I think ACL has managed to squeeze all its country between noon and 3 p.m. today. Luckily Sunny Sweeney, a Longview native now based out of Austin, was part of it. Sweeney, a former improv comedienne, has a winning stage presence and a wicked way with a lyric. After the pure-dee honky-tonk of "Heartbreakers Hall of Fame," she quipped, "We're available for weddings," and said happy birthday to her dad before admitting "I'm about to sing a song that's going to embarrass him... his little girl wrote a song called 'Drink Myself Single.'" Between that scathing two-stepper and the screaming redneck rock and frenzied Johnny Cash train beat of "Last Hard Bible" (and its sideways shout-out to Billy Joel's "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant"), Sweeney and her band - who could have (and may well be) plucked straight out of Lola's - have the chops, panache and charisma to make Miranda Lambert nervous.
After Sweeney, Rocks Off walked up the way to investigate this Vampire Weekend phenomenon firsthand, and here's my report: meh. The New York blogosphere darlings were catchy enough, but slight as hell; not to mention, it's a wonder Paul Simon hasn't sued the quartet for plagiarizing Graceland. How did this lightweight soft-rock get to be the hottest thing going? Is it the Afro thing? They did draw the day's biggest crowd so far, and brought out Austin string quartet Tosca to sit in, but there's a word for this kind of music: boring.
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Also, we're all wondering what the hell Chuck Woolery is doing here. More ACL bytes in two and two. - Chris Gray