Austin Music Review: Russel Taine Jr.

by Brianna Caleri

When Aaron Winston was asked to play at The Mohawk in 2017, he scrambled to get a group together. Within a week, Russel Taine Jr. went from a solo project to a band. Three years after that, the dreamy alt-rock band is leaning more into its country identity with four Austin-centric singles about summer in the city. The two released so far, “Sister Sister” and “Blue Jean Baby” offer Austinites some much-needed reassurance via serious nostalgia.

RusselTaineJr1(photos by Brianna Carleri, Russel Taine Jr. and band, 2019)

Winston started writing songs as a teenager, eventually adopting the pen name his grandfather used in correspondence to the United States from Moscow during the Cold War. His decision was a little intellectual, and a lot because he liked how it sounded; two key elements of the band’s future efforts. Now it inspires a conversation starter in the perpetual fan question, “Who is Russel Taine Jr.?” And while it may just be a happy coincidence, naming the band for a semi-fictional member anchors the group to their southern rock forebears (remember Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band?).

RusselTaineJr2“Sister Sister” wastes no time in introducing the mysterious ghostwriter, slipping the band name into the lyrics as a way, Winston says, of reminding new audiences who they’re watching at local venues. In context as the first of four related singles, it has the unintended effect of staking a claim to a new, more purposeful identity. The track explicitly mentions Austin and it’s “hot summer nights,” but, lest the lyrics get too on-the-nose, sprinkles in charmingly confusing images like a demure woman’s “Rorschach grin.” Little intellectual twists maintain the group’s usual air of delicate fantasy over the song’s retro southern skeleton. Lots of delay and effortless arpeggios wash a haze over soulful organ and what might have been a screaming guitar solo is set back into the distance of the mix.

Winston clarifies the titular “sister” isn’t any woman in particular, but represents “any number of relationships” over time. This one is about nostalgia; a feeling best reserved for weak memories about strong feelings. It’s about sharing the tiny moments that build our identities, and the vagueness that makes them relatable and reassuring. The story told is a bid for reconnection. Emotional intimacy in the simplicity of summer is something many of us are missing right now while keeping our distance.

“Blue Jean Baby,” released on July 1, provides a foil to “Sister Sister,” with a shoutable anthemic chorus any band would be tempted to use for a show closer. Despite a more energetic presence, it’s overall lighter fare. The leading lady of this crowd-pleaser skews more toward the femme fatale. Like her, the electric guitars are grittier, but a riff runs through the song to nail down the kind of mellow reverie that ties together the Russel Taine Jr. catalog. This one in particular is packed with southern tropes: blue jeans, a tight sundress, standing on docks, and even dueling guitars. Against the muddy bass is jangly rhythm guitar that brings flashes of Tom Petty’s California to Texas.

Of the two tracks, “Blue Jean Baby” offers a simpler message, about dancing all night. It’s the one to sway along with while grilling for two and looking forward to the return of cookouts for twenty. Following the reassuring “Sister Sister,” it seems to seems to say we don’t always have to take ourselves so seriously. Summer hits are the ultimate form escapism, but in this case, the escape is in our own backyards. It’s not so bad to be stuck here, after all.

Oprah Winfrey Brings 2020 Tour to Texas

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Oprah brings her 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus tour to Dallas’ American Airlines Center this month! She wants to inspire wellness in others so they can live their best life.

She’ll have a live interview as part of the packed full day with Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish). She’s planned these US events to be a start to 2020 with renewal and celebrating all we are meant to be. Expect some motivation to be about her WW and some surprise special guests (perhaps Tina Fey?).

The event is February 15th (what a perfect, loving Valentine thing to do for ourselves). Doors open at 7:30 am and the event starts at 9am. There are very few tickets available- you can try to find them here. Find more info here.

Legend Celine Dion Returned to Texas in Epic Courage Tour: Review

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The night opened with a cool video of Celine getting ready, putting on her makeup and she appeared in a stunning red glitter slit dress with matching pumps, flawless makeup, and toned arms. The sold-out show had fans singing and cheering from the get go, and Dion appeared as happy and healthy (incredibly fit) as we’ve ever seen her.

Dion is on her 14th tour in support of her 2019 album “Courage”. Her first words were about how ten years is way too long for her San Antonio return, and she spent much time talking about “What went wrong? It’s unacceptable and we’re going to fix it” and then shared how Vegas stole her for awhile. She was fully prepared to make up for her absence.

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We knew the show would be an incredible performance, but she blew us away. She is the ultimate performer and has been doing it for decades-has it nailed down. Celine was engaging with the crowd throughout the entire show and she was brimming with emotion, and often smiling and then touched her eye as if stopping the tears, and would say, “I think something is in my eye….maybe a bug, I don’t know”. In another moment she raised her glass and said “cheers to your health”. Her wit and humor (sometimes cheesy) is part of her flirting with the audience and she enjoys it. One moment while taking off her jacket, “that’s all that’s coming off” with a grin.

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The set list was a robust mix from her massive catalog that perfectly blended timeless classics, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Because You Loved Me”, “All By Myself”, “My Heart Will Go On”, with mid-range stuff and new songs “Courage” and “Lying Down”. She also sang beautiful songs in French. Celine did a beautiful job playing Andrea Bocelli in their duet “The Prayer”. Her ability to hit incredibly high notes, gave us chills. It’s clear she has worked very hard to take care of her voice and her health. Her voice skills are a piece of art with the height and octave range.

The stage was massive, the lighting and set were elegant and tasteful, as is Celine, and the piano was incredible; the full strings and brass section and back up singers- plus 3 raised percussion/keyboard sets gave such a volume of sound. The mix of the bands classy outfits and her red dress was stunning.

CELINE-DION-2020-0130-193Celine strutted confidently in very high heels (more than 6 inches?) and covered large distances to reach every part of the audience. Towards the end of the main set, a video of her doing ballet with her friend, showed off her fit body and her dance skills (who knew?). Wow.

We couldn’t help think of Kobe Bryant who had just passed away that week, as we were looking at Tony Parker and other NBA jerseys hanging in the rafters in ATT Center where the Spurs play.

Her career will continue to “go on” and we can’t wait to see how she continues her self-reinvention. It’s clear why the Courage World Tour was one of the top shows of 2019 and we think it will make our 2020 list. Don’t expect many empty seats.

Check out all our show photos on Austin 101.

Set list:

  1. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
  2. Dans un autre monde
  3. Terre
  4. A vous
  5. I’m Alive
  6. The Power of Love
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Encore un soir
  9. You’re the Voice
  10. Regarde-moi
  11. Ziggy
  12. Courage
  13. All By Myself
  14. Lying Down
  15. Tous les blues sont écrits pour toi
  16. S’il suffisait d’aimer
  17. Let’s Dance / Another One Bites The Dust / Flying On My Own / Kiss / River Deep, Mountain High / Lady Marmalade

Encore
18. My Heart Will Go On
19. Pour que tu m’aimes encore

“A Night with Janis Joplin” Celebrates Female Vanguards of Blues and Soul

Playing Now thru March 8th at ZACH Theater

By S. Pulse

ZACH_Janis-2020L70-1061636_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck(photo credit: Kirk Tuck)

Who wouldn’t want to spend a night hanging out with Janis Joplin?  Imagine Joplin traveling through time to sing her hits and, not only talk about her musical influences, but also conjure up their presence to perform for you. That is precisely the format of “A Night with Janis Joplin”, a musical now playing at ZACH Theater.

ZACH_Janis-2020L24-1094774_PhotoCredit_KirkTuckMary Bridget Davies delivers a spot-on performance as the hoarse-voiced songstress.  The show pays homage to Joplin’s musical influences including Etta James, Bessie Smith, Odetta, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin. A talented ensemble cast recreates performances by each. Vocal powerhouse, Nattalyee Randall, appears as both Franklin and Simone startling the audience with her potent vocal capability.  The show also offers fierce vocals by cast members Tricky Jones, Tawny Dolley, and Imani Ani.

ZACH_Janis-2020L24-1083769_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck With Joplin acting as both performer and emcee, the show flows like an all-star concert peppered with tales of the great women that inspire her music.  Viewers unfamiliar with Bessie Smith, learn about her humble beginnings, untimely death in an automobile accident, and burial in an unmarked grave (for which Joplin is rumored to have purchased a proper headstone).  Odetta’s emotion-laden voice transforms the world through change-provoking folk songs.  And, the show also reminds us of the weighty impact of the more familiar voices of James, Simone, and Franklin.  Joplin’s sound is rooted in these legends and she would often pay tribute to their efforts.  Fittingly, this musical does the same.

ZACH_Janis--2020L24-1094649_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck Viewers also gain insight into Joplin’s life. A native of Port Arthur, Texas, she describes herself as a misfit child that initially set out to be an artist.  Joplin’s artwork is projected onto the stage backdrop.  Her time spent attending the University of Texas in Austin is noted along with her frequent visits to iconic Threadgill’s.  The show segues between important moments in Joplin’s life and Davies’ remarkable delivery of Joplin’s most important songs; a performance that earned her a Tony Award nomination.

She nails her unbridled screaming execution of Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and the lyrical “Me and Bobby McGee” before concluding the show with an encore acapella performance of “Mercedes Benz”.  The song is delivered from an upper-deck catwalk; perhaps, symbolic of her passing.  Joplin’s dialogue with the audience repeatedly eludes to the artist’s substance abuse and early death, but never specifically delves into her ‘gone too soon’ departure from this world at age 27 from an accidental overdose.  Rather, the show focuses on her musical legacy and the female role models that lay the groundwork for her bold, soulful style.

ZACH_Janis-2020L24-1084330_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck We recommend booking your tickets now for this vocal-rich ride through musical history.  “A Night with Janis Joplin” is playing now through March 8th at ZACH Theater.

Maggie Rogers Triumphs in Austin Shows: Review

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.

Maggie Rogers

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.

Maggie Rogers

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.Maggie RogersRogers 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.

Maggie RogersEven 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

Set list:

Color Song
Fallingwater
Burning
Say It
The Knife
Give a Little
On + Off
Dog Years
I’m Gonna Love You for a Long Time
Past Life
Overnight
Retrograde
Back in My Body
Light On
Encore:
Alaska

Review: Highlights of Another ACL Festival in the Books

ACL Festival Weekend Two Review

Austin, TX,

Edging ever closer towards to 2 full decades at Zilker Park, this year’s Austin City Limits brought 2 weekends full of local and international music (up-and-comers and big headliners), great eats, and lots of great times.

ACL 2019 proc-1 Hippie SabotageWeekend 2 was certainly a dramatic weather shift from the hot and muggy weather from ACL weekend 1. Both weekends broke weather records. The first was one of the hottest, the second the coldest. The first day of weekend 1 had temps in the 40’s and 50’s- people wearing hats, coats, and scarves and each day the temps got slightly better in the 60’s and 70’s but was mostly cloudy. We felt we won the weather lottery.

ACL 2019 proc-2As festival fever sweeps the nation this time of year, thousands of fun-loving people gathered at Zilker Park in Austin to listen to an electric lineup of musicians from a lot of genres, styles and generations. Don’t think that ACL is just another festival to check off the list, Promoter, C3 did a great job bringing a great mixture of up-and-coming artists, viral sensations and musical legends. ACL truly did a great job bringing something for everyone. Come with us as we recap some of the bands that we felt were highlights, some of them you may have heard of and some you may not and will quickly add to your playlists.

ACL 2019 Friday proc-12 El Band Camino(the Band Camino)

Friday

The Band Camino, Houses, Savannah Conley and Madison Beer, Cherry Glazerr, Jai Wolf, King Princess, K.Flay, Lil Uzi, The Raconteurs, Tame Impala and Guns n’ Roses

We started our ACL experience checking out some awesome lesser known artists during the coldest hours on Friday.

The Band Camino was on the early part of the first day lineup. This band is dominating the indie rock scene and with good reason. Their musical magnetism is undeniable and even if you don’t know the song they’re playing, you often feel like you should. The band showcased powerful vocals, vibrant guitar solos and heart pounding drums. Their energy was undeniable and they proved what makes them one of the hottest up-and-coming indie rock bands.

The band Houses from Chicago brought their indie pop tunes to ACL. The band’s huge acoustic drum beats and slow burning guitar tones support the dreamy music box samples and the lush vocals. I enjoyed the dreamy and almost hypnotic rock and their explorative sounds.

Savannah Conley dazzled us with a rich set of singer-songwriter organic pop songs. Her quirky lyrics, moody instrumentation, and sarcastic lines make her music engaging. As you listen to her music, you can hear the abundance of her Nashville roots along with the rock undertones. I loved her crisp and vulnerable vocals.

Madison Beer started posting videos of popular songs early in her musical career. After she gained the attention of Justin Bieber, she became a musical sensation. Her positive lyrics and presence could be felt throughout her set. Her music was fun, melodic and upbeat.

ACL 2019 Friday proc-57 Cherry Glzr(Cherry Glazerr)

The Los Angeles trio Cherry Glazerr burned up the VRBO stage with their hi-energy noise pop tunes. I covered the band during their ACL Late night showcase and was looking forward to seeing them again. Clementine Creevy’s scrappy idealism, punk lyrics, and her grungy guitar riffs were felt through the speakers as the weather turned from brisk to nippy. I have followed this band for a few years now and am impressed at how they have stayed true to their alternative rock roots. I loved how they oscillated from fragile to ironclad and back to fragile.

To mix things up, I was ready for a little electronic music. Jai Wolf has taken the world of electronic music by storm with tracks that awaken the internal euphoria we all have inside. From the beginning of the set, Jai had the cloud dancing, jumping, and pushing against each other. He brought his hi energy synth-pop electronic sounds from a semicircle of pads in front of him. The awesome neon landscapes and the occasional videos only added to the need to dance. For anyone that thinks electronic music is past its prime, I highly recommend checking out Jai.

final-1297(King Princess)

Brooklyn’s King Princess was the next must see of the day and she did not disappoint. Her style is as close to perfect as pop music can be. Think sparse drums, bubbly guitar riffs and memorable choruses and you have King Princess. The lead singer Mikaela Straus leaned on her wicked sense of humor and her whip-smart comments to keep us all smiling and wondering what she would say next. Her set was full of joyful harmonics and vulnerable lyrics. Straus has been vocal about politics and queer identity and wants to help the next generation of queer youth. This year brought a lot of ‘out’ artists and they were embraced.

ACL 2019 Friday proc-86 KFlayIt’s surprising that K.Flay is not the next megastar yet. It might not be long until this happens. I would call her style a sophisticated blend of indie rock, electro and pop rock blended with her signature raspy voice. Her devoted following was in full force and enjoyed the set. Her set was entertaining and powerful. I loved how passionate and honest the band’s lyrics were.

final-1816(Lil Uzi Vert)

Lil Uzi Vert cancelled his weekend one performance so he was on my must see list for Friday. I started to get worried when he was not on stage after 15 minutes but he eventually showed and dropped a solid set. It was the chest-shaking bass and the half-sung, half-rapped vocals that everyone was all there to see and he brought all that and more as he flew back and forth across the stage. The rapper commented how effortless it is for him to perform. Indeed, his well known energy and vocal skills did make it look so effortless. In the end, it was a great set and most definitely worth the wait.

THE RACONTEURS by Chad Wadsworth for ACL Fest W2 2019 DSC05015.jpg(photo Chad Wadsworth)

The Raconteurs- One of the biggest sets we planned to cover this year- Jack White doesn’t tour much so this was a huge deal. From the guitar-laden “Bored and Razed” which rattled the soul of the crowd with deep pounding chords. “Don’t Bother Me” and “Only Child” followed from “Help Us Stranger”, the first release from The Raconteurs in over a decade. Jack White and Brendan Benson traded off on vocals, guitar riffs, and songwriting contributions. Bassist “Little Jack” Lawrence, drummer Patrick Keeler, and touring member keyboardist / back-up guitarist Dean Fertita (QOTSA) also shared their master musicianship. Their communal spirit awed in “Shine The Light on Me”, one of the songs that motivated The Raconteur’s to return to the studio.

final-2388(Tame Impala)

Tame Impala had the very tough job of co-headlining the day with the legendary Guns n Roses. I love both bands so I had to make it to both of their sets.The Australian band fused their psychedelic pop melodies and modern electronic production to delight the tens of thousands that were in attendance. I love the blend of visuals, the synthesizers and tight drum programming that the band puts together to create dope dance floor melodies. I would have loved to catch all 90 minutes of their set but I couldn’t. The pull for GNR was too strong and I headed toward the American Express stage on the other side of the festival in Zilker Park.

Guns' N Roses by Katarina Benzova at ACL Fest W2 20199 29 20 AM.jpg(GNR by Katarina Benzova)

There are bands that take you back to a place, whether that place is good or bad, the music has the power to take you there. GNR (Guns n Roses) is one of those bands for me. As I sat on the lawn listening to Axl and Slash rock the stage I remised about my youth and whatever it was that I was doing in the 90s. The band sounded as good as I remember when I saw them many years ago. Axl’s legendary powerful vocals and Slash’s unmatched guitar skills (often considered one of the best guitarists) were in full display as the festival closed its first day. The band played hits like “Sweet Child of Mine”, “November Rain”, “Live and Let Die” and “Welcome to the Jungle” and many more songs in the crazy-long 2 ½ hr set.

See all our photos from the festival at Austin 101.

Late Night Shows: There were tons of great official ACL Late shows this year at venues all around downtown Austin. The highlights were Pink Sweat$, Banks, Cherry Glazerr, Jenny Lewis.

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Saturday

After a few much needed hours of sleep, it was time to get back into the groove. The artists today were separated in mostly two categories: love them and can’t wait to see them again or love them and have wanted to see them for a long time.

Diamante Electrico was a band that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. The Colombian Spanish-rock band took the stage and they meant business. The trio played a great set filled with smooth Spanish rock with great vocal hooks and catchy riffs. The band’s sound has evolved during the past several years incorporating funky guitars and garage-rock tracks. Whether you speak Spanish or not, you can feel the musical influences from the Stones, Led Zeppelin and a bit of Muse. If you already love Spanish rock this is a band to check out.

final-2589Shifting gears and musical genres, Florida rapper Denzel Curry came to ACL prepared to do his thing. Curry’s gained a lot of recognition and has broken into the mainstream largely because of his fresh take on the rap. Curry leans on the confusion of youth, chaos and troubles of our current society to create beats with a high level of emotional resonance and insightfulness. The set was super high energy with big jumps and cruising from one end of the stage to the other. The crowd loved the beats and the distinctive blend of dynamic hip hop. In the end, the lyrics pulled us closer to the stage and offered us a chance to listen in to the message behind the rhymes.

Hippie Sabotage by Roger Ho for ACL Fest W2 Fest 2019 RH106834.jpgACL was the first stop of 17 scheduled performances for California duo Hippie Sabotage. The fans packed in at the Miller Lite stage to dance to the hi-energy psychedelic electronic inspired tracks. The crowd went completely wild, starting mosh pits and crowd surfing while the brothers joined in and mixed their unique blend of EDM and hip hop. Sitting down was not an option as we heard the Saurer brothers mix, remix and blend electronic vibes.

Dayglow by Sydney Gawlik for ACL Fest W2 2019 SG101018.jpg(photo Sydney Gawlik)

The local artist Dayglow made his debut at the BMI stage during the ACL festival. With a massive 9 million plus plays on Spotify, the Texas native knows something about putting together catchy tunes. The synth ripples and the smooth reverb shuffles ran wild through the 60 minute set. I particularly enjoyed the refreshing mix and the vocal echoes of the song “Can I Call You Tonight”. Sloan Strumble’s climb to the top of the music world may just be getting started; we’ll hear a lot more from this bright star.

final-3240I was looking forward to hearing Pink Sweat$ for the second time this week. I got to hear his ACL Fest Late show at Antone’s earlier in the week and was blown away by the soothing vocals and the subtle percussion. The Philadelphia singer’s version of R&B is undoubtedly fresh and unlike other artists being heard now in the genre. The set was tranquil and harmonic, filled with acoustic instruments, infused with drums and augmented by intentionally unassuming lyrics. As David Bowden performed the hit song “Honesty”, his remarkable talent was in full display and the crowd could not help but sing along. The rest of the set was unique and personable, with a lot of stunning melodies and memorable lyrics. Now we know why this guy has been blowing up since his 2019 SXSW appearance.

Christian singer Lauren Daigle would fill the spot on our hit list with her chart-topping pop music. Daigle’s been blowing up since 2018 topping the Billboard 200 and racking up fans worldwide. She’s been called the Christian Adele and has pushed Christian rock songs into the secular mainstream. Her set was emotional, dispensing smoky powerhouse vocals and memorable arrangements. Daigle’s soft pop united the fans in the crowd; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, secular, conservative, liberal, young and old. Isn’t that what music is made to do?

final-9208You may have heard a small band called the Foo Fighters before. Chris Shiflett is their amazing guitarist and a must see on our list. He’s recently branched out with a side hustle and gaining some buzz. Although his music doesn’t exactly resemble that of his “other” gig, his solo work embraces his twangier side. He brought the look too, with his attire and boots. His rock and country guitar skills, as well as the top notch group of musicians that comprise his band added depth and emotion to his performance. Undoubtedly, both fans and newcomers in the audience loved listening to his well forged songwriting and his killer riffs (and seeing a Foo band member).

Billie Eilish by Greg Noire for ACL Fest W2 2019 GN_00127(photo by Greg Noire)

The time came for one of the most anticipated set of the festival. She was also the youngest performer to ever play at ACL. What can I say about that hasn’t already been said about the 17 yr old megastar pop idol Billie Eilish? Fresh off her SNL appearance, she’s becoming a household name-certainly among younger fans. She’s one of the fastest rising stars to emerge in the past years and she is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s a global sensation and has sold out every stop of her “When We All Fall Asleep World Tour”. Her music is broadly appealing and catchy. She uses pulsating beats and soft melodies mixed with spooky industrial sounds and hushed whispers on her unique songs. Eilish stepped on the stage in her traditional baggy clothing with colorful hair and just killed it. Her set was one of the most popular of the fest. She was relatable, likeable and fun.

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Gary Clark Jr.

Headlining for the first time at ACL Fest, local Austin hero and Grammy winner Gary Clark Jr. had his minute in the spotlight. Unlike past years, this time he was at the massive AMEX main stage. He came out in his cool fashion, all black, leather jacket, silver chains, the pimp’n hat, the sunglasses, the boots, the guitar. He was backed by his killer band and group of singers-13 piece band including horns and two drummers for a rich sound. Playing hits like “This Land” and “Bright Lights Big City” Clark shined in his unique blend of blues and rock and seemed to be truly having a good time. Clark now shares the stage and seems to be grooming young musicians. Highlights included bringing out they bluesy Peterson Brothers, and his Blackillac group (Zeale and Phranchyze), rapper Trae The Truth, playing his Flying V, and the seeing the sun setting during his set was truly spectacular. He’s come a long way since first playing the fest as a teenager.

final-3076Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) had a killer set. With a full band and back-up singers, Howard proved why she can have her own solo gig. At times she sang and others she played guitar and sang as well.  The depth and power of her voice are inspiring and her energy dancing around the stage was infectious.

Metric by Sydney Gawlik for ACL Fest W2 2019 _G__5938.jpg(by Sydney Gawlik)

The Canadian alt band Metric would be the next stop before the 2 massive headliners. Most have heard them before as they’ve been touring awhile, and are familiar with their synth-heavy, moody music. The gritty vocals, the killer electric riffs and the hard hitting bass make for a really enjoyable live music experience. Judging from the size of the packed crowd, fans agreed. Overall, the set was high energy, offering us dance-floor ready tracks, pop rock raucous melodies and blistering rock tracks. Simply all that you need and nothing that you don’t.

Childish Gambino by Charles Reagan Hackleman for ACL Fest W2 2019 DSC_3003(photo Ryan Hackleman)

Actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) made his presence felt during his headlining performance on Saturday night. As fans packed in to watch the artist the air was full of joyful anticipation. It was one of the biggest crowds of the fest. Early in the set, Glover announced that this would be his last show, and end to his Childish Gambino persona and therefore it would need to be the craziest, wildest show ever. Glover had already sung, rapped, jumped and danced so much that it was hard to conceive how it could get any wilder or crazier. Glover turned it up another notch as hordes of screaming fans sang and danced along with him. Glovers set had all the crowd favorite tunes like “This is America”, “Awaken, My Love!” and “Redbone”. Fans said it was the best set of Childish they’d ever seen. We love that he engages with the audience a lot and in the beginning said “keep your phones down… this is an experience”.

final-4169The legendary British post-punk band The Cure was headlining at the other end of the festival and  sounded great. These rockers aren’t young anymore so I were impressed. I’ve seen The Cure many times and they always blow me away with their well known songs that almost make time stand still. As I sat on the grass on a brisk Saturday night, surrounded by 60,000 of my closest friends, it felt like no time had passed since I first heard songs like “Pictures of You”, “Just Like Heaven” and “Friday I’m in Love”. Robert Smith stays true to his goth look persona wearing black, crazy red lipstick, and hair that looks like he’s been electrocuted. He made a slow, moody entrance to the mic, pausing just to stare at the crowd in awe. The Cure’s performance was simply timeless, delighting fans with their distinctive vocals, the clean guitars and rich drums. Even though their music was conceived many decades ago, it’s clear to see why their music is able to transcend time and touch people so many years later. It was a fitting ending to a full day of amazing music.

Sunday

After an outstanding day of musical performances on Saturday, Day 3 had indeed a lot to prove. The weather was outstanding and it was time to close out the festival’s second week strong. The day had a lot of memorable performances and great vibes. The day also had Lizzo-one of the most anticipated sets of the fest this year. Her performance was so tremendous on Weekend 1 that the organizers had to make special changes so more fans could enjoy her music. The day was filled with so many must see performers and the fandom was ready to go.

Caroline Rose By Roger Ho for ACL Fest W2 Fest 2019 RH108123.jpg(by Roger Ho)

The funky, edgy and irreverent musical force Caroline Rose made her appearance at ACL. The punchy pop artist brought her playful style and tunes from her 2018 album Loner to get the last day of the festival started. Rose delivered a blended cocktail of pop, folk, rock along with a fun list of catchy pop melodies. As the crowd warmed up to Rose’s bright melodies, synths, organs and her funny sense of humor it was impossible not to nod your head and hum along.

As the day warmed up, the L.A. rapper Duckwrth jumped onstage at the T-Mobile stage with his bouncy beats and warped electronic production. The rapper had enough energy to provide power to a small factory as he delivered catchy hooks, dope rhymes and smooth beats.

The UK punk rockers IDLES wasted no time setting the stage for an intense head banging, heart pounding, highly danceable tempo that would carry them through the 60 minute performance. The band is well known for their furious punk rock with post punk angularity. What exactly does that mean you ask? Well, this is something that is better to experience than explain, but in short, the band delivers powerful songs that also carry a brilliant (and just as powerful) message. The band touched on hot topics like immigration, love, toxic masculinity and so many other, less discussed areas, all in a memorable punk style. Like I mentioned earlier, this is best to be experienced (go check them out!)

final-4521Exotic Flamenco pop star Rosalia lit up the Honda Stage later in the day. To say that she is quite talented is a complete understatement. She is actually a force to be reckoned with. The Latin artist walked onstage featuring an eye popping outfit, long nails and 5 dancers dressed in white ensembles. The thousands of fans excitedly witnessed a 60-minute spectacle full of emotional Spanish songs, great choreographed dancing, amazing Andalusian guitar rhythms and powerful clapping (there was a lot of clapping). Rosalia even performed a heart stopping acapella song that left us all completely awe-struck. Ole!

One of the performances I was most excited to see was the California iconic screamer band Third Eye Blind. The rockers have been around since the 90s and have delivered a large number of hits over their career. Some artists sprinkle a few hits during a set and mainly showcase their new material. While Stephan Jenkins and the band did play a lot of new material, they delivered all the hits that we were excited to hear. They just slayed with classics like “Graduate”, “How’s It Going To be” and “Semi-Charmed Life”. The band did not slow down and kept the hi level of energy throughout the set.

final-5380(Kacey Muscgraves)

Texan and Grammy-award winner Kacey Musgraves has been making waves on Billboard charts for quite some time. Backed by a full band, The country queen brought good vibes, irreverent banter, yee hawing and crowd favorite songs from her Grammy winning album, “Golden Hour” to the ACL stage. She was gorgeous, doll-like, in her matching dress and boots and made sure to walk out on the cat walk to get closer to her fans. She alternated between playing her acoustic guitar and singing. Her sweet simple country voice and her two stepping magic delivered an entertaining show to thousands of fans that resisted the urge to leave early to grab a close spot for Queen Lizzo.

final-5675Houston’s singer/rapper Lizzo performed for one of the biggest ACL Fest crowds. If you saw weekend 1 or had friends there, you heard how huge the crowd was. Massive is a better description and it was impossible to get close to the set if you weren’t there early. She was likely booked for the fest before her recent hits and the crowd was displeased at the smaller stage she was on. To counter that, the fest had her set on the screens at nearby Honda stage. The meteoric rise of this young star was on full display by the huge numbers of screaming fans that sang, danced and hi fived each other during the set. Of course, Austinites have been lucky to see her many time over the last few years and loved her before her huge blow up this year with “Juice” and “Boys” (the video has over 24 million views). She even brought her famous flute out later in the set. Her positive message of self love and acceptance (against body shamers and bullies) reverbed through her words, her music and even her entourage. Of course she performed crowd favorites like “Boys”, “Truth Hurts”, “Good as Hell” and “Juice”. I read somewhere that it’s now Lizzo’s world and we are just living in it. I tend to agree.

MUMFORD & SONS by Chad Wadsworth for ACL Fest W2 2019  DSC06792.jpg(by Chad Wadsworth)

The very popular British band Mumford and Sons headlined the final day of ACL 2019 for the second time. The excitement was palpable and we all knew that the folk-rocker band had several surprises for us. The band has became well known over the years because of their unique blend of authentic lyrics, banjo hammering rhythms and sharp guitars in a format that takes the shape of modern rock. Marcus Mumford and his band set the tempo early by opening the show with the hit “Guiding Light”. They would then go on to play a number of hits and new material from behind the beams of light that illuminated the state. Mumford and his band had also rehearsed earlier with the Austin High band and had invited the teens to play with them onstage Sunday night. About halfway through the show, the students piled in the stage to play one of the band’s hit song “The Cave” . The crowd erupted in cheers and we all enjoyed the unique take on the song. After the encore, the band closed an outstanding ACL weekend 2 festival with hits like “I Will Wait for You” and Delta”.

We can’t wait to see the line up for next year even though we’re still recovering from the festival. Check out all our festival photos and more at Austin 101.

Billie Eilish Rocks ACL Taping at Moody Theater

by Dan Radin

When an icon arrives, there’s no mistaking the event.

And there Billie Eilish stood: upstage at the top of her riser, sunglasses on, in her baggy athletic wear, nuclear green hair glowing, rotating her head laterally to take in the screaming TV audience. She knew they’d be watching this episode of Austin City Limits on repeat. Eilish looked at the camera and smiled.

The legendary Moody Theater roared all evening with palpable admiration for the 17-year old pop star. Outstretched arms and shouts of “I LOVE YOU BILLIE” rang perpetually while Eilish danced and sang her way through an hour of her dark pop.

Eilish played right into the madness. Starting with “bad guy,” she arm pumped and jumped across every inch of the stage, singing to and addressing each seat in the theater. It was the kind of enthusiasm that likely gifted Eilish the medical boot she wore on her right leg through her set. It didn’t hamper her spirit in the slightest.

Eilish’s sense of self shone as brightly as her neon-green hair. Commenting on playing “Copycat”: “I know a lot of people don’t like that song. But I like it. So I’m gonna play it.” Her movements, open and confident, helped deliver every vocal line with sincere conviction. Atop a stool at the front of the stage, Eilish sang her piano ballads beautifully.

Behind her stage persona, the singer made a point to be transparent in her feelings with the audience. “I was skeptical at first. I was worried you wouldn’t like me,” Eilish confessed. The responding shrieks announced support otherwise. Eilish’s maturity for her age was impressive, notably encouragement to “live in the moment” and enjoy life past a superficial level. Adults and kids alike in the audience sported Eilish t-shirts. Inevitably, Eilish strikes a universally-aspired confidence, while being supremely relatable in her humanity.

Eilish appeared to be surrounded (on-stage and otherwise) by her support system, in the form of drummer Andrew Marshall, and “my big brother Finneas.” Also Eilish’s producer, Finneas swapped smoothly between guitar/bass/piano, while receiving hearty cheers from the crowd. The two-man backing band played tightly to the click and allowed Eilish to flourish as the frontwoman.

At the end of closer “Bury a Friend,” Eilish dropped into her sinister backbend. She then purposefully disappeared into a sea of clambering fans in the front row for “Hugs.” Past being a remarkable musician, Eilish is just as admirable for her commitment to being a North Star for her peers, and welcoming vulnerability. In the face of her stardom, Eilish wants to remind us she’s just like everyone else.

ACL Fest 2019: Under the Radar Artists to See

by Dan Radin

With two weekends, 12 stages, and 130+ bands, there’s one lingering question: “Who the F*CK should I go see?”.

We all know the headliners, but let me be the first to tell you- this is a DEEP lineup of upcoming artists that may have flown under your radar. Props to ACL for giving us some of the best talent; you’ll want to drag your friends there early each day.

Maybe You Know ‘Em:

Jai Wolf – Electronic producer with a taste for indie pop. He’s been touring with Odesza on their Foreign Family Collective label. View

Caamp – Folk band from Columbus, OH. Think Mumford fronted by an old grizzled southern man. View

Taylor Bennett – Working from the shadows of older brother Chance the Rapper, Taylor’s a pretty damn talented dude in his own right. View

Finneas – Known also as Billie Eilish’s producer and brother, expect Finneas to bring a deep bag of cleverly-crafted songs. View

Flora Cash – With one breakout hit in the books, the duo got rave reviews during their shows at SXSW this year. View

Rising Stars:

Pink Sweat$ – Slow R&B, like Khalid + The Weeknd. View

Still Woozy – Hoodie Allen-y with sly/goofy dance moves. View

Men I Trust – If CHVRCHES did disco. View

Sam Fender – Real instruments, like The Strokes meets Springsteen. View

Ximena Sariñana – Grammy-nominated Mexican singer with an incredible voice. View

Erin Rae – Country Joni Mitchell. View

Yola – Warm southern soul, worked with Dan Auerbach (Black Keys). View

Kevin Garrett – Grammy-nominated for work with Beyonce, pretty solid pipes himself. View

Chris Shiflett – Of course a Texas festival wouldn’t miss country artists- but not everyone knows he’s the guitarist for Foo Fighters! View

Madison Ryann Ward – One of the artists I most look forward to seeing. View

King Princess- A must see ‘queer pop’ performance from Brooklyn’s 20 year old. View

Scarypoolparty – Another must-see. American Idol finalist with virtuosic talent. View

Laundry Day – Poppy, tight, and under the radar. View

 

Must-See Austin Locals:

Abhi the Nomad – MC dripping with talent. View

Jane Ellen Bryant – One of the best voices in the Austin music scene. View

Billy Strings – The chops on these fellas though. View

Rob Baird – You can hear the Memphis in this Austin musician. View

There are just too many acts to preview them all. Did we miss a MUST SEE artist? Who are you excited to see? DM us Insta @austin101mag  and check out all our ACL coverage on Austin 101 Magazine.