We brought back one of our traditions this morning by eating at the Hyatt and having Jerry bring us his "special" coffee. Really, it is. And it brought back so many memories of previous ACLs. If only the day could live up to those memories. But... it wasn't going to be. This was maybe the weakest ACL day I can remember. No great finds and no great performances. Not that the music was bad, and not that we didn't have a great time. I've just seen a whole lot better over the years.
The day started out with the Troy Campbell Band featuring “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb on guitar. Troy plays a rockin’ alt-country and with Scrappy’s hot leads we had a nice start to what was to be a pretty hot day (just under 100 degrees).
Up next was Nada Surf. While waiting, we got a nice dose of Galactic over at the next stage. At one time you might have called this jazz fusion. I’m not sure what the kids call it these days though. It was pretty good, although like many fusion bands, it gets pretty redundant. They attempted a little Led Zep, but without Plant singing, it just didn’t cut it.
Nada Surf is a pop rock outfit. A friend of mine has been telling me to check them out for some time and this was my first listen. We really enjoyed their show. Some excellent tunes and plenty of energy. Can’t wait to listen to the studio stuff.
It’s been hot out here today; a pour some water over your head day. It wasn’t as bad as the first year when the suntan lotion was bubbling on my arm, or last year when I bought 2 bottles of water at a time (one to drink and one to pour over my head). But it had me thinking that the 600 bucks for VIP passes and the chance to sit in an air conditioned bathroom was looking real good.
The first real big choice was coming up: Aimee Mann or Calexico? I’ve never seen Calexico. But I love Aimee and haven’t seen her in a couple of years. Maybe it was a mistake (talking to a photographer on the plane, it was), but we went with Aimee. With just a two piece band behind her, Aimee put on a really mellow show, even for her. We heard most of the favorites during her hour set and she continues to do the Magnolia joke (“a song that I like to call the one that lost out on an Oscar to Phil Collins and a singing monkey” or something like that). Luckily we were right up front and got to check out all the tattoos (what’s with the anchor on your shoulder Aimee?).
The kids were starting to press in and we didn’t like Iron and Wine THAT much, so we gave up our front row center spots and split up. I took off for the Raconteurs. Of course, there was no way I was going to get anywhere near the stage, but I learned a valuable lesson. The problem with the big stage is that if you aren’t up close, no matter where you stand there is someone talking (and way too loud). I found though, that if you stand right next to a speaker rack, you won’t hear any of the talking. And someday I won’t hear anything at all (there were 3 Crown amps that either said 10,000 or 100,000 watts… whatever, it was freeking loud. And so were the Raconteurs, who put on a real rock and roll show. Jack shared the lead guitar duties (which really surprised me), but when he took over, it really pissed me off that I’ve missed the White Stripes ‘cause he sure can play.
Then it was back to the Iron and Wine stage. We were now a good 50 yards from the stage, but that was okay. I&W put on a almost hypnotic show, with the music always appearing to be ready to take off and explode, but never quite doing it. Another good show today. So, even though it was a very week day, we ended up having a lot of fun. Now on to the clubs.
When we got to Antone’s at 9:30 and they hadn’t let anyone in, we decided there was no way we were going to make it to two shows and quickly sold our Los Lobos tickets; heading over to Momo’s for Jon Dee Graham and James McMurtry.
This is the first time I’ve seen Jon Dee with a band (bass and drums) and man can he rock. Playing a short 45 minute set of mostly favorites, he only slowed down for a short period and focused instead on his harder edged songs (or least they became harder edged with his powerful guitar guiding the way. Jon Dee Graham has a Wednesday night residency at the Continental Club right now. So, if you’re in Austin on a Wednesday night… need I say more?
Also hanging out at the Continental Club on Wednesday nights is James McMurtry. My only exposure to him has been his latest CD (thanks Mike). I figured I was going to get a nice country like performance with some good guitar work (I had heard he was a very underrated guitar player). Boy was I wrong. His single guitar wall of guitar sound was pure rock and roll; all distorted and filling up every bit of air in the room. He crunched through an hour set, singing about the failed American dream and other happy moments. I need to find a live CD of his, because the studio stuff (at least his latest one) does not nearly tell the whole story. I could easily see him on a bill with the Drive-by Truckers. If that hasn’t happened, it should.
Deb and Linda deserted me part way through Jon Dee’s set (whimps) and at 2:15 in the morning I was left to find a cab. Now let’s look this over: The bars are closing, everyone is in town for ACL and partying all night and cabs… are not stopping. I spent a good half hour trying to flag down a cab; battling with about a dozen other cab-driven wannabe’s and a drunken dude who was trying to flag down anything that moved. So, I’m standing there and some UT idiot in a cab, yells at me and then throws something at me. Like his football team, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Here’s hoping that UT loses the rest of their games this season. A*shole. Sorry. I just had to vent. I made it home safely, and before anyone blames Deb, she did pay for my cab ride. What a long night. Can’t wait for tomorrow.