Saturday at Austin City Limits Festival 2009

Eek-A-Mouse image

Saturday at Austin City Limits the rain came down and drenched Zilker Park. Festival goers went undeterred as the puddles turned into seas of mud. The first band I saw was Mute Math, who played a mean version of 
”Spotlight.” MUTE MATH mashes electronica and hard rock. These New Orleans musicians are excellent entertainers putting on quite the show. Lead singer and keyboardist Paul Meany literally did flips while playing his keys. Also MUTE MATH has a wonderful collection of interesting instruments from space-age synthesizers to wild effects pedal boards. Following Mute Math, I caught part of Canadian singer-songwriter Sam Roberts‘s set under the tent. I heard someone describe Sam Roberts as the Canadian Bruce Springsteen and certainly the comparison seemed apt.

The rain really started to fall as Citizen Cope took the main stage. Despite the rain Citizen Cope served up some spectacular music. His laid back flip-flop rock lightened the mood with   “Back Together“
  and
  “107°.”   And a mean version of the protest song “Bullet And A Target”  brought energy to the wet crowd.
 Clarence Greenwood aka Citizen Cope capped the set with the ballad  “Sideways.”

Next Jamaican reggae superstar Eek-A-Mouse filled the Wildflower tent with reggae lovers and good vibes.  This unique singjay performed his smash hit  “Ganja Smuggling”  to a most appreciative audience. Interesting enough the Mouse also performed a cover of Dolly Parton‘s classic country song
 “Jolene.”  It was amazing. The Mouse soaked up the Texas outlaw sound dropping gun-slinging rhymes and rawhide whips.
 Eek-A-Mouse is quite the entertainer demanding crowd participation and ensuring sweet reggae grooves. With the crowd shouting “Irie” the Mouse dropped the reggae classic  “Wa-Do-Dem” and closed with  “Sensi Party.”

Mos Def performed on the AMD stage playing a red hot version of 
”Casa Bey”  from the new album The Ecstatic. The Brooklyn rapper also covered one of Bobby Brown‘s love songs “Roni.”  The smooth voice and bass heavy beats of this young rhyme sayer leaves fans bobbing their heads.

Mos Def image

Devotchka turned out to be the highlight of the evening. In fact, I consider Devotchka to be the nicest surprise at the festival this year. I knew certain bands would kick ass. But I wasn’t even planning on seeing Devotchka until some of my friends talked me into seeing them. The Denver-based band of gypsies rocked and rollicked. One amazing performing burlesque artist glided above stage on a giant red curtain. Devotchka includes multi-instrumentalists Nick Urata (vocals, guitar, trumpet), Tom Hagerman (violin, accordion), Jeanie Schroder (sousaphone, bass), and percussionist Shawn King. I highly recommend seeing this band. You will not be let down. Their music is beautiful and fun. One of my friends said she liked to listen to this band when she cleaned. I can see why. It doesn’t matter if your are cleaning or standing in the mud Devotchka deserves a listen.

Devotchka image

The Dave Matthews Band headlined Saturday night. The group played my favorite song off the new album Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King entitled  “Funny The Way It Is.” Also from the new album the boys kicked out “Shake Me Like A Monkey” and “Spaceman.”  The Dave Matthews Band played some classic tracks, including “Jimi Thing” and
 “Cornbread.”
 And after a brilliant cover version of the Talking Heads song “Burning Down The House,” launched into the crowd pleasers
 “So Much To Say,”  
”Ants Marching,” and  “Two Step.”

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Saturday at Austin City Limits Festival 2009

Friday at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009!!!

Wavin' Flag

The rain fell as the music filled the park. Mud seethed underfoot and gushed between toes. Among the strong aromas and beautiful sounds, the 2009 Austin City Limits Music Festival came alive and offered another memorable year of music. Although environmental factors change from year to year, from stifling heat and dust to drenching rain and mud, the show never stopped. The music continued. And Austin proved itself again as the live music capitol of the world.

I caught Dr. Dog at the Dell Stage for my first show. I found these boys from Philadelphia to be quite harmonic, reminiscent of the psychadelia rock of the Beatles and The Byrds. Songs like “The Breeze” and “The Old Days” displayed that smooth 1960s sound. But my favorite song on the set list was “The Rabbit, The Bat & The Reindeer.”

I had heard of Phoenix, but I had never listened to their music. A friend convinced me to see this alternative rock band from Versaille, France. The comparisons to their French peers Daft Punk and Air interested me. Ultimately I understood the comparisons, finding the sound close to a New Order-like electronica pop. Phoenix pleasantly surprised me with tunes like “Lisztomania,” “Lasso,” “If I Ever Feel Better,” “Fences,” “Girlfriend,” “Run Run Run,” “Too Young,” “Rome,” and “1901.” Many of the songs appear on the new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

The best show of the day came from the Somalian born/Canadian based rapper k’naan. Under the Wildflower Tent the slender Somalian rocked the crowd with political prose, heart-felt lyrics, and blistering beats. Appropriate adjectives include humble, inspirational, and talented.  k’naan had a broad appeal, drawing young children and old people, and all those between the young and old. An intimate performance captivated the crowd.

The track “T.I.A. [Explicit]” thundered bass as K’naan introduced the crowd to his unique brand of hip-hop. “T.I.A.” samples Bob Marley’s classic ska tune “Simmer Down,” layers it over heavy beats, and atop raps the brilliant young wordsmith. In Africa, Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, 2pac, and The Notorious B.I.G. reign supreme. k’naan studied these great performers and his sound reflects those influences. Yet the sound is original. The music is gangsta but peaceful, hard but soft, and always chalk full of the contradictions and realities of life.

From Africa the Somalian took us on a trip to “America.” On the album, Mos Def and Chali 2Na join the track with their rhymes on the studio version of “America,”  but solo and live K’naan brought this song to its full potential without the help of these great lyricists. The song “Take A Minute” brought emotion to the tent. The following love ballad “Fatima” lightened the mood. And then the hardcore rap song “ABC’s” (with a Chubb Rock sample) rocked the and rolled with pure energy.

K’naan then sang a song about “Somalia,” which brought tears to the crowd’s eyes. The lyricist played two different versions beginning with an acapella and moving into a full band version. As K’naan says “his real will makes your real look like a rental.” This track talks about the perils of childhood in Somalia and the suffering of the people. K’naan harnesses the pain and realities of the world and turns them into amazing poetry. The rapper followed the tear jerker with “Bang Bang,” a nice jamming pop tune. And he ended his set with the a sing-a-long to “Wavin’ Flag.”

K’naan was the highlight of the evening. But the jams continued with Thievery Corporation. The dub electronica duo and band played on the main stage this year kicking out funky electronica with “.” The crew from Washington, D.C. also played the sitar heavy “Mandala,” displaying their unique acumen at world music.

In a testimony to the diversity of the music at ACL I caught parts of sets from the Texas country group Reckless Kelly and the hard-rocking new super trio Them Crooked Vultures. Them Crooked Vultures features bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, drummer David Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and Josh Homme the guitarist and lead singer from Queens Of The Stone AgeKings Of Leon headlined Friday night playing their hits “Sex On Fire,”
”On Call,” and
”Use Somebody.”

The  music continued after the festival at the ACL after shows. I went to a Township Records showcase at the Ghost Room downtown on 4th Street in the Warehouse District. I caught the end of Danny Malone‘s set. This kid has a beautifully haunting voice. My wife described him as a creepy James Taylor. His new album Cuddlebug features the eerie track “Basement.” Graham Wilkinson & the Underground Township played some of my favorite tracks from the new album Yearbook, including “Ragamuffin” and “Let It Go.”

Let It Go

Friday at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009!!!