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.

 

OK, OK. I didn’t make it this year. Last minute changes kept me from going, and while we’re at it, I failed miserably in my goal of discussing every one of the artists on the line-up, too. What can I say? I’ll do better next time. For now, we all have some great highlights to look at, thanks to Youtube, whose showcasing official clips from the festival. Here’s some of what would’ve been my favorite performances of the weekend.

OK, I’m so behind on my goal of discussing every artist on this year’s ACL Fest bill with all of you fine folks. I’m not gonna lie, I’m nervous about completing the task before the grand festival in Austin’s Zilker Park takes place in less than a month from now (9/16 -18). So, in future weeks, we’ll get really serious about covering more ground, but today, I want to focus on one band. Perhaps this is the main band I’m personally looking forward to catching. They’ve gone from little-odd-alt country-band-that-could status to legit worldwide festival headliners who’s  albums are perhaps the most spiritedly adventurous of any mainstream rock band outside of Radiohead.

Who? My Morning Jacket, of course.

Barreling out of Kentucky, the Jim James-led outfit has made a living out of throwing others expectations of them out of the tour van window. James displayed his otherworldly falsetto long before Bon Iver came along and is as responsible as any for bringing the shuffling, mellow, pedal-steel vibe of laid back alt-country into the indie-rock realm as anyone.

Of course, as soon as folks started hearing word about MMJ, the band decided it was time to get funky. And in doing so, they grew into not only a massively popular group, but into one of the more polarizing popular groups around. Their 2005 album, Z, is basically considered their breakthrough album (it finished #10 in the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll for 2005), and indeed ushered in a more abstractly rocking element into their catalog than had been there before. It’s almost impossible to not like that album, as far as this writer’s concerned.

So many bands would’ve looked to safely build upon that momentum. That’s not to say that said band would’ve carbon-copied the successful album and whimped out in hopes of gaining even more fame, but few would’ve purposely chosen the route MMJ chose. The road less traveled? How about the road that shouldn’t be traveled? Unless your My Morning Jacket, that is.

The 2008 release of Evil Urges took the band further away from their celestial, folky roots and closer to “what are they thinking’ terrain. Blending simple, classic rock, Prince-flavoredbaby-making R&B and some pretty silly prog-rock (see: “Highly Suspicious”), the guys made a few heads scratch with the album, but thanks to the expanded catalog’s attention and their live mastery of the new material, the chance that the band took really didn’t seem to hurt the momentum that had been building in the previous years.

The past few years have seen James perform as a part of the super-group Monsters of Folk and even as a solo-artist under the name of Yim Yames. The time off from MMJ served them all well it seems, as Circuital, the bands latest album is an absolute gem and is likely the album that many had hoped for when Evil Urges was released. Unpredictable without being non-sensical, and adventurouswithout being unnecessarily experimental, there’s little question that this album is one of the year’s very best, regardless of region or genre.

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.