Rocks Off has been putting it off as long as we can, but we have finally started seriously thinking about this weekend's Austin City Limits Music Festival. And the more we thought about it, the more it slowly dawned on us that, to the best of our knowledge, no Houston-based band or performer has ever played the festival. Ev-er.
Sure, there have been plenty of former Houstonians - Hayes Carll, Carolyn Wonderland, Robert Earl Keen, Blue October, Jack Ingram - who have played. But unless we missed someone (and we don't think we did because we keep a pretty close eye on such things), when it comes to current Houstonians ACL has laid a big ol' goose egg for a solid decade now. Considering how many people from Houston attend ACL every year, this just seems wrong.
On the other hand, Rocks Off can kind of understand why. Many of Houston's best and brightest are just too strange, too noisy, too obnoxious or too threatening to be palatable at a festival like ACL. (Could you imagine Rusted Shut at Zilker? As awesome as that would be, we can't.) Then there's the fact that many locals are just too far off anyone's radar, even as close as Austin, to be viable.
But not all of them. In fact, Houston is currently teeming with artists Rocks Off thinks would go over great at ACL. So just in case C3 happens to be surfing the Web and needs a few last-second replacements, allow us to list our choices.
10. Doughbeezy, Jack Freeman and/or Nosaprise
Considering ACL styles itself as a family-friendly festival, and that it already took a fair amount of heat for booking so many "urban" headliners (read: two) this year, its reluctance to book the likes of the "gimme that pussy"-chanting Bun B or the downright scary-ass Z-Ro and Trae Tha Truth is understandable. But if it keeps booking artists like Brooklyn's Theophilus London, there's no excuse not to take a serious look at these three standouts from Houston's flourishing underground hip-hop/R&B scene - and probably half a dozen more like them besides.
9. Sideshow Tramps
Rocks Off believes we covered this at the end of our review of the Tramps' bacchanal of a CD release show last Friday at Fitz.
8. Texas Johnny Brown
ACL has brought old-school R&B stars like Walter "Wolfman" Washington over from New Orleans for years. It's time to look a little bit closer east.
7. Los Skarnales
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Houston's favorite punk pachucos are well-traveled, and have been playing Austin for years. It doesn't really matter, though - put Skarnales on any festival stage, anywhere, and they will rock the joint if not burn it down, which we realize is a bad metaphor this year.
6. Robert Ellis & the Boys
Probably a result of unfortunate timing more than anything else. ACL has been very friendly towards New West artists from its earliest days, but no doubt the ink was already dry on this year's contracts by the time Ellis' Photographs came out in July. Even money for next year.
5. Delicious Milk
If you don't know by now, Rocks Off just can't help you. Sorry.
See Robert Ellis. One of these two will be at Zilker next year, mark our words.
3. Literary Greats
Smart, literate, melodic roots-rock has always been manna for ACL promoters. And at this point, the Greats are a lot more affordable than Wilco, Bright Eyes or Ryan Adams.
It's no big secret that ACL has been trying to book Radiohead for years; senior talent buyer Amy Corbin said as much in last Sunday's Texas Tribune/New York Times article about the festival. (They may yet - Radiohead seems to be coming out of its shell a little, appearing on next weekend's Saturday Night Live season premiere.) In the meantime, these Houston rockers have that same element of moody mysticism without being a carbon copy, and could win themselves hundreds if not thousands of new fans with an ACL slot.
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1. ZZ Top
Long, long overdue. But with a new Top album out by the end of this year - or so they say - don't be surprised if 2012 is the year ACL finally bows to the tube snake boogie.