Heat and Dust at ACL
Bob Dylan delivered a controversial performance to close the final night of the annual Austin City Limits Festival—-an event which, along with Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza, has blossomed into one of the summers four large scale US music gatherings. While the always erratic performer delivered hits like Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Tangled Up In Blue, Like A Rolling Stone and a show closing I Shall Be Released, and even played electric guitar on a handful of selections, some fans in attendance described his voice as decrepit and were surprised by his slow, loose pacing. The gig wrapped up a shaky, but still successful, weekend which saw arena-ready indie bands like Muse, Arcade Fire and Bjork fill the void left by the White Stripes (who bowed out of the festival at the 11th hour).
As expected, the festivals forecast called for heat and dust, but remained bearable throughout the weekend. For many, ACLs highlight was My Morning Jacket, who only performed a handful of live dates this summer. The Kentucky-bred quintet are no stranger to the festival circuit, however, having played such gatherings as Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, High Sierra, Langerado and Mountain Jam, among many others, and arrived at ACL dressed as Hawaiian surf bums. The group also brought out longtime friend Andrew Bird, who jammed with the group at Bonnaroo 2006 and appears on 2005s Z, for Golden. Recent Relix cover artist Lucinda Williams also dressed the part, wearing a cowboy hat and sun glasses, covering the Doors ‘Riders on the Storm,’ and teasing Fats Dominos ‘I Live My Life.’ Gomez’s Ian Ball, who appeared in support of his first solo album, brought out singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur to sing on ‘Don’t Let a Little Failure Get You Down.’
Like many of the summers major festivals, indie-rock ruled the roost, with rising stars like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the National, Midlake, Ghostland Observatory and Dr. Dog each converting new fans with their high energy performances. Current indie-darlings Peter Bjorn & John, who have catapulted into large clubs and ballrooms thanks to the single Young Folks, were plagued by sound issues during their set, oddly enough just a month after the group faced similar issues at the Lollapalooza. Fans hoping to hear a clean version of the groups hit where in luck, however, when singer/songwriter Peter York delivered his own take on ‘Young Folks. Arcade Fire stacked its set with sing-alongs like Rebellion (Lies) and the tender Haiti, Bjork brought along a horn section and veteran performers Yo La Tengo helped open Sundays festivities with a noon set.
In the more organic realm, Charlie Musselwhite, Railroad Earth, Rose Hill Drive, Grace Potter, Patterson Hood, Robert Earl, DeVotchKa and Wilco each delivered well received sets, the later of which also recorded an episode for the Austin City Limits television program while on site. Steve Earle brought out his wife Allison Moorer for Down Here Below,’ a track featured on his forthcoming New York tribute Washington Square Serenade and used a DJ to accent a raw cover of Tom Waits ‘Way Down in the Hole.’ The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Big Sams Funky Nation represented Austins New Orleans soul, while Sound Tribe Sector 9 pulled a rare festival 3-peat, following similar spots at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza this summer.
A handful of bands, including Spoon and Blonde Redhead, also played late night gigs at local rooms like La Zona Rosa and Emo’s, to rave reviews. Episodes features performances by Arcade Fire and Wilco will be shown on the Austin City Limits television program in the near future.