by Brianna Caleri
A week after the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the internet is buzzing about another Austin concert that happened right after the fest. Maggie Rogers, the young dance music sensation, returned to Austin for 3 sold-out shows at the iconic ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Rogers went viral as a student, when Pharrell Williams appeared on video during a class workshop and declared that her song, “Alaska”, was beyond criticism.
On Saturday, at ACL Live, as Rogers reflected in a speech about her journey, she was interrupted by a fan at the back of the crowd. “Free the nips!” he yelled. Rogers pressed on, finishing her speech with a reminder that her show should be a safe, joyful and vulnerable experience. “We create that space for each other,” Rogers said. “Don’t forget that.” That impressed us.
Rogers takes time during her show and extends support not just to the audience and the tumultuous emotions that lead fans straight into her empowering arms, but to others on her tour. She heard opener Jacob Banks’s grave, soulful voice at a festival and said she “had to have him onstage with her”. Banks’ powerful voice and folk roots complemented the headliner’s, while his statue-like performance starkly contrasted hers.
On night 2 of her 3-night ACL Live run, Rogers brought on a surprise guest: a refugee from Eritrea who helped her perform an upbeat song from his home country, “Shalala.” Always supporting a cause, Rogers made time to support partners Planned Parenthood and HeadCount.Rogers also gave effusive credit to her crew, which was well-deserved, especially by the lighting crew. They crafted a dramatic opening to the folksy sounds of “Color Song” (complete with chirping crickets) by casting shadows on a gigantic sheet in front of the stage. When the sheet dropped, Rogers christened the show with a mighty first note, high, clear and even fuller than that of the studio version of “Fallingwater.”
The stage, divided in three tiers (and looking a lot like a late-night set from the ‘60s), was almost sterile if not for the strobing lights that became a character themselves. In an exciting rendition of “Light On” that ditched the studio version’s gentle arrangement for something more electric, lights pulsed in reassuring patterns and Einstein bulbs glowed.
Even in an empty room, Rogers would be a captivating performer. She moves as if she can’t help it, punching the air in sync with the drums that define her sound, and stepping in time. She merges confidence with whimsy, while maintaining a solid musical performance. Miraculously, her voice always remained pure and powerful, even while she pranced across the stage with a pride flag handed up from the audience during “Dog Years.”
Maggie finished as expected with an acoustic version of “Alaska” for the short encore. Her voice unwavering but missing a few beats in her strumming, and rushed off the stage. Thankfully, despite getting derailed in its last moments, Roger’s show was a stunning success; a beautiful example of the intersection of professionalism and vulnerability. And she repeated it the next night, without a hitch, successfully ending her tour and redeeming her Austin experience.
That first night, fans left lamenting the unwelcome guest who harassed their candid hero. But having mostly recovered, Rogers gets the last laugh. Her show is at the tip of everyone’s tongue, and she used the opportunity to set a strong example for other sensitive fans who admire her unguarded power.
See all the show photos at Austin 101
Give a Little
On + Off
I’m Gonna Love You for a Long Time
Back in My Body