Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2005, Volume 12, #10
Written by T.J. Simon
Since 1976, Austin City Limits has been a wildly successful television program for the PBS network, one which celebrates the eclectic nature of modern country, folk, and rock music. The wide variety of live performances featured on the show serves as a reflection of the expansive selection of acts that currently are populating the venues within Americaís finest music city. In 2002, Austin City Limits lent its name to a three-day, multi-stage outdoor concert that showcased popular artists from an array of genres and was set within the boundaries of Texasí state capitol. The 2004 manifestation of this festival has been memorialized on a 16-song CD as well as a double-DVD set.
The CD Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 begins with tracks from Pixies (Debaser), Dashboard Confessional (Hands Down), and Franz Ferdinand (Darts of Pleasure), but none of the performances are likely to make fans out of the unconverted. Backed by a subtle string arrangement, Rachel Yamagata delivers a sultry piano ballad on Be Be Your Love, which serves as one of the albumís better moments. Ditto for Los Lonely Boys, whose delicious Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired guitar licks on the hit Crazy Dream establish these brothers as the real deal. Both Shelby Lynne and Josh Rouse are capable of making beautifully produced studio efforts, but the concert recordings captured from this festival donít inspire much confidence in either artistís live chops. On the other hand, Cake is a band with a great live reputation, but it is hampered here by a poor song choice in Wheels. However, if anybody is likely to sell some records as a result of this compilation, it will be Ben Harper and Calexico. Harper performs Brown Eyed Blues with a soulful, Sam & Dave-style groove that segues into a stunningly funky guitar solo. Similarly, Calexicoís version of Alone Again Or highlights the groupís blend of southwestern guitars and horns with beauty and precision, and without a doubt, itís easily the outingís best track. Trey Anastasio closes the disc with a blistering instrumental jam First Tube, which begins with a simple chord foundation and grows into an instrumental skyscraper. Not surprisingly, the Phish alumnus allows the tune to linger too long, but his fans are accustomed to his lengthy excursions.
All of the material included on the audio version of Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 is duplicated on the two-hour, double-DVD set, which is sold separately from the CD. The video compilation also showcases eight additional performances, including numbers by Jack Johnson (Wasting Time), Sheryl Crow (Light in Your Eyes), Old 97ís (The New Kid), and Rosanne Cash (Seven Year Ache). Each song segment is professionally shot and edited with multiple cameras and a nice variety of daytime and nighttime visuals.
Throughout the DVD package of Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004, there are plenty of images of the expansive crowd, and everyone seems to be having the time of his life, which brings up an interesting point: The television show Austin City Limits sells itself as containing intimate performances with quality musical acts, yet the Austin City Limits outdoor festival is a far cry from intimate. The fish-eyed camera lenses display a massive sea of people stretching to the horizon. It must have been quite a party, but it seems like a singularly awful way to see a band one truly enjoys. Fortunately, the DVD provides viewers with a front row seat and a crystal-clear view of the action, which is much more than can be said for those who suffered in the staggeringly huge audience.
Performances by The Neville Brothers (Streets Are Calliní) and The Blind Boys of Alabama (Walk in Jerusalem) fare better on video than they did on the CD, and the very hairy Jim James of My Morning Jacket is also able to convey more energy on the DVD performance of The Way that He Sings that didnít quite translate to the audio collection. Neither The Soundtrack of Our Lives nor Broken Social Scene are likely to win over any converts with their segments, but Drive-By Truckers consistently can be counted upon to deliver a good show, as is evidenced by The Day John Henry Died. The videoís standout selection is The One Thing by country artist Pat Green and fellow Texan Jack Ingram. Together, the duo delivers such a spirited performance that country-leaning viewers will be hard-pressed not to buy a concert ticket the next time that either passes through town.
In the perfect world, a collection with the diversity featured on Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 would serve as an effective sampler for the public to discover acts worthy of more attention. However, the individual tracks captured from the 2004 event are such an odd lot that most of them are unlikely to sway anyone to one particular side or another. Although thereís a little something for everyone on both the CD and DVD packages, the wide scope of the acts as well as the unusual song selections will force the consumer to do a lot of track skipping in order to separate the good from the bad and the ugly.
Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 [CD] ó
Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 [DVD] ó
Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 [CD] is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004 [DVD] is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box