar Zaman.” The clip is dedicated to the world’s refugees.

Produced by Dave Logstreth of the Dirty Projectors, this year’s “Azel” comes amid a mournful stretch. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year the northern African guitarist lost a first cousin, former bandmate, and a mentor “quite suddenly.”

For Austin City Limits attendees, however, joyful and hypnotic respite.