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.”

Advertisements
Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Friday

Reporting from Austin City Limits 2009!!!

Zilker Park in Austin, Texas swirls with activity as the park prepares for the Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009. I will be attending the festival for the next three days and will cover the music at the festival. This year’s show promises to be an eventful weekend with a diversity of bands on the lineup, including Pearl Jam, Eek-A-Mouse, Michael Franti and Spearhead, K’naan, Asleep at the Wheel, Citizen Cope, Dave Matthews Band, Bassnectar, the B-52’s, Kings of Leon, Thievery Corporation, Raul Malo, the Levon Helm Band, and the Decembersists.

Reporting from Austin City Limits 2009!!!

TOP 10!!! September 2008

September 2008

1. Michael Franti & SpearheadAll Rebel Rockers [Anti 2008]
2. Graham WilkinsonGraham Wilkinson [Township Records 2008]
3. Burning SpearJah Is Real [Burning Music 2008]
4. John Brown’s BodyAmplify [MRI Associated 2008]
5. Busy Signal Loaded [VP Records 2008]
6. James Levy Blood Red Rose [Township Records 2008]
7. Beres Hammond A Moment in Time [VP Records 2008]
8. Queen IfricaFyah Muma [Flames 2008]
9. Kimya DawsonAlphabutt [K Records 2008]
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings 1000 Days, 1000 Nights [Daptone 2007]

Michael Franti & Spearhead have released an excellent reggae and pop album. The addition of the strong voice of reggae seductress Cherine Anderson over the heavy bass riddims of Sly & Robbie make this album a head nodder. “The Rude Boys Back in Town” and “Soundsystem” display Spearhead’s block rocking ability while two versions of “Hey World” encapsulate Franti’s ability to say something meaningful over good music.

The 2008 Austin City Limit’s Music Festival introduced the world to some of the best local music coming out of Austin, Texas. Christopher Denny an Arkansas native and presently an Austin-based singer-songwriter crooner and backed by Austin’s Underground Township rocked the Austin Ventures stage. Furthermore Graham Wilkinson of the Underground Township released an excellent compilation of solo acoustic gems this month. Many organic grooves are coming out of Austin. Wayne Dalchau’s Township Records released several great albums in the last month, including Wilkinson’s new album and James Levy’s Blood Red Rose. Wayne is also working on a much anticipated Township Records compilation that will include Chris Denny, Graham Wilkinson, and other Township Records artists.

Burning Spear’s new album Jah Is Real flows smoothly and feels refreshingly natural and original. One can see the party and imagery that emerges from the single “Jam Cruise.” It is amazing that the Spear can drop tunes like this over four decades. Rather live or in the studio Burning Spear embodies roots reggae music.

Plus a mention of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and their phenomenal performance at Austin City Limits is needed here. The soulful group dropped funk and love on Austin, bringing the audience alive on a hot Saturday afternoon. Much dancing ensued and these soul players deserve their props. John Fogerty kicked ass and took names, playing “Down on the Corner,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”

TOP 10!!! September 2008