Encore: Mumford & Sons and Flogging Molly

photo by Scott Newton

Mumford & Sons are This weekend’s encore presentation of Austin City Limits features a high-octane night of contemporary music’s best folk rock practitioners, including sets by British superstars Mumford & Sons and Celtic folk-punkers Flogging Molly.

The episode, which originally aired in October 2011, finds Mumford & Sons making their ACL debut and is a must-see for fans and a primer for those new to the band’s cathartic live shows. Blending acoustic instrumentation, vocal harmonies and a tireless work ethic, Mumford & Sons have earned an international reputation as one of the best live bands, winning over audiences with their masterful, melancholy voices and musical skills. Mumford & Sons’ inspired set features tracks from their career-making debut Sigh No More, and the blockbuster follow-up Babel. The energy on the night of the taping vibrated the walls at The Moody Theater, and it translates directly to the screen. The band perform fan favorites “The Cave” and “Roll Away Your Stone” and poignant ballads “Timshel” and “Awake My Soul.” A highlight is an early televised performance of “Lover of the Light,” previously unrecorded, and now featured on Babel.

“The first time this show aired, Mumford & Sons did not have the biggest-selling record in the world,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “But today they still capture the hearts and souls of young music fans better than anybody else around – and this amazing performance shows why. They do it the old-fashioned way, with authentic songs that speak to real life, and they play their asses off!”

photo by Scott Newton

Speaking of energy, Flogging Molly doesn’t disappoint in their ACL debut. The band storms the stage with tuneful melodies and puts on a magnificent show with their unique brand of Celtic folk/punk.  Tune in for lively renditions of “Requiem For A Dying Song,” “Tobacco Island,” and “Devil’s Dance Floor.”  Bandleader Dave King called their ACL taping “the most important live performance they’ve ever done.”

“A live Flogging Molly show is an experience as much as it is a show,” hints ACL’s Terry Lickona.  “When you’re watching, crank up the volume and buckle up for the ride!”

Check the episode page for more info, photos and clips. Click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for up-to-date news on all things Austin City Limits. Next week: Miranda Lambert and Jeff Bridges.

 

Encore: Vampire Weekend and 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.”

photo by Scott Newton

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.

“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: Mumford & Sons and Flogging Molly.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years 6/26

KLRUbenefitACLliveWeb

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.