Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Saturday

On Saturday, I started the day with the cosmic cowboys vibes of Phosphorescent. I especially liked the song “Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly)” off their album Here’s To Taking It Easy. Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performed songs from this new solo release Alexander. As Alexander the hippy guru brings folksy grooves like the opener “Awake My Body.”

Alison Kraus with the voice of an angel and bluegrass band from heaven performed a sweet set of classics. The band Union Station includes the fantastic pickers Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski.  Tyminski sang the crowd please “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow,” the hit track from the Cohen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Alison Krauss and Union Station’s set list also included my favorites “When You Say Nothing At All,” “The Lucky One,” and “Let Me Touch You for Awhile.”

From the soft bluegrass of Alison Kraus to the ear crushing dubstep of Skrillex was a nice juxtaposition. Skrillex’s wobbling sounds and remixes included samples from Damian Marley and Major Lazer. This was the youngest and most energetic crowd I have seen in a long time. It reminded me of the grunge rock shows of the 1990s in an odd way. Skrillex has a punky feel in a in your face type of way. The music literally fucks with your brain. The crowd responded with gusto to the hit single “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites.” 

Cee-Lo followed Skrillex with a poppy soul set that included the summer banger and middle finger to the world jam “Fuck You.” He also performed the Gnarlz Barkley smash hit “Crazy.” The real musicianship though was under the tent where the Del McCoury Band joined forces with the Preservation Jazz Hall Band playing songs like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Jambalaya from their album American Legacies.

The evening concluded with a magnificent set by the king of Motown Stevie Wonder. “Superstition,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours),” “Sir Duke,” “For Once In My Life” and “My Cherie Amour” were all on the set list.  The funky politicized jam “Living For The City” rocked the park while the reggaefied funk of Master Blaster (Jammin’) brought people to their feet. My favorite song of the day was Stevie’s high powered “Higher Ground.”

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Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Saturday

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Friday

The 10th Anniversary of the Austin City Limits Festival brought together a diversified lineup from dubstep deejay Skrillex to bluegrass angel Alison Krauss to motown king Stevie Wonder to west Texas songsmith Ryan Bingham. As always I began my first day with the western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel. They opened with “Miles and Miles of Texas.” Ray Benson and his band of accomplished musicians played Bob Wills standards like “New San Antonio Rose” and songs about Bob like the Waylon Jennings classic “Bob Wills Is Still The King.” The Wheel played their hit “Hot Rod Lincoln” and a new song originally performed with Willie Nelson called “Hesitation Blues.” On the set list appeared “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” “Bump Bounce Boogie,” and “Boogie Back to Texas.” The Wheel brought the sounds of western swing alive.

I caught the end of the Theophilus London set. Banging beats, fresh rhymes, and creative samples impressed this particular listener. For example, London looped a sample of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” over a fat beat dropping science in the rain. London also played his hit “Love Is Real.” The juxtaposition of hip hop with the sweet sounds of the Secret Sisters, in my opinion, is the beauty of a good festival. Diversity is essential.

The Secret Sisters played their hit song “Tennessee Me,” but it was their song selections from past country legends Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, the Everly Brothers, and Patsy Cline that really hit the spot. Take for example, their cover of “Why Baby Why,” which was soft and pure sweetness. These sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama strike a sentimental chord in me. The Southern ladies also played the Rufus Wainwright tune “Do You Love An Apple.”

We followed Secret Sisters with the electronic soul man James Blake. The Englishman opened with “Unluck” and “Give Me My Month.” For the most part the talented composer form London stuck with songs from his debut album James Blake, including the tracksI Never Learnt To Share,” “Lindisfarne I,”and “Lindisfarne II.” I especially liked his Fiest cover Limit To Your Love.” And, he spaced out “The Wilhelm Scream,” which concluded a nice set.

Big Boi from the Outkast crew brought Dirty South bounce and swagger into Zilker Park. Unlike many of the recent hip hop shows I’ve seen lately, Big Boi’s flow was exquisite and the sound clear. The set included tracks “General Patton” and “Follow Us” from the new album Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son Of Chico Dusty. But the afternoon also saw a fair share of classics like the “cooler than a polar bear’s toenail” track “ATLiens” and the harmonica banger “Rosa Parks.” Big Boi proved he had a deep catalog with crowd pleasers “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson.” He also brought rock and roll rap fusion with the protest song “B.O.B.” And, I was very pleased that the Atlanta native unleashed my personal favorite Outkast gem “The Way You Move.”  Nas & Damian Marley followed the Atlanta native rapper making this a lively stage.

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley entered the stage as the flag bearing the red, gold, and green and the Lion of Judah flew. “As We Enter” kicked off the set. One of my favorite things to do is to see a Marley brother in Austin. Mr. Marley brought the reggae magic while the rhyme-smith Nas dropped serious science. In reality both of these cats are amazing lyricists and when done in tag-team fashion over dope beats booties commence to shake. “As We Enter” the lead track off the excellent Distant Relatives album is a great example of the combination of danceable sounds spiced with tangling hip hop and patois rhymes. The hard-hitting “Nah Mean” kept the vibe alive displaying the perfect marriage of reggae dancehall, African culture, and American rap.

Then Nas unleashed one of my favorite old school rap gems “If I Ruled The World (imagine that).” Following on the heels of the rap standard the Africanized “Dispear” brought down the house. Rebellion drips from this tune. I love it. The fevered pitch of the pounding “Dispear” was cooled off nicely by the roots reggae jam “Land Of Promise.” This Dennis Brown infused track is modern reggae at its best. Positive messages entwined with earth crushing roots reggae sounds made for a perfect evening. Jr. Gong’s “More Justice” from 2001’s Halfway Tree kept the show on this track.

Marley played several songs from his popular album Welcome to Jamrock. “Move!” sampled Bob Marley’s “Exodus” merging classic reggae and new ragamuffin styles and phrasings. Similarly the title track “Welcome To Jamrock” mixes Ini Kamoze’s “out in the street they call it murder” sample and a riddim straight from Kamoze’s “World A Music” into the biggest reggae hit of the 2000s. Marley and Nas then displayed their skills on the “Road To Zion,” which I believe  set the original mood for the Distant Relatives collaboration. They closed with the Bob Marley smash hit “Could You Be Loved.”

Mavis Staples performed under the tent producing a revivalist feeling in the middle of Zilker Park. Civil Rights, spiritualism, and good music swirled under the tent, take for example, the songs “Freedom Highway” and “Creep Along Moses.” Staples made everyone dance and sing to the soul classic “I’ll Take You There.” To experience the best of soul music and to get a taste of what soul music was like in the 1970s go see Mavis Staples. The energy is extraordinary! We concluded the evening with the English rock group Coldplay. “The Scientist” and “Clocks” made the set list, while an Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” set up a very nice “Fix You.”

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Friday

Top Ranking Albums of September 2011

The Spiritual Accessories EP
  1. Graham Wilkinson The Spiritual Accessories EP [Little Windmill Records 2011]
  2. Trombone ShortyFor True [Verve Forecast 2011]
  3. Various ArtistsO Brother, Where Art Thou? [Lost Highway 2011]
  4. SuperHeavySuper Heavy [Universal 2011]
  5. Preservation Jazz Hall Band and the Del McCoury Band –  American Legacies [McCoury Music 2011]
  6. Various Artists – Our Favorite Beres Hammond Songs [VP Records 2011]
  7. The Secret Sisters –  The Secret Sisters [Universal Records 2010]
  8. Bunny LeeDub Will Change Your Mind [King Spinna Records 2011]
  9. Aloe Blacc – Good Things [Stones Throw Records 2010]
  10. Various ArtistsListen To Me: Buddy Holly [Verve Forecast 2011]
  11. Augustus PabloThis Is Augustus Pablo [VP Records 2011]
  12. Various ArtistsThe Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 2011 [VP Records 2011]
  13. WilcoThe Whole Love [dBPM Records 2011]
  14. James Blake and Bon IverFall Creek Boys Choir [Universal Records 2011]
  15. Tom WaitsBad As Me [Anti/Epitaph 2011]
  16. Olivia Tremor ControlThe Game You Play is in Your Head, Parts 1, 2, & 3 [Cloud Recordings 2011]
  17. Theophilus LondonTimez Are Weird These Days [Warner Brothers 2011]
  18. St. Vincent Strange Mercy [4AD 2011]
  19. George StraitHere For A Good Time [MCA Nashville 2011]
  20. Zee AviGhostbird [Brushfire Records 2011]
  21. Clap Your Hands and Say YeahHysterical [CYHSY 2011]
  22. Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter – Marble Son [Station Grey Records 2011]
  23. Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Barlande [InFine 2011]
  24. Lisa Hannigan – Passenger [ATO Records 2011]
  25. Lenny KravitzBlack And White America [Atlantic Records 2011]
American Legacies
The Game You Play is in Your Head, Parts 1, 2, & 3
Top Ranking Albums of September 2011