Austin City Limits Music Festival 2010 – DAY TWO

On day two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival we started the day at the Austin Ventures Stage with an electro-pop alternative/indie rock band from Northern Ireland called Two Door Cinema Club. The setlist included a hard-hitting barrage of tracks: “Cigarettes in the Theatre,” “Undercover Martyn,” “Do You Want It All?,” and the solid hit “Something Good Can Work.” The boys from Bangor, Northern Ireland played several tracks like “This Is Life,” “You’re Not Stuboorn,” “What You Know,” and “Eat That Up, It’s Good For You” from their new album Tourist History. And with the closers “Come Back Home” and especially the single “I Can Talk” the young rockers finished strong.

Tourist History

Following Two Door Cinema Club, Andrew Mayer Cohen aka Mayer Hawthorne representing Ann Arbor, Michigan brought the soul of the Motor City to Austin City Limits. The sweet sounding “Maybe So, Maybe No” set the vibe for the afternoon set. Mayer Hawthorne and the County then flipped the script playing the remixed versionGangsta Luv” recorded with the smooth rhyming rapper Snoop Doggy DoggThen he slowed down again for a chill version of “I Wish It Would Rain.”

His neo-soul sound flows in the same manner as the R&B and Soul revivalists: Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Amy Winehouse. Not that Hawthorne sounds like these contemporaries but rather he sounds more like the classic crooners of old–Smokey Robinson and the Miracles or Marvin Gaye. The soul session then evolved into a sing along with a spot on cover version of the classic Doobie Brothers trackWhat A Fool Believes.” And, ultimately Mayer Hawthorne returned to his roots with the R&B jam ” Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out.”

I left the Austin Ventures stage for the Broken Bells. My family stayed behind for the Local Natives, which they reported were awesome ,especially since the 15-year old virtuoso fiddle player and singer-songwriter Ruby Jane joined the band for a musical ride. Unfortunately, this is the problem with Austin City Limits: there are too many bands at the same time to really see all the bands that you want to see.

I hated to miss the Local Natives, but the Broken Bells beckoned. Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Oregon Indie Rock band The Shins align to make melodic space rock music like “Vaporize” andOctober.” And, I especially like the tracks “The Ghost Inside” andThe High Road.” Some tracks are more punchy like “The Mall & Misery,” but for the most part Broken Bells songs are spaced-out, well crafted, and textured rock songs. Danger Mouse adds layers of synths and keys atop the haunting vocals of James Mercer.

The Monsters Of Folk are a 2010 version of a folk-rock supergroup. They are our generation’s Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Combine the breathtaking vocals of  Yim Yames aka Jim James from My Morning Jacket with the rootsy vocals of Conor Oberst and the talents of multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes; then mix in the vocalist and music maker M. Ward, the genius behind groups like She & Him and you’ve got one hell of a supergroup.

The show opened with the harmonizing vocalists singing “hold out your hands” and “Say Please.”  Although festival organizers should have put this top notch band on a bigger stage, they still managed to put together a wonderful set, including songs from the album Monsters Of Folk. The set included: “The Right Place,”Man Named Truth,” “Ahead of the Curve,”Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.),” “Slow Down Jo,” “The Sandman, The Brakeman And Me,” and “Baby Boomer.”

But the band also played songs from other projects including the Bright Eyes tunes “Soul Singer in a Session Band,” ‘Hit the Switch,” “At the Bottom of Everything,” and “Another Travelin’ Song.” They also played a wonderful version of the M. Ward song “Vincent O’Brien” and the My Morning Jacket tracks “Golden” alongside a fantastic take on “Smokin from Shootin.” Although the guys covered material from other projects they stayed true to their collaborative material playing Monsters of Folk originals like “Whole Lotta Losin’,” “Temazcal,” and “Map Of The World.” And they closed with the haunting “His Master’s Voice.”

Matt & Kim provided a nice interlude between Monsters of Folk and M.I.A. I liked how the duo interlaced their indie dance rock with dance tracks. At one point, I heard a rip-roaring dancehall cut from Diplo’s Major Lazer album Gunz Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do called “Pon De Floor.” Plus there was a nice cover of the Biz Markie favorite “Just A Friend.” Essentially Matt & Kim threw a party on their stage playing their own stuff like “Daylight” alongside other great samples and beats.

Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam aka M.I.A. is a performing artists. For this show, we got up close and danced our assess off. From the slamming “Galang” to the hardcore “World Town” M.I.A. brought anarchy to ACL. I heard lots of complaints about M.I.A. from people near the back, but up front the sounds and sights elicited a punk electronica atmosphere. Of course she played the megahitPaper Planes.”  And she concluded with the noisy “Born Free” from her new loud album Maya. Also, we caught the end of a solid Muse show. Luckily, the science fiction rockers played “Starlight.”

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Austin City Limits Music Festival 2010 – DAY TWO

Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas

Today I attended the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas. The location of the festival is a couple of blocks from the downtown square in Denton. This spot was originally an African-American neighborhood called Quakertown. Today Quakertown is a park where the people of Denton celebrate art and jazz music on the greens of the park and its surrounding facilities.

Denton has become a center of art, jazz culture, and music, especially since the University of North Texas’s music and art schools excel at honing the talents of countless musicians and artists. In fact the music and art schools are the crown jewels at the university. At the UNT showcase stage aspiring eagles played for large audiences, and many UNT talents appeared on the main jazz stage, such as the UNT Faculty Band and the UNT One O’Clock Lab Band.

Early in the day I saw Fortified Funk playing some classic jazz tunes from the Wes Montgomerycatalog. The trombonist in this band was laying it down. After eating some festival food I caught a portion of Island Boogie banging on steel drums. Then I crossed the festival bridge to see Dave Zoller leading his tribute band to Duke Ellington.  I got to admit this was a highlight in the festival for me because I enjoy swing music from the big band era. Plus this tribute band was full of top-notch musicians, including a horn section with trombone, coronet, saxophone, and trumpets.

Then I flipped the script and saw the local indie rock band Oso Closo at the Bud Light Courtyard Stage. This was a talented band. Both guitarists also played keys, displaying their versatility. The bassist sang, and so did the two guitarists. And all three vocalists sang together. The guitar work was good and the vocal harmonies very nice.

Later in the evening I saw contemporary jazz artist Tom Braxton. The saxophonist is a smooth jazz staple as seen in such songs as “Open Road.” The Dallas-based Braxton, actually from the Lubbock area, played several tracks from his album Endless Highway. I especially like his cover of the America song “Ventura Highway.”

The festival’s headliners Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton brought the house down with some Classic Blues. Barton has played music with Jimmie Vaughan for a long time. In fact she toured with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Jimmie played the SRV classic “Texas Flood.” Lou Ann Barton joined Jimmie Vaughan for some intensely soulful tunes and a rockin’ version of “Boom Bapa Boom.”

Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas