Austin City Limits Music Festival
Zilker Park - Austin, Texas
Day Two: September 16, 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10
Written by Christopher J. Emge
Even witnessed from the Press Tent, Ghostland Observatory, which was performing on the Heineken stage, was too much to bear. The band mashed together bits of electronic, funk, and rock styles, but the result was that its music was a jumbled mess.
Itís Never Been Like That by the French outfit Phoenix is one of the best releases of the year, but unfortunately, technical difficulties undermined the beginning of the groupís performance. Front man Thomas Marsí vocals were too low in the mix, making it impossible for the ensemble to win over the audience. By the time that it hit its third song (Run Run Run), however, the band had begun to find its groove. Highlights of the 12-tune set included the infectious Everything is Everything as well as Sometimes in the Fall.
With the departure of vocalist Theryl deClouet, New Orleansí Galactic undoubtedly has experienced some upheaval in the past few years. Nevertheless, its new, instrumental-focused line-up is stronger by comparison. Mixing jazz, voodoo funk, and Southern rock, the ensemble also unleashed a terrific version of Led Zeppelinís Immigrant Song as well as a jam that was reminiscent of the Allman Brothers Bandís Whipping Post. An unnamed guest guitarist joined the group and added vocals to several songs, including a rendition of New Orleans. Special kudos, however, go to Rich Vogel for his Hammond B-3 work, which perfectly accented each tune and helped drive the band through many musical passages.
Placing the AT&T Stage and the AT&T Blue Room Stage on the same concourse was one of the few mistakes made by the organizers of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and an erroneous trip to one location unfortunately was enough to cause a domino effect that resulted in a lengthy string of viewing only partial performances. In the midst of this confusion, Nada Surf delivered a pleasant but unremarkable set of alt-rock. Highlights included a delicate rendition of Blonde on Blonde as well as the crowd-pleasing Blankest Year, the latter of which featured the horn section from Calexico.
Los Lobos remains a national treasure, and it opened its set with a stinging version of Mas y Mas before swerving into a new, David Hidalgo-penned ballad that unfortunately was marred by heavy winds. Nevertheless, the ensemble regrouped for the Cesar Rosas-sung Donít Worry Baby, which drove the decidedly older audience to its feet.
Aimee Mann always has had a bit of straight-laced seriousness about her performances that has had the undesirable effect of placing a wall between her and her listeners. Nevertheless, she joked about the beach ball that was being batted around during her set, by stating, "If you guys canít play nice, you canít play with it at all." Her set picked up momentum during Save Me, and she also delivered a stellar version of Harry Nilssonís One, which she had covered for the soundtrack to Magnolia.
What Made Milwaukee Famous succeeded in recreating the studio ambience of its terrific debut Trying to Never Catch Up, and the immediacy of its concert performance made its songs even more potent. Rare is a band that can strike an emotional chord and deliver extremely dance-able music. Highlights included Hellodrama, the Kinks-esque Sweet Lady, and the ode to everlasting love Mercy Me.
With retro, gold-tinted video monitors, The Raconteurs ó Jack Whiteís side project with Brendan Benson ó succeeded in conjuring the í60s-era, guitar-pop of its debut Broken Boy Soldiers. Oscillating between early Led Zeppelin (Blue Veins) and Revolver-era Beatles (Hands), the bandís music remains the very definition of the word "derivative." Still, the group more than made up for it by creating music that was transfixing. Despite the collaborative nature of the project, there was no question that its star is Jack White. With The White Stripes, he typically is too unfocused and unruly, but the presence of a second guitarist as well as a full rhythm section provided the kind of framework that allowed his guitar prowess to shine. On the other hand, Kings of Leon proved to be an utterly forgettable side trip.
Too frequently, Willie Nelson is content to run rapidly through his trusty, warhorse songs in concert, but this time, his performance was a delightful surprise. In front of a hometown crowd, he took his time with his material, thus permitting his unmistakable sound to spring to life. Granted, he still trotted out the familiar selections, such as Me and Paul, Whiskey River, and Always on My Mind, but he delivered them with far more care and attention than he normally is able to muster.
Christopher J. Emge currently is the head of Artist Relations at Creamy Radio, a commercial-free, internet-based radio station. For more than 3 years, Creamy Radio's playlist has boasted an eclectic mix of music that runs the gamut from mainstream fare to material from local and independent acts.
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box