Encore: Father John Misty and The Black Angels

Father John Misty on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a deep dive into the unconventional with two acts whose music provides a soundtrack to uncertain times: indie sensation Father John Misty in his ACL debut and modern psych-rockers The Black Angels in a return appearance.

Father John Misty, the pseudonym for the singer-songwriter also known as Josh Tillman, dazzles in his 5-song debut, offering a fascinating glimpse of one of today’s most charismatic artists. The indie-rock provocateur performs songs from his latest, Pure Comedy, a 2018 Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Album. Hailed “a sprawling masterwork” by NPR, the New York Times called it “an ideal album for the era of outrage.” Father John delivers an epic performance filled with his dry wit and keen insights on religion, fame, social media, technology and the overall state of humanity, backed by a 16-piece orchestra, including a full string and horn section. For the set-closer, the sweetly cynical “I Love You, Honeybear” (title track from his 2015 sophomore album), the magnetic bandleader playfully dances with the mic stand and waltzes offstage to embrace the crowd, a cult leader for the ages, as the audience sings along for an ecstatic climax.

Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock. The New York Times raves they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The quintet debuted on ACL in 2013 and make their return appearance with a charged set of songs from their first full-length release in four years, the acclaimed Death Song. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.” Frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals channel 21st century outrage on hypnotic set opener “Currency,” which pillories our capitalism-above-all-else society. Surrounded by screens swirling with kaleidoscopic images, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease, anchored by cutting wordplay and the distorted fuzz of menacing guitars.

“‘These are perilous times,’ somebody once wrote, and writing songs that define or defy today’s times can be a perilous exercise,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Nobody does it better than Josh Tillman and Alex Maas. They infuse their songs with a musical urgency that is really hypnotic. The impact of their two sets together makes this a unique ACL episode.”

The Black Angels on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU 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 info. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring Americana giants Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.

Encore: Sleater-Kinney and Heartless Bastards

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents two of indie-rock’s finest in a must-see installment featuring Sleater-Kinney splitting the episode with Heartless Bastards.

Legendary punk group Sleater-Kinney make their inaugural appearance on the ACL stage armed with songs from their first new album in a decade, No Cities To Love. The surprise release landed on top of many 2015 year-end best lists including the New York Times’ Jon Pareles, who raved “Reunited for its first album in 10 years, Sleater-Kinney returns as joyfully rigorous as ever, sinewy and ready to grapple.” Consisting of guitarists/vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (also the co-creator/star of IFC’s Portlandia), and drummer Janet Weiss, the powerhouse trio came crashing out of the Pacific Northwest in the mid-90s, setting a new bar for punk’s political awareness and emotional impact. The seminal band perform a searing, musically thrilling, career-wide seven-song set with ferocious new material alongside classic anthems including “Dig Me Out,” the title track from their 1997 breakthrough, and songs from 2005’s The Woods.

Austin-based Heartless Bastards, fronted by dynamic vocalist Erika Wennerstrom, return for their second ACL appearance since their Season 35 debut, focusing on their acclaimed new release Restless Ones. Heartless Bastards have spent the past decade in motion, bolding pushing their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll into new shapes over four albums and nearly non-stop touring. Rich with purpose, passion, seasoned songwriting and commanding musicianship, Restless Ones, their fifth studio album, captures the idiosyncratic band exploring their craft and soul in an effort to reach a place that’s both real and transcendent. With a voice NPR describes as “warm yet gritty, throaty yet sweet, gigantic yet intimate,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Wennerstrom opens the set with the effervescent country rocker “Hi-Line.” As she switches from acoustic to electric guitar for the garage rock gem “Black Cloud,” the rockers hit their stride, juxtaposing dark subject matter with up-tempo style. The band reach back to 2012’s Arrow for “Parted Ways,” closing out the sublime set on a pitch perfect note.

photo by Scott Newton

“This show is all about women who rock, not to mention awesome singers!” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It took a decade for Sleater-Kinney to bring us new music, but it was worth the wait. They’re living proof that a band can keep getting better and better. Same goes for Heartless Bastards. Always hometown favorites, Erika’s voice is one-of-a-kind – raw and polished at the same time!”

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. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring indie rockers Father John Misty and The Black Angels.

Encore: The Head and The Heart and Benjamin Booker

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two standout acts featured on this year’s namesake ACL Festival: The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker. Both acts are highlights on the touring circuit, drawing raves for soulful live performances.

Seattle folk-rock band The Head and the Heart make their second ACL appearance with a luminous performance featuring songs from their newest release Signs of Light. The indie favorites are one of live music’s biggest draws, with high-profile 2017 festival appearances including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk in addition to Austin’s own ACL Festival. The sextet deliver an uplifting, singalong set filled with new musical touchstones including “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels.” A moving cover of “Hunger Strike” honoring late Seattle icon Chris Cornell is a set highlight, rich with three-part harmonies. The band bring the passionate set to a glorious close with the soaring “River and Roads” from their 2011 self-titled debut, a fan favorite.

Florida-raised, New Orleans-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker delivers a raw, impassioned ACL debut packed with songs from his acclaimed 2017 album Witness and his 2014 self-titled breakout debut. Opening with his rocking radio hit “Violent Shiver,” the twenty-eight year old phenom draws on soul, blues and gospel, showcasing stirring soul-rockers “Carry,” “The Slow Drag Under” and “Believe” backed by a gospel choir. A powerful performance of his Civil Rights anthem “Witness” combines Booker’s husky, soulful voice with a profound message on racism in America. 

“The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker are prime examples of artists who just keep getting better,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than finding a groove and just staying with it, they are constantly searching for new ways to express their voices, and new sounds to go along with them. The end result can be surprising but always inspiring.”

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 info. Join us next week for another encore episode, featuring jazz singer Cassandra Wilson performing a tribute to Billie Holiday.

 

Encore: Norah Jones and Angel Olsen

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two of today’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters in a new installment. ACL veteran Norah Jones and indie breakout star Angel Olsen share the episode, with distinctive performances demonstrating the extraordinary range of the genre.

Norah Jones made her first appearance on Austin City Limits in 2002, just prior to the release of her landmark debut Come Away With Me, which propelled her to the world stage. Since then, Jones has sold 50 million albums worldwide and is a nine-time Grammy-winner. She returns for her fourth appearance on the series performing new songs from her sixth album Day Breaks, a kindred spirit to Come Away…and a return to her piano and jazz roots. Seated at her grand piano, the native Texan delivers a stately performance featuring new gems, including the stunning originals “Flipside” and “Carry On,” and gorgeous renditions of Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied” and Horace Silver’s jazz standard “Peace.” Jones closes out the set on acoustic guitar surrounded by her bandmates as they gather around a single microphone for an inspired cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” reimagined as a folk classic.

A unique voice in indie music, Angel Olsen shares songs from her widely-acclaimed release My Woman in a compelling, confident ACL debut. “I have a couple things I’d like to share with you tonight. A couple of feelings and a couple of songs,” says the dynamic singer-songwriter-guitarist. Her powerful vocals anchor her longing, demanding love songs as the Austin crowd sing along rapturously. Olsen’s five-piece band, sharp in matching powder blue suits, join in soaring harmonies to breathtaking effect. The indie stunner has the crowd in her pocket as she closes with a highlight, the reverb-shrouded poetic swoon of “Shut Up Kiss Me,” an anthem for the ages.

Angel Olsen ©️KLRU 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. This episode is also featured on American Airlines’ in-flight entertainment channel in June. 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. Join us next week for an encore episode featuring indie rockers The Head and The Heart and blues/soul/rock & roller Benjamin Booker.

Encore: The Pretenders

The Pretenders - photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits rocks on with a hit-filled hour starring the great Pretenders in their first-ever appearance on the ACL stage. The legendary rock band sends a message of love to viewers with an eleven-song hit parade.

Influential punk new-wave veterans the Pretenders are in fighting form as they kick off an electrifying hour with new classic “Alone,” a swagger-fueled gem that fits right into the band’s canon, and the title track from their first album in almost a decade. Iconic bandleader Chrissie Hynde informs the crowd, “You don’t have to be polite, because we don’t plan to be.” The defiant frontwoman commands the stage, showcasing her still-radiant voice in a career-spanning performance featuring fan-favorites including “Back On The Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone,” “Mystery Achievement,” and “Middle of the Road.” Pretenders’ trademark tough and tender lyrics resonate as they did when the band arrived on the London scene in 1978. Hynde fondly introduces original member Martin Chambers as “the world’s greatest rock drummer,” as he plays the stirring intro of “Message Of Love.” The band caps the powerhouse set with their signature hit “Brass In Pocket,” as Hynde pulls a spellbound fan onstage to join her on the timeless tune.

“One thing that hasn’t changed in almost 40 years,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “Chrissie Hynde is still a badass! There’s no doubt about who’s in charge, and musically her voice still rings as clear and strong as ever. Whether you’re an old fan or a newbie, this is a show for the ages.”

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 info. Join us next week for an encore episode of expert songwriting and soulful singing with Norah Jones and Angel Olsen.

Encore: Sturgill Simpson and Asleep at the Wheel

Sturgill Simpson ©KLRU photo by Scott Newton

stin City Limits welcomes breakout country artist Sturgill Simpson sharing the bill with legendary Western swing institution Asleep at the Wheel.  Two acts steeped in old-school tradition but beamed through a contemporary prism, the must-see episode features rising star Simpson making his full set ACL debut while Texas swing veterans Asleep at the Wheel return for their 11th appearance. ACL Hall of Fame members AATW are joined by guest stars The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee and the Quebe Sisters in a special tribute to musical forebear Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing.   

Forty years after Willie Nelson made his iconic debut on ACL on October 14, 1974, country rebel Sturgill Simpson arrives at the top of his game in a standout ACL debut.  With his acclaimed breakthrough Metamodern Sounds In Country Music topping Best of 2014 Album lists and a stack of accolades to call his own—including a Grammy nomination, top honors at this year’s Americana Awards, slots at the year’s biggest music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Coachella and ACL Fest—ACL captures Simpson on the verge of full-blown stardom.  Playing an acoustic guitar, the Kentucky native and his ace four-piece band launch into a scorching seven-song set that makes a believer out of everyone. He pays tribute to the outlaw country scene that inspired him, acknowledging his debt to Willie, and to Austin cosmic cowboy Steve Fromholz, with an impassioned rendition of “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” a Fromholz song Nelson made famous in the ‘70s, and a perfect showcase for Simpson’s rich baritone.  The full span of Simpson’s influences is evident with the inspired set-closer, a brilliant crossbreed of the Osborne Brothers’ bluegrass classic “Listening to the Rain” to glam-rock band T-Rex’s “The Motivator.”

A national as well as Texan treasure, the nine-time Grammy Award-winning Austin supergroup Asleep at the Wheel has kept the Western swing flame burning for forty-five years.  Still led by larger-than-life founder Ray Benson, AATW appeared in the first official episode of Austin City Limits in 1976, and returns for a remarkable eleventh appearance to perform selections from their recent Bob Wills tribute album Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, a salute to the great bandleader.  Wills’ music, born in the 1920s and ‘30s, continues to inspire younger generations, and AATW is joined on the ACL stage by some very special guests, including soul singer Amos Lee, fiddle trio the Quebe Sisters and Americana sensations The Avett Brothers, who put their own spin on Western swing classics.  A highlight of the set comes when two former Texas Playboys—singer Leon Rausch, 88, and 92-year old saxophonist Billy Briggs—take the stage.  The entire ensemble returns for a crowd sing-along of the signature “Texas Playboys Theme,” winding “Happy Trails” into the old chestnut for a perfect close.  

Asleep at the Wheel with special guests ©KLRU photo by Scott Newton

“This show goes back deep to the roots of where Austin City Limits began,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “Sturgill would’ve fit perfectly into the Austin music scene of the ‘70s, and it speaks volumes that his own progressive country sound resonates so strongly and stands in contrast to much of the country pop today.  Asleep at the Wheel appeared on the very first episode of our very first season, and they’re still kicking it 41 years later – just like 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. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring rock icons The Pretenders.

Encore: Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a heartwarming hour with Southern country-rock act Zac Brown Band. The multi-platinum, three-time Grammy Award-winning group make their series debut with a career-spanning performance.

The acclaimed Atlanta octet showcase career highlights alongside new songs in a spirited, 11-song triumph. The country-rockers claimed Best New Artist at the 2010 Grammy Awards with their breakthrough release, The Foundation (now five-times platinum) and today are one of music’s biggest live acts. “We’re super-proud to be on the ACL stage,” says bandleader Zac Brown as he welcomes the crowd to pull up a seat at the “Family Table,” a gem from the band’s latest release Welcome Home. Brown shares the heartfelt stories behind many of their songs including the chart-topping ballad “Colder Weather” and the power-of-music testament “Day That I Die,” from 2012’s Uncaged, the Grammy Award-winning Best Country Album. The band cap the soaring set with a masterful hat-trick showcasing the musical range that has made them a fan-favorite; starting with “The Muse,” originally recorded with the Foo Fighters’ ubiquitous Dave Grohl, followed by their stirring cover of songwriting legend John Prine’s “All the Best,” and ending in tribute to their Southern-rock roots with a roof-raising finale of the Allman Brothers’ classic “Whipping Post.”

“To call them ‘Country’ or ‘Southern Rock’ doesn’t begin to describe the breadth and depth of what Zac Brown Band is really all about,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Singing songs that tell great stories and playing music that just plain makes you feel better is definitely a big part of who they are and where they’re from.”

Zac Brown Band ©️KLRU 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 info. Join us next week for a brand new episode, featuring the debut of acclaimed country troubadour Sturgill Simpson and the return of ACL frequent flyers Asleep at the Wheel.

Encore: Florence + the Machine and Andra Day

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a breathtaking hour with two of today’s most inspirational acts: Florence + the Machine in their return appearance and Andra Day in a standout ACL debut.

UK hitmakers Florence + the Machine first-appeared on the ACL stage in 2012. Now international superstars and one of rock’s biggest live acts, the unstoppable band make a triumphant return with a high-energy, buoyant five-song set. Dynamic leader Florence Welch dances barefoot across the stage performing songs from their recent, chart-topping LP How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Her knockout vocals and remarkable rapport with fans captivate throughout as she enlists the crowd as a “hungover choir of angels” for the Grammy-nominated “Shake It Out” from 2011’s Ceremonials, closing with a rapturous performance of the band’s 2009 breakthrough smash, the anthemic “Dog Days Are Over.”

“Florence brings a unique performance art to all of her shows, and she took it to a new level this night,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “She went out of her way to establish a real connection with her audience, and at times the fans seemed to be as much a part of the show as she was. It’s very magical to watch it happen in real time.”

Rising star Andra Day dazzles with her unique mix of R&B, soul and jazz in her first ACL outing, performing songs from her Grammy-nominated debut Cheers to the Fall. A singer with astounding vocal range, she showcases her powerhouse vocals in a stellar, four-song set. The performance turns topical as Day addresses the events of the Orlando tragedy (her taping was the same day) and dedicates her anthem of resilience “Rise Up” to the victims and their families. In a raw, emotionally cathartic moment, she asks the audience to join her in song sending healing energy in the hopes that the families might feel some comfort. Closing with a cover of Queen’s “I Want It All,” altering the original’s rock arrangement into a pleading blues ballad, the song brings the singer to her knees and the audience to their feet.

“It was the day of the Orlando tragedy, and emotions were already running high,” says Lickona. “Andra’s powerful performance reminded us all that music can be a universal healer and a force for good. When she sang ‘Rise Up,’ there was hardly a dry eye in the house.”

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 info. Tune in next week for an encore episode featuring the ACL debut of Zac Brown Band.