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.”

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2010 – DAY TWO

Willie Nelson at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, January 8, 2010

Willie Nelson at Billy Bob’s, Fort Worth, Texas January 2010

Willie struck the chord, that booming chord, that one that kicks off “Whiskey River” and then the Honky Tonk filled with Willie’s nasally voice “Whiskey River take my mind….” The old man still rocks. He is a kid at heart, a smiling little kid that loves to play music.  He’s got it! He’s got soul. Some think Willie is a country music singer. No not really. Willie is a soul singer and flamenco guitar picker. If Texas were its own country (which some Texans think it should be) Willie would be on the one dollar bill. The red-headed stranger may have grayed over the years, but he is still full of youth. The family band, Sister Bobbie on piano, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Paul the drummer, and the rest of the musicians, are in tip-top form providing that classic Willie sound.

As Willie broke into “Whiskey River” the crowd surged attempting to get a glimpse of the man himself. Old men with cowboy hats, long-haired hippies, young bandana-clad Willie hoochie mamas, bikers, and frat boys all gathered together to hear a Texan legend in Fort Worth. Willie played some of his greatest hits including “Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy,” “Night Life,” “On the Road Again,” “Always on my Mind,” “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” He also played some newer favorites like “Still Is Still Moving To Me” and “Beer for my Horses” and some old favorites like Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” and Hank Williams’s “Jambalaya on Bayou.”   And of course the band jammed out some gospel favorites, including “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “I Saw the Light.”

Below is a rough set list…

Set List: Whiskey River, Still Is Still Moving To Me, Beer for my Horses, Shoe Shine Man, Funny How Time Slips Away, Crazy, Night Life, Sister Bobbie Piano, Me and Paul, Superman, You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore, Good Hearted Woman, Georgia on my Mind, All of Me, Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground, On the Road Again, Always on My Mind, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, I’ll Fly Away, Willie Guitar Solo, Milkcow Blues, City of New Orleans, To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Jambalaya (On The Bayou), Move It Over, I Saw The Light

Willie Nelson at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, January 8, 2010

Reggae on the River 2009 – Reggae on the River in Humboldt County

I got to attend this year’s Reggae on the River Festival in Southern Humboldt County, California. The festival had a great local community feel and funds raised went to support the Mateel Community Center in Redway, California. The Eel River flowed through the picturesque venue located at Benbow State Recreational Area. Reggae on the River celebrated its 25th Anniversary in fine style. Positive vibrations flowed all day long. Soul Majestic played early in the day bringing their brand of soul-drenched reggae to the stage. The track “First Light” set the vibe and songs like “Rough N’ Tuff ” displayed the musical prowess of this young group. Soul Majestic also played the single “Better World,” which dovetails nicely with their positive vibe and eco-friendly message.

Queen Omega ignited the stage with soul, dancehall, and roots reggae. A native of Trinidad and Tobago Queen Omega sang “Love Ya Color,” “Judgement,” “Warning,” and “Ganja Baby” to an appreciative crowd.  The Roots Revealers bought Jamaican dancehall to northern California playing the songs “Long Road” and “No More Killing.”

The crowd-pleasing crown princess of roots reggae Etana turned it up a notch dropping the killer hits “Roots” and “Blessing.” The lovely songstress covered some Bob Marley and the Wailers tunes creating a wonderful vibe with the classic “One Drop.” Etana played some tracks from her newest hit album The Strong One performing “Jah Chariot” and “Don’t Forget,” and “Caltariba System.” And I was pleasantly surprised by Etana‘s cover of the Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down.” Etana finished her set singing “I Am Not Afraid,” which is from one of my favorite riddims: the “Rub-A-Dub” riddim.

The legendary vocal group from Jamaica The Abyssinians took the stage under the afternoon sun. Roots reggae filled the air with classic tunes like “Y Mas Gan,” “African Race,” “Let My Days Be Long,”  “Meditation,” and “Know Jah Today.” The Abyssinians took us to the Bible and the book of Daniel with “Abendigo,” turning the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendigo into a wonderful reggae and dub experience. And of course the reggae legends performed their megahits from the Satta Massagana album, including “Peculiar Number,” “Black Man’s Strain,” “Declaration Of Rights,” “Forward Unto Zion,” and “Satta Massagana.”

The Abyssinians at Reggae on the River 2009
The Abyssinians at Reggae on the River 2009
The Abyssinians Dancing at Reggae on the River 2009
The Abyssinians Dancing at Reggae on the River 2009

Tanya Stephens livened things up with a raunchy-rough riding performance that included plenty of references to “long ding dongs” with high-energy versions of “Boom Wuk” and “Good Ride.” The dancehall favorite “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet” set a playful vibe and then she played the killer singles “Can’t Breathe,” “It’s A Pity,” and “These Streets.” Stephens showed her soulful side too with songs like “What Ah Day” and “Little White Lie.” But it seemed Stephens dominated with the playful tunes like “Tek Him Back” and “To The Rescue.”

Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009
Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009
Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009, California
Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009, California

Then the Yellow Wall Dub Squad took the stage to warm it up for The Mighty Diamonds. The bassist sang the song “Overlaod” and then King David sang a reggae version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” The Mighty Diamonds entered the stage and played “Poor Marcus Garvey” and “Rise Up” from the album titled Rise Up. The roots reggae gems “Have Mercy,” “Right Time,” “Africa,” and “I Need A Roof” all made the set list. The “I Need A Roof” jam extended and transitioned into a cover of the Bob Marley‘s anthem “Get Up, Stand Up.” An extended version of “Pass The Kutchie” and a sweet version of the Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions tune “It’s All Rightt” capped off the set. Etana, The Abyssinians, Soul Majestic, Queen Omega, and The Mighty Diamonds then returned to the stage and all performed together for a finale. The all-star group of reggae performers sang the Bob Marley and the Wailers classic hit “One Love / People Get Ready.”

The Eel River at Reggae on the River 2009
The Eel River at Reggae on the River 2009
Dancin' Crowd at Reggae on the River 2009
Dancin' Crowd at Reggae on the River 2009

Reggae on the River 2009 – Reggae on the River in Humboldt County

BONNAROO MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL 2009

This year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival offered a fine mix of music from bluegrass to reggae to indie rock and jam bands to afro-pop and electronica music. The reggae musicians included Midnite, the Itals, and the Wailing Souls. I unfortunately missed Midnite on Thursday but I got to see amazing sets from the Itals and Wailing Souls. The Itals played roots reggae including songs like “In a Dis Ya Time.” And they played new cuts from the upcoming album Let Them Talk. The Wailing Souls played Saturday and dropped roots reggae classics like “Shark Attack ” alongside reggae covers of the Doors song “Love Her Madly” and the Grateful Dead classic “Casey Jones.” The Wailing Souls also played “War Down at the Pawn Shop” a track written by Sublime headman Bradley Nowell.

Phish played two shows. The first show on Friday night rocked with originals like “You Enjoy Myself” “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Wading In The Velvet Sea,” and “Chalk Dust Torture” and a cover of AC/DC‘s “Highway to Hell.” For an encore Phish covered the Beatles‘ “A Day in the Life.” The second show on Sunday night included a guest appearance by the Boss–Bruce Springsteen. The Boss and Phish played a brilliant extended version of “Mustang Sally.” Trey Anastasio and the Boss traded and then dueled guitar solos. It was an amazing show with a jammed out version of “Glory Days.”

Bruce Springsteen played his three hour show on Saturday Night with the amazing E-Street Band, which included Max Weinberg on drums. “Outlaw Pete,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Devils & Dust” among other favorites kept the crowd on its feet. The Boss is quite a performer and storyteller.

The Beastie Boys played an amazing and energetic set with favorites like “So What’Cha Want [Explicit],” “Sabotage,” “Shake Your Rump,” “Paul Revere,” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” on the set list alongside punk rock favorites “Gratitude [Explicit],” “Tough Guy,” “Egg Raid On Mojo [Explicit],” and “Heart Attack Man.” Instrumental Jams like “Sabrosa” laced the Hip Hop and Punk Rock tracks. The Beastie’s DJ Mixmaster Mike is more than a DJ. The man is an exquisite turntablist and musician. MCA, Mike D, and AD Rock still have it going on after all these years. Also rapper NAS performed with the Beastie Boys on a track coming soon on the new Beastie album.

Rodrigo y Gabriela, Santagold, Girl Talk, Brett Dennen, Amadou & Mariom, Booker T with the Drive-By Truckers, Gov’t Mule, Merle Haggard, the Decemberists, and Snoop Dogg all played notable sets. I caught Booker T and the DBTs (Drive By Truckers) playing “Green Onions” and Merle Haggard covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Jackson.” The Hag played his own hits too, singing “Mama Tried,” “Working Man Blues,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.”

Immediately after seeing Merle Haggard’s set I trucked to the main “What Stage” to see Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound. Snoop strolled through hits “Gin And Juice,” “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?,” “Ain’t No Fun.” The LBC rappers paid tribute to 2pac with “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” Snoop can still move the crowd. He even transitioned into Jamaican patois at one point sounding pretty good as a potential dancehall artist. Snoop needs to do a reggae album.  Merle Haggard and Snoop opening for Phish Sunday night seemed a perfect way to end this diverse mix of music.



BONNAROO MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL 2009