Paula Nelson / Photos by Chris Gray
The hordes of shirtless (or soon-to-be shirtless) camp-chair toters are streaming into Zilker Park, and the Rocks Off team is up and running. Us media types got a nice surprise this afternoon; there's a separate entrance from the rest of the behind-the-scenes goings-on this year. The amenities are drastically improved over years past - there's a bar back here (yay!), plenty of snacks and water, and they're even serving us dinner after a while. There's no more shortcut onto the grounds though, but hey, I could use the exercise.
Musically, it's been bits and pieces so far. Paula Nelson sounds more like her dad's Tulsa-born barrelhouse buddy Leon Russell than Willie, but that's not a bad thing at all. Rodney Crowell's fiddle player sung a mandolin-soothed ballad about how playing music is really a search for a father figure, and hearing her boss sing about Bill Clinton and Ken Starr in "Fate's Right Hand" was a little jarring. In the Dylanesque "Closer," his closer, he mentioned how "I hate buzzwords like 'awesome' and 'dude'... I don't play golf." The refrain was kind of depressing: "I'm closer to heaven than I've ever been." So are we all, dude.
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Austin garage-rockers the Strange Boys sounded even more like Dylan than Crowell did, and Yeasayer is on right now. It's kind of hard to figure out what they're doing, but the opener sounded like Guided by Voices crossed with a ragga, the singer has some strong David Byrne overtones - Byrne himself plays at 6:30 p.m. - and there's been lots of long, ethereal proggy patches with a ton of effects and copious keyboard noodling. It's the kind of thing that sounds better from a distance, which I have a feeling won't be in short supply this weekend at all. - Chris Gray