Texas®

In this coming week or two following the Turkey Day that’s just passed, there will be some notable bands and tours cutting through our state as a part of some really major tours. Wilco will make their way into Dallas on November 29th and into Austin on December 1st, for example. That’s pretty big, right?

Well, Wilco’s great, but things get even more epic and more arena-rocking in the week after Jeff Tweedy and roll through.

Perhaps the biggest, most anticipated concert tour of the year will hit our state once Jay-Z and Kanye West bring their Watch The Throne show to town. The album of the same name is already one of the better hip-hop releases of the year, but when you combine that album with the boat-load of hits the two MCs have in their arsenal already, it’s sure to be an insane night for all. Be sure to catch them in Houston (the Toyota Center) on December 5th, and then in Dallas (where I’ll be!) on December 6th. Reviews have been more than postivie so far, so it’ll be cool to see if the duo has stepped it up even further by the time they get to Texas.

To make next week even bigger, the Kentucky-bred, rough-hewn indie heroes turned arena-rock mammoths, My Morning Jacket will laser-shoot their way through the same two towns on the following two nights. Still basking in the glow of their latest, border-broadening (and excellent) release, Circuital, the Jim James-led outfit will show Texas why they can rightfully and successfully headline ACL and any other massive festival, regardless of whether they are the household name that many think they should be or not.

Next year will bring big shows: Radiohead has already announced a March tour, Roger Waters will bring the Wall back to Texas in May with giants like Foo Fighters and Coldplay sure to announce their Lone Star 2012 dates soon. But for now, for the end of 2011, the next week and a half is going to be a great time to bring the noise.

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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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.