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


Read the rest after the jump...

21st Century Breakdown: Greg M. Schwartz’s Top 10 Concerts of the 2000s

Yesterday I listed my ten favorite albums of the decade. (To view that list, click here.) As promised, in conjunction with our End of Decade series, here are my top ten concerts of the decade, again in chronological order.

Galactic, 6/10/00 @ The Warfield, San Francisco, CA
The New Orleans funk masters made the Bay Area their second home this decade, with one stellar show after another. This was the night they unofficially evolved from a good funk group to an amazing big league jam band. The evening concluded the band’s spring tour and they paid extra to extend the show past the normal venue closing time. This enabled a memorable three-set affair whose final set didn’t start until after 2 AM. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined the band for that entire third set of acid jazz ecstasy. There’s nothing quite like seeing a band on a night when they know from the start that they’re going to drop “the bomb,” which Galactic clearly did since the event poster was a picture of an old school-style sphere bomb with fuse.

The String Cheese Incident, 8/7/01 @ Mt. Shasta Ski Park – Mt. Shasta, CA
The jam rock stalwarts often work with Peak Experience Productions to put on shows that transcend the typical concert experience. This time they went to an actual peak for two shows – Mt. Shasta is known as one of the Earth’s true natural wonders and is a genuine Earth power spot. (??? – Ed.) The mountain loomed behind the crowd of about 3,000 as the band delivered a monumental performance on this second night, topping a brilliant first night and matching the majesty of the wondrous setting. The huge version of the band’s classic “Rivertrance” is arguably the best ever performed. Thematic selections like “Windy Mountain” and “High on a Mountain Top” only enhanced the vibe further, and the “Midnight Moonlight” encore was perfect. It’s only a shame there aren’t more shows at this magical location. Stream or download free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/sci2001-08-07.shnf

The Other Ones, 8/04/02 @ Alpine Valley Ampitheater – Troy, WI
The four surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited for the first time since 1998 with a pair of shows before 40,000+ at Alpine Valley in a weekend dubbed “Terrapin Station – a Grateful Dead Family Reunion.” Each of the members’ own bands delivered a set during the weekend, followed by a pair of two-set shows from the Other Ones. The first night was great fun, if a bit uneven. The second night was pure bliss, with a set list featuring only classic tunes and great chemistry from the band. Jimmy Herring ripped on lead guitar and the band gelled for what turned out to be a great 2002 tour, as bassist Phil Lesh was able to influence his mates to do things his way. This meant adventurous playing, bringing back the old songs that hadn’t been played in years and pushing the envelope like the band did back in the day. Stream or download free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/too2002-08-04.schoeps-mk4.unknown.11116.shnf

Phil Lesh & Friends, 10/30/05 @ The Joint, Las Vegas, NV
Part of the Vegoose at Night Concert Series (late night shows at venues on the Vegas Strip following daytime festival performances at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl), the Grateful Dead bassist and his band threw down a huge three-set performance that started around midnight and lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The bass master has been at the height of his powers in his 60s, aging like a fine wine. This show followed a superb stadium set the day before where Warren Haynes sat in. “Don’t these guys ever fucking quit?” a bartender asked me during the third set that featured a monster “Unbroken Chain” and a bust-out cover of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” with Joan Osborne on vocals. Osborne, who toured with the Dead in 2003, was a last-minute replacement for Ryan Adams, and played the role of alchemist – everything she touched turned to gold, including Adams songs like “Hardest Part” and “Let It Ride.” Stream or download for free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/paf2005-10-30.dpa4023.31513.flac16

Pearl Jam, 5/20/06 @ Quicken Loans Arena– Cleveland, OH
I’d always seen Pearl Jam in California, but being back home in Ohio going to grad school gave me the chance to catch them in my hometown for the first time, and did they ever deliver. The new tunes kicked ass. They threw down great rarities like “Faithful,” “Thumbing My Way” and “Spin the Black Circle.” They included plenty of fan-fave classics too. The crowd was absolutely amped and grew more so when Eddie Vedder mentioned that the band’s next stop would be in Detroit (the Cavaliers had just dropped a heartbreaking playoff game six to the Pistons at the Q the previous night and were headed north for an ill-fated game seven the next day.) The crowd started chanting “Pistons suck,” and got Vedder to say it once too. Before “Unemployable,” Vedder had commented on the dour economy in Ohio and invited the crowd to move to Seattle, where they would “be not only unemployed but also wet… but you’ll be out drinking with us.” Songs like “Alive”, “Why Go” and “Fuckin Up” all raged with peak intensity. It was Pearl Jam at their best.

The Black Crowes, 8/1/06 @ Lifestyles Community Pavilion, Columbus, OH
With no opening band on this particular night, it was an “evening with” show where the band took the opportunity to open with a stellar acoustic set and follow it with a superb electric set. Thank goodness I passed on the Cleveland show at the lame Tower City Ampitheater with two opening bands to see this one instead. The word is getting out that this gem of a venue is one of the Midwest’s best. With great sound and not a bad view in the place, it’s become a venue not to miss when one of your favorite bands is in the house. The second set opened with an electrifying cover of Eric Clapton’s “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” featured 18 minutes of rock grandeur with “Thorn in My Pride” and concluded with a “Sugaree” encore in tribute to Jerry Garcia’s birthday. Buy it here:

http://www.liveblackcrowes.com/live-music/0,2295/The-Black-Crowes-mp3-flac-download-8-1-2006-LC-Pavilion-Columbus-OH.html

Smashing Pumpkins, 7/30/07 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
The Pumpkins re-opened the Fillmore in 1994, so seeing the band reunite to deliver a 12-show residency at what some have dubbed “the greatest venue in the known universe” was an unexpected and special treat. In egalitarian fashion, tickets for the shows were just $25. Two of the four original members had been replaced, but with Billy Corgan on guitar and Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, this epic three hour-plus show featuring a mix of classics and stellar new material was grunge bliss at its finest. New songs like “Doomsday Clock,” “United States” and “That’s the Way (My Love Is)” rocked with a live intensity that was at an entirely higher level above the studio versions. Corgan stated that this was a new band, but deep rocking on “Drown,” “Hummer” and “Cherub Rock” turned back the clock in the best way. Monster jams on “Heavy Metal Machine” and the 36-minute “Gossamer” that ended the show threatened to blow the roof off. Check out the If All Goes Wrong DVD for some flavor from this residency. Stream or download the show free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/tsp2007-07-30.st11.flac16

Sound Tribe Sector 9, 3/1/09 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
STS9 were the closest thing to a house band for the venerable Fillmore in the first half of the decade, before outgrowing the venue and moving on to larger ones. But they returned this year for a four-night run that concluded with a scintillating throwback performance for the ages. The positive energy inside the building on this Sunday night was something special, yet another testament to the Fillmore’s timeless vibe. The ever-evolving band left their high-tech toys on the shelf for a night and featured their older material in a show that won such raves from the fan base that the band changed their policy on releasing the soundboards. The group had barred the normally-allowed audience taping for the run, ostensibly to use the shows for a new live album or DVD. But after this show, a fever pitch outcry from the fans saw the band reverse course within a week and make the soundboard recordings immediately available. The “Baraka” opener set the tone, “Tap In & We’ll Meet in Our Dreams” was groovy psychedelic bliss, while the “Hubble” encore was simply transcendent. Stream it for free or purchase downloads here:

http://sts9.com/?p=578

Jefferson Starship, 7/3/09 @ Pearson Auditorium, The Roswell UFO Festival, Roswell, NM
With amazing new vocalist Cathy Richardson in tow since 2008, Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner has had this modern version of the band riding a new wave of artistic power. The band has sadly flown under the mainstream radar and had plans to capture this unique performance on DVD for mass consumption. But like a mind-blowing UFO sighting that doesn’t show up on video, the HD video feed crashed and left this spectacular show as just a memory. Kantner brought in former vocalist Darby Gould along with a slew of other special guests like bassist Pete Sears, guitarist Barry Sless and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten for a special performance that featured a mostly acoustic first set and a sci-fi themed, mostly electric second set. The four-part harmonies between Richardson, Gould, Kantner and David Freiberg on 1970’s “Have You Seen the Saucers” were truly out of this world, as were performances of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” the Dead’s “Dark Star” and Airplane classics like “Crown of Creation,” “Wooden Ships,” “Somebody to Love” and an electrifying “Volunteers” encore.

Phish, 10/31/09 @ Festival 8, Indio, CA
For their first Halloween show since 1998, the band combined two of their greatest traditions for the first time to create an unprecedented event – a Halloween performanc featuring an instant classic musical costume set, joined with one of their legendary multi-day festival events. The show of the year went down at the Coachella Festival site in Southern California, a gorgeous setting for Halloween fun, especially with the site tricked out with all kinds of psychedelic ambience. The three-set Halloween show featured a complete performance of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, with the band joined by Sharon Jones and a horn section for a dazzling performance that took the crowd to “cloud 8” (it was the band’s eighth festival event.) “Torn and Frayed” was jammed to heights the Stones never dreamed, “All Down the Line” conjured a joyous dance party into gear and “Shine a Light” took on a truly transcendent flavor I’d never gleamed from the album. Buy it here:

http://livephish.com/live-music/0,504/Phish-mp3-flac-download-10-31-2009-Festival-8-Indio-CA.html

  

Bonnaroo announces ’09 lineup

EW.com’s PopWatch summarizes the Bonnaroo headliners, but you can see the full lineup here.

You’ve got your classic-rock powerhouses (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Elvis Costello), your reunited jam-band institution (Phish), your ’90s-survivor cult act (Nine Inch Nails), your rap elders (Snoop Dogg, the Beastie Boys), your old soul legend (Al Green), your new funk goddess (Erykah Badu), your country icons (Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams) — and, of course, dozens of your top-tier indie rockers (Animal Collective, the Decemberists, TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear)

The article didn’t even mention Wilco or David Byrne. That’s a nice lineup.

The festival runs from June 11th to the 14th. Tickets go on sale this Saturday.

  

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