Encore: Jason Isbell and Neko Case

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend ACL features two powerful singer-songwriters: Jason Isbell and Neko Case, each possessing a distinctive style and voice.

Hailed as “one of America’s thoroughbred songwriters” by The New York Times, Jason Isbell opens the episode, making his ACL debut. The Nashville-via-Mussel Shoals, Alabama singer/songwriter’s 2013 album Southeastern scored a Top 25 on the Billboard 200, and critical raves, including topping many critic’s year-end best lists. The New York Times Magazine declared, “the record is a breakthrough for Isbell—prickly with loss, forgiveness, newfound sobriety and second chances.” Rolling Stone calls it “one of the year’s best in any genre,” and Pitchfork raves “Southeastern is easily Isbell’s best solo album.” A former member of acclaimed Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, Isbell launched a solo career in 2007. Backed by his band the 400 Unit, including his wife, fiddler Amanda Shires, and with a rawness and honesty that’s rare in contemporary songwriting, Isbell gives a stunning must-see performance on the ACL stage.

You can see Isbell’s performance in its unedited entirety on the DVD Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits. You can purchase a copy here.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” said executive producer Terry Lickona, “but when Jason sang ‘Elephant,’ it literally gave me chills. That’s the kind of writer he is, and that’s the kind of performer he is.”

photo by Scott Newton

Neko Case makes a thunderous return to ACL (she first appeared in 2003) performing songs from her acclaimed 2013 release The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, her sixth studio album.  Case emerges from a three-year period the artist describes as full of “grief and mourning,” in the wake of the deaths of not just both her parents, but several intimates as well. With her fearless songwriting and musical curiosity, Neko Case captures fans with “one of the most memorable and seductive voices in music” (NPR).  Pitchfork says The Worse Things Get… “is the most potent album of her career,” and Rolling Stone raves that Case is “one of America’s best and most ambitious songwriters.” Case performs a captivating set of songs from the new record, and a few gems from her recent releases.

“There’s something about that voice, but it’s also about the delivery – which makes this performance that much more special,” said Lickona. “Her television performances are few and far between, so this is one that’s not to be missed!”

Check out the episode page for more details. Don’t forget, you can click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL goodies. Next week: Portugal. The Man and Local Natives.

Encore: Vampire Weekend/Grizzly Bear

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend, Austin City Limits shines the spotlight on two of indie rock’s most innovative bands, with the ACL debuts of Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear.  

Vampire Weekend kicks off an exuberant performance with “Diane Young” from their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City.  The band formed in 2006 at NY’s Columbia University and “quickly became one of the most important New York bands of this millennium” (NY Times). Vampire Weekend’s dynamic, high-energy performance offers a window into their unique sound. The group perform tracks from their three albums, including the massive hit “Cousins,” from their 2010 sophomore release Contra, which earned the band a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Album.  Displaying their impressive musicianship by playing the tricky polyrhythms and intricate melodies that are a hallmark of their sound, the four-piece band keeps their well-crafted choruses and melodies flowing throughout for a memorable debut.

“Vampire Weekend are festival favorites for good reason – everybody loves their music!” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “They have an easy-going approach that almost makes it feel like they’re playing in somebody’s backyard instead of to thousands (or in this case, on national TV). Their songs are intoxicating.”

With their sweeping, psychedelic indie rock in full effect, Grizzly Bear turns in a stellar set as well. Grizzly Bear has been steadily ascending throughout their decade-long career, garnering raves for their special blend of visceral, majestic indie rock. Pitchfork says, “the Brooklyn four-piece make pop music for the ambient, asking us to notice the importance in detail, the beauty of texture, and the foregrounds that exist all across our spectrum of perception.” The band takes the ACL stage performing songs primarily from their acclaimed recent album Shields, which Rolling Stone named one of the year’s best. Grizzly Bear features two singers, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, who are also the main songwriters, and the band’s emphasis on collaboration is front and center as they trade off vocals, delivering gorgeous, elaborate, haunting compositions.  

photo by Scott Newton

“There’s almost something spiritual, or at least ethereal, about Grizzly Bear’s music,” says ACL’s Lickona. “Their sweet harmonies can be hypnotic, and overall there’s this low-key kind of excitement about them that just leaves you wanting more!”

Check out the episode page here and tune in this Saturday to see the show for yourself. Click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or our newsletter for the latest ACL skinny. Next week: the 2015 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame special.

Encore: Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids

photo by Scott Newton

Join us this weekend as we present Americana music originals Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids in a brand new episode. Both artists showcase their bona fides in an all acoustic hour with roots/folk singer-songwriter Jarosz making a return appearance on the ACL stage and newcomers The Milk Carton Kids in their ACL debut. The episode showcases the young folk acts who were both nominated for Best Folk Album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Pushing the limits of Americana with her own distinctive style, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz takes the ACL stage for her second appearance performing highlights from her recent album Build Me Up From Bones. The incredibly talented Jarosz has already released three albums at the age of 22. With her two-piece band featuring a fiddle player and cello, Jarosz begins a stellar set with the Grammy-nominated title track in an acoustic performance that showcases her musicianship and songwriting. Switching between mandolin and banjo, Jarosz also dips into the songbooks of others, treating the audience to an accessible take on Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right On” and a solo rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Kathy’s Song”. She invites The Milk Carton Kids out to join her and the band for “Annabelle Lee” (based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem), displaying their complementary visions of contemporary folk music.

“We are so proud of Sarah, we feel like she’s part of the family,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “The last time she graced our stage she was on her way to college, now she’s graduated with honors and her remarkable talent has grown exponentially. We couldn’t resist having her back!”

photo by Scott Newton

The Milk Carton Kids, the L.A. acoustic folk duo consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, make their ACL debut playing songs from their critically-acclaimed new album The Ash & Clay. The besuited pair “play a sweetly dazzling variation on close-harmony vocals, part Simon and Garfunkel and part Everly Brothers” (LA Times) for a sound NPR calls “gorgeous contemporary folk.” With flat-picking harmonies and a touch of twisted humor, the duo play purely acoustically on the ACL stage—no guitar amplification and one vocal mic—to beautiful effect. In a skillful performance infused with their signature wit, the Kids charm the Austin crowd with their playful, deadpan banter, exquisite guitar work, rich harmonies and timeless folk.

“I first saw Kenneth and Joey perform on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium last September, and it was obvious that they are world-class entertainers beyond their years,” says Lickona. “They are traditionalists with a modern spin and a mischievous sense of humor.”

photo by Scott Newton

Check out the episode page for more details. Be sure and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL goodness. Next week: Kacey Musgraves and Dale Watson.

Encore: Eric Church

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits proudly presents an hour with country sensation Eric Church. Church has blazed his own trail to superstardom and now makes his ACL debut with his signature brand of no-holds-barred country music.

Famous for a game-changing live show, Church performs songs from his critically-acclaimed, chart-topping 2014 album The Outsiders in his ACL debut.  The music rebel’s distinctively hard-rocking spin on country, influenced as much by AC/DC and Metallica as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, has earned him a huge audience outside the confines of country radio.  Church appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone this year and was named one of their “50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now.” NPR raves, “Eric Church is working on a level that few other country artists of his generation can touch.”

“This is gonna be fun,” says the North Carolina native, clearly enjoying his first visit to the ACL stage. Church’s appearance is a twelve-song tour-de-force that presents the performer at the top of his game. Delivering a host of hits in his trademark aviators, Church’s crowd-pleasing set is filled with anthems about youth, family and outliers that ignite through songwriting skill, powerful riffs and energetic vocals. Highlights include the rebellious “The Outsiders”, the autobiographical title track “Sinners Like Me” from his 2006 debut and the Grammy-nominated anthem “Springsteen” from his 2011 breakthrough Chief, with the Austin audience providing the “whoa-ohs” of the chorus. Church brings it all home solo, showcasing his softer side with the heartfelt set-closing ballad “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Eric and his band know how to rock harder than many rock ‘n roll bands,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and his music and the words behind it have a way of reaching fans way beyond the usual borders of country music. He’s a perfect fit for ACL.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Next week: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell.

Encore: Tweedy

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a Season 40 highlight—the return of ACL veteran Jeff Tweedy for a very special hour of music. The Wilco leader showcases his new solo project Tweedy, joined by son Spencer and their special guests, as they perform a mix of new songs and Wilco classics.

As a longtime favorite son of ACL, it’s only fitting that Jeff Tweedy returns to the ACL stage with his own son for the show’s milestone 40th anniversary season. The esteemed singer-songwriter has appeared on ACL four times previously with his main outfit Wilco, starting back in Season 25.  This new installment marks his first-ever solo outing for ACL, accompanied by his 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, with lush harmonies from Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of the band Lucius.

“It took me 18 years to have a solo record because I had to grow a drummer,” jokes Tweedy to the ACL audience, as the father-son team begin the strikingly intimate hour with songs from the critically-acclaimed 2014 release Sukierae. In a recent four-star review, Rolling Stone hails the debut as “another tour de force from a guy who’s made a few.” Closing the five-song band set of new material with the new folk-rocker “Nobody Dies Anymore”, the Grammy-winning frontman treats the Austin crowd to a solo acoustic set of fan favorites from Wilco’s vast catalog including “Via Chicago” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”.  Tweedy also performs a spirited version of Austin songwriter Doug Sahm’s classic “Give Back the Key to My Heart”, a song he recorded more than twenty years ago as a member of the legendary Uncle Tupelo. The episode comes to a captivating close with Jeff Tweedy taking the stage solo for a powerful rendition of Wilco’s “Misunderstood”.

photo by Scott Newton

“This show has special meaning for all of us at ACL,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “A few years ago I introduced Wilco from the stage as the band that best sums up everything that Austin City Limits is all about. Jeff Tweedy continues to be one of the most creative voices in modern music, and together with his son they continue to build on two incredible legacies – his and ours!”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Next week: Eric Church.

Encore: Los Lobos and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents true American originals—the legendary Los Lobos and folk rock wonders Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Los Lobos return to the ACL stage for their fifth appearance, while innovator Thao Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down make their ACL debut. Music mavericks with far-reaching influences, both acts exemplify ACL’s outstanding legacy of “Great Music, No Limits.”

More than forty years into their run, Los Lobos are one of America’s great rock ‘n roll bands. The influential and enduring East L.A. band return to the ACL stage celebrating their recent 40th anniversary alongside ACL’s. “Los Lobos are still one of America’s best, bravest, and most satisfying bands, and their skills and their instincts remain razor-sharp,” raves AllMusic. After four decades together the beloved band continue to create music that resonates with audiences around the world, and the three-time GRAMMY winning group will be honored this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Latin Recording Academy. Opening their ACL set with the fan favorite “La Pistola y el Corazon”, the group perform highlights from their vast catalog. The crowd-pleasing performance displays their world-class musicianship, as the veteran rockers perform their signature style of “Chicano rock” with an eclectic set of rock ‘n roll, country, folk, R&B, blues and norteño music. The group close out the masterful set with “Mas y Mas”, joined by Austin’s own Grupo Fantasma on horns, showing great music is universal.

“Los Lobos and ACL have always felt like kindred spirits,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “We share the same impulse towards originality, experimentation and fun with music. They’re still one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands in America!”

photo by Scott Newton

Led by enigmatic singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, the San Francisco-based Thao & the Get Down Stay Down have built a devoted following based on their spirited live shows and their catalog of smart, genre-blending indie rock. The band’s ACL debut features them performing songs from their 2013 release We the Common. The group’s blend of rhythms and Thao’s folk-influenced fingerpicking give the band a distinctive sound that truly makes it stand out from the pack. Bandleader Thao’s natural exuberance and wide-ranging songwriting acumen make for a joyful, must-see ACL appearance. The band close out the scorching set with the singalong folk pop of “We the Common,” with the Austin crowd happy to oblige.

“Thao is a true artist for the 21st century,” says Lickona. “Her influences are wide-ranging, and her live performances are mesmerizing and infectious!”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Next week: Tweedy.


Encore: Nine Inch Nails

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a rare hour of television with legendary industrial rock titan Nine Inch Nails in a special encore broadcast  that originally previewed in April as a prelude to our 40th anniversary season. Recently nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NIN give an arena-worthy performance in their ACL debut.

“We’ve waited a long time to do anything like this,” says Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor from the ACL stage. The episode offers a fascinating look at the influential act’s artistry in a flawless performance of unparalleled intensity. NIN’s Reznor and the seven-piece band—Alessandro Cortini, Josh Eustis, Robin Finck, Lisa Fischer, Sharlotte Gibson, Pino Palladino and Ilan Rubin—deliver an electrifying hour-long set that is a masterpiece of tension and release. Opening with the sultry “All Time Low” from the critically-acclaimed Hesitation Marks—their first album in five years—the band performs tracks from its recent offering alongside earlier works, including 1999’s The Fragile. NIN segue into a revamped version of “Sanctified” from the 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine, with the vocal duo of Fischer and Gibson adding depth and texture to the pummeling rhythms throughout the song as well as the entire riveting set. The cathartic performance comes to a close with a redemptive take on the NIN classic “Hurt”, as Reznor grips the microphone and howls the confessional lyrics while the Austin audience begs for more.

“We never thought we’d see the day when Nine Inch Nails would set foot on the ACL stage,” says Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “I mean, they never did television for 25 years. I came away from this show having the greatest respect for Trent Reznor. He’s one of the most focused, intense and creative artists I’ve ever worked with.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL goodies. Next week: Los Lobos and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.

Encore: Esperanza Spalding

photo by Scott Newton

Triple Grammy-winning artist Esperanza Spalding makes her return to Austin City Limits  this weekend with a mesmerizing performance that transcends jazz. In a touching tribute Spalding dedicates the episode to legendary guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away January 28, 2013. The appearance marks their final performance together.

Joined by a stellar 11-piece band, Spalding performs songs from her latest release Radio Music Society, which scored two 2013 Grammy Awards, including Best Jazz Vocal Album. The album represents a celebratory vision of the artists who helped cultivate and inspire Spalding’s career throughout the years. Radio Music Society has received high praise from critics, who hail the album’s “journey through soul, gospel, balladry and big-band swing” [The New York Times] and “torchy swaggers, world-jazzy guitar grooves propelling smoky saxes, and political songs with only a Hammond organ for company” [The Guardian].

Spalding made her ACL debut back in Season 35, performing tracks from her 2008 breakthrough Esperanza, and wowed an audience largely unfamiliar with her music. Her appearance continues to be one of ACL’s most popular encore episodes. She has since gone on to capture the attention of audiences around the globe, leading to her stunning 2011 Grammy win as the first jazz musician to win for Best New Artist. Spalding’s dynamic relationship with her acoustic double bass has cemented her presence in musical history as a modern jazz virtuoso with “a light, fizzy, optimistic drive that’s in her melodic bass playing and her elastic, small-voiced singing” [The Times].

photo by Scott Newton

“The first time Esperanza appeared on ACL, she was a best-kept secret,” admits ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “But now the word is out, and the world is her stage. This time she also brings a stage full of incredible jazz musicians, and an hour full of new music. People will be writing about this show 50 years from now.”

Check out the episode page for more information. Don’t forget to keep up with ACL goings-on on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or via our newsletter. Next week: Nine Inch Nails.