To be honest, I thought today was going to suck, but it's been the exact opposite. After some ridonkulous partying last night at Heartless Bastards' ear-splitting basement blues party - hey, it was my first time at Emo's in six months - I set a new personal late-arrival record, walking up to Zilker as Drive-By Truckers were ripping through "18 Wheels of Love" at the stroke of 3 p.m.
First stop was Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, who hit every single mark in a spectacular revue of vibrant '60s soul pitched somewhere between Stax and Motown. Throw in a little James Brown while you're at it - Jones' closing cover of "This Is a Man's World" was as pleading and spellbinding as the Godfather of Soul himself. Aretha herself couldn't have sung it any better; Jones absolutely owned it, and those six or seven minutes made this entire weekend worthwhile right there.
Brazilian electro-rockers had some soul themselves, though of a much different variety - the soul of randy discotheque rats on the prowl for some fulsome beats and a little below-the-belt action. "I'll Be Rude" was powered by some buoyant bass imported straight from Manchester, and the impossibly tall, sleek singer, clad in a electric-blue bodysuit, alternated between cooing come-ons and energetically sexy singing that owed more than a little to Blondie's Deborah Harry. "Off the Hook" even threw in a sticky Chuck Berry guitar lick.
I just made it over to the WaMu (or whatever) tent in time to see Eli "Paperboy" Reed's last song, another score. All those Marvin Gaye comparisons the Massachussetts singer has been drawing ain't just blowing smoke, and I caught a little Al Green and Clarence Carter too (the song was practically a dead ringer for Dr. CC's "Slip Away.") To quote Prince - who would be a damn fine ACL headliner sometime - it made me wanna dance, so I did.
Man Man was carnival burlesque plus Devo - dance music too, just more like the Robot. Tom Waits and XTC's "Dear God" both popped up in one song, as did Modest Mouse. The next one was either a surf sea chantey or sped-up "Come Together," with some old cartoon music to top it off. Bizarre and fun as hell.
Rounded out the afternoon with still more soul from Austin's Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. This time is was some Meters funk, "In the Midnight Hour" horns, Lewis' Otis Redding-like exhortations and a lot of JBs' chicken-scratch guitar on "Snatch & Grab." Lewis is the real deal, and any reservations I may have had about dragging my ass down to Zilker have evaporated in the afternoon sun. I'm not even hung over anymore. In fact, to call up James Brown one more time, I feel good! - Chris Gray