This September, The Head and the Heart kicked off their five-week headlining US tour in Austin anchored by an appearance at the Austin City Limits Festival.ACL is one of the largest US festivals alongside the rest of the “Big Four” including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. The Head and the Heart fit in four gigs in three days surrounding ACL, treating their stop in Austin much like SXSW by fitting in as many gigs as possible over a short amount of time.The first stop was at the new Moody’s Theater for a filming of the Austin City Limits television program amid a large and enthusiastic audience.Their episode is expected to air later this year.The next morning the band headed to Threadgills for a two-song set for KGSR 93.3/102.7 as part of their ACL morning broadcasts.Finally, the band closed out Saturday night with an official ACL After Party at Antone’s supported by The Moondoggies.The sold out show was “notably energetic” according to Billboard.Inspired by a performance by the Arcade Fire the band took in a few hours earlier, the band stepped it up for a “receptive and raucous crowd”.
Finally, the band headed to Zilker Park for their ACL Festival set early on Sunday afternoon.In front of a surprisingly large crowd especially for shortly after noon, The Head and the Head delivered a defining set equally exciting for fans and first-time listeners.Consequence of Sound called their set “a triumph on all fronts” and Sound Spike was impressed with their “whimsical pop style that channeled the Beatles at times and made for a perfect beginning to the festival’s final day of music”.The Head and the Heart’s run through Austin gave the band immediate momentum into their headlining tour which is already creating some major buzz in local outlets and markets on a daily basis.We’ve consolidated videos from three of The Head and the Heart’s gigs throughout Austin (no strong footage has arisen from Moody’s Theater) including a few pro-shot videos directly from ACL’s YouTube feed.Enjoy!
KGSR @ Threadgill’s: Down in the Valley, Lost in My Mind
ACL After Party @ Antone’s: Lost in My Mind, Rivers & Roads
ACL Fest @ Zilker Park: Lost in My Mind, Down in the Valley, Rivers & Roads, ‘Dancing with the Band’
Last day! Here are the streams for today, including two opportunities to catch one of “12” bands, The Head and the Heart. Also, be on the lookout for highlight performances from Yellow Ostrich, The Walkmen and Fleet Foxes, all of whom received top marks through our ACL preview coverage over the last two weeks.
Well, you either are going to catch Arcade Fire to close out ACL, or you’ll be heading home early. They are the only band playing unopposed as with every final headliner on ACL Sunday. I will vouch for the band if anyone is going back and forth between heading out early or staying for their gig. Arcade Fire are one of the best live bands playing anywhere right now, hands down. Their songs are strong, but it’s their live presence that has earned them their headliner status across festivals this summer. From the fist pumping anthems of “Rebellion” and “Wake Up” to more complex tracks coming from their recent Grammy-winning The Suburbs, Arcade Fire are the complete package and are truly worth battling the crowds for. Try to get up close; this is a band you experience instead of purely listen to. For anyone who doubts the band’s ability to close-out the festival as a big hitter, check out this triumphant performance from this year’s Coachella.
Nathan and I had a blast reviewing all of the ACL bands and hopefully we turned on some OEB readers to something new this year. We’ll be posting a summary of our recommendations this evening as a well as the best ways to experience ACL online if you can’t make it to Austin. For everyone attending, be safe and enjoy the shows! We’ll be posting reports both from the field and by following the live stream this weekend to keep you guys up-to-date with the latest happenings down in Austin.
Randy Newman: I’m sure there will be three distinct camps when it comes to Randy Newman at ACL: love it, hate it, or have no idea who Randy Newman is.Most probably know Newman from his film soundtracks, notably Toy Story and the five other Pixar movies that he’s scored.I’m sure there will be a few “Oh, that’s Randy Newman” at Zilker Park this year when someone starts humming “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”.All that aside, Newman is one of the strongest singer-songwriters of the last fifty years.A true legend, Newman has always thrown in a bit of humor into his matter-of-fact songwriting style, but his songs have so much depth to them for what can seemingly seem like a simple delivery.In fact, Newman has written some of the most important political songs in American music history.His set will be a musical history lesson and will surely bring the entertainment factor.It’s just such a weird booking for a big festival like ACL, which makes the draw even that more appealing.
Wish We Could Also See:
Empire of the Sun: I’m really surprised at the draw Empire of the Sun is pulling in this timeslot; they have grown a ton in popularity since the release of their debut LP Walking on a Dram in 2008. I’m a little late in the game as this is the first time I’ve really listened to the electronic duo.The first immediate comparison is MGMT, but Empire of the Sun has a more laid back vibe than the popular American electronic pop duo.Though they base their music on electronics, there is an organic feel whether it be an acoustic sample or a little less distortion on the vocals than you’d expect with their backbeats.The one downside for more seasoned Empire of the Sun fans is that their songs have been around for a while, slowing gaining recognition over the past three years.The band has recently announced they entered the studio earlier this summer, so don’t be surprised if they drop some new material at their sure-to-be-packed show at ACL.
Hayes Carll: I caught Carll at SXSW for the first time this year and was really moved by his subdued take on alt-country.He has build quite a bit of momentum in the last year, especially around his native Texas, off the release of his excellent fourth album KMAG YOYO in February.If you need a little breather before Arcade Fire, Carll would be an excellent stop in this tough-to-decide time slot.
Social Distortion: I guess Social Distortion fits in the “reunion bands” category even though the band has been touring on-and-off pretty consistently throughout their 30-plus (!!) year career.For anyone who knows nothing about the history of punk rock, Social Distortion is amongst the forefathers of the pop side of punk in the Eighties and Nineties.Live videos indicate Social Distortion still pus on an energetic show, so there’s not really a bad place to be during this time slot.
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes are one of the biggest folk groups in music.Their two full length albums are very different but both brilliant. Their Sun Giant EP , which was originally intended to be a tour only release was in such high demand the band released it officially in 08’, check out the single Mykanos to see why. All three albums are loved by critics and fans alike making Fleet Foxes one of the largest acts on the Sunday line up. Lead singer and principal songwriter Robin Pecknold writes near perfect songs but this is not a one man show; the band’s vocal harmonies are some of the best in contemporary popular music.
Wish We Could Also See:
We Are Augustines – We Are Augustines’ album ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’ hit me like a hammer, notably the track Juarez. Bill McCarthy has a n amazingly emotive voice and the band worked with producer Dave Newfeld, known for his work with Broken Social Scene, who challenged the guys to step out of their comfort zone musically helping elevate the album musically. The songs on the album deal with weighty issues, predominantly McCarthy’s mother and brother’s Schizophrenia and their early deaths. It’s McCarthy’s ability to create empathy in the listener for his experience with drugs and mental illness that separates this album from so many indie releases.
Manu Chao La Ventura-Manu Chao has been performing for years and this band can rip. Singing in French, Spanish, English, Italian, Galician, Arabic and Portuguese Manu Chao leads the high energy band with authority and puts on one hell of a show. The Spanish vibe to the bands music is the perfect set to give you a jolt of late afternoon energy.
Gomez -Independent English Indie rockers Gomez have found quite a bit of success in their native England but haven’t captured American audiences, yet. Their music is approachable and soundtrack ready. Check these guys out if you’re in the mood for relaxed alternative.
Jack Ingram – Good god, Ingram wins the prize for the cheesiest singer I’ve previewed for ACL. Like The Notebook’ his music is a ham fisted attempt to elicit emotion, mostly nostalgia. Remember friends, “wishin’ on stars only when you see em’,is like prayin’ to god only when ya’ need him”, kill me.
Elbow: This is an easy choice purely out of process of elimination in this time slot, but I’ve grown to dig Elbow a lot after really giving them a chance for the first time this year.They’ve been around for over twenty years„ but they’ve had a really nice slow burn of a career with their last two records being their strongest efforts by long shot.Their music has gotten deeper, more diverse with more consistent in terms songwriting.Though the band definitely isn’t scared to rock out a little bit, I like the band best with a mid-tempo or slow-paced edge.It’s dramatic, but subdued enough that it couldn’t be confused for a Coldplay or a Keane.Front man Guy Garvey has a really nice melodic range, recalling Peter Gabriel’s style at his best.Their latest, Build a Rocket Boys!, is as quiet as it is anthemic.Throw some subdued prog elements in the instrumentation and you’ve got something unique, interesting and emotive all at the same time.If you missed these guys for the past couple of years, now is the chance.I know I’m far from their first fan, but Elbow is one of my personal favorite new discoveries of this project.Goosebumps:
Jack Ingram: Jack is a pop country artist that has had some success on the Billboard Country chart in the last five years.I could see how this would work for that crowd, but Ingram’s music is what I imagine Kenny Chesney sounds like if I had any idea what Kenny Chesney sounds like.
Death From Above 1979: Part metal, part electronic rock and part punk, this band may be for some folks, but not me.Plus, I can’t get over the pretentiousness of a “reunion” tour after just releasing one album back in 2004, breaking up two years later and then scoring prime festival gigs throughout the country after seven years apart.Hopefully this doesn’t become a blueprint for bands that make a big splash with their first album…
Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene is one of the best bands to come out of the last decade, hands down.The revolving collective (BSS once included Emily Haines and Feist as regular band members) is anchored by songwriters Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning.Their sound is best described as anthemic, but it’s more of a subtle approach than a U2 or Coldplay.They range from fast-paced indie rock to slow acoustic ballads seamlessly, but there’s always that experimental edge. A dissonant harmony here, and fuzzy backdrop there, Broken Social Scene’s music is constantly interesting and engaging.They’ve become one of my favorite bands and I’ve somehow never seen them live, so I anticipate this will be one of my top sets of the weekend.Broken Social Scene has a great reputation as a live band with an excellent canon of songs to pull from.Since Forgiveness Rock Record came out over a year ago, I bet the band will open up their set to some deeper cuts this tour.A definite must-see.
Wish We Could Also See:
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses: At SXSW this year, Ryan Bingham caught me by surprise in a few different ways.At the Lost Highway 10 Year Anniversary Show, Bingham showed up as a surprise guest for a half-hour set.Now, I’ve never dug into Bingham’s music before that, but I did know and really enjoy has song “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart.Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses bring a much different vibe that the acoustic balladry of the Crazy Heart soundtrack.Leaning as heavily on rock than country, Bingham and his band are a group of musical badasses.Their music has such a strong drive and was incredibly engaging for catching Bingham’s take on alt-country.He’s a strong songwriting, taking inspiration from his whiskey-soaked forefathers to more modern rock elements.It’s ashamed they’re matched up at the same time as Broken Social Scene.I’d love to catch a full set after getting such a great taste at SXSW.
Joseph Arthur: Arthur has been around for about fifteen years, but he’s ridden on the fringes of the mainstream singer-songwriter camp his whole career.For me, I think his music turns a little too pop at times, but there are some really nice lyrical and melodic ideas throughout his songs.If you are in a sentimental mood on ACL Sunday, Joseph Arthur will prove to be a nice, contemplative set
Bomba Estereo: Bomba Estereo are a fusion band, combining traditional Colombian music with electronic dance elements.I’m not too much of a fan of the mix.I actually wish they went a little more in a traditional route or experimented more with the electronic elements.Bomba Estereo falls somewhere in between.I could see their live show being fun if you need to let your ya-ya’s out.
Pernikoff Brothers: Gentle acoustic duo with some nice harmonies.They seem and sound pretty young, so I’d recommend a wait-and-see approach.I could see their sound being a little overwhelmed by the vastness of ACL.