Austin City Limits Music Festival – October 8-10, 2010, Austin, TX

The 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival continued to make the three-day event’s case as one of the best festivals on the planet. It went off with nary a hitch, and in fact, this year’s edition may have had the festival’s best weather yet. There was no dust, no rain to turn Zilker Park into a giant mud pit (like last year) and the high temperature never reached 90. The sunny afternoons were still plenty hot, but the evenings were downright balmy. Some local fans bitched about the overall lineup when it was first announced, but there truly was something for everyone in the festival’s ever-eclectic lineup. The festival once again sold out well in advance, and again proved to be one of the best weekends of the year for any serious music fan.

The tasty local cuisine available at ACL is topped only by New Orleans’ Jazzfest (although unfortunately neither fest seems willing to bring in local beer), and the football tent returned to enable sports fans to get a fix in between music sets. There were only a handful of occasions where the crowd scene proved overly massive and hard to navigate. Overall, it was three days of near-utopian rock ‘n’ roll bliss. If the word “groovy” is overused in this review, it’s only because there were indeed so many such moments. The biggest problem was choosing between competing bands in a series of mind-bending conflicts: Silversun Pickups vs Broken Bells, Monsters of Folk vs LCD Soundsystem, Phish vs The Strokes, The Flaming Lips vs Band of Horses, and the terrible three-way Friday night dilemma of Sonic Youth vs Robert Randolph & the Family Band vs Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses. Cloning technology can’t arrive soon enough.

Friday, October 8

Charlie Mars, Austin Ventures Stage
Mississippi native and Austinite Charlie Mars was a perfectly scheduled troubadour to get things going in the noon hour. His 2009 Like a Bird, Like a Plane album hones in on a sensual groove type of sound, which proved popular with a decent size crowd turning out for so early in the day. Mars spent the set strumming an acoustic guitar over a tight rhythm section, while his keyboardist took leads in place of a lead guitar. “No Place Like Home” and “What Are You Looking For” both featured Mars delivering heartfelt vocals that drew the crowd in. A peak moment of the set was the album’s catchy single, “Listen to the Darkside.” The song features one of the year’s best lyric hooks by paying homage to Pink Floyd with the chorus, “If you wanna come over and get high, we can listen to the Dark Side of the Moon.” Another strong tune was “Meet Me by the Back Door,” featuring a syncopated groove that had the crowd dancing and some great B3 jamming from the keys. Mars and company definitely deliver a more rocking immediacy in the live setting then comes across on the album.

Ponderosa, BMI Stage
The smallest stage of the festival was also one of the most enjoyable. It offered a club-size intimacy, shaded refuge from the afternoon sun, and was never overcrowded due to the relatively unknown bands that were scheduled for it. But it’s here that one can discover some great rising talents. This Georgia-based quartet featured a bluesy, guitar-driven sound recalling classic rock influences like Humble Pie, Artful Dodger and the Black Crowes. The band’s last tune featured a “Smokestack Lightning” type of riff, but was pumped up into a harder rocking jam.

Those Darlins, Austin Ventures Stage
This upbeat Tennessee quartet featured a relatively unique mix of country punk and garage rock to create a fun vibe. Singer/guitarist Jessi Darlin’s gritty voice recalled Courtney Love at times in its ragged splendor, but with more of a country flavor. “Red Light Love” saw the band at its best on a fuzzy, melodic rocker about the combination of good love and good music.

Blues Traveler, AMD Stage
It seemed like a flashback to the mid-’90s when Blues Traveler drew a huge crowd to the festival’s second largest stage to really get ACL going. It’s been great to see the band able to persevere through the tragic death of original bassist Bobby Sheehan and the health problems of singer/harmonica ace John Popper, who is now fit and sounding great as ever. Underrated guitarist Chan Kinchla always keeps things groovy on his PRS guitar and his brother Tad fits right in on bass. A cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was a surprise crowd pleaser, followed shortly thereafter with the band’s 1994 hit “Run-Around.” But the clear peak of the set – and one of the top highlights of the entire weekend – occurred when the band welcomed 15-year-old violinist Ruby Jane to sit in on “Mulling It Over.” Jane, who would play her own set on Sunday morning, proved to be a dynamic prodigy. She immediately accented the hard rocking tune in tasteful fashion, before teaming with Popper for a superb violin-harmonica duel that won the weekend’s first huge cheer.

The Kicks, BMI Stage
New arrivals to Zilker Park were still pouring through the main gates as these Nashville rockers hit the stage. “Celia” placed bluesy riffs over a mellower groove, with some melodic southern flavor that recalled Creedence Clearwater Revival. Lead guitarist Adam Stark ripped off hot licks throughout the set and singer/guitarist Jordan Phillips showed a wide range, singing everything from sensitive ballads to catchy pop tunes and crunchy rock rave-ups like “Hawk Eyes.”

Kings Go Forth, Clear 4G Stage
This Wisconsin-based funk and soul outfit was kicking down a high-energy sound that recalled Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, but perhaps with a more rocking edge. The band has a similar R&B foundation, but throws in a variety of ’70s funk, rock and disco flavors. The tent was packed with people getting down to the highly danceable sounds of the 10-piece lineup. Singers Black Wolf and Danny Fernandez exuded a strong charisma, while congas and horns accented the music’s ever-funky flavor.

Angus & Julia Stone, Austin Ventures Stage
I was on my way to check out the Black Keys when my ear was drawn back to this stage by a deep groove that sounded reminiscent of “All Along the Watchtower.” Angus Stone was on acoustic guitar, Julia was on electric and there was some clear chemistry in the air from the Australian siblings. The crowd kept growing as other passersby were drawn in as well. The band’s online material has a decidedly mellow acoustic vibe, but here in the live setting it became apparent that this was a rock ‘n’ roll band.

A powerful instrumental jam on Neil Young’s “Down by the River” hit all the right notes, with Julia laying down some strong harmonica work. The band also had a female violinist, which led to the second great harmonica/violin jam of the day. Julia then made a big impression on the rocking last tune by knocking out a dynamic lead vocal that recalled the pitch and power of Tori Amos. Check out her chilling version of Olivia Newton John’s “You’re the One That I Want” on the band’s MySpace page.

The Black Keys, AMD Stage
The Akron, Ohio-based blues rock duo hit the stage at 4 pm in front of a massive crowd that made it tough for anyone arriving late to get close enough to enjoy. There were so many people camped out in their lawn chairs that the entire area became quite difficult to navigate. The Black Keys are clearly surging in popularity – they played to about 10,000 fans at the 2008 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, but this crowd was at least three times as large. I finally gave up and decided I’d rather check out the next band on the intimate BMI stage.

ACL Black Keys

The Ettes, BMI Stage
Another band out of Nashville, the Ettes had a big fuzzy sound mixing blues, big beat and punk with dynamic vocals from singer Coco Motion. The band clearly shares some influences with the Black Keys, but was also mixing in a ’60s British Invasion flavor and a garage rock/punk edge. Coco’s vocals were diverse. One song recalled the riot-grrl grunge vibe of L7’s Donita Sparks, another brought to mind the Ramones, while others had more of a ’60s pop flavor. Watching the Ettes up close with just two or three-hundred people was far more enjoyable than trying to hear the Black Keys from afar.

The Sword, ZYNC Card Stage
Austin’s own metal masters owned the 5 pm hour with a blistering set that delivered one tight, powerful tune after another. The band blends Black Sabbath with Metallica in impressive fashion, while also throwing in some other ’70s classic rock influences to cook up their own metal stew. The band has opened for Metallica and are indeed most worthy. “Tres Brujas” from their stellar new album Warp Riders was a great example of the band’s ability to mix a metal edge with a classic rock flavor. Lead guitarist Kyle Shutt and singer/guitarist J.D. Cronise ripped smoking hot riffs over the heavy rhythm from bassist Bryan Richie and drummer Trivett Wingo.

The new “Night City” was another highlight, starting off with Iron Maiden-style twin guitar licks before moving into a Thin Lizzy-style groove where Cronise sounded uncannily like late, great Lizzy frontman Phil Lynot. The Sword drew a good sized crowd overall, but the gathering was lacking in the true headbangers that had come out for the band’s recent free show in the parking lot of Austin’s Waterloo Records. One fan did achieve a bit of crowd surfing at the end, though. One gal who seemed partied out already was actually attempting to take a nap during this set, which was truly mind-boggling. Another stunning development occurred a few days after the festival when drummer Wingo announced he was quitting the band. Look for the Sword to carry on soon though, because this metal train has got too much momentum to stop now.

Nortech Colletive Presents: Bostich + Fussible, Clear 4G Stage
The 6 pm hour was a popular time to visit the Austin Eats Food Court, where all manner of tacos were amongst the diverse fare. Torchy’s Tacos took the prize for the second straight year in providing the best value and quickest service. Another bonus was being able to eat at picnic tables in easy earshot of the dance party being delivered by Bostich + Fussible, a duo from the Tijuana electronic music scene. The duo threw down a high-energy set that featured a unique blend of Norteno music with techno. The mix of hard dance beats with traditional sounds from Mexico made for a groovy vibe. The music flowed from funky jams with horns to jazzier sounds that also incorporated some of the classic Norteno accordian sound.

Sonic Youth, Honda Stage
The 7 pm hour featured the terrible dilemma of alt-rock pioneers Sonic Youth versus pedal steel guitar sensation Robert Randolph versus rising Texas buzz band Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses (not to mention Vampire Weekend.) Unable to clone myself yet in 2010, I determined to catch the beginning of Sonic Youth’s set since they started 15 minutes earlier. Kim Gordon started out on just vocals for the opening tune, bringing a hard-edged punk vibe to the proceedings before picking up her bass. Thurston Moore sang the second tune, leading the band through a tighter rock number. A gloriously distorted jam had a great grunge flavor before devolving into an overly dissonant sound, although the big groove remained. Gordon rocked the mic again on a song where the guitar riffs were reminiscent of the verses from Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy,” which sounded awesome.

Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, Austin Ventures Stage
Bingham and his band drew a big crowd and rightfully so. His grittily soulful voice makes me think of a comment I once heard about Susan Tedeschi, which was that her voice was like butter on the biscuit of the listener’s soul. Bingham’s blend of rock, Americana, country and folk has been the freshest sound to come out of the Texas blues scene in recent years, making this a great homecoming for the band. “Wandering” was a perfect opener, with Bingham’s amiable voice setting the tone over a mid-tempo groove. The bluesy “Strange Feelin’ in the Air” featured some nice slide guitar, but was a bit subdued for such a big crowd at this point in the evening.

The band bounced back with “Depression,” an uplifting rocker about transcending the terrible economy that plagues this foul era in America. Leave it to a rocker to be the one who tells the truth about the real conditions in this country. Austinites looking for work know that calling the current downturn a mere “recession” is a big red herring. When you’ve got over 100 people applying for a part-time administrative job with the Texas Civil Rights Project and over 200 applying for a web content coordinator job with Austin’s Ticketcity.com, those are signs of a depression with a capital D. Bingham’s “Depression” is one of the best songs of the year and was a major highlight here. “Bluebird,” the most psychedelic song in the band’s repertoire, was another treat. The trippy chord progression brings to mind both the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and Ace Frehley’s “Fractured Mirror.” It was another transcendent tune with a big bluesy jam that sounded great in the evening twilight.

Phish, Budweiser Stage
The jam kings from Vermont hadn’t played a full show in Texas since 1999, so this was a long overdue visit to the live music capital of the world. Every Phish fan in Texas was psyched for this festival headlining performance. The band opened with their anthemic rocker “Down With Disease” – the same tune that kicked off their seven-and-a-half hour new millennium set at the Big Cypress Indian Reservation in th Everglades on December 31, 1999 – and proceeded to throw down a two-hour set of fan favorites that never waned in energy. There were no extended monster jams, although the band’s seminal “You Enjoy Myself” clocked in at 19:39 to close the set, while a soaring cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” received 10 minutes of superb rocking.

ACL Phish

This set was the band’s fall tour opener, as well as taking place in front of a crowd where many were seeing the band for the first time. It therefore was not surprising to see the quartet play a more streamlined set, rather than pushing the exploratory boundaries. But the song selection was superb and the playing was tight and crisp. Guitarist Trey Anastasio ripped melty hot leads all night and never flubbed a note, bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman were totally locked in and “chairman of the boards” Page McConnell elevated every tune higher. Gordon’s funky low end had everyone grooving out during the the Talking Heads’ “Cities” and Phish’s own space funk classic “Wolfman’s Brother.” The band’s uniquely groovy cover of Deodato’s 1974 version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known by fans as “2001”) was a truly cosmic dance party. New material also shined, with Anastasio’s nimble melodic riffs driving “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “Light” from the band’s 2009 album Joy. The second encore of the instrumental “First Tube” pumped the energy off the charts with a galactic cowboys riding off into the sunset vibe that left the masses elated. I spoke with numerous people over next two days who said they’d never seen Phish before and were blown away by how great their set was. Now if only they’ll come back to Austin sooner than 2021.

Saturday, October 9

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, AMD Stage
The time of day that a band plays at ACL doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality. One of the best sets of the day occurred here in the 12:30-1:30 pm slot as Vermont rock goddess Grace Potter and her killer band got things off to a hot start on this steamy and sunny afternoon. The band focused on their strong new album, which veers from blues rock to reggae to pop to full-on jamming. “Only Love” was an early highlight, with a rocking staccato riff from guitarist Scott Tournet that Potter rocked out over. Potter was a whirlwind of energy, moving back and forth between keyboards and guitar and dancing up a storm in a sexy gold-sequined minidress. “Goodbye Kiss” cooled things off a bit with a easy-going reggae-tinged groove and sweet slide guitar from Tournet. The melodic pop rock of “One Short Night” was another highlight, as the band layered three guitars over the catchy groove.

The highlight of the set was lead single “Tiny Light,” which features some of Potter’s best lyrics and most emotive vocals over a bluesy groove that grows into a monster jam thanks to bassist Catherine Popper and drummer Matt Burr. The first big cheer of the day occurred after the crescendo of Tournet’s smoking guitar solo over this powerful groove. The band’s now seemingly obligatory yet still electrifying cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” won more cheers. The band kept the energy surging with the fiery “Paris (Ooh La La),” which had the crowd dancing along with Potter and singing out the refrain. It’s not hard to imagine Potter & the Nocturnals playing the same stage much later in the day at a future ACL.

Rock Island Hideway
This was where the football tent was, not to mention the only draft beer in the park. Big Ten fans hit the jackpot with the early games, as Ohio State-Indiana and Wisconsin-Minnesota were the two games on. But Wolverine and Spartan fans hoping to see the battle of Michigan in the afternoon were out of luck as more regional action took precedence with the Alabama-South Carolina and Texas A&M-Arkansas games. There were either a lot of Gamecocks fans on hand, or a lot of anti-Alabama fans (probably a combination of both.) The crowd was way into the Gamecocks’ upset victory over the Crimson Tide.

The Dough Rollers, Clear 4G Stage
This alleged trio sounded intriguing since it was to feature vocalist/mandolin player Malcom Ford (son of actor Harrison Ford), guitarist/vocalist Jack Byrne (son of actors Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin) and a female fiddler/vocalist in Julia Tepper. But Tepper was nowhere to be seen when the set started, and the gravelly ragtimey vocals from the male duo sounded utterly awful. This was the only time during the weekend when a band was just so bad that I was immediately inspired to seek greener pastures. Thankfully, this was not hard to do.

The Jane Shermans, BMI Stage
It was a short jaunt over to the continually fulfilling BMI stage where a very pleasant surprise awaited with this indie-rock power trio. Singer/bassist Eulene Sherman out of New York City had a captivating presence with vocals that alternated between tough and tender. Her bass playing is relatively simplistic, but the grooves were catchy and rocking. Guitarist Angelo Petraglia clearly has an eye for talent, having previously co-written and produced the debut album from Kings of Leon. He seemed to revel in the role of backing the dynamic Sherman. Drummer Joshua Moore was also rock solid. “I Walk Alone” featured lots of sonic space around Sherman’s bluesy bass line, which gave her vocals room to stand out. “Young Hungry” was one of the highlights of the day, an up-beat power-pop gem with the band displaying influences like Blondie, the Pretenders and perhaps Missing Persons. But Sherman was clearly staking out a bright future as a star of her own.

Beats Antique, Clear 4G Stage
This Oakland-based electronica/down-tempo/glitch groove trio brought one of the freshest sounds of the year and the buzz has clearly been getting out, because the Clear 4G area was totally jammed. The band should definitely have been playing on a larger stage. They rocked San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival in August and did the same here, throwing down a boisterous dance party with polyrhythmic beats and Eastern melodic flavors that had the amped-up crowd getting down (even though there wasn’t much in the way of elbow room.) One fan near the front of stage waved a huge state of California flag throughout the set to bring some extra West Coast flavor. The band’s official ACL aftershow party at Momo’s was also reported to be a barnburner, with both John Popper and Karl Denson sitting in. There was another tough choice here, as the second half of Beats Antique’s set overlapped with the first half of the set from the Silversun Pickups. But it was so crowded here that it wasn’t hard to decide to move on.

Silversun Pickups, Budweiser Stage
The Southern California neo-grunge rockers drew a sizable crowd to the main stage, but it wasn’t a clusterfuck like the Black Keys set in the similar time slot the previous day. “There’s No Secrets This Year” was an early highlight with its big Smashing Pumpkins-type vibe. Guitarist Brian Aubert was bringing a great fuzzy guitar sound, while drummer Christopher Guanlo was just killing it for the entire set. The end of the tune brought a huge cheer from a crowd that was ready to rock. Aubert commented on how the band had played ACL two years ago in a dust bowl situation that conjured visions of an apocalyptic sci-fi flick, and then praised the beautiful weather that had graced this year’s fest. “Future Foe Scenarios” displayed more of the band’s dynamic abilities, starting off quiet before slowly building into a strong groove. “Kissing Families” was a major highlight, with bassist Nikki Monninger contributing some vocals to the dark but beautifully layered psychedelic sound that had the hipster girls in the crowd grooving out.

Aubert announced that this was the final show of the band’s tour and that they really didn’t know what they were going to do with themselves when they got back home. He said he would be going to see the XX (who were playing next on the Zync stage) and then dancing to LCD Soundsystem (who would follow on the Budweiser stage.) The band then closed out their set in high-energy fashion with the sonic barrage of “Panic Switch” and their breakthrough hit “Lazy Eye.” The latter had the crowd clapping in unison at the beginning and and then dancing up a storm over the gloriously triumphant alt-rock gem.

A brief trip to media tent happy hour was in order next, as beer and wine were the only alcoholic beverages available inside the festival. But the world needs to know about the heavenly combination of Tito’s Handmade Vodka (in Austin) with Sweet Leaf’s original sweet tea (also made in Austin.) Definitely hits the spot on a warm, sunny day…

Monsters of Folk, Austin Ventures Stage
The folk supergroup featuring Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis drew a huge crowd here that was another tough situation to navigate due to all the lawn chairs. There was also some sonic trouble with bleed coming from Kinky’s lively set at the nearby Clear 4G stage. But catching some of this set was a must. Oberst delivered one of the weekend’s best songs with “Man Named Truth,” a bluesy acoustic tune with a haunting but still up-tempo rocking quality. The band shifted gears 180 degrees as James starred on My Morning Jacket’s mellow but beautiful “Golden.” But it was on softer numbers like this that the bleed problem with Kinky became occasionally distracting. Oberst starred again on “Ahead of the Curve,” another great acoustic-oriented tune with a cathartically bluesy quality and some gorgeous pedal steel guitar. I wanted to see more, but the conditions were far from ideal and friends were texting me to join them at the main stage.

LCD Soundsystem, Budweiser Stage
There was a massive crowd forming now, probably partly due to fans camping out to get a good spot for Muse’s headlining set, but also because LCD Soundsystem has been building a large buzz. It would be very tough to find your friends in a crowd this size if they weren’t near a recognizable landmark. But my compadres had fortunately camped out near two inflatable green aliens on a flag pole that were easy to track down. It didn’t take long to see why the Austin hipster crowd was out in force for this set, as ringleader James Murphy was conducting a big-time dance party. The mix of electronic flavor with a full band made for some intoxicating grooves. “You Wanted a Hit” built in slow but steady fashion, with guitars and trippy electronic effects accenting the basic groove in skillful fashion. “Yeah” saw Murphy delivering some boisterous vocals on a super funky groove that sounded kind of like the Talking Heads in a ’70s disco. “Home,” from the band’s newest album, was another of the weekend’s top highlights. The band conjured an ecstatic psyche-groove with lots of bells and whistles that had the entire crowd getting down while a large disco ball spun some more magical ambience into the evening air.

Deadmau5, Zync Card Stage
This was the dinner hour for many, but the Zync stage was right in between the Budweiser stage and the food court so you couldn’t get there without going by and hearing some of the sounds that were going on here. It was good placement, because the electro-house dance sound from DJ Deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) was a perfect follow-up to LCD Soundsystem. There was a sizeable crowd near the stage, but even just hearing from a distance while walking from point A to point B made an impression. Some of the beats were a bit repetitive, but there were so many trippy/groovy sounds swirling around that you felt like the whole park was just one big dance club.

Muse, Budweiser Stage
The main event was simply epic as the British alt-prog power trio continued their triumphant 2010 tour with a return to Austin for this headlining appearance (the band had wowed about 2,000 lucky fans at Stubbs BBQ during SXSW as the semi-secret Friday night headliner in March.) This set was very similar, but had perhaps even more grandeur with at least 40,000 in the crowd. The “Uprising” opener set a dramatic and powerful tone for the evening. Singer/guitarist Matthew Bellamy was in fine rock star form, wearing a silver sparkle mirror suit and electric blue shades. But there’s few rock stars these days who sing about fighting the power like Muse does in tunes like “Uprising.” The big electro groove of “Supermassive Black Hole” featured some of Bellamy’s Freddie Mercury-style vocals and kept the energy building in a big way. And then the band kicked their awesome laser show into action on “New Born” to create a true arena rock-style spectacle.

Bellamy dazzled throughout the night, displaying some of the widest skills of any frontman in rock. One ballad featured him on piano with a John Lennon “Imagine” type of vibe, appropo since this day would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday. Bellamy also played an awesome-looking neon keytar on several tunes, including the electrifying “Resistance.” Bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard starred here as well, and probably the most powerful rhythm section of the festival. “Hysteria” was another stellar moment where Bellamy’s guitar prowess was on display with a big rocking jam that featured a tight change into a furiously crowd-pleasing jam on the outro section of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” followed by a brief jam on “The House of the Rising Sun.” The band wrapped it up in grand style with their epic prog-rocker “Knights of Cydonia” to send the crowd off into the Austin night totally sated.

ACL Muse

Unofficial ACL aftershow – School of Seven Bells @ The Mohawk
This show at the Mohawk was not one of the official ACL aftershow parties. But Brooklyn’s School of Seven Bells were one of the top pleasant surprise discoveries of the 2009 ACL Festival, when they rocked a glorious early Friday afternoon set on the main stage. They hadn’t returned to Austin since, so it seemed appropriate to have them back now, especially considering how their sophomore release Disconnect from Desire is easily one of the best albums of 2010. And since it was an under the radar show, the club was not packed. This made for a very enjoyable set at Mohawk’s balmy outdoor stage.

Something was amiss, though. When the band took the stage at 11 pm, guitarist Benjamin Curtis and drummer Shigeto (aka Zach Saginaw) were accompanied by only one Deheza sister. No one knew why, but Claudia was MIA. This meant no siren harmonies, a key element of the band’s sound. But Ally Deheza and the boys rose to the occasion and showed how strong they can still be as a trio. The band’s intoxicating blend of dream pop and electronic rock still sounded great, especially with Shigeto’s drumming. Shigeto is apparently a Japanese word that means to grow bigger, and the tight and powerful drumming here helped give the songs an extra kick. The majestic “Babelonia” was one of the beneficiaries, with the song taking on an extra rock power thanks to the hard-hitting drumming. “Dust Devil” was also a gem, with a big electro-synth groove and crisp rocking beat setting up Deheza to shine with her heavenly vocals. “Bye Bye Bye” was another tune from the new album that took on a heavier quality with Shigeto rocking the skins. The album’s infectious lead single, “Windstorm,” was yet another peak that had the crowd dancing in bliss. The set was only an hour long unfortunately, probably reduced out of necessity by Claudia’s absence.

A few days after the festival, it was announced that Claudia Deheza had left the band for personal reasons. But Ally Deheza demonstrated without doubt that she is more than capable of fronting the band on her own, so hopefully she keeps it moving full-speed ahead. They should definitely try to sign Shigeto on as a permanent member though, as the guy’s drumming is flat out sensational and fits the band’s sound so well.

Sunday, October 10

Dawes, Austin Ventures Stage
Sunday is always the hardest day to get out of bed at a decent hour for a three-day festival, and ACL’s Sunday lineup was easily the weakest of the weekend. But there were still plenty more good times to be had. Dawes was another band that had played Outside Lands two months earlier, and their rootsy laid-back vibe was a good fit for a Sunday afternoon. The yearning “When My Time Comes” featured a bouncy bass line and nice piano work on a tune that sounded sort of like a blend between Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, the Avett Brothers and the Hold Steady. The band’s raw sound and strong harmonies were a hit with the early Sunday crowd.

The Constellations, Austin Ventures Stage
This eight-person group out of Atlanta got the party started with their rocking blend of indie-pop, “ghettotech” and psychedelia. “Alright, let’s get this thing going man,” said front man Elijah Jones at the beginning. The energetic ringleader was clearly ready to throw down. Bassist Wes Hoffman looked sort of like Disco Stu from “The Simpsons,” while Alaina Terry and Shab Bashiri provided dynamic backing vocals while also serving as sort of rock ‘n’ roll cheerleaders. “Setback” shined with a big psychedelic groove that brought the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” to mind, before the band shifted into ghettotech mode to twist the groove in a new direction. Another tune had a funky sound that brought Cake to mind, but the Constellations were very good at mixing in a variety of sounds to create their own vibe. A super funky cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” lit up the afternoon and had the whole crowd getting down (although it wasn’t quite as good as Ween’s rendition of the song at Stubbs BBQ in August.)

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Clear 4G Stage
The Clear 4G area was once again totally jammed in the 4 pm hour for the festive and funky sounds of one of New Orleans’ finest musicians. This stage area really needs to be expanded, as it was a major crowd scene for much of the weekend. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and company brought a high-energy dance party that veered back and forth from funk to soul, rock, hip-hop, jazz and back. The band’s rocking acid jazz sound made it feel like Galactic or Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was onstage at times, with hot lead guitar and slamming beats. A cover of the Allen Toussaint classic “On Your Way Down” was a big highlight, with Andrews and his mates building up the bluesy groove and jamming it out big time.

The Henry Clay People, BMI Stage
LA’s Henry Clay People rode in on a buzz from their great new album, Somewhere on the Golden Coast. The band’s indie-alternative vibe may recall artists like Pavement, Neil Young or the Hold Steady for some, but it’s a fresh flavor with its ragged but bright guitar sound and the endearing vocals of singer/guitarist Joey Siara. “End of an Empire” was a vibrant rocker, with brother Andy Siara providing sweet bluesy slide licks on lead guitar and some jamming piano from Jordan Hudock. The raucously catchy “Switch Kids” was one of the best songs of the day, with fans of all ages rocking out, including an adorable young girl with pink-streaked hair who couldn’t have been older than six. Joey Siara then told of how drummer Eric Scott had reluctantly quit the band two years ago to hold down a good-paying job, but had recently been laid off which enabled him to return to the band. “So here’s to getting laid off,” said Siara, who then raised his beer for “a toast to Austin for being one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll cities in the USA.” The band kept it rocking with “Working Part Time,” one of the great zeitgeist rockers of 2010, before closing their set with a raucously triumphant cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

A quick stop back at media tent happy hour conjured another great new cocktail, which was Red Stag black cherry bourbon whiskey from Jim Beam mixed with Sweet Leaf’s original sweet tea. It was oh so tasty, leading this reporter to go out and purchase a bottle later in the week to bring back the ACL vibe.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Zync Card Stage
The buzz is definitely out on this band as there was a massive crowd gathered here in the 5 pm hour. The band’s eclectic sound recalls Arcade Fire to a certain extent, but there’s also some early ’70s folk rock vibes and some jazzy flavor from the horns. The band’s big hit “Home” had the festival getting quite festive indeed, with a celebratory vibe that was clearly contagious. Everyone was clapping and/or dancing, which led singer Alex Ebert to dive into the audience for some crowd surfing. The song also featured a triumphant trumpet solo. The band followed up with one more song, during which time the back part of the crowd started to part like the Red Sea, as thousands decided to start making their way to either the Flaming Lips or Band of Horses.

The Flaming Lips, AMD Stage
I’d caught Band of Horses at Jazzfest, but hadn’t seen the Flaming Lips in a while so this had to be the call. I also would have liked to seen some of Switchfoot, but there was no doubt that this was where the party was going to be. There was another massive crowd here, but it was possible to navigate by moving up the far left side by the merchandise stand. It’s hard to believe that this kind of deliciously freaky, experimental psychedelia comes from Oklahoma, but it just goes to show that people shouldn’t necessarily be judged by where they’re from. Singer and ringmaster Wayne Coyne started the set off in his gerbil ball as usual, getting the crowd involved from the start. The band also kept tradition going by having fans onstage as a hype team for the entire set, this time dressed in bright orange costumes/uniforms. One early highlight song had a heavy psychedelic vibe that recalled Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” It was soon thereafter that Coyne was riding the shoulders of someone in a gorilla suit during “Silver Trembling Hand,” which rocked with a fantastically fuzzy psyche-groove. “She Don’t Use Jelly” led to a big crowd singalong, with a large Gumby also being waved in the air (probably the same Gumby that was rocking out during Phish’s set on Friday night.)

ACL Flaming Lips

“This is the most beautiful night Austin has had all year,” proclaimed Coyne to a huge cheer. It was probably true, what with Austin’s brutal summer heat finally having faded. Coyne went on to encourage the crowd to realize that ACL is such a great festival that you’ll live your life better for the entire next year, and not to forget this. He then led the crowd in some animated call and response based on animal sounds. “I know a lot of you are tired, you took drugs all night, maybe you’re stoned, you’re saying, ‘What the fuck, Wayne,’” said Coyne in understanding of the sublime nature of the situation. His wolf howl received the biggest response, along with some good monkey hoots on the second try. “The Ego’s Last Stand” was a peak moment with its hard rocking groove and majestic Pink Floyd-style psychedelic jam, followed by a big finish with the band’s ubiquitous classic “Do You Realize.”

T Bird and the Breaks, BMI Stage
ACL was in the homestretch now, and the BMI stage rocked one more time with the most soulful and funky local band in Austin. The band’s funk power is so strong that they’ve opened some shows for Galactic, and they had a great little party going on here for another 20 minutes after the Flaming Lips’ set. It was another set of family fun at the freewheeling BMI stage – two parents and their three young kids were totally getting down as dynamic frontman T Bird (aka Tim Crane) riled up the audience with some James Brown-style vocals and showmanship. The band’s horn section and female backing vocalists/dancers always keep it festive, and so it was here.

The Eagles, Budweiser Stage
There was a certain contingent in the rock ‘n’ roll crowd that was not pleased with the Eagles being the festival’s closing night headliner, and some of these folks even left the festival beforehand. It certainly could have been viewed as a bit anti-climactic if compared to last year when Pearl Jam closed out the festival. But after epic headlining sets from Phish and Muse, it was hard to complain here. Those in the know (anyone who’s seen the Eagles since their 1994 tour) knew that at least the Joe Walsh tunes would be worth sticking around for. There weren’t many who left though, as there was still quite a throng gathered.

“Hotel California” was an early highlight, boosted by a cool trumpet intro. Joe Walsh then won the first big cheer of the set with his classic guitar solo. Walsh would prove to be the Eagles’ MVP, for there is quite simply no way the band could be a festival headliner without the rock power that he delivers in both his guitar playing and his classic tunes like “Walk Away,” “In the City,” “Life’s Been Good” and “Funk #49,” which were the top highlights of the set from the rock ‘n’ roll perspective. When Don Henley introduced the band, it was Walsh who was named last, with Henley saying Walsh was a man “who needs no introduction. He never met a man he didn’t like, or a hotel room he couldn’t wreck.” The band then proceed to rock “Life’s Been Good,” much to the delight of all.

ACL Eagles

Henley’s “Boys of Summer” also sounded great on such a warm balmy evening, as did his “Dirty Laundry,” which was nicely placed after “Life’s Been Good” to keep the energy high. The video screens featured tabloid magazine covers to match the cutting lyrics, with a great guitar solo from Glenn Frey framed in a People magazine cover and another tabloid headline that read “Monkey Sues Joe Walsh.” “Funk 49” was the jam of the set, amplified further by the killer horn section, which Walsh conducted during the song at one point. “Life in the Fast Lane” closed the set in triumphant classic rock style, before a “Take It Easy”/”Desperado” encore closed out ACL 2010.

The Eagles – 10/10/10 Set list:
Seven Bridges Road
How Long
Take It To The Limit
Hotel California
Peaceful Easy Feeling
I Can’t Tell You Why
Witchy Woman
Lyin’ Eyes
Long Road Out Of Eden
Walk Away
Boys of Summer
In The City
The Long Run
Life’s Been Good
Dirty Laundry
Funk #49
Heartache Tonight
Life In The Fast Lane

Encore
Take It Easy
Desperado

  

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