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Man, I just can’t help it. I’m still feeling the sting from not making it to this past ACL Festival. Sure, time will likely heal such a mental wound (I’m sure a trip to the Fun Fun Fun Fest will help, too), but I keep going back to the Festival’s official Youtbube channel for some really decent clips of some great performances that will not be a part of my memory bank… Oh well. Enjoy.

 

Aside from the incredible line-up that typically occupies the grounds of The Austin City Limits Festival, I’ve got a short list of things that certainly qualify as non-musical highlights each year when I visit the weekend long musical love fest.

The Austin Eats pavilion is almost reason to hit the festival all by itself. The sloppy nachos from the Salt Lick BBQ booth makes this dude bust out a massive BBQ-sauce covered smile. To wash it down? Sure, there’s beer and that’s always a nice way to enjoy a sunny afternoon, but in Austin, there’s something else that seems to call out to me more so than even an icy brew does. Sweet Leaf Iced Tea.

I know, I know. the Austin-based bottled tea is readily available on a relatively wide-scale outside of Austin, but when in Rome, you know?

Whether your heading to the Festival this year or not, head over to Sweet Leaf’s new Granny’s Almanac site, where you can get involved and possibly win all sorts of sweet items from the Austin institution. Feel really passionate towards Sweet Leaf? Put your passion into words and see if that can make you a big winner, also.

Prizes range from tickets to festivals such as ACL, Lollapoalooza and Langerado to a year’s supply of Sweet Leaf Tea! Hey, there are also great offers and deals to be had, even if you’re not some grand-prize winner, so get to it!

In fact, WANT SOME SWEET LEAF TEA MERCH FOR YOURSELF? Leave a comment telling us what your faovrite flavor of Sweet Leaf Tea is (or perhaps tell us what your favorite cocktail recipe involving Sweet Leaf Tea is?), and we’ll pick a random winner from a drawing for some great stuff!

The more I look at this year’s ACL Fest bill, the more I’m feeling great about the folksy-rootsy offerings. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, there are plenty of styles prominently represented of course, but with the aforementioned Fleet Foxes and The Head & The Heart there is the similarly Seattle-based folk-rockers of The Cave Singers that will be Austin bound come September.

Recently leaving Matador Records for Jagjaguwar, another indie-label (one that is quickly becoming every bit as relevant to today’s “indie” scene as the long-favored Matador is), the trio that makes up the Cave Singers grasp the notion of spicing up their rootsy folk with  bit of menacing, noir-ish rock that still feels firmly rooted in the tradition of American roots music. Even more interestingly, this group’s only been together in this form since 2007, after the break-up of punk group Pretty Girls Make Graves. Pretty Girls Make Graves’ vocalist Derek Fudesco grabbed a couple of buds and quickly got teh ball rolling on The Cave Singers.

The new album, No Witch, is an imminently listenable collection of tunes that flow seamlessly and succeed in making folk rather funky. “Falls” creeps and crawls along until it kicks in for the chorus, where the tune takes a turn into swampy Southern-gothic terrain. If Fleet Foxes are the harmonic, pastoral example of Seattle folk and The Head and The Heart are the shiny happy example, then The Cave Singers represent a darker, more varied combo of their regional compatriots.

 

Yep. The schedule for this year’s ACL Fest has been announced, and truthfully, that announcement is far more important than the unveiling of which bands will be playing. that sounds crazy, I know. But when you begin to drool over the thought of catching so many great bands in one weekend, you take a look at the scheduled time slots for the acts and realize that seeing full sets from your top picks will likely be an impossibility.

Hey, that’s really a good problem to have. Sure, it’s a bit of a bummer, but look at it the other way: Imagine a 3-Day festival bill that doesn’t have enough quality acts to create any schedule confusion. Now THAT’S sad.

Sometimes the time-frames that seem congested with quality can turn out to be easy choices, once you get moving inside of the park during the festival. Often times, set conflicts work themselves out. Some of you may remember from my recap of Night One of last year’s ACL Festival, the 7:00 pm time slot was packed with four acts that were legit headliners at just about any festival, all on different stages at the same time. Sonic Youth, Ryan Bingham Vampire Weekend and Robert Randolph were indeed battling for my time and attention.

Turns out, it wasn’t much of a fight. With a predetermined strategy to start at the far end of the park with Sonic Youth and proceed to make my way to each set a couple of tunes at a time, I ended up staying transfixed at Sonic Youth’s show. Couldn’t help it. it jsut happened, and I was beyond OK with missing on whatever I might’ve missed at the other sets. Such is festival magic, I suppose.

This year, each of the three days offers a couple of spots where tough decisions will have to be made. My likely strategy at this point for these tough spots is similar to what I had last year: Catch a couple of songs and get moving. But, if I experience enthrallment at one of the stages, as I did last year, then who knows which band I might end up missing.

Check out these tough time-slot choices. Feel free to drop a note in the comments section about what choice you would make among the offerings below…

FRIDAY 9/16 ~

  • 2:30 pm: Old Crow Medicine Show, Bobby Long and Delta Spirit.
  • 8:30 pm: Kanye West and Coldplay.

SATURDAY 9/17 ~

  • 6:00 pm: Patrice Pike, Wanda Jackson, Gillian Welch and Cee Lo Green
  • 7:00 pm: Court Yard Hounds, Preservation Hall Jazz Band w/Del McCoury and TV on The Radio.

SUNDAY 9/18 ~

  • 1:30 pm: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., The Greencards and The Head & The Heart.
  • 4:30 pm: Ryan Bingham, Broken Social Scene and Leroy Powell.

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He may not put out many, but Hayes Carll knows how to bring the funny when he brings the video. Above, we have the new flick from Carll, “Another Like You.” Please, be sure to stick around for the whole thing. Trust us. It’ll be worth it. We mean it. Until the very end. And, because we really dig Ms. Bonnie Whitmore and how she would sing this tune with Carll on tour last summer, before the album came out, check the live cut of the tune below…Oh, and consider this your intro/preview for Hayes Carll’s set at this year’s ACL Fest (I told you we’d bring them in myriad ways!).

OK, I know it doesnt seem like that long ago, because it wasnt. But 2010′s ACL Festival is a distant memory, regardless. Why? The line-up for 2011′s edition of the annual party in Zilker Park was officially announced recently, and for those who claimed the organziers had an off year with last years billing (for the record, we didn’t think that), it would seem that such complaints will be hard to come by this year.

Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Cee Lo Green, Fleet Foxes, Allison Krauss, Ray Lamontagne, Nas & Damien Marley, Social Distortion and Ryan Bingham headline an insanely fun group that, as was the case last year, will surely provide many an opportunity for tough decisions once the schedule is announced in a couple of months.

Aside from Bingham, there are several notable acts with Texas ties, as usual. Iron & Wine, Court Yard Hounds (the Dixie Chicks sans Natalie Maines project), Jack Ingram, Hayes Carll, Gary Clark Jr., Patrice Pike, Hudson Moore and of course, as usual, Asleep at the Wheel will certainly lend the festival its usual taste of the Lone Star State.

So, this is only the beginning. This year we at Best of Texas are going to take the ACL preview to new hieghts (at least for us). We’re not going to throw out a few big names and wait until after the September festival is over to tell you how it all went down, no sir. Starting NOW, we’re going to begin a musical oddysey that will see us give you the reader a short (and sometimes not-so-short) introduction into each and every act that will grace an ACL 2011 stage. Sometimes we’ll tell you about several at once, in some form or another. Sometimes we’ll just post a video and a couple of quick thoughts on an act or two, and at other times, we’ll kill a few hundred words on an act that we think is particularly special and certainly worth your time, should you head to Austin between Sept 16-18. 

Since this is the first one (of so very many to come), let’s get one of the big names that needs very little introduction out of the way: Kanye West.

Headlining the Friday night schedule, competing for ears with Coldplay, who’ll be rocking the other end of the park around the same time, most likely, West has established himself as a festival act that is as unpredictable as he is ostentatious and genius. Full disclosure, West’s 2010 record My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy was my vote for record of the year when I voted in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll (the album ended up at #1, among 1200 voters from publications all over the country including Rolling Stone and Spin).

OK, we’ve got almost four months until that magical weekend, so please check back regularly for future ACL band intros. I promise: it’ll be well worth your time, oh fellow festival goer.