Words and pictures from the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Monday, October 12, 2009
It was one of those crazy years at ACL and between the rain and the Internet problems, I will be doing one big blog post for the entire 3 days. So, here we go...
It started Friday
morning at around 8am. Yes really. For some reason we decided to do the KGSR live broadcasts at Threadgill's and... what a treat. Like Thursday morning, there were several bands playing 2 songs and getting a mini interview. The stage is outside with folding chair seating and lots of people standing. We caught three shows on Friday...
Todd Snider did two fun songs and got us laughing (which isn't easy that early in the morning when you've been out till God knows when on Thursday).
Medeski, Martin and Wood did this fun little song to open (check out the video) and then a much more serious song (which is more of what I expected having not ever heard them but heard of them) to an enthusiastic audience.
Mishka did a couple of little reggae type numbers and, well... Enough said.
We have always made it to the opening of the show on day one. With plenty of time, and a good free parking place (I'll never tell), we had a nice stroll to the park. The weather hadn't turned yet, but it was in the low 80's, which is freezing compared to previous years.
As we walked into the park we were blown away. The crabby/crappy grass had been replaced with a rich, lush green field. It
was soft to walk on and just gorgeous. Little did we know what that was going to cost us later. After buying gifts and getting lunch, we headed over to the Austin Ventures stage for The Low Anthem.
I have really enjoyed The Low Anthem's new CD, but was concerned that it may be a bit too low energy. But they put on a good, if short show, displaying their musical talents and their ability to easily switch between instruments.
Sara Watkins was up next and we were front and center for a excellent set. Playing with her brother Shawn, Pete Thomas on drums and a bass player who looked awful familiar, she put on a spirited set of bluegrassy singer/songwriterish music. I will have to pick up her CD. Joining her during the show was David Garza on guitar (they actually covered one of his songs) and some guy named John Paul Jones on Mandolin. I
understand he played in some band called Led Zeppelin. He also produced her current CD.
Sara with David Garza.
John Paul Jones
Splitting up Liz and I went to see young blues rocker Jonell Mosser. While waiting, I ran into a guy who worked with The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He told me that he had a drum lesson scheduled with Jonell's drummer and did I know
who Hunt Sales was. For those who don't, he is one of Soupy Sales' sons (Tony is the other) and both played on Bowie's Tin Machine CD as well as Iggy Pop's Lust for Life. As you can see, the years haven't treated him the best, but he can still pound out those drums. My understanding was that he had no music or tapes to go with before performing that day. It was his first time with Jonell and he just winged it, doing a great job. Jonell is a fine and interesting blues rocker, somewhat like Bonnie Raitt.
We left Jonell early so that we could get in to the tent to see Poi Dog Pondering. Deb was waiting for us with front and center positions. Unfortunately, front and center in the tent means that the vocals don't come in that well. Still it was a thrilling show by the 12 piece band. Part way through, Abra Moore came on stage to perform a few songs. She used to be in the band many years ago when they were based in Austin. It was fun seeing them together again.
Abra Moore with Poi Dog Pondering
We split off again and I went back to the Austin Ventures stage (where almost all the acts we enjoyed ended up) to see Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3. Peter Buck from REM is a member of the band, but it is really all about Robyn, his strange talks in between and the unusual but brilliant songs. His new songs may be the best in years. Again, another stellar set.
I met up with everyone to see Them Crooked Vultures. Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age fronts the band (guitar and vocals), Dave Grohl drives the band (drums) and John Paul Jones lays down the bass in this super group. Also performing is guitarist Alain Johannes from Queens of the Stone Age (among other bands). This is hard driving rock with a minimal of catchy melodies but lots of power and energy. One of the highlights of the weekend.
Instead of hanging around for the headliners, we headed over to the Speakeasy to catch a full Poi Dog Pondering show. The stage was so small they had to put the horn players on the floor. When you watch the video I made, notice that when I pan to the right I can only show about where they were. Now this is what rock and roll is all about. Lots of energy, passion, singing, craziness, and fun went into this set. Abra Moore was again on stage (that makes 13) but this time for the whole set. I would say it was a club highlight this year, but every club show turned out to be a highlight. Maybe next year, we'll just go to the clubs and avoid the actual festival.
Somehow we dragged ourselves out of bed Saturday morning and headed to the festival. But first, we needed to get some bad weather gear, 'cause it was gonna rain. There was a light rain as The Felice Brothers took the stage. They reminded me of the Gourds, but a bit more straightforward. I really enjoyed their set of alt country bluegrass rock stuff.
As we stepped under the tent to see the Sam Robert's Band, the rain started coming down. We got some nice seats and enjoyed this Canadian rocker.
Splitting up again, Liz and I went to see Floggy Molly. Standing in the pouring rain, the boys from Ireland insulted us, pounded us and and put on one friggin' hot set. People were dancing around like there was no rain and it was really hard to not join them. If you've seen them, you know how good they can be. If not, you just have to see them. They will make a believer out of you. Best set of the day, so far.
It was still raining and we moved a bit to the right and watched some of ...And You will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. They are a solid and powerful band. We were a bit too far back to really get into it, but enjoyed what we heard.
As we moved across the field I asked Liz if she was hungry. "There is no way I can eat without the food getting soaked". She was right. And so we moved to the main stage to see The Levon Helm Band. Levon is on strict doctor's orders not to sing. But that's okay, he's got one big, fancy, potent, talented rockin band and they shook the crowd opening with "Shape I'm In" and driving through covers and originals by Levon. There are those who thought it was the show of the day (including some DMB fans).
As Levon Helm finished we easily made it over to see The Decmeberists at the next stage. It was probably my biggest mistake of the weekend. Although they were good, they decided to perform their entire new CD (which is a suite of music) which took up the entire hour. All of the fun songs were missing. We should have gone over to see The Scabs. Deb, who left the show early could hear "Big..." (oh wait, I probably shouldn't say the name of the song) and they were cooking.
By now, the field was starting to turn to mud. In fact as we left the show (blowing off DMB) the only way out was through the mud. We headed home, changed shoes and showed up late to Momo's to see Jesse Klein. Unfortunately, through a mix up on the web site, we only caught her last song (and only half of it at that). But that was okay, because the last show of the evening at Momo's was Suzanna Choffel. Deb nearly dragged me inside (we were relaxing in the outside portion of the club) because she knew I needed to see this women and her band. And what a show it was. Suzanna has a jazz style to her voice and with crazy vibes player Laura Scarborough (not to mention the excellent sax/clarinet playing by Brad Houser and drums by Eldridge Goins) she put on a sexy and exciting set that can only be described as jazz/singer/songwriter/rockin' fun. I was just knocked off my feet by this lady and the ease in which she lead this band. I picked up her current CD (a new one is on the way) and it too is excellent. I can't wait to hear more and to see her again.
That was just a bit too much for us and by the time we got to the park on Sunday we could hear the end of Black Joe Lewis' set. Another jem missed. As we walked into the park, we were once again amazed. That beautiful green grass was now mud. And not just any mud. Apparently they used processed sewage to get the most out of the grass. It didn't smell like sh*t, but it wasn't too far off either. And to make matters worse, they laid hay on the mud where the food court was. So, now it pretty much smelled like a barn. This was not going to be a fun day.
We started out with Rodriguez, a 60's performer who disappeared after 2 CD and was only recently brought back to America's attention. We loved his set, although one song was so messed up by him, that the band didn't know what to do. He seems older than his age and needed help getting to the front of the stage for the show. If you have the chance to see him, do it now while he is still performing. Really interesting stuff that was way ahead of its time.
It was too muddy to go all the way across the field to see the B52s, so we stayed near the last stage and saw Jypsi. They are 3 sisters who, uhmmmm, play bluegrass. They are fine players although some of our group didn't like their vocals. As we left their show we could hear the B52s and they sounded great. Another miss.
We caught 2 songs from Brett Dennen and that was enough. So we decided to head over to the Arctic Monkeys and wait for Ben Harper. The Arctic Monkeys were good, but not knowing their music and being way back in the crowd, I soon found myself hating the fact that the sun was beating down on me and the mud was smelling and making me uncomfortable. I turned to Deb and said, "I'm not having any fun anymore. I'm headed to the football tent to watch the games". She agreed that the festival had turned into a real quagmire and it was time to go. "We'll find a show to go see tonight. There is always someone good playing in Austin". So we headed home, showered off most of the mud, changed shoes again and sure enough as we looked through the paper, there was Raul Malo, playing in a club that had maybe 50 seats and only holds a few hundred.
Raul Malo rocked the Continental club as we stood only a few feet away from the stage. Playing for a good hour and a half, Raul stuck to the rockin' numbers, withholding the Spanish ballads he often does, and just finished off our musical week with a blast.
The Trishas backed up Raul on a couple of songs.
Thanks Austin for giving us another great week of music. Even though the festival was mediocre at best, the clubs easily made up for it. Also a big thank you goes out to John Kunz, at Waterloo records. We went on a big shopping spree on Thursday and he did everything he could to help us, including letting us walk out of the store with some free collectibles, and a couple of hats. John runs one of the best record stores in the country and as he took to the time to chat with us and tell us great stories, you could see why it has been a success for so long. Thanks John, you really helped make it a special ACL week for us.
It's another late start today. We had another late show last night and after sleeping in and then installing a new router for Deb and Linda (gotta pay my rent) it is 12:15 and we aren't at the festival yet.
Some of the beautiful grass that was grown this year is now mud so I'm in sandals today. It's gonna be a muddy day. We are all tired and if the rain hits at all like yesterday, Pearl Jam will play without us. To make things worse, today has the weakest lineup. Still, it's all good. :-)
We're on vacation. And yet, there we were, at 7am, in line at Threadgill's. What were we thinking? Every year, KGSR does a live broadcast highlighting a half dozen or so bands from the festival. Each band does 2 songs. This was the first year they were at Threadgill's and we decided to check it out.
David Garza was first up. On his own, his songs are unusual and interesting. I love hearing him with a full band though.
Next came Black Joe Lewis. These are a bunch of young guys who are doing the soul/funk/rock thing. Can't wait to hear a full set from them. They should kick some serious ass this weekend.
Reckless Kelly was classic Texas Country/Folk (whatever that is).
Somehow, on such a small stage, they managed to set up Asleep at the Wheel. Country Swing never sounded so good.
The morning finished off with Bob Schneider by himself. He did a fun acoustic version of Tarantula and then a beautiful song (I believe from the new CD) on piano.
Changing things around this year, we hit Waterloo Records early. Having spent lots of money, we ended up having a long chat with John Kuntz, the owner of Waterloo Records. He's probably the nicest guy in Austin (which is saying a lot) and runs a world class record store. Walking away for a nice bag of schwag (again, thank you so much John), we did a quick stop at Amy's Ice Cream (very cool website and great ice cream) and then headed over to Chuy's for annual margaritas and Mexican food.
After picking up our wristbands, it was off to The Lucky Lounge for what may turn out to be the most rockin' set of the weenkend; Ian Mclagan.
Ian, who played with Rod Stewart in the band Faces back in the 60's is still putting out good music and can rock and roll with the best of them. Switching between a Hammond B3 organ and an electric keyboard, his 4 piece band just laid down classic riffs and had us bopping around during 2 50 minute sets. Bring on the festival!