Leon Rausch R.I.P.

We here at Austin City Limits are saddened to learn of the death of Western swing legend Leon Rausch.  The Texas Playboys singer passed on May 14 in Fort Worth. He was 91.

Born in Billings, Missouri in 1927, Rausch grew up in the Show-Me State, singing with the family trio. After serving in the armed forces during the Korean War, he and his wife Vonda moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Rausch finding work in a glass factory and singing on the weekends with Johnnie Lee Wills, the younger brother of Western swing titan Bob Wills. The elder Wills recruited Rausch to the Texas Playboys in 1958 for a partnership that lasted until 1963, when Rausch left to form his own band.

The singer reunited with Wills for the latter’s final album, 1973’s For the Last Time. After Wills passed in 1975, leadership of the Playboys passed on to Rausch and steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe. Rausch continued to be the voice of Western swing, with and without the Playboys, until his death. He will be greatly missed.

“Leon was not only the voice of The Texas Playboys in their final days, he pretty much personified what made their music so much fun to listen – and dance – to,” remarked ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Western Swing has lost a real champion.”

Rausch appeared on Austin City Limits four times, including the debut episode of ACL’s first season, and most recently with Asleep At the Wheel in Season 41. Below are a pair of clips from those appearances: “San Antonio Rose,” the first song from the Playboys’ first appearance on the show in 1976, and “Milk Cow Blues,” in collaboration with the Wheel in 2015.  

Austin City Limits #101: Texas Playboys – San Antonio Rose from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.

Austin City Limits #4102: Asleep at the Wheel With Leon Rausch – Milk Cow Blues from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.

Taping recap: Rainbow Kitten Surprise

We always love Austin City Limits debuts, and it’s even better with a young band as fresh and exciting as Rainbow Kitten Surprise. The Boone, North Carolina quintet hit the Moody Theater stage in support of its highly acclaimed third album How To: Friend, Love, Freefall, from which comes the hits “Hide” and “Fever Pitch.” The band presented those and a whole lot more on its first ACL taping, which we live streamed around the world.

The band took the stage to enthusiastic cheers as they launched into the rollicking “Matchbox,” with vocalist/keyboardist/guitar and dancer Sam Melo and bassist/sparkplug Charlie Holt leading the way. The equally effervescent “It’s Called: Freefall” kept the energy level popping, followed by the moodier “Shameful Company,” a showcase for Melo’s soulful vocals. Melo added rapping to his vocal repertoire for “Moody Orange,” traversing a variety of musical moods in a single composition without taking the song anywhere near the rails. Then it was on to “Hide,” one of the singles from Freefall, its anthemic pop crashing into Melo’s bitter cries of “You better hide your love!” Guitarist Darrick “Bozzy” Keller put down his axe to join Melo in front for the theatrical “Devil Like Me,” before re-donning it for the mid-tempo charmer “Cocaine Jesus,” highlighted by a cappella harmonies.

A melancholy piano intro kicked off “When It Lands,” an ambitious, multi-movement composition that showcased each member’s talents. “Wasted” was simpler, but no less impressive, with Melo giving the vocal melody an impressive slow burn. Keller and fellow guitar slinger Ethan Goodpaster exchanged their electrics for acoustics for “Heart (Hey Pretty Mama),” a folky change of pace that was clearly a crowd favorite. The electrics came back for the groovy “All’s Well That Ends,” the better to play those smooth disco rhythm parts. Back at the piano, Melo crooned the intro to the dramatic “Holy War,” before retaking the mic at the front of the stage for the melodic midtempo charmer “Painkillers.” “Hi, we’re Rainbow Kitten Surprise,” said Melo, speaking for the first time between songs.  The band delivered a crowd favorite, “Fever Pitch,” the catchy anthem that brought the group to worldwide attention. The audience went wild as RKS quit the stage.

The fact that the lights didn’t go off signaled that the show wasn’t over. Sure enough they came back for a generous encore, starting with the minimalist “Possum Queen,” essentially a duet between Melo and drummer Jess Haney’s techno-influenced beats. Haney ceded the spotlight solely to Melo for the (mostly) solo “Polite Company.” Following the jaunty “Recktify,” RKS closed out the set with the hard-rocking guitar-frenzy “Run,”Melo doffing his shirt and in-ear monitor to slink around the stage like the rock star he is. The crowd went appropriately crazy.

But it still wasn’t over. Due to technical difficulties, the band decided on re-takes of “Matchbox,” “It’s Called: Freefall” and “When It Lands.” Given that there was nothing wrong performance-wise with the originals, this was a gift to fans for sticking around. It was a nice way to end a stunning show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

ACL Fest 2019 announces spectacular lineup

ACL Fest 2019 lineup announce

We’re jazzed to share the 2019 lineup of our namesake mega-festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, produced by our friends at C3 Presents. The zeitgeist meets the classics, as contemporary hitmakers Childish Gambino, Cardi B, Robyn and Billie Eilish share the stages with The Cure, The Raconteurs, Tame Impala, Mumford & Sons and the mighty Guns N’ Roses in their first-ever ACL Fest appearance. Also on tap: Kacey Musgraves, Gary Clark Jr., 21 Savage, Thom Yorke Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Lizzo, Lil Uzi Vert, Rosalía, Tyler Childers, Jenny Lewis, Natalia Lafourcade, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, and Third Eye Blind. That’s just the tip of the talent iceberg.

The eighteenth annual ACL Fest returns to Austin’s Zilker Park for two consecutive weekends, October 4-6 and October 11-13.  You can check out the full lineup and get ticket info on three-day passes, VIP and more here. Tickets tend to sell out quickly, so you know what to do.

ACL to live stream Rainbow Kitten Surprise taping on 5/6

RainbowKittenSurprise_Livestream_45_square

Austin City Limit is happy to announce that we will be live streaming our upcoming Season 45 taping with eclectic North Carolina rock band Rainbow Kitten Surprise on May 6. The performance will stream via the ACL YouTube channel here.  With a devoted and ever-growing fanbase, the band makes their ACL debut in the middle of a North American headline tour which has recently been extended to include a fall leg.

Nearly every song from ACL first-timers Rainbow Kitten Surprise unfolds in a dizzying rush of feverish yet finespun lyrics that feel both intimate and mythic. Throughout their third album How To: Friend, Love, Freefall, the Boone, North Carolina five-piece sets those lyrics to a thrillingly unpredictable sound that transcends all genre convention, endlessly changing form to accommodate shifts in mood and spirit. But while Rainbow Kitten Surprise push into some complex emotional terrain, the band’s joyful vitality ultimately makes for an album that’s deeply cathartic and undeniably life-affirming. Produced by Grammy Award-winner Jay Joyce and recorded in Nashville, How To: Friend, Love, Freefall marks Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s debut release for Elektra Records. In creating the album, the band immersed themselves in a deliberate sonic exploration, infusing their music with the kinetic energy of discovery. In sculpting the inventive arrangements and textures, Rainbow Kitten Surprise embedded each track with indelible melody and chilling harmonies with a long-lingering power. The quintet moves gracefully through infinite sounds and tones: the energetic R&B of “Fever Pitch,” the haunting a cappella harmonies of “Pacific Love,” the full-throttle frenzy of “Matchbox,” the tender psychedelia of “Moody Orange,” the tumbling folk of “Painkillers.” In working through such a kaleidoscopic sonic palette, Rainbow Kitten Surprise show the sharp musicianship and powerful camaraderie they’ve developed since forming at Appalachian State University in 2013. It wasn’t long before they’d gained a devoted following – amassing over a million streams on each song from their self-released catalog – and word spread about their unforgettable live show: a blissed-out free-for-all that typically finds frontman Sam Melo jumping right into the audience, building an unbreakable connection with the crowd, as delivered during stand-out sets at major festivals like Bonnaroo, Firefly, Sasquatch, and Austin City Limits.

Join us on May 6 for this full set live stream of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s debut taping here. The broadcast version will air on PBS later this year as part of our upcoming Season 45.

Giveaway: Rainbow Kitten Surprise 5/6

UPDATE giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Rainbow Kitten Surprise on Monday, May 6th at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by noon on Thursday, May 2nd.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pick up tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required. No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras computers or recording devices allowed in venue.

New tapings: Maggie Rogers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus

ACL is thrilled to welcome three remarkable artists under the age of 25-years-old: acclaimed producer/songwriter/performer Maggie Rogers makes her ACL debut on June 21 and lauded indie singer/songwriter phenoms Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus join us for the first time on July 30 for a taping highlight—a one-of-a-kind co-headline evening with these two accomplished solo artists.

Rogers hits our stage in the middle of a sold-out tour in support of her debut album, Heard It In A Past Life (Capitol Records), which entered Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart at No. 1 and charted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The breakout debut has sold nearly 200,000 album adjusted units to date with cumulative streams across all tracks exceeding 400 million.  Her current single, “Light On,” topped Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart for three consecutive weeks.  Tickets for Rogers’ upcoming October 19thand 20th ACL Live shows sold out immediately at on sale.   

Raised in rural Easton, Maryland, Rogers released her critically acclaimed debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading in 2017 upon graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.   The 24-year-old released her recent debut LP Heard It In A Past Life to critical raves, with The New Yorker declaring, “Maggie Rogers is an artist of her time.”  The New York Times notes, “‘Heard It in a Past Life’ is a collection of buoyant electronic pop songs, but the lyrics are unmistakably the work of an introvert struggling to recalibrate.” Rolling Stone awarded the album four stars and hailed it as “a laser-focused statement with nary a wasted lyric or synth line.” NPR Music agrees, ’Heard It In A Past Life’ (is) smart sparkling pop.”  TIME notes, “The album confirms Rogers as a tender but powerful musical force, putting her in the company of a group of solo female artists claiming space outside of the typical machines of pop, country or R&B.”

2018 was a milestone year for Richmond, VA’s Lucy Dacus.  Her widely celebrated sophomore record, Historian, was met by a cavalcade of critical elation, with NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NBC News, Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, Stereogum, and more choosing it as one of the year’s best albums. Dacus’ remarkable sense of melody and composition are the driving force throughout, giving Historian the immersive feel of an album made by an artist in full command of her powers. “This is the album I needed to make,” says Dacus, who views Historian as her definitive statement as a songwriter and musician. “Everything after this is a bonus.” She played revelatory sold-out shows at clubs and festivals alike, along with multiple high profile television appearances.  A glance at her worldwide touring schedule in 2019 shows little sign that Dacus is slowing down, and in fact, she will release a series of songs titled 2019 to celebrate.  Recorded in here-and-there studio spurts over the last two years, 2019 will be released later this year as a physical EP on Matador Records, and will be made up of originals and cover songs tied to specific holidays, each of which will drop around their respective date: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season!), Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Memphis native Julien Baker’s chilling solo debut, Sprained Ankle, was one of the most widely acclaimed works of 2015. The album, recorded by a then 18-year-old and her friend in only a few days, was a bleak yet hopeful, intimate document of staggering experiences and grace, centered entirely around Baker’s voice, guitar, and unblinking honesty. Sprained Ankle appeared on year-end lists everywhere from NPR Music to The AV Club to New York Magazine’s Vulture. With 2017’s Turn Out The Lights, Baker claimed a much bigger stage, but with the same core of breathtaking vulnerability and resilience. From its opening moments — when her chiming, evocative melody is accompanied by swells of strings — Turn Out The Lights throws open the doors to the world without sacrificing the intimacy that has become a hallmark of her songs. The album explores how people live and come to terms with their internal conflict, and the alternately shattering and redemptive ways these struggles play out in relationships. “Turn Out The Lights is beautifully crafted throughout,” noted Spin, “full of the kinds of songs that linger long after they’ve ended.” Under the Radar declared, “Baker is writing faultless songs that will always have a home in our hearts because finding comfort in even the saddest moments means we’re still feeling. And if we’re feeling, there’s hope for us yet.”  

In addition to their successful solo careers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus (along with Phoebe Bridgers), comprise the indie rock supergroup boygenius, whose 2018 EP landed on the year-end best-of lists of Newsweek, The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times and more, with Pitchfork raving “(boygenius) sing like hell together in lung-shattering harmony.”

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings. The broadcast episodes will air on PBS later this year as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone Season 45.