Episode recap: ACL Presents Americana Music Festival 2017

Austin City Limits returns to Nashville for a special broadcast offering performance highlights from this year’s Americana Honors & Awards. ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2017 premieres November 18 on PBS and features a stunning revue of unforgettable performances celebrating the finest artists in American roots music. The spirited hour is filled with standout performances from Americana legends and next generation stars, alongside many of the night’s award-winners and honorees, including: Old Crow Medicine Show, John Prine, Iris Dement, Rhiannon Giddens, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Amanda Shires, The Lumineers, Drive-By Truckers, Graham Nash & The Milk Carton Kids, Margo Price, Jason Isbell, Van Morrison and Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm.

Recorded live at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium on September 13, 2017, The Americana Music Association’s 16th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony is a celebration of music that is authentic, diverse and original from many genres (including alternative country, folk, bluegrass, blues and R&B), both traditional and contemporary.

“Each year this show blows my mind.  If there was an infra-red device tracking creativity, Nashville would be the brightest light on the planet,” says Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association.  “I’m so grateful and truly humbled by the incredible artists and musicians who grace our stage.”

Iris DeMent and John Prine. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Acclaimed string band Old Crow Medicine Show welcome the audience to “the mother church of country music,” Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, leading a marching drumline down the center aisle to kick off the broadcast with a riotous rendition of the Dylan classic “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.”  Artist of the Year John Prine, recently hailed “the Mark Twain of American songwriting” by Rolling Stone, is joined by this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree for Trailblazer, country-folk pioneer Iris DeMent, for a sparkling version of their legendary duet “In Spite of Ourselves.”  Album of the Year nominees give stellar performances including Rhiannon Giddens, who receives a standing ovation for her riveting “Julie,” a powerful meditation on slavery from her Freedom Highway.  Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers also sing for social justice, showcasing their protest anthem “What It Means,” a politically-charged statement named one of the Top 10 songs of the year by NPR, from their acclaimed album American Band.

The night’s Emerging Artist of the Year honoree Amanda Shires stuns in a solo debut and returns for the slowburning duet “If We Were Vampires” with her partner and creative collaborator, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, one of the genre’s top stars.  The spectrum of Americana’s range  is in full view as chart-toppers The Lumineers light up the stage with the title track from their recent album Cleopatra and longtime country icon Marty Stuart and his band the Fabulous Superlatives, awarded Group of the Year, deliver a dose of blazing,  road-tested honky-tonk with crowd-pleasing new gem “Time Don’t Wait.”

Graham Nash & the Milk Carton Kids. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

In true Americana style, the broadcast is packed with musical moments and one-of-a-kind collaborations from a diverse, multi-generational slate of roots luminaries: rock legend Graham Nash joins acoustic duo The Milk Carton Kids in sweet three-part harmony on The Everly Brothers classic “So Sad”.  Last year’s Emerging Artist winner Margo Price returns with a show-stopping new number, “Do Right By Me,” backed by the soaring vocals of gospel greats The McCrary Sisters.  The night’s Lifetime Achievement Honoree for Songwriting, rock icon Van Morrison, performs a soulful new song “Transformation” joined by his daughter Shana Morrison.  Famed bluesman Robert Cray and legendary Memphis soul sidemen Hi Rhythm, both Lifetime Achievement honorees, deliver a supercharged performance with a blistering blues/soul cut, “You Must Believe in Yourself,” from their acclaimed 2017 collaborative album.

The hourlong broadcast is hosted by esteemed songwriter and Americana wagonmaster Jim Lauderdale.  Multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell leads the ace house band and joins the host on vocals to salute late country giant Don Williams with a stirring rendition of his timeless hit “Tulsa Time” as the all-star cast returns for the singalong finale, bringing the hour to a moving close.

Americana Music Festival 2017 finale. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

Americana Music Festival 2017 finale. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

The show was co-produced by Two Talented Cats Entertainment’s Martin Fischer and Edie Hoback, Michelle Aquilato and ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona.

Tune in this weekend for this special, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the show page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for an encore episode, featuring the electrifying ACL debut of R&B superstar Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Austin City Limits announces new VR series: ACL Backstage


Celebrating its 43rd season on public television, Austin City Limits partners with Google’s Daydream team and virtual reality content producers SubVRsive to create ACL Backstage, an immersive 10-part VR series that brings new and exclusive premium performances and behind-the-scenes content to viewers everywhere. Now the longest running music show in television history, the lauded PBS television program remains committed to using cutting edge technology to bring live music performance to fans. Premiering November 16, ACL Backstage offers viewers amazing, only-in-VR moments straight from the current season.  Get closer than front row seats with intimate performances and personal interviews from favorite superstars like Ed Sheeran and  Zac Brown Band and many more.

The series tells the story of the musicians, the crew, the city, and the fans that make it all possible – all in virtual reality.  Unparalleled access gives an up-close look at some of the season’s most iconic performances and takes viewers backstage to hear from the artists before they step under the lights at Austin City Limits studio home: ACL Live at the Moody Theater in downtown Austin.  Stay tuned for 360° from a slate of stellar acts showcased in ACL’s new season: Father John Misty, Run the Jewels, Dan Auerbach and more highlights.

The first three episodes feature pop superstar Ed Sheeran, Southern country-rock band Zac Brown Band and the unsung heroes of ACL for four decades – our crew.

ACL Backstage premieres on Nov. 16 on  ACL’s YouTube channel. While anyone can watch on YouTube, the content is even more immersive when viewed in Daydream or Cardboard. The trailer is available below or here. Additional episodes will be released in January 2018.

ACL Backstage is hosted and directed by Nathan Christ, an award-winning filmmaker and director of acclaimed documentary Echotone, which explored music culture in Austin.  The series is produced by SubVRsive, an Emmy-nominated XR company based in Austin, TX that focuses on creating impactful 360 Video, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality experiences.

About Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits (ACL) offers viewers unparalleled access to featured acts in an intimate setting that provides a platform for artists to deliver inspired, memorable, full-length performances. The program is taped live before a concert audience from The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. ACL is the longest-running music series in television history and remains the only TV series to ever be awarded the National Medal of Arts. Since its inception, the groundbreaking music series has become an institution that’s helped secure Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. The historic KLRU Studio 6A, home to 36 years of ACL concerts, has been designated an official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark. In 2011, ACL moved to the new venue ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. ACL received a rare institutional Peabody Award for excellence and outstanding achievement in 2012.

ACL is produced by KLRU-TV and funding is provided in part by Dell, the Austin Convention Center Department, Shiner Beers and HomeAway.com. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Austin City Limits. Learn more about Austin City Limits, programming and history at acltv.com.

About SubVRsive

SubVRsive is an Emmy-nominated XR company based in Austin, TX focused on creating impactful 360 Video, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality experiences for brands and agencies. Partnering with renowned directors, producers, content creators and developers at the forefront of the medium, SubVRsive has created captivating interactive experiences for some of the world’s leading brands and media companies, including Lionsgate Entertainment, Procter & Gamble, and Showtime Networks. Read more at www.subvrsive.com.

Giveaway: Dan Auerbach 11/27

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Dan Auerbach on Monday, November 27th 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 Tuesday, Nov. 21st.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pickup 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.

Episode recap: The Head and The Heart & Benjamin Booker

Austin City Limits showcases two standout acts featured on this year’s namesake ACL Festival: The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker. Both acts are highlights on the touring circuit, drawing raves for soulful live performances.

Seattle folk-rock band The Head and the Heart make their second ACL appearance with a luminous performance featuring songs from their newest release Signs of Light. The indie favorites are one of live music’s biggest draws, with high-profile 2017 festival appearances including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk in addition to Austin’s own ACL Festival. The sextet deliver an uplifting, singalong set filled with new musical touchstones including “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels.” A moving cover of “Hunger Strike” honoring late Seattle icon Chris Cornell is a set highlight, rich with three-part harmonies. The band bring the passionate set to a glorious close with the soaring “River and Roads” from their 2011 self-titled debut, a fan favorite.

Florida-raised, New Orleans-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker delivers a raw, impassioned ACL debut packed with songs from his acclaimed 2017 album Witness and his 2014 self-titled breakout debut. Opening with his rocking radio hit “Violent Shiver,” the twenty-eight year old phenom draws on soul, blues and gospel, showcasing stirring soul-rockers “Carry,” “The Slow Drag Under” and “Believe” backed by a gospel choir. A powerful performance of his Civil Rights anthem “Witness” combines Booker’s husky, soulful voice with a profound message on racism in America. 

photo by Scott Newton

“The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker are prime examples of artists who just keep getting better,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than finding a groove and just staying with it, they are constantly searching for new ways to express their voices, and new sounds to go along with them. The end result can be surprising but always inspiring.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for an ACL Presents special, featuring the 2017 edition of the Americana Music Festival.

New taping and livestreams: Turnpike Troubadours and Dan Auerbach

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce our final taping of Season 43 with Oklahoma country rockers Turnpike Troubadours. The breakout band will hit the ACL stage on December 5 for a debut taping that will also be streamed live around the world. Speaking of livestreams, we’re also stoked to say that we’ll be doing the same for Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach’s taping on November 27. Auerbach will also be joined during the set by a very special guest, Louisiana soul singer Robert Finley, the first signing to his Easy Eye Sound record label.  Both tapings will stream at 8pm CT/9 pm ET, Dan Auerbach here on November 27 and Turnpike Troubadours here on December 5, powered by Dell.  

Called “the greatest country music band in the world right now” by Saving Country Music, the Turnpike Troubadours make their ACL debut in support of their fourth album A Long Way From Your Heart. Produced by Grammy winner Ryan Hewitt (The Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Heart is a rare triumph––an album that hooks immediately but then rewards listeners willing to dig deeper. “I love what we as a band have turned into and how we treat songs,” says lead singer and chief songwriter Evan Felker. “That’s something we’ve grown into––adding some sort of oddly theatrical element to the musicianship to help the story along, to sum up where or who the character is to give him a little bit of landscape. It’s not just an acoustic guitar and a guy telling you what somebody’s doing.” Born in Okemah, Oklahoma, birthplace of Woody Guthrie and Troubadours pal John Fullbright, Felker founded his band of virtuosic country-rock road dogs in 2005. Since then, the Troubadours have delivered punch after punch of smart rock & roll that sells out huge venues throughout the Midwest and South and packs legendary haunts like the Troubadour in Los Angeles. “Felker has evolved into a Red Dirt Springsteen, deftly blending autobiographical elements with complex, hardscrabble characters,” raves Garden & Gun. Narratives put to music are nothing new, but Felker and his bandmates have upped the ante, creating a web of unforgettable characters that show up on album after album in songs that are both catchy and musically complex: men and women with their backs against their wall, represented realistically but also imbued with dignity. “It feels like going home to see that those characters are still alive in a way that movies and literary writers have always done,” Felker says. “It feels good.”

photo by Alyssa Gafkjen

Dan Auerbach has performed on ACL twice before with his band The Black Keys, and this will be his first time performing solo on the program where he will be backed by some of Nashville’s finest musicians—Bobby Wood, Gene “Bubba” Chrisman, Pat McLaughlin, Dave Roe, Russ Pahl, Ray Jacildo, Ashley Wilcoxson, Leisa Hans, Nick Bockrath from Cage the Elephant—as well as featuring legendary bluesman Robert Finley.  The eight-time Grammy winning superstar will perform songs from his acclaimed new solo release Waiting On A Song.  NPR calls the album “a batch of sparkling pop songs that’s sweet, breezy, and primed for summer.” The album is Auerbach’s follow-up to 2009’s Keep It Hid and is his love letter to Nashville. As such, he recruited some of Na­shville’s most respected players to write and record his latest. “Living in Nashville has definitely changed the way I think about music and the way that I record it,” he says about working with his heroes. “I didn’t have all of these resources before. I am working with some of the greatest musicians that ever lived.” The always-understated musician is happy to have his own version of the Wrecking Crew at his Easy Eye Studio in south Nashville. “Sometimes I feel I created my own Field of Dreams. I built the studio to accommodate live musicians playing, and then all of a sudden the best musicians in Nashville show up, and it’s happening. This is the sound I was looking for, and now there really is an Easy Eye sound. It’s a factory—but in the way that Motown or Stax or American Studios was a factory. Anything can happen, any day.” He pauses a long minute, as if to let it all sink in. “Even with the success I’ve had, it’s only just now that I’m finally finding myself,” Auerbach says. “I called the album Waiting On A Song because I’ve been waiting my whole life to be able to do this. And now I have. And none of us ever want it to stop.”

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before each taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings. Or you can join us online for Dan Auerbach here on November 27 and Turnpike Troubadours here on December 5 for these full-set livestreams. The broadcast versions will air on PBS early next year as part of our Season 43.


Episode recap: Miranda Lambert

Austin City Limits presents a Season 43 highlight, a brand new hour with one of country music’s most celebrated entertainers, Miranda Lambert. The multi-platinum, award-winning singer-songwriter is at the top of her game in a 13-song tour de force.

For her third appearance on Austin City Limits, Lambert delivers a magnetic performance and proves why she’s the reigning queen of country, leading the pack with 5 nominations for this year’s 51st CMA Awards (on November 8) and being named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music for a record-breaking 8th year in a row. The native Texan performs songs from her sixth album, The Weight of These Wings, sharing many of the personal stories behind the songs in a sparkling set. Lambert and her 8-piece band open with a fire-starter, “Kerosene,” the title track to her 2005 breakout debut. The country star’s relaxed persona charms and disarms the Austin crowd: “So that’s what we’re gonna do here tonight, as a big family…we’re just gonna be us, and own it…all the good, and all the bad. Are y’all in?” The crowd’s definitely in as she shines on new songs ““Vice,” and “We Should Be Friends,” road-tested fan-favorites, and a show-stopping cover of Little Feat’s classic “Willin’” that she makes her own.

A solo acoustic rendition of her new marvel “Tin Man” (nominated for two 2017 CMA Awards, including Song of the Year) is a set highlight, showcasing the vulnerable, open-hearted lyrics and grit that are her trademark; Lambert explains that she wants to perform the number alone because “That’s where it starts—with a song and a guitar and a girl and some emotions.” The stunner demonstrates her vast emotional range with the blistering set-closer “Gunpowder and Lead,” turning her hell-bent on revenge fantasy’s razor sharp lyrics into magic.

“Miranda is one of Country music’s brightest stars,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “but she’s a quintessential Texas singer-songwriter at heart. True to her roots, she writes powerful songs that leave no stone unturned.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode, featuring the return of indie rockers The Head and The Heart and the debut of rocking soul man Benjamin Booker.

Taping recap: LCD Soundsystem

The return of LCD Soundsystem to action after a five-year layoff is one of 2017’s biggest success stories. So we were thrilled to welcome James Murphy and his cohorts for the group’s debut Austin City Limits taping. The band lived up to every expectation and delivered a career-spanning set that rocked the packed house.

The octet took the stage casually before a lone synth pulse signalled the beginning of “Oh Baby,” the synth-popping opening track of the band’s latest album American Dream, their first career #1. Murphy thanked the audience for coming and expressed excitement for being on the show, noting that they’d never done anything like this before. Then it was on to “Call the Police,” the rocking first single from Dream. Assuring the fans that the show wouldn’t consist solely of new songs, Murphy reached back to This is Happening, formerly the group’s final LP, for the bouncy “I Can Change,” perfectly balancing romantic woe, disco rhythm and pop melody. The dance rhythms continued for the cheeky, percussion-heavy “Get Innocuous!”  and the groovily defiant  “You Wanted a Hit.” The propulsive powerhouse “Tribulations” followed, making the crowd a roiling mass of dance moves. Before anyone could catch breath, the synths led into “Someone Great,” a soaring pop tune that featured close harmonies between Murphy and keyboardist Nancy Whang.

In order to let band and audience have a moment, Murphy introduced the musicians. But the reprieve didn’t last long, as it was off into the noisy hipshaker “Change Yr Mind,” its relentless groove and anthemic vocals contrasted by six-string skronk. The guitar clangor continued, ornamenting the pulsing, playful, percussion-soaked “Yr City’s a Sucker.” The band’s penchant for mixing rock anthems with dance rhythms asserted itself in a big way for “Tonite,” which segued directly into the aggressively danceable pop song “Home.” The electropulse continued without pause as Murphy moved to a piano, Al Doyle started a chicken scratch on guitar and Nancy Whang took the mic for a driving cover of Chic’s immortal disco classic “I Want Your Love,” which made an already wildly dancing audience thrash even harder. After that breathless rush, the main set ended with “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” which started out mellow before ending in a power waltz that drove the crowd mad.  

A brief pause later, the band returned to the stage, Murphy explaining that he had to pee. Before anyone could divine whether or not he was kidding, Doyle banged out the big riff that kicks off “Emotional Haircut,” one of the combo’s wittiest tunes. The show ended with the pop anthem “All My Friends,” Murphy embracing the title by hopping offstage to shake hands with the front row. It was a perfect ending to a phenomenal show, one we can’t wait to show you when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our season 43.