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Capital Steps

Dispatches from ACL 2010

Band of Horses (Sunday): They sound to us like the angelic sides of the Beach Boys mating with My Morning Jacket or Drive-By Truckers. It's pretty, peaceful, serene stuff, and was a good mix with the rapidly setting sun. The band covered Cee-Lo's recent single "Georgia" to close its set, repaying him for his cover of their 2007 swooner/weeper "No One's Gonna Love You." Part of us was really hoping for a woodsy recitation of "Fuck You," but that wasn't in the cards. —C.H.

Devendra Banhart & the Grogs (Sunday): They were playing a larger stage behind us. We'd previously written the guy off; his guru-esque backstory left a bad taste in our mouth. But from afar, he sounded something like metaphysical-era Stones, and you know that can't be bad. —B.S.

Dan Black (Saturday): What Black plays is electropop with a brain — he was cracking jokes about Nietzsche between songs, and working sexy moves stolen from Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons while singing. And working the synth computers. He was backed by a single guitar player, which lends itself easily to Wham! comparisons (along with the '80s aesthetic), but so much more that that. They were smart, and fun, and they rocked. —B.S.

M.I.A.: Amazing dance moves, uneven set.
Photos by Marco Torres
M.I.A.: Amazing dance moves, uneven set.
Some scoffed at the Eagles headlining ACL 2010, but hardly anyone left until the classic-rockers' final harmony had sounded.
Photos by Marco Torres
Some scoffed at the Eagles headlining ACL 2010, but hardly anyone left until the classic-rockers' final harmony had sounded.

The Eagles (Sunday): When the Eagles were announced as headliners this spring, it led to a a lot of online bitching and moaning from people vowing to either not go to ACL at all, or to leave Sunday evening before the band's set time. Zilker was packed to the gills up until they bowed out at 10 p.m. No matter what anyone says, the Eagles were a good fit for this festival, if not a favorite of the in-crowd. They brought in the older cats, possibly exposing them to younger bands, while also somewhat schooling novice teens about how awesome Joe Walsh was solo and in the James Gang. —C.H.

Norah Jones (Sunday): Jones is not just a piano-sitter anymore; she's now able to play blistering guitar. We feel pretty late to the party. You can call her "Snor-ah Jones," but she's got music in her genes. Look up her dad someday. Dude's name is Ravi Shankar. —C.H.

LCD Soundsystem (Saturday): Led by James Murphy and opening with "Dance Yrself Clean," the band performed an hour-long set geared to your hips and your thighs. The material from this year's This Is Happening shows a definitive use of groove not seen in last album Sound of Silver. This album goes for the throat lyrically, and gets locked into Krautrock benders at every turn. —C.H.

Matt & Kim (Saturday): Matt & Kim, who played the Houston Press Music Awards Showcase in August, were doing the exact same set they played for H-town. Now this was disappointing. We think the band is fun, of course, but it's kind of hard to buy into their "We're so crazy and spontaneous" persona when they use the same gimmicks — the cheesy pop covers to fill in between songs, the slow-motion dance number — at every show. —B.S.

M.I.A. (Saturday): While the girl's got amazing dance moves, the show just didn't do it for us. A thousand Judd Apatow fans relished her performance of "Paper Planes," but it was "Born Free," her almost straight-up cover of the 1977 punk song "Ghost Rider," that we were waiting for. She performed that most recent hit as her single-song encore. But there were two awesome moments during the show. At one point, she climbed atop a 20-foot-tall stack of speakers and began riding them seductively while actually singing, not rapping or talking. She also spent a lot of time in the crowd, which is ballsy at a venue as huge as ACL.—B.S.

Sonic Youth (Friday): The band is a machine, a well-oiled, post-punk, noise, indie-rock machine. The band plays like a jam band you can tie one off to, and they gave no quarter. The nucleus of the band, the married team of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon plus guitarist Lee Ranaldo, has morphed into one of the iconic teams of the past 50 years. —C.H.

Spoon (Friday): Loving Spoon may be de rigueur these days, but we don't care. There's a reason for that, as evidenced by the huge crowd dancing to every note of the mariachi-style horns on "The Underdog." One little kid was rocking out with a pint-sized guitar and was probably having more fun than we were, which is saying a lot. —B.S.

The Strokes (Friday): They were tight, but not so much that they were slick. The band is still the boozy, Faces-style shamble-addicted guys they were in their youth. It's even strange to imagine these guys have been together since the '90s. —C.H.

White Rabbits (Sunday): The sextet plays music that manages to be heavy on the percussion while still sounding completely musical — almost orchestral. They have the momentum of Jimmy Eat World but with more instrumental depth, and because singer/pianist Stephen Patterson sounds slightly like Ben Folds, comparisons to that band's more rowdy songs are easy to make, if not entirely accurate. —B.S.

See much more ACL 2010 coverage at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/acl_fest/.

 
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