Taping recap: The Black Angels

It’s no surprise that we at ACL love to showcase Austin’s finest acts when we have the opportunity. So we were thrilled to welcome back Central Texas’ modern psychedelic sons The Black Angels for their livestreamed second appearance. Performing the entirety of their latest album, the critically-acclaimed Death Song, alongside crowd favorites, the Angels delivered a scorching set of darkly droning, acid-kissed rock & roll.

Surrounded by screens projecting trippy kaleidoscopic images, the band kicked things off with new album opener “Currency” a politcally charged tirade that rolled off the stage on a wave of reverb anchored by frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals. A twanging guitar line signaled the start of “The Prodigal Sun,” from the band’s striking debut Passover, much to the approval of the crowd. Backed by the otherworldly display of abstract lighting, the Angels launched into the droning but rocking “Entrance Song,” before upping the energy level for “Better Off Alone.” The quintet returned to the new record for the menacing “I Dreamt,” aptly displaying the darker side of the hippie dream as implied by their name. The rhythm-driven “Medicine” added a side of funk to the group’s smoky acid rock, while “Hunt Me Down” glowered its way through the grungy riffs of guitarists Christian Bland and Jake Garcia.

The Angels returned to social commentary with “Grab As Much (as you can),” another spear in the side of greed. Bland sat down at the keyboard for the dreamy open of “Half Believing,” its idyll altered by drummer Stephanie Bailey’s insistent thump and Garcia’s fuzzed-out Rickenbacker. The energy level blasted off immediately after for the growling “Bloodhounds,” the guitars competing with multi-instrumentalist Kyle Hunt’s cutting Farfisa organ, and stayed high for the cheerfully threatening “I’d Kill For Her.” The dramatic, arresting “Comanche Moon” came next, as Maas imagined vengeance on behalf of First Peoples everywhere. The Angels ended the main set with the melancholy atmospheres of “Life Song,” Maas’ cries of “I’ll see you on the other side” belying the song’s title.   

It wasn’t over, of course; after the appropriate amount of cheering, the band returned for the blurry, meditative “Estimate.” An insistently buzzing guitar snapped the atmosphere into sharper focus for “Death March,” one of Death Song’s standouts. The Angels returned to the beginning for the final number, swirling its fuzzy guitars, pounding rhythms and seething rage for “Young Men Dead,” a warning shot from Passover that got the audience riled up on first lick. It was a perfect closer for this terrific show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.    

Taping recap: The Head and the Heart

The Head and the Heart returned to the Austin City Limits stage for its second appearance on the show, on the heels of its acclaimed third LP Signs of Light. The livestreamed performance left no fan disappointed, as the Seattle band hit the stage with its effervescent melodies and poignant harmonies intact.

The band took the stage, tuned up and went into the hyper-melodic “All We Ever Knew,” from Signs of Light. The sextet stuck to the new record for “City of Angels,” a rocking paean to Los Angeles. Kenny Hensely’s piano pounding then signaled a look back to the band’s beloved first album in the form of the rollicking tune “Ghosts.” “Rhythm and Blues” followed, its title genre subtly woven into the rhythm, before the pace slowed a bit with the shimmering “Another Story.” The Head and the Heart then essayed the lovely “Let’s Be Still,” the lush duet between leader Jonathan Russell and violinist Charity Rose Thielen that became a stirring anthem and serves as title track to the combo’s second record.

The cut-time strumming of Russell’s acoustic guitar brought the folk-popping “Lost in My Mind,” one of the band’s hits and, from the sound of the cheers, a clear crowd favorite. The group showcased its trademark harmonies on “Winter Song,” a fingerpicked folk tune of surpassing beauty. Then came a surprise – the Seattleites paid tribute to late Soundgarden leader Chris Cornell with a gently faithful take on Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” sung by new guitarist Matthew Gervais and Russell, that found great favor with the audience. Following that triumph, Russell commanded the stage solo for “Oh My Dear,” a dramatic ballad that segued into the full band thumper “I Don’t Mind,” both from Signs of Light. The Head and the Heart returned to its debut for the tunefulness overload of “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” before cranking the amps and the rhythm for Let It Be Still’s “Shake.” The main set ended with “Down in the Valley,” the fan favorite folk pop anthem that distills the band’s essence into one memorable number.

One boisterously cheering crowd later, Russell, Thielen and Gervais returned to the stage for “Library Magic,” putting their own stamp on the guitar ‘n’ three part harmony sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The rest of the band came back onstage to close with the crowd-pleaser “Rivers and Roads,” one of the group’s most potent folk rock anthems. The crowd went appropriately wild, and the band quit the stage to rapturous applause. It was a great show, and we’re happy for you to see it this fall when it airs on your local PBS station.

R.I.P. Jimmy LaFave

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of singer/songwriter Jimmy LaFave at the age of 61 after a yearlong battle with spindle cell sarcoma. The longtime Austin mainstay appeared on the show in 1996 as part of our Season 21.

Born in Wills Point, Texas, LaFave came of musical age in Stillwater, Oklahoma as part of a collective of songwriters who helped develop what’s now known as “Red Dirt music.” After relocating to Austin in the early 90s, LaFave became known for a sound the magazine Folk and Music Exchange rightly called “reminiscent of the Dust Bowl heritage of Woody Guthrie, the early rock of Chuck Berry, the quiet folk reflections of Bob Dylan, and the rock anthems of Bruce Springsteen.” He recorded several albums featuring his gritty voice and poignant songs over the course of his two-plus decades in Austin, including Austin Skyline, Highway Trance, Buffalo Return to the Plains, Depending On the Distance and his most recent LP The Night Tribe, named after his long-running band. LaFave gave an emotional farewell concert at Austin’s Paramount Theater on May 18, surrounded by his friends, family and peers, passing peacefully at home three days later. May he rest in peace.

You can watch his episode of Austin City Limits below.

ACL to livestream tapings from The Head and the Heart and The Black Angels

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Austin City Limits is proud to announce a pair of back-to-back livestreams with two of today’s most thrilling live acts. We will be streaming the upcoming tapings of Seattle’s The Head and the Heart on May 22 and Austin’s own The Black Angels on May 23, live and in their entirety, directly from the Austin City Limits stage at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel.  Both acts are making return appearances to the ACL stage armed with acclaimed new albums.

When Seattle band, The Head and the Heart, who first appeared on ACL in Season 37, regrouped in 2016 to start writing together again after a sabbatical, “it almost felt like we were a new band, trying things we hadn’t tried,” bassist  Chris Zasche recalls. “We stayed at a bungalow on the beach. We’d wake up, have coffee and go boogie boarding. We were ready and excited to be back together.” That renewed sense of purpose can be felt throughout their major label debut, Signs of Light, the group’s third album and first release for Warner Bros. Records. “This album isn’t about us now having achieved our dreams,” says vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charity Rose Thielen. “The day we started being able to live off our art was the day we achieved our dreams, in my mind. This is the album where we really fell into our true voices as those artists.” Recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant), Signs of Light crackles with the upbeat, singalong energy of the band’s finest work. Throughout, the colors are brighter, the electric guitars are louder and the musical touchstones more universal. Lead single “All We Ever Knew,” written during the Let’s Be Still era but never captured to the band’s satisfaction until now, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, while “Turn It Around” seems primed to be a future concert staple, matching its inspirational message with a lush and multi-layered soundscape. Blurt say the album “fulfills the aim the band’s handle appears to indicate. This is after all, music that connects with the head and the heart, and imparts a dual sense of resilience and delight in its wake.” Join us on May 22nd for The Head and the Heart’s highly-anticipated second ACL taping.

BlackAngels_Livestream_43_squareAustin psych rock masters The Black Angels appear with charged new songs from Death Song, their first full-length release in four years, and their debut for Partisan Records. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.”  Written and recorded in large part during the recent election cycle, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease. Recorded between Seattle and Austin, the eleven-track collection offers a sharply honed elaboration on their signature sound – menacing fuzz guitar and cutting wordplay, steeped in a murky hallucinatory dream. Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock, and the New York Times has said they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The Black Angels made a stellar ACL debut in 2013 and we look forward to their return.

Please join us May 22 and May 23 for these full-set livestreams on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The broadcast versions will air on PBS later this year as part of Season 43.

Giveaway: The Black Angels 5/23

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UPDATE: Giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping performances by THE BLACK ANGELS on Tuesday, May 23rd 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 18th.

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.

Giveaway: The Head and The Heart 5/22

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping performances by THE HEAD AND THE HEART on Monday, May 22nd 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 9 am on Thursday, May 18th.

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.

New taping: The Black Angels

Austin City Limits is thrilled to welcome back hometown heroes The Black Angels on May 23rd for their second ACL taping, armed with a powerful new record Death Song.

Death Song is the Austin psych rock masters’ first full-length release in four years, and their debut for Partisan Records. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.”  Written and recorded in large part during the recent election cycle, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease. “Currency,” a strong contender for the heaviest song the band has ever put to wax, meditates on the governing role the monetary system plays in our lives.  Album highlight “Half Believing,” the track Texas Monthly calls “a turning point for the band,” is a slow-building stunner that questions the nature and confusing realities of devotion. Recorded between Seattle and Austin, ‘Death Song’ features production from Phil Ek (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, The Shins). The eleven-track collection offers a sharply honed elaboration on their signature sound – menacing fuzz guitar and cutting wordplay, steeped in a murky hallucinatory dream.  Classic Rock says Death Song “is their heaviest to date, a toxic draught of garage-rock and booming psychedelia that buzzes with echo and reverb,” while A.V. Club claims “confirms there’s no end to the kinds of hurt and frustration that can be channeled into its cathartic music.”

Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock, and the New York Times has said they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The band’s 2010 breakthrough Phosphene Dream launched the Austin collective onto the world stage, drawing massive audiences for their scorched earth live shows and touring with Queens of the Stone Age, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Black Keys and more, and landing on festival stages including Glastonbury, Fuji Rock, Primavera, Harvest Fest, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Fun Fun Fun Fest and, of course, Austin City Limits Music Festival. Two of the band members co-founded Levitation Festival (formerly Austin Psych Fest) in 2008, which has since grown into one of the best-reviewed and expertly-curated festivals in the country. The Black Angels made a stellar ACL debut in 2013 and we look forward to their return.

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.

Taping recap: Benjamin Booker

Benjamin Booker has been on the ACL radar for a couple of years now. So we were thrilled to finally host the singer/songwriter/guitarist for his debut taping, which we streamed live around the world. The New Orleans-based Booker gifted us with a soulful, standout show, featuring plenty of songs from his highly anticipated sophomore album Witness, out in June.

But first Booker revisited his acclaimed 2014 self-titled debut with a quartet of rocking tunes. He and his four-piece band kicked off the show with the galloping “Have You Seen My Son?” The rhythms stayed blazing for “Old Hearts,” before slipping into a shuffling boogie for “Chippewa,” Booker’s husky croon taking on a playful cast. The band grabbed hold of a sexy groove for “Happy Homes,” highlighted by a bluesy guitar solo. Booker put down his guitar for “Off the Ground,” a Witness tune that started as a lush soul ballad but transformed into a snarling rocker. Speaking of which, he re-donned his guitar and launched into the familiar riff of his radio hit “Violent Shiver,” garnering cheers from the crowd. He then brought on “someone I’ve never performed with before but I’ve known for a long time” – his big sister Nicole, who added harmonies to the fast-choogling “Wicked Water.”

“This is my first time with backing singers,” Booker commented. “I’ve made it, people!” Three vocalists joined Nicole for a set from the new record, starting with the relaxed and funky “Overtime.” The hip-swaying “Slow Drag Under” followed, setting itself up as a cut likely to be in his repertoire for the rest of his career. Rock & roll returned to the menu with the rollicking “Right On You,” before Booker once again set aside his axe for the new record’s single, the gospel-soaked anthem “Witness” – already a clear crowd favorite. He continued channeling his inner soul man for “Carry,” before strapping on the guitar once again for the accordion-laced, set-closing ballad “Slow Coming.”

The audience wanted more, of course, and Booker was ready, bounding back onstage. Bringing on a string section to accompany himself and the band, he manned the mic for the soul-stirring anthem “Believe.” “I just want to believe in something,” he sang, “I don’t care if it’s right or wrong.” The song was definitely right, and the crowd showed its appreciation quite loudly. One group bow later, Booker and band quit the stage to a rapturous reception. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when the episode airs this fall on your local PBS station.