Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ beauty and noise

Nobody explores the thin line between light and darkness as well as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The Australian native and British resident has spent 30 years amassing a rogue’s gallery of killers, creepers and unsavory characters of all types. Yet he’s also capable of stripping away the grime and debauchery to give life to languorous love songs that border on the spiritual. His international band of brigands – including righthand man Warren Ellis and original Bad Seed Barry Adamson – are equally adept at shimmering beauty and hellacious noise, depending on the mood the song requires. That yin/yang contrast, a dichotomy on which Cave and the Seeds have built a successful three-decade career, exploded in full effect for the band’s first taping for Austin City Limits.

With an unusual (for us) stage setup that featured two ramps allowing the stage-stalking Cave to join the crowd, the band arrived to the electronic thrum of “We Real Cool,” one of the singles from his latest LP Push the Sky Away. The brooding amble of “Jubilee Street” seemingly continued the sedate mood, but ramped up the energy of a tent revival in no time for the first of the evening’s standout performances. The quiet dismissed for the moment, the Seeds launched into the explosive “Tupelo,” a twisted take on the mythology surrounding Elvis Presley that had Cave raving like a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher fallen from grace and grimly trying to claw his way back.

From then on the dark and the light battled for supremacy. In the former’s corner: the creeping crawl of Cave’s serial killer ode “Red Right Hand” (made infamous in part by its use in The X-Files) and the rock ‘n’ roll savagery of the obsessive love song “From Her to Eternity,” the title track of the first Bad Seeds album. In the latter’s: the religious authority satire “God is in the House” and the unusually straightforward romantic sentiments of “Love Letter,” both keying on Cave’s sensual croon and piano. The sonorous “Mermaids” and the rambling “Higgs Boson Blues,” one of the most discussed tunes on Push the Sky Away, seemed ambivalent toward the balance of good and evil, letting Cave ponder issues of modern technology shaping the inconsistency of memory.

That was apparently all the clemency Cave had left in him, though, as the Seeds launched into “The Mercy Seat,” the murderously powerful first-person account of execution by electric chair that has become the band’s signature song. That was merely a warm-up, however, for “Stagger Lee.” Cave’s aggressively profane version of the century-old folk song pushes the original’s braggadocio into deliberately over-the-top heights of arrogance and violence, and his especially intense performance had the audience howling for blood.

There was no way to top that kind of ferocity, so the band didn’t try, wisely choosing to close the show with the austere beauty of the title track to Push the Sky Away. It was the perfect comedown for the rollercoaster ride of a Bad Seeds performance, moving from devil to angel and all points in between. We can’t wait for you to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in action on the ACL stage – watch your local listings this fall.

 

Encore: Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids

Join us this weekend as we present Americana music originals Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids in a brand new episode. Both artists showcase their bona fides in an all acoustic hour with roots/folk singer-songwriter Jarosz making a return appearance on the ACL stage and newcomers The Milk Carton Kids in their ACL debut. The episode showcases the young folk acts who were both nominated for Best Folk Album at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

Pushing the limits of Americana with her own distinctive style, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz takes the ACL stage for her second appearance performing highlights from her album Build Me Up From Bones. The incredibly talented Jarosz has already released three albums at the age of 22. With her two-piece band featuring a fiddle player and cello, Jarosz begins a stellar set with the Grammy-nominated title track in an acoustic performance that showcases her musicianship and songwriting. Switching between mandolin and banjo, Jarosz also dips into the songbooks of others, treating the audience to an accessible take on Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right On” and a solo rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Kathy’s Song”. She invites The Milk Carton Kids out to join her and the band for “Annabelle Lee” (based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem), displaying their complementary visions of contemporary folk music.

“We are so proud of Sarah, we feel like she’s part of the family,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “The last time she graced our stage she was on her way to college, now she’s graduated with honors and her remarkable talent has grown exponentially. We couldn’t resist having her back!”

photo by Scott Newton

The Milk Carton Kids, the L.A. acoustic folk duo consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, make their ACL debut playing songs from their critically-acclaimed  album The Ash & Clay. The besuited pair “play a sweetly dazzling variation on close-harmony vocals, part Simon and Garfunkel and part Everly Brothers” (LA Times) for a sound NPR calls “gorgeous contemporary folk.” With flat-picking, harmonies and a touch of twisted humor, the duo play purely acoustically on the ACL stage—no guitar amplification and one vocal mic—to beautiful effect. In a skillful performance infused with their signature wit, the Kids charm the Austin crowd with their playful, deadpan banter, exquisite guitar work, rich harmonies and timeless folk.

“I first saw Kenneth and Joey perform on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium last September, and it was obvious that they are world-class entertainers beyond their years,” says Lickona. “They are traditionalists with a modern spin and a mischievous sense of humor.”

photo by Scott Newton

Check out the episode page for more details. Be sure and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL goodness. Next week: Phoenix.

 

Encore: Randy Newman

It’s no secret that Austin City Limits makes a habit of showcasing musical legends. Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Raitt – the archives are packed with the best of the best. This Saturday, we encore an episode featuring another musician’s musician: the great Randy Newman.

Both a tender balladeer and a master satirist, Newman’s songs have spanned the length and breadth of popular music for the past five decades. Three Dog Night took “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” into the top 10 in 1970, Newman scored his own #2 hit with the infamous “Short People” and hooked another, younger generation as the composer of Pixar film music, like Toy Story’s beloved “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” In between chart milestones he’s scattered brilliant tunes like “Sail Away,” “Feels Like Home,” “Harps and Angels,” “Political Science,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and “Louisiana 1927” across the pop culture landscape like a farmer planting seeds in the field. And you get all of these and more in this show.

ACL producer Terry Lickona chased the Oscar-winning Newman for nearly three decades, and this episode proves it was worth the wait. Is it too early to call it a classic? Nope – we’re callin’ it.

Click here for more info on this episode, and don’t forget to tune in Saturday night to watch it yourself. As always, check out our Facebook and Twitter pages or subscribe to our newsletter for more ACL magic. Next week: Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids.

Encore: Queens of the Stone Age

Austin City Limits creates fireworks with an electrifying hour from rock innovators Queens of the Stone Age. Recently nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Album, QOTSA prove they’re undeniably one of the best rock bands today in a dynamic performance.

Queens’ frontman Josh Homme appeared on ACL back in 2009 as part of the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures along with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones, but in this appearance he makes his long-awaited ACL debut with QOTSA, the band he’s led for nearly two decades. QOTSA released …Like Clockwork, their first disc in six years, in 2013, debuting at #1 on Billboard‘s 200 and earning unanimous raves on critic’s Year-End Best Albums of 2013 lists, including Spin, Rolling Stone, Alternative Press and NPR. QOTSA’s ACL performance includes songs from the new record and hits from throughout their storied career. The scorching eleven-song set opens with signature tracks from their 2002 breakthrough Songs for the Deaf blasted out on head-banging drums and Homme’s trademark guitar tone. The band combine metal, blues, thrash, punk and psychedelia into a sound that’s both classic and unique. Ringleader Homme leads the band through songs from their latest release along with seminal records Rated R and Era Vulgaris, complete with grinding riffs, menace and muscle, sex and swagger, in an addictive performance that is a master class in rock’n'roll.

photo by Scott Newton

“Josh Homme is a genius, and he’s made Queens of the Stone Age one of the best rock bands of our time,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “They make some serious rock and roll, but without taking themselves too seriously.”

Find out more about this week’s episode here. Keep up with ACL happenings via our Facebook and Twitter pages, or our newsletter. Next week: songwriting legend Randy Newman.

 

New tapings: J. Roddy Walston & the Business and Future Islands

ACL’s 40th anniversary season continues to heat up with a pair of new tapings in September: J. Roddy Walston and the Business on 9/2 and Future Islands on 9/25.

J. Roddy Walston and the Business exploded out of their hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee on the strength of a demo that won a showcase for a national festival. Self-releasing their debut EP, the singer/songwriter and his trio relocated to Baltimore, releasing two more EPs and the full-length Hail Mega Boys. A couple of years’ hard touring led to the band signing with taste-making indie label Vagrant Records for 2010’s self-titled album, which City Paper called “what would happen if Queen and Black Oak Arkansas birthed four boys in the backwoods and let them listen to nothing but Cheap Trick and showtunes.” National tours with the Drive-By Truckers, Shovels & Rope and others followed, as well as appearances at the SXSW, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits music festivals. In 2013 the group signed to ATO Records and released Essential Tremors, described by All Music Guide as “a fine outing from a versatile band that knows what they do best, and man, they can rock.” Experience them for yourself on Sept. 2 when J. Roddy Walston and the Business make their ACL debut.

Also coming to our stage from, coincidentally, Baltimore are Future Islands. The members of the synth-pop oriented trio convened in 2006 in Greenville, North Carolina. Having worked with Thrill Jockey and Upset The Rhythm previously, their new album Singles marks the start of their new relationship with legendary label 4AD. The band won the Grulke Prize for best developing US act at this year’s SXSW; of their performance, Pitchfork raved “this is the kind of band that makes you wish other bands tried harder.” NPR hails Singles “extremely catchy, well-constructed classic pop,” while Stereogum  “an absolute and unqualified triumph.” Future Islands made its network television debut performing its single “Seasons (Waiting On You)” on The Late Show With David Letterman to much acclaim, and now comes to our stage. Please join us on Sept. 25 for the ACL debut of Future Islands.

photo by Tim Saccenti

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information about how to get free passes about a week before each taping right here on our site.