Chance The Rapper’s Saturday sermon; why there’s room for God in hip-hop

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There’s a lot to like about Chance The Rapper.

Chance the Rapper performs during the second weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


In the class of charismatic young MCs with at least one eye on the tradition of hip-hop’s first generation storytellers he’s an easy valedictorian, and is about to lap everyone else.

Say what you want about the current state of Kanye West’s psyche and mental health, but if the last gift he gives the world is imparting his fellow Chicago lyricist with the confidence and presence to own every square inch of any stage he’s standing on, then his disappearance down the Kardashian/Jenner wormhole will not have been in vain.

From the moment Chance took the Honda stage with his vice grip-tight backing band on Saturday he was in firm command, easily alternating between moments of almost folky storytelling (“Same Drugs”) and the nuanced rhythmic wordplay of “Summer Friends” and “Mixtape.”

And a look around at the many thousands of fans in front of him showed something truly special: a mostly young melting pot of fans having no reservations about celebrating the positivity and message of the God-soaked songs that were being laid on them by a performer blessed with the zeal and command of a veteran Sunday preacher.

It’s hard to say how many of the assembled would mark themselves as believers beyond bouncing and singing along to the messages being delivered by the young Grammy winner. And maybe that’s not the point.

While Chance The Rapper’s enthusiastic spirituality is certainly a foundation of the better world message that predominates his songs, he’s ultimately presenting himself as an on ramp for listeners to look inward and reflect and grow the best parts of themselves to the rest of the world.

So while God is there, it’s the young and gifted MC who is leading the walk he’s taking with his listeners.

This is an odd dynamic in otherwise secular music, and to see an unapologetically spiritual performer flourishing and thriving in terms of audience buy-in can seem… if not jarring then at least eye opening.

To those for whom hip-hop is more often a confrontational and occasionally overtly political venture – present company included – Chance’s many religious invocations in the course of sterling pop songs can become stumbling blocks for the uninitiated listener. This is not a bad thing, but it’s a far different flavor from what is the norm on a music festival headliner stage.


Set list:




Juke Jam


Ultralight Beam

Sunday Candy

I’m The One

All We Got

No Problem

Summer Friends

Finish Line/Drown

Same Drugs

Blessings (Reprise)

Country star Keith Urban will speak at SXSW 2018

Country star Keith Urban will be a featured speaker at South by Southwest in March 2018, the conference and festival revealed Saturday as part of a large announcement covering more than a dozen names across many programming tracks.

READ MORE: Roy Spence, Steve Ballmer, Ira Glass and Ana Marie Cox among SXSW featured additions

Keith Urban performs onstage during the 2016 iHeartCountry Festival at the Erwin Center on April 30, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Urban will speak as part of “Music Culture and Stories,” one of 24 tracks under the umbrella of SXSW’s Interactive, Film, Music and Convergence groupings. No word yet on whether Urban will also perform, but it seems at least a possibility, given that Urban played at SXSW 2014 as part of an iTunes event at ACL Live. Urban’s last Austin appearance was in 2016 as part of the iHeartCountry Festival at the Erwin Center.

A New Zealand native, Urban became a star in Australia before he began topping the U.S. country charts just after the turn of the century. He’s a four-time Grammy winner with a string of seven records that have reached either No. 1 or No. 2 on Billboard’s country albums chart, including last year’s platinum-selling “Ripcord.”

READ MORE: “Mother!” director Darren Aronofsky added at SXSW Film keynote

SXSW Conference programming is organized into 24 Tracks divided between Interactive, Film, Music, and Convergence, presented in a variety of session formats. Once again, SXSW is offering expanded access to events for all registrants. Attendees will receive primary access to programming associated with their badge type but now also enjoy secondary entry to most other SXSW events.

Applications for music artists to perform at SXSW 2018, which runs from March 9-18, are being accepted until Oct. 20.



Tom Petty last played Austin in May at the Erwin Center

Tom Petty at the Erwin Center on September 17, 1999. Rebecca McEntee/American-Statesman

[This article has been updated.]

Tom Petty’s last show in Austin was exactly five months ago, at the Erwin Center on May 2. The legendary rocker, 66, died Monday night, longtime Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers manager Tony Dimitriades has confirmed, after premature reports of his death surfaced earlier in the day.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty,” Dimitriades said in a statement. “He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”

At the Erwin Center, “Petty and his longtime band the Heartbreakers held what at times felt like a mass-worship rock ’n’ roll service to a full arena of fans who’ve clearly loved his music for decades,” we observed in our review of the show.

READ MORE: Tom Petty goes 40 years deep at Erwin Center

“Throughout, Petty was a gracious and appreciative host, thanking the crowd repeatedly and profusely during song breaks from start to finish, as the house lights frequently shined on the sea of smiling faces so he could see them all.”

Tom Petty at the Erwin Center on May 5, 2012. Rodolfo Gonzalez/American-Statesman

Austin guitarist Gary Clark Jr. opened the show for Petty, a one-off appearance on the 40th-anniversary tour of Petty and his longtime band, the Heartbreakers.

PHOTOS: Tom Petty at the Erwin Center on May 2, 2017

Petty’s concert history in Austin dates back to 1978, when he appeared with the Heartbreakers at the now-shuttered Austin Opera House. A total of 10 appearances at the Erwin Center followed, along with shows at Bass Concert Hall, the Paramount Theatre and the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival.

The ACL Fest show was remembered largely for a rainstorm that erupted midway through the band’s headlining set. Petty and the Heartbreakers waited it out, then retook the stage and played on for the large throng of fans who’d stuck around through the rain.

Tom Petty at the Erwin Center on September 17, 1999. Rebecca McEntee/American-Statesman

Harvey can’t mess with Willie and all his friends at Texas-sized relief concert

Willie Nelson at “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” fundraiser at the Erwin Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Charles Reagan Hackleman/C3 Presents

At the start and end, Friday’s “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” concert for hurricane relief at the Erwin Center was much like all great Willie Nelson shows. It began, as Willie always does, with “Whiskey River,” before closing with an “I’ll Fly Away”/”Will the Circle Be Unbroken” finale. In between, though, Austin got to see a concert the likes of which has never been thrown here.

READ MORE: Nine great moments at Harvey benefit, and one that got away

There was Willie singing “Funny How Times Slips Away” with Leon Bridges, and “Texas Flood” with Bonnie Raitt and Jimmie Vaughan. Then Bonnie sang with James Taylor. Then Taylor fronted Asleep at the Wheel. Then Asleep at the Wheel backed Paul Simon and Edie Brickell singing “Waltz Across Texas.” Then the Dixie Chicks’ Martie Maguire and gospel sensation Ruthie Foster joined Raitt for “Angel From Montgomery.” And on and on and on. It was that kind of night, for more than four hours.

Bonnie Raitt with Martie Maguire, left, and Ruthie Foster at “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” fundraiser at the Erwin Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Charles Reagan Hackleman/C3 Presents

All of the musical magic that happened was for the benefit of Rebuild Texas, a hurricane relief effort created by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in collaboration with the OneStar Foundation. According to the website, the fund “will support community partners in four focus areas — health and housing; schools and child care; workforce and transportation; and capital for rebuilding small businesses.”

READ MORE: Dells launch $100 million Rebuild Texas campaign in response to Harvey

Celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Renee Zellweger, Luke Wilson, Vince Young, Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker, as well as officials such as Austin mayor Steve Adler and Houston police chief Art Acevedo, appeared between performers to beat the drum for the Rebuild Texas cause. Show host Andy Langer announced that even before a telethon-style hour of the concert aired on TV and YouTube at 9 p.m., the event already had raised $1.6 million for the fund.

Ha*Ash performs at “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” fundraiser at the Erwin Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Charles Reagan Hackleman/C3 Presents

The first hour or so was like a “greatest hits” lead-in. Many key moments happened between 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., specifically so they could be included on the video portion that was quickly edited and prepared for the broadcast. Those watching at home got to hear the Nelson collaborations, Taylor and Raitt singing “You Can Close Your Eyes” together, Lyle Lovett’s “Simple Song,” Simon’s “America” and more, including a surprisingly strong cameo from Ha*Ash, the Mexican pop duo of sisters Hanna and Ashley Mosa.

WATCH: Highlights from “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” concert

After a short break, most of the big-name performers played another three songs each, before Nelson returned for a seven-song mini-set to close things out just past 11:30 p.m. A standout addition to the post-television segment was Ryan Bingham, who shone brightly with a backing cast that included the Dixie Chicks’ Martie Maguire on fiddle and vocals plus local singer Jai Malano.

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Others in the second-half mix included Colorado’s high-energy soul-rockers Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, who drew both Bingham and Raitt out to jam with them; and Tejano legends Little Joe y La Familia, a very late add to the bill and a longtime personal favorite of Nelson. (As performers departed at the show’s end, the jumbotron showed Nelson and Little Joe Hernandez warmly embracing.)

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians perform at “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” fundraiser at the Erwin Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Charles Reagan Hackleman/C3 Presents

Brickell also returned for two songs with her longtime band New Bohemians, before rejoining Simon for joyously humorous cover of the 1970s Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn hit “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.” Brickell also did the honors for one of the evening’s most important acknowledgments: “Did anybody introduce Charlie Sexton?”

READ MORE: In appreciation of Charlie Sexton, Americana Awards winner and Austin MVP

The Austin guitarist, a two-decade veteran of Bob Dylan’s band, was the night’s musical director, leading a support crew that wove together variations of Asleep at the Wheel with ace local musicians such as drummer Ramy Antoun and keyboardist Michael Ramos. As host Langer noted near the end of the night, “you largely have Charlie Sexton to thank” for the star-studded lineup and collaborations that made “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” an unforgettable special event.

PHOTO GALLERY: “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” concert at Erwin Center

All-star finale at “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” fundraiser at the Erwin Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Charles Reagan Hackleman/C3 Presents

Little Big Town tour with Kacey Musgraves, Midland coming to Austin

Country music superstars Little Big Town are set to hit the road next year and a February 9 show at the Frank Erwin Center is the second stop on “The Breakers” tour. Kacey Musgraves and Midland will be along for the ride.

Little Big Town

Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. and will be available at or by phone at (512) 477-6060 or 1-800-982-BEVO (2386).

More Harvey benefits in Austin: Musicians continue relief efforts

Beat Root Revival is among the acts playing a Harvey relief benefit at Donn’s Depot on Sunday, Sept. 17. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

This week’s announcement of the Sept. 22 “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” concert at the Erwin Center is the 800-pound gorilla of hurricane relief benefits, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a lot of smaller fundraiser continuing to be presented around town by local musicians who want to help. Here are a few on the immediate horizon:

Friday, Sept. 15: Play It Forward at Blackerby Stage & Studio. The staff at Blackerby Violin Shop is hosting a benefit concert and instrument drive for Houston area music students affected by Hurricane Harvey. The program features the Blackerby staff performing music composed by native Texans including Joseph Shuffield, Luke Ellard and Mother Falcon; Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony; and Beatles songs led by the Eggmen’s John Burgess. Blackerby is working with Houston Arts Partners, an organization that aims to provide resources, communication and support to arts programs in the greater Houston area. Funds collected will go directly toward purchase of new instruments and instrument accessories. $20 suggested donation; also accepted are gently used instruments, music stands, strings, metronomes, tuners, shoulder rests and the like. 7 p.m. 1111 W. Anderson Lane. More info.

Saturday, Sept. 16: Helping Har-vacuees. East 12th Street venues team up to raise money for charities working on Harvey relief efforts including  ShelterBox USA, Emancipet and Unicef. Dozen Street kicks off the day early with a free brunch at 2 p.m. with bands performing all day and night including a special set from Foot Patrol at 3 p.m. The Big Easy begins their benefit with a blues jam at 6:30 p.m. and  Full Circle Bar is donating all the proceeds from every Skee-Ball game of the night to the efforts. $10 cover gets you into all three venues and each of the clubs, plus food truck Red Wraps are donating 10% of Saturday net sales. Neighboring bars Rio Rita and King Bee are also contributing to Harvey relief efforts. More info.

Saturday-Sunday, Sept, 16-17: Harvey Flood Benefit at Moontower Saloon. Musicians including Texiana Bluez, Whiskey Rebellion and Jukebox Heroes will play from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Donations of water and canned foods will be accepted for the Central Texas Food Bank, along with cash that will go to the Austin Disaster Relief Network for those in need after Hurricane Harvey. 10212 Manchaca Road. More info.

Sunday, Sept. 17: Hurricane Harvey Help at Donn’s Depot. Roots musicians including Beat Root Revival, Ernie Durawa with Will Knaak, the Drakes with Redd Volkaert, the Mike Cross Band, the John Gaar Band and Charles Thibodeaux will perform. Donations of requested items such as chainsaws and paper products will be accepted along with a suggested donation of $10 to $20, with all collected items and cash going to the Austin Disaster Relief Network. 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. 1600 W. Fifth St. More info.

Sundays, Sept. 17 and Sept. 24: Bands With Vans benefit for Harvey relief at Spider House. One novel way for musicians to help is to work with Bands With Vans, which teams bands up with venues working as drop off locations in Houston collecting supplies. Walker Lukens did the first one last week; they’re following up with a country show Sept. 17 featuring Mayeux & Broussard, Ricky Espinoza and the Band In Black, followed by a Latin/brass-band dance party on Sept. 24 with Superfonicos, Minor Mishap Marching Band, Continental Drift and Wache. $7 suggested donation. 7 p.m. 2908 Fruth St. More info.

Monday, Sept. 18: Fastball at Chet’s Livestream Concert. Austin pop band Fastball is teaming up with comedian and Unpopular Opinion Network podcaster Chet Wild to play a set at Wild’s home in Los Angeles that will be livestreamed for those who donate. All net proceeds benefit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund. More info.

Planning a Hurricane Harvey benefit that’s not on this list? Drop us a line.

One Night in Austin: Americana adventures in the summer heat

We wrapped up our yearlong “One Night” series back in March, after checking out dozens of local acts on monthly smorgasbord tours of Austin music hot spots large and small. Occasional revisitations of the theme will happen, and here’s one: Friday night, great shows at two very different venues offered an ideal sampler of top local Americana talent.

READ MORE: What’s live music in Austin like? A “One Night” recap

At Hogg Auditorium on the University of Texas campus, KUTX held its “Summer Set” concert with singer-songwriters John Fullbright and David Ramirez plus the father-son team of Kevin Welch and Dustin Welch. Sharing the stage for the full two-and-a-half-hour show, the four musicians performed guitar-pull style down the line, each taking turns while some jumped in to accompany others from time to time.

Both Kevin and Dustin performed songs of their own, usually accompanying the other, and for one number they brought out a special guest. Savannah Welch, who lost a leg in a freak accident at the Wimberley farmers’ market last fall, joined in for Kevin’s song “When the Sun Shines Down on Me.” Introducing the song, Welch noted he’s been playing it recently because it was a song he once heard the late Jimmy LaFave sing.

The memory of LaFave, who died last month after a nearly yearlong battle with cancer, was on the minds of many. Fullbright, who lives in Oklahoma butvisits Austin regularly, dedicated a beautiful piano ballad called “I’ve Seen Stars Before” to LaFave and George Reiff, the renowned Austin bassist who died on the same day as LaFave.

Ramirez, a rising-star on the indie-folk scene, mentioned that he’d only just met most of his stage-mates earlier today. Playing some songs from a record due out this fall, he noted that when he moved to Austin nine years ago, UT campus institutions such as KUT and the Cactus Cafe were among the first to give him a chance. “So thanks,” he concluded, “for giving a guy who was new in town the old college try.”

Jonathan Terrell and his band perform at the White Horse on Friday, June 23, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Twilight had turned to darkness when the show ended at 10 p.m, but over on the east side the music was just getting started on a sweltering night at the White Horse. Austin’s hippest honky-tonk had booked arguably the three best alt-country acts in town right now for a dynamite triple bill: Harvest Thieves, Jonathan Terrell and Croy & the Boys. The first and last of those three both had turns as Austin360 Artist of the Month last year.

READ MORE: Austin360 Artists of the Month for 2016

Croy & the Boys opened, packing the set with memorable tunes from their debut album “Hey Come Back” while adding a couple of smartly chosen covers from George Jones and Arthur Alexander that kept the crowded dance floor swinging.

Croy & the Boys at the White Horse on Friday, June 23, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Terrell and his band have been on fire lately, and Friday night was no exception to that. A veteran Austin musician with hard-rock cred from his work with Not in the Face, who almost broke through to the big time a few years ago, Terrell has proven to be an ace songwriter of country material that could cross over into indie-rock. Tunes from his latest EP “Color Me Lucky” stood out, though he also dropped in a couple of great covers with John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind” and Elvis’s “Little Sister” (done up Dwight Yoakam style).

Harvest Thieves took the stage well past midnight, but the White House crowd was still buzzing and dancing. Songs from last year’s debut album “Rival” attested to their stature as one of the city’s most tuneful bands in both indie and roots genres. And like their predecessors on the bill, they understand the crowd-pleasing value of a sharp cover song, serving up Uncle Tupelo’s “New Madrid” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” in the first half of their set.

Harvest Thieves at the White Horse on Friday, June 23, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

We headed out just past 1 a.m., with the band still playing, the dancers still dancing, and the sweat still rising from the east side streets. The temperature had hit 102 earlier that afternoon, but some of the hottest action in Austin still occurs after the sun goes down.

Outside patio at the White Horse on June 23, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Hot Luck Festival music program includes Shonen Knife sushi night, Black Lips, more

Organizers of Hot Luck Festival, the new food and music festival helmed by Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ and James Moody of the Mohawk, announced the event’s music program today. Featured artists for the fest, which takes place May 18-21, include the Black Lips, Black Joe Lewis, Robert Ellis, Rayland Baxter and Shonen Knife. There’s also a show by Thurston Moore at the Mohawk on Wednesday, May 17, that is billed as part of the fest.

Shows will take place at the Mohawk, the White Horse and Barracuda. Organizers say the Barracuda events will include a food component. On Friday, May 19, sushi chef Yoshi Okai of Otoko, who was recently named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s best new Chefs in America, “will serve Japanese fare as fans rock out to Japanese pop-punk band Shonen Knife.”

Tickets to all shows will be sold individually and are on sale now.

Organizers also added several new chefs and a brunch series to the festival lineup today.

Blink-182 brings nostalgia and new tunes, shows love for Austin in tour kickoff show

Blink-182 really hates Dallas.

Newly appointed co-lead vocalist Matt Skiba made sure the fans at the Austin360 Ampitheater Wednesday night knew that, spewing praises for the Austin crowd (saying performing there was better than performing in Dallas, “and f*** Fort Worth too!”) and shouting out Gourdough’s, Austin’s beloved doughnut shop.

Blink-182 with special guests The Naked and Famous and Makeout perform at Austin360 Amphitheater at The Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas on March 22, 2017 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

The group totally acknowledged the irony of being in town just days after South by Southwest, too:

RELATED: Weezer, Smash Mouth, Hanson; SXSW 2017 was heavy on the nostalgia

The band, fresh off the heels of last year’s “California” (the reunited group’s first album without former lead vocalist Tom Delonge), sprinkled in tracks from the new album to their nostalgia-inducing set, filled primarily with songs from 1999’s “Enema of the State,” 2001’s “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” and the band’s self-titled album in 2003.

When the band launched into set opener “Feeling This” followed by “The Rock Show,” they knew what they were doing: The olds in the crowd, who loved the band back in middle or high school but couldn’t quite believe they were attending a Blink-182 show in 2017, loved it. The band even played “Anthem Pt. 2,” with the disclaimer, “We haven’t played this one live in about 12 to 13 years, so let’s not f*** it up, people,” beforehand. Jury’s still out on whether “people” meant the band or the crowd.

PHOTOS: Blink-182 at Austin360 Ampitheater on March 22

If you saw Blink-182 for the nostalgia, you got what you came for: “First Date,” “I Miss You,” “All The Small Things,” “Dammit” and “Stay Together For The Kids” all made it into Wednesday’s show (before announcing the melancholy “Stay Together For the Kids,” the group joked with the crowd: “Who’s having fun? That stops now.”). And the crowd didn’t seem to miss Delonge—Skiba does a good Delonge imitation, and the vocal differences were minimal (except on “I Miss You,” which includes a little more singing and a little less yelling than some of the other early hits).

Blink-182 with special guests The Naked and Famous and Makeout perform at Austin360 Amphitheater at The Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas on March 22, 2017 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

Skiba’s been with the group for two years—the former Alkaline Trio singer and guitarist was recruited two years ago, after Delonge left the group (for the second time, by the way) in January 2015. And it was the crowd’s reaction to post-Delonge songs like “Cynical,” “Bored to Death” and “Built This Pool” and the age dichotomy in the crowd (20- and 30-year-olds who knew the words to the oldies, and teenagers who screamed every word to the 2016 songs) that begged the question: Are there new Blink-182 fans in the world? Are there people who listened to last year’s “California” and thought, “Hey, this band is kind of great”?

For a band that was so huge during the late 1990s and early 2000s, it’s hard to imagine anybody younger than 25 or so becoming a new fan of the pop-punk group’s kick-drum heavy compositions and often-melancholy lyrics, but those people surely exist, and they made up most of the pit at Wednesday’s show. But the band’s songwriting hasn’t evolved much over the years: “California” included a track called “She’s Out Of Her Mind” (which was on the setlist Wednesday night) with the lyrics: “I’m in deep with this girl but she’s out of her mind / She said babe I’m sorry but I’m crazy tonight / She got a black shirt, black skirt and Bauhaus stuck in her head / I’m in deep with this girl but she’s out of her mind.” Compare that to 1999’s “Dysentery Gary”: “Life just sucks, I lost the one / I’m giving up, she found someone / There’s plenty more, girls are such a drag.” Just because those types of lines worked on teenagers 15 years ago doesn’t mean they work when written by 40-year-old men (despite the fact that drummer Travis Barker seems to have miraculously not aged over the past 20 years), but the younger people in the crowd begged to differ.

Well, I guess this is growing up.