Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years 6/26

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UPDATE: This concert is now SOLD OUT

Austin City Limits announces KLRU Presents: Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years, an all-star benefit concert on Thursday, June 26th, featuring some of the brightest stars in the show’s history returning to the Austin City Limits stage.

The star-studded evening, hosted by Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow, will feature Alabama ShakesGary Clark Jr.Joe ElyRobert Earl KeenKris KristoffersonLloyd MainesBonnie RaittT Bone BurnettJimmie VaughanGrupo Fantasma and Doyle Bramhall II along with musical performances from Bridges and Crow, celebrating Austin City Limits legacy as an American music institution over the last four decades.

Commemorating the trailblazing music series 40th Anniversary, the evening will benefit KLRU, which created Austin City Limits in 1974 and still produces the show today.  The concert will take place at ACL’s home, ACL Live at The Moody Theater, and will be taped as part of a two-hour primetime special, Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years, airing Friday, October 3. ACL continues its remarkable run, kicking off its milestone 40th year with the series season premiere on October 4. The complete broadcast episode schedule for Season 40 will be announced at a later date.

Encore: Jack White

photo by Scott Newton

As a bandleader, Jack White has visited the Austin City Limits studio before, ripping it up with the Raconteurs back in 2006. Now Jack White returns to our stage as a solo artist to demonstrate exactly why he’s one of today’s most exciting musicians.

Ever the risk-taker, White hits the stage bathed in blue light and accompanied by not one but two bands comprised of Nashville’s best musicians. Working without a net, White eschews a set list and draws from nearly every project of his prolific career. So this episode treats you to some White Stripes (“I’m Slowly Turning Into You,” “We’re Going to Be Friends,” “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”), a little Raconteurs (“Top Yourself”), a pinch of Dead Weather (“Blue Blood Blues”), a blues cover (Blind Willie Johnson’s “John the Revelator”) and White’s contribution (“You Know That I Know”) to The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a collection of Williams lyrics set to music by contemporary songwriters.

Of course, much of the show is dedicated to songs from Blunderbuss, White’s much-acclaimed solo debut. Watch him burn through “Freedom at 21” and “Missing Pieces” with his all-male group the Buzzards, then blaze through “Hypocritical Kiss” and “Love Interruption” with his all-female band the Peacocks. The mostly acoustic title tune serves as the transition point, as Buzzards give way to Peacocks before the guitars finish feeding back and “Love Interruption” begins.

photo by Scott Newton

See more about the show here, then check your local PBS listings to find out when to tune in to see for yourself. Keep up with ACL news and happenings on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as our news page. Next week: Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear.

 

ACL Hall of Fame inducts Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more

photo by Scott Newton

ACL’s 40th anniversary brings the debut of a long-held dream: the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. To celebrate, we held our first induction ceremony on April 26 in the original home of ACL, KLRU-TV’s Studio 6A. We were proud to inaugurate Willie Nelson, the first artist to ever appear on the show and a frequent guest ever since; Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, who made two iconic ACL appearances; Bill Arhos, creator of the show back in 1974; and Darrell Royal, the archetypal U.T. football coach and dedicated fan who was instrumental in introducing country superstars to the ACL lineup. But we did more than just hand out awards. It’s all about the music on this program, after all, so we also lined up some fantastic performances.

After opening remarks by ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, Oscar-winning actor and native Texan Matthew McConaughey introduced Willie Nelson. Backed by Lyle Lovett’s band and his stalwart harmonica player Mickey Raphael, the 81-year-old Texas legend opened his set with his perennial vanguard “Whiskey River,” the Lovett group giving it an almost funky backbeat. That rhythm became more hard-hitting as Willie moved directly into “Still is Still Moving to Me,” the closest thing he has to a rock anthem. “Here’s a new gospel song I just wrote,” Willie noted wryly before he launched into “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” his latest hit.

Willie then introduced the leader of the band he was borrowing, as Lyle Lovett came onstage for a duet on Willie’s country/soul crossover hit “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Lovett first sang this song with Al Green and was honored to do it again with its author. Next up was Willie’s friend Emmylou Harris, who essayed an emotion-filled take on Willie’s “Crazy,” originally made a standard by Patsy Cline. Willie completed his trilogy of antique classics by retaking the mic for an especially jazzy blues version of the Ray Price-popularized “Night Life.”

Lovett and Emmylou returned for a round-robin version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” a hit for Willie and Merle Haggard, of course, but also last performed on camera by Emmylou and Willie during ACL’s 1999 Townes Van Zandt tribute. With that, Willie graciously turned the stage over to his guests, as Lovett crooned his enigmatic country waltz “Walk Through the Bottomland” and Emmylou sang Rodney Crowell’s rueful “‘Til I Gain Control Again,” which she made a hit in the 70s. Willie then took center stage once again, spiking the energy level with spirited takes on his traditional set closers “On the Road Again” and Hank Williams’ gospel fireball “I Saw the Light,” with the legend exhorting the crowd to sing along.

McConaughey returned to induct Willie into the Hall of Fame – it’s only right that the first person to be broadcast as part of ACL be the first one to enter our Hall. “Austin is the greatest thing to happen to music,” Willie stated in his acceptance speech, and as his hosts for so many years, we can’t argue. Terry Lickona took over for McConaughey afterward to induct Bill Arhos, former KLRU station manager, program director and ACL executive producer, and the man who sparked the creation of the show, sold it to PBS as a series and was the driving force until his retirement in Season 25. Bill quipped that, while he was happy to be inducted with the first class, “It’s a little intimidating to be in the class of first inductees when three out of the four have bronze statues. I’ve got a stainless steel fingernail clipper.”

Lickona then introduced recently retired University of Texas football coach Mack Brown, who inducted the late Darrell Royal, the most successful coach in UT football history. “Coach,” as he was known by everyone, may seem to be an odd choice for a music program’s hall of fame. But Royal’s greatest passion outside of football and his family was country music, and it was his friendship with C&W masters like Merle Haggard and George Jones that got them on the show. In addition, his legendary “picking parties” at his house, featuring all manner of singers and songwriters, inspired the creation of our own songwriters specials.

Following the intermission McConaughey returned to induct Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Stevie couldn’t be there, obviously, but his brother Jimmie weighed in with a specially recorded video message, and the members of Double Trouble – bassist Tommy Shannon, drummer Chris Layton, keyboardist Reese Wynans – accepted their own trophies. Wynans thanked both the Austin musical community and the city’s eager audiences for embracing their sound.

Then these consummate musicians took the stage in tribute to their late leader, with various special guests subbing on guitar and vocals. Vaughan acolyte Kenny Wayne Shepherd and singer Mike Farris appropriately kicked off the set with “The House is Rockin’,” Wynans duplicating his solo from the album and Shepherd faithfully reproducing his hero’s lead break. “Look at Little Sister” followed, a tune that really took advantage of Farris’ gritty blue-eyed soul voice. The duo closed out their part with the groovy, rocking “Crossfire,” Shepherd dreamily lost in his blues dream.

Next up was Doyle Bramhall II, former ARC Angel, current Eric Clapton sideman and the son of Stevie’s songwriting partner Doyle Bramhall Sr. Doyle II began with the 12-bar blues of “Lookin’ Out the Window,” one of his father’s compositions for Stevie, before launching into the soulful ballad “Life Without You,” highlighted by a fiery solo. Doyle II ended his set with a rocking “Change It,” another Bramhall Sr. tune that became one of Double Trouble’s greatest hits.

Doyle II remained onstage as it was reset with a pedal steel guitar. That could only mean one thing: Robert Randolph. After relating that he was one of the few in his crowd to be into Stevie Ray Vaughan – indeed, he claimed that one of his dates ended early due to his incessant spinning of Double Trouble’s music in his car – Randolph blasted into “Gimme Back My Wig,” an old blues tune popularized by Chicago slide guitarist Hound Dog Taylor and later covered by Stevie. After that slidefest, Randolph led the band into a raucous take on “Pride and Joy,” perhaps Vaughan’s best-known tune, lighting it up with wild steel solos and ending on a Hendrixian flourish.

It would take a hell of a showman to equal that performance, but we had just such a person in the wings. Legendary Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy brought his stinging tone and aggressive attack to bear in full force on “Let Me Love You Baby,” one of his hits that Stevie made his own. Guy doubled his power on “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” letting his famous flamboyance take over during the ending solo and reiterating why he was such a big inspiration to Vaughan and blues and rock guitar players even now.

Such a lineup of stellar talent and songs as that contained this evening could end only one way: with a show-closing jam. Nearly everyone who’d played crowded the stage for a rendition of “Texas Flood,” the Larry Davis tune that Vaughan and Double Trouble made their signature. With vocals shared by Guy, Lovett, Willie and his son Lukas, and solos slashed by Shepherd, Lukas and Guy, it was a blues fan’s wet dream, and a fitting way to close out the festivities.

What a show. What a night. There’s more to come in celebration of ACL’s 40th year, with exciting announcements aplenty – watch this space.

Encore: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson

photo by Scott Newton

There are so many genres of music in the world, and so many artists who embody them. But it’s nice to hear singers and songwriters who defy categorization, mixing parts from different traditions into their own distinctive blend. We’re proud to feature two of those performers: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson.

ACL fans certainly aren’t strangers to Norah Jones, who’s been on the show twice before. She’s back to demonstrate her continued evolution as a vocalist, writer and musician. Showcasing Little Broken Hearts, her latest album produced by Danger Mouse, Jones and her new band take her previous mix of jazz, pop and torch songs and put it through a funky psychedelic filter, giving the sprightly kiss-off “Say Goodbye” and the nonchalant murder confession “Miriam” a rich, spacey allure. Jones also visits her acclaimed record The Fall, closing the show with the luminous “Stuck” (co-written by Will Sheff, of fellow ACL alumni Okkervil River). Watch and listen as Jones takes the next step in her evolution.

Kat Edmonson makes her ACL debut on the strength of her second album Way Down Low, a record that lifts her away from the jazz traditionalism of her debut. Though still rooted in jazz, Edmonson and her band don’t stick to formalities, letting as much pop melody and singer/songwriter intimacy into her music as improvisation and harmonic complexity. The catchy pop of “I Don’t Know,” the sly jazz of “Lucky” and the beautiful torch balladry of “Nobody Knows That” showcase a stunning young talent that commands the stage with understated grace. Edmonson may have been an unfamiliar face to many ACL fans, but they’ve been searching their local record stores and streaming sites for her music since they’ve seen this episode.

photo by Scott Newton

You can find more information on this episode here, but the best way to experience these singers is to tune in to your local PBS station and watch for yourself. Don’t forget that you can find more info on the comings and goings of ACL on our Facebook page, Twitter feed and news page. Next week: Juanes and Jesse & Joy.

 

Encore: The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers

photo by Scott Newton

Join us this weekend for a night of intimate and supremely talented performances from The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers. With zero percussion assistance for each performance, one acquires a clear picture of the depth of musicianship and delicately crafted songs that both of these artists brought to our stage. What you’ll find from both artists is nothing short of moving, inspiring, and wildly intriguing.

With open arms and a bare stage, we welcomed The Civil Wars back in February 2012 as the first taping that year. The Grammy Award-winners proved to be a perfect start to the newest season on so many levels. Their minimalist set with the ever-so perpetual Austin skyline in the background highlighted the voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White as they played hits off their 2011 release Barton Hollow. Included in this performance are two very intense, but true to the original spirit, renditions of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm.” At one moment you realize that Williams and White had the entire audience in their hand when Williams remarked about how quiet and attentive the audience was reacting. It’s true – at many points during this episode you become so captivated by Joy’s sashaying and John’s guitar playing that you forget where you are and immediately realize why these two have garnered their much-deserved praise.

“When you start a band, this is all you ever really want to do – play Austin City Limits,” mentioned Chris Thile in the middle of Punch Brothers’ set. Thile, who is no stranger to ACL (this is his third appearance), brings his all-star band that formed back in 2006 to the show. Again there is no percussion, but unlike the simple quietness that we get from The Civil Wars earlier, we get an influx of sound from the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass. The progressive rock stars of the bluegrass world take us through their 2012 release of Who’s Feeling Young Now? with a few sprinkles of the 2010 album Antifogmatic. This group’s genre-jumping and incredible musicianship will have you tapping your toes and wishing you had taken up banjo back in 10th grade.

photo by Scott Newton

This is something you will not want to miss, but don’t take our word for it – see it for yourself! You can preview the episode and get more information here; check here for local listings and times in your area. Also, be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for all things Austin City Limits, and sign up for our newsletter for further info. Next week: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson.

 

Los Lobos perfectly kicks off 40th anniversary season

photo by Scott Newton

When you’re facing a major milestone, it doesn’t hurt to have some longtime friends help you out. Thus we opened our 40th anniversary taping season with the fifth appearance from ACL vets Los Lobos, also celebrating four decades of musical existence. With that much history to draw from, the East L.A. band roamed all over its long career, pulling from its 1983 coming out EP …And a Time to Dance all the way up to last year’s Disconnected Live in New York.

Settling into a similar format to that latter record, Los Lobos performed mostly unplugged, opening with “Yo Canto,” an original tune in the Mexican folk tradition driven by fleet-fingered requinto licks from David Hidalgo, whom Brian Bierig called “a mountain of a musician.” “El Cascabel,” “Saint Behind the Glass” and the fan favorite “La Pistola y el Corazón” kept the folk vibe going, before Conrad Lozano picked up his electric bass and drummer Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez took the stage for “Malaqué.” The band recast guitarist Cesar Rosas’ sprightly rock & roll tune “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)” with acoustic guitars, though keeping Steve Berlin’s sax riffage intact. Less traditional folk flavors flowed in after that, from the jazzy blues of “Tin Can Trust” and the widescreen epic “Little Things” to the groovy dance tune “Chuco’s Cumbia” and the lovely ballad “Tears of God.”

Electric guitars finally made an appearance in the atmospheric “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” upping the muscle factor, even with a return to less rocking sounds with covers of Flaco Jimenez’s “Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio” (with a lyrical stumble that necessitated an immediate redo) and the traditional “Volver, Volver.” By the time we got to Rosas’ funky “Wicked Rain,” the street song thump of “Rio de Tenampa” (guest-starring the Grupo Fantasma horns) and the clattering rock of the set-ending “Mas y Mas,” Los Lobos was in full amplified flight.

Following a redo of “Tenampa,” the band brought the evening to a close with a volcanic “Don’t Worry Baby,” the best blues ‘n’ roll tune Stevie Ray Vaughan never wrote. With a set that covered the vast width and enormous breadth of its 40 year career, Los Lobos proved the perfect act to kick off ACL’s own anniversary celebration. And since we streamed the taping live as it went down, the whole world could join in the fun, prompting 54Moredoor to comment, “ACL you know how to throw a PARTY!”