Brittanie Shey: When you go to a festival litke this, you're always looking for the discovery, the one band that either blows you away or causes you to alter all your expectations. Today it was Dan Black, a performer we caught only because there was nothing else going on. As soon as we get home, we're downloading his CD.
We headed off to see Broken Bells, who, while they make beautiful music, are not the best show live. They were boring and lackluster, and we needed to work off some energy. Black was on the festival's smallest stage, but when we arrived he already had the bodies thumpin'. Wikipedia categorizes him as "wonky pop," which seems to be a kind of slag particular to Britain, from whence he hails.
What he 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 they are so much more that that.
They were smart, and fun, and they rocked.
Craig Hlavaty: We are currently sitting out an hour to get away from the heat, which made its heroic return this afternoon. Yesterday we were footloose and fancy free in the sun, having clammy hands and a cold nose, but today we are cursing our choice of black T-shirt, and whatever it was we did last night.
This afternoon we booked it from the front gate at 2:30 p.m. to see the Gaslight Anthem do their best version of the Bruce Springsteen and Thin Lizzy catalogs, rattling off cuts from this year's American Slang.
Lead singer Brian Fallon is an amiable frontman, crooning like a punk-rock Sinatra one minute and screaming his New Jersey head off the next. The new work stumbles a little, save for the title track of Slang, but the band's singles from 2008's The '59 Sound cooked us whole, especially "Miles Davis & The Cool."
You could hear Lucero in the distance, doing stuff not much different from the Gaslights, albeit with a decade or so on them. Ben Nichols' rasp is hard to mistake even in a crowded aural landscape like ACL on a Saturday afternoon.
Black Lips were a late addition to the festival, added a few months back, but they schooled the trendoids waiting for the xx to take the stage after them. Standouts were "O Katrina" and "Cold Hands." Each passing year finds their brand of garage-rock getting more muscly and aggressive.
Time to go do another lap around the park, while we try to dodge the overabundance of baby strollers and toddlers walking around the park. No, seriously. Austin looks like it's been (getting) busy this past year and a half.
Brittanie Shey: All Aftermath wants right now is a dip in Barton Springs. So sweaty. So dusty. We feel like a chinchilla. But we have found the best place to seek respite at ACL: Austin Kiddie Limits.
We spent nearly an hour there earlier this afternoon, watching Frances England and the Sugar Free All-Stars, who played covers of Porno for Pyros and Devo, as kids rocked out in the hip-hop booth and the karaoke tent. So much fun it made us consider procreation.
At 3 p.m. we had the choice of Mayer Hawthorne & the Country vs. Manchester Orchestra; we chose Hawthorne based on reviews that compared him to Motown and the soul revivalists like Amy Winehouse and the Dap-Kings. We chose wrong.
We should have been warned by the conversation of the woman behind us, who was complaining that the band was five minutes behind schedule - the nerve - and when the band started in with recorded horns as backup music instead of the real things. C'mon guys. Even Spoon brought a three-piece brass band.
Hawthorne's music is like Motown, in a way. Safe for conservative ears, and packaged for white people. Mom music, our companion calls it. We only stayed for three songs.
Craig Hlavaty: The heat is on, guys. Yesterday's cool breezes and hoodies have given way to sweating and scantily-clad bros and girls as we walked into ACL early this afternoon.
First up for us was singer-songwriter Lissie, who started things off at the ZYNC Card stage. The blonde guitarist was Lilith Fair to the hilt, reminding us of Joni Mitchell at times. It wasn't just the hair either. She had a healthy crowd of noodle-dancing girls and guys standing there for moral support.
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The Very Best was nearly drowning out her folkie-strumming with what can only be described as island air-raid music. Esau Mwamwaya's caterwauling was grating for the two minutes we stood in the crowd. It's hot and we are full of Red Bull, so we can hate what he want. We can't see how this stuff would translate outside of Club Roxy or Rich's Houston on an all-ages night. Different strokes and all that noise.
Nashville's Run With Bulls were sweating it out on the tiny BMI stage. The trio brought listeners in with their cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," injecting it with some Black Crowes-style wail. Southern-fried Jet? Mark it, Smoky.
Right now we are off to see the Gaslight Anthem, Black Lips, and possibly Dan Black, Lord willing.
More soon. Follow us up to the minute on Twitter at @hprocksoff.