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

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 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


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Me, Myself, and iPod 6/30/10: Katy Perry’s giant breasts finally put to good use

esd ipod

With the long weekend ahead, we have an extra-long list of songs for you to play at your next party/intervention/funeral. Mostly party. And we start by shamelessly using the success of the biggest phony in pop music in order to drive some extra traffic to the site. Given the way she’s made us suffer, she owes us this, at the very least.

Katy Perry – California Gurls (Hyper Crush Remix)
I was willing to give Ms. Everybody Look at Me Why Isn’t Everyone Looking at Me Come On I Have Big Tits Please For God’s Sake Look at Me the benefit of the doubt when EW claimed this was the song of the summer, but I’m sorry, I’m still not convinced. She bends over backwards to be lyrically controversial because she knows that if she doesn’t, everyone will realize how utterly ordinary her songs really are. This one is no exception. Um, I mean, come on and download this killer remix of the summer’s best song by Hype Machine regulars Hyper Crush! Katy RULZ! \nn/

Ugh, that hurt.

The Henry Clay People – Your Famous Friends
It’s like Wilco, back when they used to have fun. Actually, I’m not sure Wilco ever made a record this fun.

Apples in Stereo – Hey Elevator
I’m loving the ELO renaissance that’s sprouting among the indie poppers. First this, and the Silver Seas give them a nice name check (with matching string riff) in their song “What’s the Drawback.” Any fan of Jeff Lynne should check out the Apples’ new one, Travellers in Space and Time. ‘sGood.

Violens – Acid Reign
This is a tune I’ve wanted to share for a while, but only recently got the green light to do so. This is right in my alt-rock-dance wheelhouse, with a driving rhythm section and vaguely Manchester-ish sound. There’s a bit too much swearing (nothing will turn you into a prude faster than having children), but it’s a damn good track. Looking forward to the full-length album Amoral, due in October.

Trances Arc – Boom City
You mean there are white people in Atlanta making music, too? Can’t say I’m crazy about their band name, but I like the Airborne Toxic Event-style slow build-and-explode that the song possesses, and minus the melodrama, to boot.

Steel Train – Bullets
Gotta say, this band is carving out quite a unique niche for themselves. Scarlett Johannson has covered them. They have an undeniable reach-for-the-rafters grandeur to them. And then sometimes, they want to be MGMT. Not on this song (that would be “Turnpike Ghost”), but still, for a band with such an unrevealing name, they’re quite versatile.

Jukebox the Ghost – Empire
Good to see this band back after their impressive debut a couple years ago. This song, from their upcoming album Everything Under the Sun, is a bit more mannered than their debut, but it’s no less catchy. Think Ben Folds, back when he allowed himself to have fun.

Halsted – Walking Shoes
Their name matches a Chicago street I used to live near, so I was predetermined to like these guys before I heard them. But then when I discovered that they play smoothed out guitar pop, well, that’s when they had me.

Isaac Russell – Lighthouse
The love child of Jakob Dylan and Jason Mraz? Sure, that’ll work.

Carl Broemel – Heaven Knows
Taking time from his day job in My Morning Jacket to do a solo record, Broemel gets downright rootsy, at least on this song. Haven’t heard the rest to know if it’s like this or MMJ.

  

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