ACL Season 40 crashes to a close with Foo Fighters

photo by Scott Newton

Get your lighters out for one of the most riotous, epic, joyous episodes in the four-decade history of Austin City Limits as the Foo Fighters return for the head-banging blowout of ACL’s milestone anniversary season. In an installment destined to be a future classic, this superstar-caliber performance serves as a colossal closeout to the program’s celebratory Season 40. Dave Grohl & company bring the rock in a non-stop, incredible hour of music that will have viewers on their feet and pledging allegiance to the Foo.

2015 marks the Foo Fighters’ 20th Anniversary, and while the 25-million-record-selling, eleven-time GRAMMY-winning band play sold-out arenas and stadiums across the globe, the modern rock superstars return to ACL’s humble stage on this special occasion. The Foos first appeared during Season 34 in 2008 and recently immortalized Austin and ACL’s executive producer Terry Lickona in an installment of their HBO series Sonic Highways, even recording a song in ACL’s historic, original Studio 6A for the companion audio release.

“Here’s what I think we should do,” says Foo leader Dave Grohl at the outset. “We should play some old songs, we should play some new songs, we should have some guests.” The band stays true to their word, launching into a blistering nine-song attack, performing fan favorites and standout tracks from their acclaimed new release Sonic Highways. The crowd goes wild when Austin guitar great Gary Clark Jr. joins the band for “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness,” the song originally recorded in the Austin episode of the HBO series. Hometown hero and blues guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan joins Clark Jr. and the band onstage for “Tuff Enuff,” the signature song of Vaughan’s Fabulous Thunderbirds, with Grohl on vocals and Vaughan adding his distinctive guitar riffs. The audience is on their feet for the entire hour, pumping their fists in the air and singing along as Foo Fighters make a believer out of everyone, in one of the most entertaining hours of music in ACL history. On the closing anthem “Best of You” Grohl sings, “I’ve got another confession to make/I’m your fool.” So is the Austin audience in a performance that is the ultimate highlight of ACL’s 40th season.

photo by Scott Newton

ACL executive producer Terry Lickona says, “We love us some Foo Fighters!! They are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet right now, and Dave Grohl is a renaissance rock and roll man. He showed us their love on the HBO Sonic Highways series, and this ACL episode is the first major TV showcase for their new music. Ours is a unique relationship, to say the least!”

 

Austin City Limits Season 40 pt. 2 starts January 3

photo by Scott Newton

Austin, TX—December 3, 2014—The landmark television music series Austin City Limits (ACL) unwraps the second half of its milestone Season 40, celebrating a four-decade run with more legendary artists, innovators and highly-anticipated debuts.  Seven brand-new shows begin airing in January 2015 as part of the program’s fourteen-episode season. Providing viewers with a front-row seat to the best in music performance for 40 years, ACL returns on Saturday, January 3rd with a double-bill featuring the return of roots rockers The Avett Brothers and Grammy-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek. ACL airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings for times) and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at http://video.pbs.org/program/austin-city-limits/ immediately following the initial broadcast. The show’s official hashtag is #acltv40.

A highlight of the season is powerhouse rock duo The Black Keys, with the six-time Grammy winners making their highly anticipated ACL return, having first appeared in Season 36. ACL favorites Spoon make their fourth appearance, sharing the bill with fellow Austin natives White Denim. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis returns for her solo ACL debut, originally appearing in Season 31 as part of the indie rock duo Rilo Kiley; in what’s sure to be one of ACL’s most talked about episodes, Ryan Adams shares the bill in a memorable ACL return. The extended line-up features a number of artists making ACL debuts, among them chart-topping British sensation Sam Smith, synth-pop trio Future Islands and southern rockers J. Roddy Walston & The Business.

photo by Scott Newton

Rock superstars Foo Fighters return to the ACL stage with an hourlong, monumental performance. Joined by Austin legends Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan, Foo Fighters’ powerful performance is a high point of the standout season.  The renowned band recently immortalized Austin and ACL’s executive producer Terry Lickona in an installment of their HBO series Sonic Highways, even recording a song, “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness”,  in ACL’s historic Studio 6A for their companion new release.

photo by Scott Newton

ACL wraps up the celebratory season with a special episode featuring performance highlights from the first annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame presentation.  Performers include music legends Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy and Double Trouble.

“We’ve had an amazing 40th anniversary year,” says ACL’s Terry Lickona, “and the second half of the season says as much about the future as our past. As always, we try to showcase the best music being created today, and every one of these shows is exceptional. Then for a grand finale, we’ll tie it all together with a celebration of the artists and individuals who have inspired the longest-running music show on TV.”

Here’s the national broadcast schedule, check your local PBS listings for dates and times in your area!

January 3, 2015      | The Avett Brothers | Nickel Creek
January 10, 2015    | Spoon | White Denim
January 17, 2015    | Sam Smith | Future Islands
January 24, 2015   | Ryan Adams | Jenny Lewis
January 31, 2015    | The Black Keys | J. Roddy Walston & The Business
February 7, 2015    | Foo Fighters
February 14, 2015  | Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Special

Foo Fighters conquer the ACL stage

photo by Scott Newton

When our good pals the Foo Fighters returned to Austin City Limits, it was not only as stage-conquering rock superstars-it was also as filmmakers of the much-acclaimed HBO series Sonic Highways, which chronicles the making of the band’s latest LP of the same name. Episode four of Sonic Highways, centered around that song and our town, was rapturously received, and on its heels we were thrilled to welcome them to our current studio in the Moody Theater for the band’s second ACLTV appearance.

The Foos opened with the moody, spacy epic “Aurora” before slamming into the raging “The Feast and the Famine.” Once the needle hit red it stayed there, as Dave Grohl and the band pumped out anthem after fan-favorite anthem: “Learn to Fly,” “Times Like These,” which featured the first of Grohl’s many trips into the audience, “Rope,” “The Pretender,” “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench,” deep cuts “Arlandria” and “Hey, Johnny Park!” The Foos barrelled back down the Sonic Highways with the blazing “Congregation,” before launching into the album’s two part Austin-based song. The melodic “What Did I Do” garnered immediate audience approval, but that enthusiasm turned into fervor when album guest and ACL alumnus Gary Clark Jr. took the stage to perform his elegiac solo on the second half, “God As My Witness.” The fervor didn’t stop there, as not only did Clark stay for the next song, but Grohl welcomed ATX blues legend (and co-star of the Austin episode) Jimmie Vaughan for a spirited run through the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “Tuff Enuff,” with Vaughan replicating his distinctive solos.

After that, the band could do no wrong, digging into its catalog for the rocking “Cold Day in the Sun,” sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins, before another series of back-to-back-to-back killers with “In the Clear,” “I’ll Stick Around,” “Walk,” “Outside” and the punky “All My Life.” Then things took an epic turn. Grohl took off his guitar and headed back into the audience with a bottle of champagne to share with the delirious crowd as the rest of the group launched into the Rolling Stones’ disco rock hybrid “Miss You,” sung by Hawkins (who admitted he didn’t know the words). Grohl then took over the kit so Hawkins could come up front for a punked-up take on Cheap Trick’s “Stiff Competition.” The Foos’ living jukebox didn’t stop there, though – next up was “Under Pressure,” the Queen/David Bowie classic done as a duet between Grohl and Hawkins, then Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” with an extended electric piano solo from keyboardist Rami Jaffee, and finally a roaring bash through Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.”

“I guess we better play one more Foo Fighters song,” chuckled Grohl, cueing up “Best of You,” with its “whoa-ohs” taken over by the audience. The band ended the show with “Everlong,” another hit and crowd favorite, and then, almost three hours from when it started, the show was over. It was a monster of a performance, one that Grohl described as “the weirdest f-g show we’ve ever played.” We can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts early next year as a highlight of our milestone Season 40. Stay tuned.

 

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years: a primetime special

photo by Scott Newton

Join us as we celebrate four decades as a music institution with Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years, a primetime special airing Friday, October 3rd, 9-11pm ET on PBS Arts Fall Festival. With guest hosts Jeff Bridges, Sheryl Crow and Matthew McConaughey, the two-hour broadcast features memorable moments from the trailblazing show’s remarkable run, while the brightest stars in the series’ history return to the ACL stage for dream duets and choice collaborations.

An all-star lineup of ACL royalty pays tribute to the show’s enduring legacy with unforgettable music performances. Highlights of the special include the show opener as Bonnie Raitt, Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard, Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. team up for the Sam & Dave classic “Wrap It Up.” Incredible pairings include ACL Hall of Fame legend Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris on the Nelson-penned classic “Crazy” and Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow’s moving take on his signature “Me and Bobby McGee.” The Foo Fighters honor ACL with a wild rendition of Texas cult hero Roky Erickson‘s “Two Headed Dog,” recorded at the show’s original television studio especially for the occasion. Host Jeff Bridges performs the late singer-songwriter Stephen Bruton’s song “What A Little Bit of Love Can Do” as a tribute to the influential Austin musician who inspired Bridges’ Oscar-winning portrayal in Crazy Heart.  Local legends Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen showcase their troubadour roots and significance to the Austin music scene. Breakout artists and ACL alumni Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr. give blistering performances that forecast the future of the series. Blues titan Buddy Guy brings it all home with an electrifying take on his “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”  The special comes to a close with an all-star reading of two Lone Star classics—a stellar lineup of guitar slingers blaze through the Stevie Ray Vaughan standard “Texas Flood” and the biggest names in music trade verses on the Buddy Holly classic “Not Fade Away,” as ACL embraces its past and hints at what is to come.

photo by Scott Newton

“This is a huge milestone for us,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and this show captures the essence of what Austin City Limits is all about. We set the bar high for this celebration, and we exceeded it! The lineup of talent speaks volumes about the respect that artists have for ACL.”

Artists performing on the special are: Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Double Trouble, Joe Ely, Mike Farris, Foo Fighters, Grupo Fantasma, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jimmie Vaughan.

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years was taped at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, and the program’s original television studio, Austin PBS station KLRU’s Studio 6A.  Go here for the episode page, and don’t forget to keep up with ACL TV via Facebook, Twitter and our newsletter.

 

ACL’s all-star 40th anniversary

photo by Scott Newton

When you’re celebrating four decades of musical excellence, there’s only one way to do it: with amazing artists, superior songwriters and master musicians. We were lucky to have all of the above join us for ACL Celebrates 40 Years, our all-star tribute co-hosted by Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow, and featuring Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Clark Jr., Jimmie Vaughan, Alabama Shakes, Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Doyle Bramhall II, Lloyd Maines and Grupo Fantasma.

Trading guitar licks with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. and joined on vox by Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Bonnie Raitt kicked off the first half of the show with a Grupo Horns-spiked groove through Sam & Dave’s classic “Wrap It Up.” Standard thus set, Raitt reiterated the importance of ACL to artists like herself that resisted easy categorization before launching into Mable John’s classic “Your Good Thing (is About to End),” punctuating the jazzy soul ballad with creamy slide solos. The set moved quickly from one legend to another, as Kris Kristofferson took the stage with co-host Crow for a moving take on his titanic classic “Me and Bobby McGee.” After an elated Crow exited, the Texas songwriting legend growled his virtual theme song, AKA the masterful “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33.”

After Crow having some time behind her guitar, it was time for her fellow host to have a shot, as Jeff Bridges returned to the stage in tribute to his recently deceased friend and Austin favorite Stephen Bruton. The Bruton-penned “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” and “Fallin’ and Flyin’” (the latter from the Crazy Heart soundtrack) sounded great coming from Bridges’ perfectly weathered throat. Following that treat, ACL executive producer Terry Lickona came on to recap the recent ACL Hall of Fame presentation, honoring creator Bill Arhos and pilot star Willie Nelson. The past thus commemorated, it was time to move from veterans to young guns, as Alabama Shakes launched into its old-school soul ballad “Heartbreaker.” The band then gave the audience a thrill with the Memphis-styled “Gimme All Your Love,” a new song as yet unreleased on any Shakes record. Set one closed out with Austin guitar hero Gary Clark Jr., whose blues rocker “Bright Lights” slow-burned its way into our ears on the back of his sizzling thick-toned solos.

One brief intermission in order to reset the stage later, blues and Americana gave way to a different groove, as Austin’s greatest Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma got hips moving and booties shaking. The slinky “Nada” and funky “Mulato” could make a dead man dance. We then shifted from sexy salsa to hard-edged rock, with a special videotaped appearance by the Foo Fighters. The alt.rock superstars blazed through a fierce take on Austin hero Roky Erickson’s raging “Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog),” recorded in the original ACL studio 6A – the public debut of a performance that will appear in the final edit of the special.

“If you want to hear what the blues are like in the 21st century,” proclaimed co-host Crow, “get ready.” That was the signal for Austin blues kingpin Jimmie Vaughan to re-take the stage, joined by his old friend and tonight’s vanguard artist Bonnie Raitt. The pair essayed an old Billy Emerson tune called “The Pleasure’s All Mine,” a classic blues shuffle with their guitars locking horns at the end. Vaughan continued solo in the classic blues bag with Teddy Humphries’ stinging “What Makes You So Tough,” before inviting his former proteges Clark and Doyle Bramhall II up for the latter’s unrecorded blues grinder “Early in the Morning.” Blues has always been important to ACL’s history, and it was nice to have the spotlight shone directly on it.

Following a salute to our other Hall of Fame inductees Darrell K. Royal and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, co-host Sheryl Crow arrived for her own set. With Bramhall guesting on guitar, she rocked “Can’t Cry Anymore,” one of her earliest hits from her breakthrough Tuesday Night Music Club. She then ceded the mic to Bramhall, singing harmony on his own early rocker, the choogling “I’m Leavin’.” Crow then shared the spotlight with Clark, the pair doing a guitar-and-harmonica run through blues pioneer Elizabeth Cotten’s standard “Freight Train.”

ACL started as a showcase for Texas music, so it was only natural for the penultimate segment to honor that legacy. Seminal Lone Star singer/songwriters Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen took the stage for what Bridges called “the song that pretty well sums up the theme tonight,” the fist-pumping Texas anthem “The Road Goes On Forever,” written by Keen in 1989 and a staple of Ely’s live shows. Ely then left the stage so Keen could perform his cheeky crime tale “I Gotta Go,” before returning for his own original lighter-waver, “All Just to Get to You.” The Texan theme continued, with a special Hall of Fame award presentation to producer/steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, a veteran of both Ely and Keen’s live bands, the house bandleader for the night and quite possibly the musician who’s appeared the most times on the ACL stage.

Though the song claims that “The road goes on forever and the party never ends,” our party did come to an end with a massive gang-twang on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” featuring the entire cast. You can’t have a much better time than with Joe Ely, Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow trading verses and Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. trading solos. It brought a great evening blazing to a close. As the icing on the cake, this landmark performance will find its way to PBS for a two-hour prime time special as part of of the PBS Fall Arts Festival – look for ACL Celebrates 40 Years on PBS on Oct. 3 at 9pm ET.

 

Gear Blog: Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One

photo by Kevin Cochran

In honor of iconic Texas guitarist and ACL veteran Stevie Ray Vaughan’s birthday today, our intrepid FOH mixologist and gear blogger Kevin Cochran turned in this report on the instrument also known as “the Wife.” 

As far as guitars go, only a handful are as iconic (and synonymous of their players) as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One guitar. A centerpiece of the Texas State History Museum’s Texas Music Roadtrip, this is the first time this instrument has been seen by the public since Stevie Ray’s death in 1990. Vaughan made two appearances with “the Wife” on Austin City Limits: the first time in 1983 and again in 1989.

After snapping this picture, I was chastened by security that no photography was allowed inside the exhibition. As I’ve learned in the past, it only takes once to run afoul of museum muscle and then they’ll follow you around for the rest of your stay. It’s a bit of a chore trying give your full attention to the next exhibit when the security guard  is only a few feet away giving you his full attention. In this case, it was totally worth it.

Number One is a “ragged American Stratocaster with 1959 pickups, a ’62 neck, and a ’63 body, reveals upon inspection a brutally worn finish, upside-down tremolo bar, cigarette-burnt headstock”. Vaughan acquired this instrument in 1974 from Ray Hennig’s Heart of Texas Music. When Vaughan took possession of Number One, it was already well worn. What is not as well known is that its previous owner was was another celebrated Texas musician,Christopher Cross. Hennig tells quite a story. As I’ve heard the tale, Cross wanted something “beefier” and traded the Stratocaster for a Les Paul. Stevie had already had a loaner guitar from Hennig, who was pleased to trade it for Cross’ guitar since it was in much better condition.

The original tri-colored sunburst finish has been eroded away by the rigors of years of heavy touring and Stevie’s abusive playing style. A closer inspection of the body will reveal gouged indentation of the wood above the pickguard from repeated contact of Vaughan’s guitar picks. Not just nicks and scrapes, but a deep dent that exposes the bare wood. The vibrato was swapped from the nominal set up of a right-handed player, to left-handed so that that Stevie could emulate Jimi Hendrix’s more exotic techniques. Repairs were needed quite often as Vaughan would break whammy bars and wear down frets on a regular basis. Charley Wirz and Rene Martinez are credited with most of the repairs for Stevie’s instruments.

Because of frequent refretting, the original neck became unplayable by the late ‘80’s and was swapped with the neck of another guitar in Vaughan’s stable, Scotch. Ironically, just a month before his death, a piece of stage rigging fell on Number One and snapped the neck at the headstock. It was the Scotch neck and not the original that was destroyed. Martinez acquired a replacement from Fender and Stevie was without the use of his favorite guitar for only one show. After Stevie Ray’s death, Rene replaced the new neck with Number One’s original and the guitar was given back to Stevie’s family. It now belongs to Stevie’s brother, Jimmie.

If you look closely at the photo, you can see Jimmie Vaughan’s guitar behind Number One. I didn’t get chance to grab any pictures of that guitar. It is a 1963 Stratocaster  (according to the exhibit placard) with a Schecter maple neck (sporting a Fender decal on the headstock) and a salacious girly sticker on the back of the body.

ACL @ the Alamo: Stevie Ray Vaughan

photo by Scott Newton

ACL @ the Alamo returns on August 27 with a special evening featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan. First up is Stevie Ray Vaughan: A Retrospective, our season 20 episode that combines the Texas guitar slinger’s 1984 and 1990 appearances with his band Double Trouble. All your favorites are here: “Love Struck Baby,” “Texas Flood,” “Pride and Joy,” “Cold Shot,” “Crossfire” and an absolutely incandescent version of “Riviera Paradise.” While these performances have been released on DVD before, they’ve never been seen before on a big screen, and we’re excited to make that happen.

Following the Retrospective will be A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, a PBS pledge special filmed in the ACL studio that presents Stevie’s music as performed by his friends and fans, including B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Dr. John and, of course, Stevie’s brother Jimmie, who also leads the band. Far from a somber occasion, this show is a true celebration of Stevie’s musical legacy, with joyful performances. As with the Retrospective, this has been available on DVD but never shown in a theater.

As always, this screening benefits the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, a most worthy organization. You can find the skinny on tickets here. If you’re in Austin, please join us!