Austin City Limits Festival - Day 2 - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Austin City Limits Festival - Day 2

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:

The second day of the festival, which was a Saturday, also called for sun and high heat - and the forecast was correct.  Another day of high temps around 90 degrees with plenty of sun.  The main target for most of my group was to see Spoon, but one of my daughters made it her goal to be on the rail for Chance the Rapper.  This required a six-hour commitment, but she did see four acts on the same stage, starting with all of us at Car Seat Headrest, and she could at least hear who was playing on the adjacent stage, including Spoon (not a bad move on her part given the crowd on hand for Chance later that night).

Car Seat Headrest

I had not seen Will Toledo and company live before, and though they haven't put much out lately, I’ve listened to Teens of Denial dozens of times so definitely wanted to catch them perform.  This was our latest start time of the three days, showing up for their 2:00 set.  Performing as a four piece band, it felt like they had gotten up on opposite sides of the bed.  Toledo and the bass player were particularly laconic (though the bass player, just doing what bass players do), while, guitarist, Ethan Ives, and drummer, Andrew Katz, provided all the energy.  Toledo, wearing a pair of science lab goggles and an escape game shirt, was in such slow motion he could have been sedated.  There were a couple of songs where Ives took over on lead vocals partway through.  Maybe that is their thing, but it seemed a little odd.  

All that being said, the band sounded great on most of the songs, ‘Fill in the Blank’ started off a little more aggressively than the album, but the crowd was quickly singing along.  ‘Destroyed by Hippie Powers’ was another highlight and of course ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’.  A version of an earlier song, ‘Beast Monster Thing’ also stood out.  Ives took a turn playing a pretty by the book version of Neil Young’s ‘Powderfinger’, but a by the book version is still pretty cool and he did a great job with it.  Katz basically played spokesperson for the band and announced it was their last show of the tour, to which Toledo replied it was their last show ever, but I took this as a joke.  Toledo was either in his usual mode or a 2:00 start time is not on the regular daily calendar, but either way they powered through the hour with the help of the more awake members of the band.

Rating:  B+

Benjamin Booker

I only went up front for a minute for this, but ACL does a good job in providing some diversity of styles and Benjamin Booker’s blues and soul numbers were a nice change of pace.  I listened to most of it from fairly far away, but he definitely made an impression and his singing, from blues shout to raspy soul, is as accomplished as his guitar playing.  His set started out with ‘The Slow Drag Under’ from this year’s excellent album Witness.   ‘Believe’ stood out as a more soulful number, while ‘The Truth is Heavy’ was slow to boil, but had some of the most fiery guitar licks as it moved along.  I’m not that familiar with Booker, but a quick crowd surf was a bit of a surprise.  Crowd surfing (by both band and fans) seemed to be down this year, though I heard Andrew McMahon crowd surfed on the back of an inflatable giraffe, so there’s something different for you.  I would expect we will all be hearing a lot more from and about Booker in the years to come.  

Rating:  B+ (the plus for me being not up close which always makes a difference)

Angel Olsen

Every year I look for an artist to surprise me relative to my expectations.  Last year it was Cage the Elephant which gave an absolutely unhinged performance that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it.  I wouldn't say that Olsen necessarily surprised me, more like I wasn’t sure what to expect.   She put on an outstanding sultry, smoldering performance.  The most apparent comparison to me would be Roy Orbison reincarnated.  She has a rich tone to her vocals that soar and dip as called upon, and in spite of an allergy attack from the dust in the air (that affected all of us), she sounded near perfect.  If she has times she sounds better I would definitely be down to experience that.  Olsen’s band took the stage first in powder blue suits, with Olsen providing contrast in a chartreuse dress.  She accompanied herself on guitar throughout the set and with two other guitarists they made a huge, not loud, sound.  

The song that most stood out from the rest of the set was the rave-up of ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ with its more aggressive stance.  Most of the set though was a slow burn, including the seven minute ‘Sister’ and a song prior to that where she removed her sunglasses and sang directly to a few people in the crowd.  Not a gaze you would look away from.  Her sound and style have evolved over the last several years, but I really enjoyed the 50s/60s big guitar sound and her vocal approach.  As mentioned in my Day 1 reviews, it would have been cool to see her sing the new single she duets on with Hamilton Leithouser, but it wasn’t to be.  There wasn’t a huge crowd and for the unfamiliar she was another artist that didn’t fit the “alternative radio” mold,  but for the lucky ones that showed up and stuck around they were treated to a great set.

Rating:  A


Admittedly I have seen this band several times live, including just a few months ago after Hot Thoughts came out, so I knew that the band and Britt Daniels know how to work a crowd.  Given a slate of weak headliners, having Spoon in the slot prior to that was one of the shows I was looking forward to.  We skipped the slot prior to make sure we were front and center.  The band did not disappoint and having their set squeezed into an hour window only meant a bigger impact was made in a shorter period of time.  With their substantial catalog, it was a series of great songs played to the hilt with Daniels all over the stage, including him singing ‘I Ain’t the One’ laying on his back.  The band was tight as they always are, but also stretched some songs out including a phenomenal ‘My Mathematical Mind’.

If you’ve not seen them before, everything is tightly synchronized with strobes and colored lights firing on just the right notes, as when ‘Hot Thoughts’ kicks into gear (the song was dedicated to the nearby citizens of Elgin, famous for their hot sausage - a joke that I’m sure went over most everyone’s heads).  For a band whose founding members of Daniels and drummer, Jim Eno, remain intact after over 20 years and still pour this level of energy into each show, it is the concert equivalent of a sure thing.  Daniels still works his guitar like he’s trying to shake just the right note out of it and being the consummate showman leans into the crowd and makes eye contact while tossing out lines.  With nine albums under their belt, each of which is guaranteed to have a handful of show worthy tunes, there is really no way to go wrong and each song is played like it is the encore. 

Rating:  A+

As I mentioned earlier, one of my daughters committed to six hours of sitting on the rail for Chance the Rapper - probably the most legitimate of headliners that either weren’t past their prime or not yet worthy of the role.  Chance was opposite The Red Hot Chili Peppers who my son was more in favor of as his band played ‘Dani California’ in middle school!  So I went back and forth between the acts, but ultimately spent more time on Chance’s side - you couldn’t get close to either stage (there are about 75,000 in attendance each day).  That was after Flea proposed to the crowd that he had a bucket of acid to share with whoever wanted to join him swimming at Barton Springs after the show - what a hoot!  Chance primarily focused on his latest album, Coloring Book, and seemingly played most everything on it.  Cycling back to songs like ‘Blessings’ more than once.  ‘No Problem’ and ‘Same Drugs’ were particularly well received and he was definitely in good voice, backed by gospel singers and a live band.  I didn’t listen to enough to rate, but he’s a good performer, upbeat, if not a bit preachy, but given some of the alternatives out there his approach along with the quality of his songs works well.  As someone mentioned to my daughter, “I feel like I don’t need to go to church for five years”.         




Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Would've loved to see Angel Olsen. Perhaps on this new album's tour. Nice review!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks for reading. Yes, she would definitely be worth seeing if you get the chance and expect would be even better with her fans in tow.

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