OK, this is where we really start to kick our quest of previewing and introducing every act on this year’s ACL Fest bill to you into high-gear. This is also the post where I’m not necessarily recommending certain acts to you as you hopefully plan your own schedule of shows for that joyous weekend. Come on, it’s impossible to like every single performer out of 130 or more, right? Right. Remember, this isn’t an exercise in me suggesting who you have to include on your must-see list. In fact, some of these artists are entering my consciousness for the first time, even. This is just me, setting a lofty goal and hoping to reach it. There are going to be more acts in the future that we discuss, but I won’t be planning to catch, because they’re just not my thing.
OK, now that’s out of the way, let’s dig a bit, shall we? When a line-up has as many bands as this one does, it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that certain styles or genres are getting featured more prominently than others might be, but, as soon as you think you’ve decided that electro-pop is the favored style for the festival, you delve further into the line-up and see other trends develop. Such was the case for me. Turns out, there’s a serious amount of rootsy, female talent on this year’s docket, so let’s take a look…
Alison Krauss & Union Station: Not much to say here that hasn’t been said a million times before. It’s certainly a good thing that she’s back with her killer band and doing what has gained her more Grammy nods than almost anyone in history. Her Raising Sand album and tour with Robert Plant from a couple of years ago was certainly a massive success, but it’s nice to have her back doing her style of bluegrass. Her new album Paper Airplane has been hailed as one of the year’s best, and for good reason.
Gillian Welch:This is where it gets tricky. It’s tough to not enjoy Welch’s work. Her voice has a ghostly distinction that will never allow her songs to be confused with anyone else’s. And that’s great. Since her breakthrough eight years ago, she’s been on the top of everyone’s list of greatest modern roots artists. With the recently released The Harrow & the Harvest, she’s seemingly cemented that stature with reviews that have raved about her ability to live up to the hype that has built since her debut. Yes, it’s a solid album, and I imagine that as long as her set doesn’t directly conflict with an act that I just have to catch, I’ll head over to her stage, but… I’m not getting it. I’m not seeing why this album is being handed the title for Album of 2011 already by so many outlets. Maybe I’ll change my mind after catching a song or two in Austin.
The Secret Sisters: OK, this one isn’t even tricky. This one’s easy. OVERRATED (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) OVERRATED (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap). I caught them in Denton earlier this year, and their set basically put me to sleep and I don’t exactly dig their odd, forced need to look as retro as they want to sound.
Wanda Jackson: the Queen of Rock & Roll and one of Jack White’s recent restoration projects has seen her star re-rise in the last year. Word has it that her performances are inconsistent in terms of general quality, but, hey, any chance you get to see a legend on-stage doing her thing, you need to take it.
To round this category out, here’s a few others to look out for when it comes to the rootsy female…
- Abigail Washburn & the Village (Gets all kinds of crazy with a banjo)
- Ruby Jane (A young, immensely talented Texan that made quite the impression at last year’s ACL Fest when she sat in with Local Natives and tore it up on violin).
- The Greencards (Former Austinites from England and Australia led by one of the best voices in roots music, Kym Warner)
I know that we still might technically be still in the midst of Spring, but the temps are beginning to suggest otherwise. Each year, as our energy bills rise, so to does the list of concerts we all circle on our repsective calendars. Below are a few of the top tours and festivals hitting the state. Some you may know all about by now, and others on this list may be hitting your radar for the first time, perhaps. Regardless, we’re pretty sure you’ll find something for almost any taste in the list below…
Austin Psych Fest (April 29 – May 1) - As much of an oddball grouping as your likely to find all year. This intense, all-weekend bill will be filling the Seaholm Power Plant with all sorts of industrial noise and racous bad/good times. Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez group, along with A Place to Bury Strangers, No Joy and even Texan-goup This Will Destroy You, lead a sonic assult that will likely leave any attendees few questions as to why their ears are bleeding.
Wilco (Houston May 6, Denton May 7) – Not much to add to the simple fact that Wilco will be hitting a couple of places in our state. Word has it that some sort of release is nearing completion, but even if Jeff Tweedy and crew dont play new tunes, their classics are just that – classic.
Editor’s Pick! Homegrown Festival (Dallas May 14): What began last year as a relatively humble gathering of local bands, some of which had outgrown the city limits a tad, has become a full-fledged destination festival, this year. the name of the all-day shindig rings true, still though. Headliners such as Slobberbone, Neon Indian, Astronautalis, and School of Seven Bells are widely known around the country, but all started here in North Texas. The still-new and beautiful Main St Garden is an ideal location that soon might be too small for this budding festival.
Editor’s Pick! Mogwai (Dallas May 15, Austin May 16, Houston May 17) – Perhaps the band that gave real wings to what so many term as “post-rock”. The Scottish outfit has now been together for over a decade and a half, and after three years, they’ve just released an insanely anthemic studio album album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, which is their best effort since their debut record, 1997′s Young Team. Similar to a band like Austin’s Explosions in the Sky, who clearly adore Stewart Braithwaite and his crew, Mogwai has always looked to create moving soundscapes that escape simple categorization. The former Matador stars, now working with Sub Pop have had this American tour planned for a while, actually. The Granada Theater in Dallas announced this show back in November, giving fans plenty of time to brush up on their air-guitar and shoegazing skills. A Pitchfork review of the new record, while not glowing, summed up a feeling that has seemed to evident in the band’s recent performances by suggesting, “ On Hardcore, Mogwai sound like they’re enjoying being Mogwai again.” I can only imagine that us Texans will enjoy them just fine.
Editor’s Pick! Twilight Singers (May 30 Dallas, May 31 Austin, June 1 Houston) – Another Sub Pop act that has been around for a while will be making their long-awaited way through Texas. This project is a bit differnt, however. Greg Dulli, formerly the leader of Afghan Wigs, made this his secondary group, therefore output from this act was scarce until his main act disbanded in 2001. After that, releases havent exactly been prolific, but they have at least bore the mark of a real band and not merely a one-off side project. Case in point: Twilight Singers latest album, Dynamite Steps. An all-out alt-rock album that features agressive rock, with agresive melodies and a real sense for drama. Afghan who?
Houston Free Press Summerfest (June 4-5) - Talk about a line-up that doesn’t need much further explanation? The annual festival, held in Eleanor Tinsley Park, has really topped their already impressive acts from previous years. Weezer, Big Boi, Cut Copy, Yeasayer, Jason Isbell, and Beirut headline a line-up that has really strong support from Lower Dens, Hayes Carll, The Black Angels and Those Darlins, among many others.
Adele w/ Wanda Jackson (Austin June 12, Dallas June 15) – Hello, Girl Power! The current darling of the UK and the US album charts pairs herself with the Queen of Rock and Roll? Yes please! That’s a serious amount of soul to put onto one stage in one night.