Giveaway: Alessia Cara 8/2

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Alessia Cara on August 2nd 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 July 31st.

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.

Sam Smith tops his previous ACL performance

When British sensation Sam Smith first visited the ACL stage in 2014 he was just beginning his U.S. rise, having already conquered his homeland. The soulful singer/songwriter returned as a fully-established worldwide superstar, showcasing his acclaimed sophomore LP The Thrill of It All and a hit parade of highlights in a dazzling, entertaining set.

As his five piece band hit the first notes, Smith, nattily-attired in a slim tan suit, and his quartet of backup singers took the stage for the doo-wopping “One Last Song.” The London native strode out onto the uniquely extended stage and had the rapt crowd sing the intro of the soulful “I’m Not the Only One,” letting the song become a call-and-response number by the end. After reminiscing about his first ACL appearance, which he called one of his favorite shows ever, he asked, “Can we beat that show?” The audience enthusiastically replied in the affirmative, leading into a standout “Lay Me Down,” the epic he described as the first song he wrote with longtime collaborator Jimmy Napes. Then most of the band members left the stage, leaving Smith with only piano and cello in support of the showstopping “Latch,” his hit collaboration with electronica duo Disclosure. The band and singers returned in full force for the sly gem “Money On My Mind,” followed by musician intros and a romp through “Like I Can,” which became a massive crowd sing- and clap-along. The charming and effervescent Smith wasn’t done with the audience yet, encouraging them to dance and sing with the sparkling pop/soul of “Restart.” “You guys, much love – that was amazing!” he smiled after the song concluded.

For the loping soul tune “Baby, You Make Me Crazy,” Smith generously threw the spotlight to his singers, letting them finish the tune. He returned for “Say It First,” a crowd-pleasing, widescreen pop tune about devotion. Smith and company went from romance to breakup, reclaiming the soul vibe for the heartbreak of “Midnight Train.” That was simply a warm-up, however, for “Him,” a stirring anthem for anyone refusing to be marginalized for being who they are. After that exhilarating emotional ride, he ended the main set with “Too Good at Goodbyes,” the jazzy top five single from Thrill that once again welcomed audience participation. The crowd went wild, unready for the show to end. Luckily, it wasn’t the end, as the band returned for the new album’s “Palace,” and Smith harmonized in an exquisite duet with knockout backup singer Lucy Jules. “It’s been four-and-a-half years since I released this song,” he grinned for the follow-up,” and I still love singing it as much as I ever have.” He meant the Grammy-winning breakthrough smash “Stay With Me,” of course, a perfect showcase for his massive vocals.  The audience accompaniment on the chorus worked the tune’s gospel feel and brought the house down.

You might think that’s how the show ended, but you’d be wrong. “I have to say – you’ve beaten my last Austin City Limits,” Smith remarked about the crowd’s enthusiasm. “That was incredible!” He ended the show with “Pray,” another gospel-flavored anthem that celebrated inclusion and the power of connection. Smith left the stage to a well-deserved standing ovation. It was a magnificent show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our Season 44 on your local PBS station.  


Encore: Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett

Austin City Limits showcases two of today’s most original and exciting live acts: Grammy-winning songwriter, vocalist and virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett. Two talked-about artists worthy of the buzz, both rising stars have gained recognition around the globe for their dynamic live shows.  

Austin’s Gary Clark Jr. arrives on ACL’s stage at the top of his game for his second headline performance, showcasing songs from the acclaimed new top-10 album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. The young Texan has had a whirlwind ascent from the Austin club scene to earning slots on festival stages, on the road with superstars Foo Fighters and his own headlining tours. The LA Times hailed him “the most exciting blues-based experimentalist since Jack White.” Clark writes another chapter to his story with this appearance, firmly establishing himself as a sonic force of nature in a confident, blazing five-song set filled with searing, soulful new songs. The guitar phenom opens with a new album highlight “Grinder” and demonstrates his astonishing musical chops with scorching renditions of the deeply personal originals. Closing the thrilling set with the uplifting, gospel-infused anthem “Healing,” Clark sings with newfound passion, owning the ACL stage and receiving a heartfelt standing ovation.

Australian singer/songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett released one of the most arresting music debuts in years, 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, and received critical acclaim in spades: Rolling Stone hails Barnett “one of rock’s most beguiling young stars and deftest lyricists,” calling the album “2015’s sharpest debut.” Paste says she’s “one of the most charming, whipsmart performers currently touring the world,” and NPR raves “the new album will thrill any fan of smart, biting guitar driven rock,” calling her “the best lyricist in rock music today.”  Spin calls it “one of the most thrilling albums you’ll hear this year,” and hails the garage rocker a “goddamn rock star.”  Riding the wave of media acclaim, Barnett proves she has the talent to match in her standout ACL debut. The six-song set is a great introduction to her signature style: mixing straightforward, four-chord crunch with witty, often hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking observations with unflinching self-assessment. Aided by her tight band featuring bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie, she brings the ACL set to a crashing close with the crowd-favorite single “Pedestrian at Best,” proving she’s nothing of the sort, but one of the most distinctive and compelling new voices in modern rock.

photo by Scott Newton

“Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett are the rock stars of tomorrow, if not today, and they’re doing it the old-fashioned way – with their guitars,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “They are both blazing different trails, but they are totally original, and that’s why this makes for such a great double bill!”

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. Next week: high-powered rock and soul from Alabama Shakes and Vintage Trouble.

Giveaway: Sam Smith 7/23

Sam Smith 44 for blog

UPDATE giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Sam Smith on 7/23 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 July 19th.

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.

Ponty Bone 1939-2018

The folks here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death on Friday of singer/accordionist Ponty Bone, an Austin institution. He was 78. He appeared on ACL with Joe Ely in 1980 and 1996, with Jimmie Dale Gilmore in 1992 and with his own showcase in 1987 as part of Season 12’s Squeezebox Special.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Harry DePonta Bone began accordion lessons when he was five years old. Moving to Lubbock in the sixties to attend Texas Tech, he became part of the beloved “Lubbock Mafia,” taking Texas music by storm alongside Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tommy Hancock and the other West Texas luminaries who resisted any idea of musical categories. Bone moved to Austin in 1980 as part of the Joe Ely Band, he formed the Squeezetones a couple of years later, recording several albums while continuing to work as a sideman for Ely, Gilmore and Christine Albert on her landmark LP Texafrance. His output slowed down in recent years as his health declined, but his spirit never surrendered.

Well-versed in conjunto, zydeco, polka and any other kind of music that required an accordion, Ponty Bone never failed to bring the party whenever he stepped onstage. Here he is from the Squeezebox Special with “a little thing that represents my personal philosophy in life,” “Easy As Pie.”  

Miguel brings eclectic soul to the ACL stage

Standing proudly in the vanguard of contemporary R&B artists, Miguel has garnered massive critical acclaim since his emergence in 2011. The Los Angeles native describes his eclectic sound as  “fly, funkadelic, intergalactic-hip-hop-meets-sexy-orgasmic crazy, dope shit,” and that’s a fair approximation of the sonic waves Miguel brought to the Moody Theater stage for his debut ACL taping, which we streamed live around the world.

With his four-piece band (clad all in white), Miguel took the stage in a trench coat and launched into the rocking “Criminal,” from his latest album War & Leisure. He stepped back to his breakthrough LP Kaleidoscope Dream for the equally vibrant “The Thrill” and the bouncing “How Many Drinks?,” updating classic R&B sounds for the twenty-first century. Ditching his trenchcoat, he and the band went immediately into the poppy “Banana Clip,” keeping the groove and melody flowing. After that uninterrupted salvo, Miguel paused to hail ACL and the audience, who came out in force on a Sunday night. After explaining how his bi-ethnic heritage formed his perspective and how he writes songs about his experiences on the journey to his current success, he cheekily followed with the sardonic “Do You Like…” (drugs, that is), frosting it with reggae, his soaring falsetto and a quick snippet of Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie.” Then the singer jumped all the way back to the beginning with “Sure Thing,” from his first LP All I Want is You. That set the stage for the Grammy Award-winning “Adorn,” his anthemic breakthrough hit that became a dynamic call-and-response singalong.

Miguel kept the widescreen feel going with the power chord-driven “Simple Thing,” taken from his wildly extolled third record Wildheart. Most of the band exited the stage, leaving just Miguel with guitarist Josh J. strapping on his acoustic for the stripped-down “Now,” a politically-charged tune about cultivating positivity in troubled times. “Now back to our regularly scheduled programming,” he said as the band returned. With his musicians laying down some atmosphere, Miguel talked about growing up with a foot in two different cultures and the lessons he learned from it. After instructing the audience in the song’s interactivity, he ripped into the blazing “Waves,” encouraging everyone in the house and on the web to ride their own wave. After that explosion, the only thing to do was to bring things down with the sexy ballad “Come Through and Chill.” “Nasty,” he smiled after the audience indulged in some provocative call-and-response. Miguel followed that with “Pineapple Skies,” a clear audience favorite. But that was merely a scene-setter for his current smash hit “Skywalker.” You gotta stay up!” he exhorted the eager crowd, and they did through the course of this powerhouse, show-closing anthem. The audience went nuts by the end, chanting “One more song” – to no avail, alas. Still, it was a hell of a show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.  

Encore: Father John Misty and The Black Angels

Austin City Limits presents a deep dive into the unconventional with two acts whose music provides a soundtrack to uncertain times: indie sensation Father John Misty in his ACL debut and modern psych-rockers The Black Angels in a return appearance.

Father John Misty, the pseudonym for the singer-songwriter also known as Josh Tillman, dazzles in his 5-song debut, offering a fascinating glimpse of one of today’s most charismatic artists. The indie-rock provocateur performs songs from his latest, Pure Comedy, a 2018 Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Album. Hailed “a sprawling masterwork” by NPR, the New York Times called it “an ideal album for the era of outrage.” Father John delivers an epic performance filled with his dry wit and keen insights on religion, fame, social media, technology and the overall state of humanity, backed by a 16-piece orchestra, including a full string and horn section. For the set-closer, the sweetly cynical “I Love You, Honeybear” (title track from his 2015 sophomore album), the magnetic bandleader playfully dances with the mic stand and waltzes offstage to embrace the crowd, a cult leader for the ages, as the audience sings along for an ecstatic climax.

Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock. The New York Times raves they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The quintet debuted on ACL in 2013 and make their return appearance with a charged set of songs from their first full-length release in four years, the acclaimed Death Song. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.” Frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals channel 21st century outrage on hypnotic set opener “Currency,” which pillories our capitalism-above-all-else society. Surrounded by screens swirling with kaleidoscopic images, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease, anchored by cutting wordplay and the distorted fuzz of menacing guitars.

“‘These are perilous times,’ somebody once wrote, and writing songs that define or defy today’s times can be a perilous exercise,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Nobody does it better than Josh Tillman and Alex Maas. They infuse their songs with a musical urgency that is really hypnotic. The impact of their two sets together makes this a unique ACL episode.”

The Black Angels on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU 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. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring Americana giants Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.

Lukas Nelson expands on family tradition for his debut ACL

The great Willie Nelson has been a mainstay of Austin City Limits since the 1974 pilot  – indeed, many of us think of him as ACL’s patron saint. It was inevitable that some of Willie’s kids would follow in his footsteps, not only in music, but onto our storied stage. Lukas Nelson is not merely a chip off the old block, however. With his band Promise of the Real, the 28-year old singer, songwriter and guitar-slinger has regularly backed Neil Young and built his own legacy over the course of a decade with five albums and a handful of EPs. Nelson the younger recorded his debut ACL episode in support of his and POTR’s acclaimed 2017 eponymous album, which formed the heart of the show that we streamed live around the world.

“You ever watch that show Rick & Morty?” said Nelson as he strapped on his guitar. “I wrote a song after watching it and I want you to hear it.” With that, he and the five-piece Promise of the Real (plus special guest Micah Nelson, Lukas’ brother) launched into the unrecorded song “Entirely Different Stars,” a psychedelic anthem that included plenty of fireworks from Nelson and steel guitarist Jesse Siebenberg and a coda redolent of Nelson’s native Hawaii. The frisky country rocker “Die Alone” revved the engines back up, while “Fool Me Once” took the same tack with a choogling tempo and sardonic lyrics. Nelson and company visited the other side of the law with “Runnin’ Shine,” with the scion really showing off his vocal resemblance to the father. “Caroline” showed an affectionate debt to the Texas singer/songwriter tradition, while “Lil Girl” incorporated reggae into the band’s rocking Americana.

“Four Letter Word” married clever wordplay with an expanded Nelson guitar solo, including a quick snippet of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The band brought the rock back for “Something Real,” including more six-string magic. Then the Real quit the stage, leaving the Austin-born Nelson alone with an acoustic guitar for the crowd-pleasing “Just Outside of Austin,” a song destined to be a mainstay in his set for decades. Nelson underscored the Austin connection by soulfully covering Willie’s “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” garnering an audience reaction as loud ‘n’ proud as that for “Austin.” Nelson then sang Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” paying tribute to his sometime employer, for whom he and the rest of Promise of the Real have provided backup for the last few years. He wasn’t done with other folks’ tunes yet, though, as he then went into Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” connecting his father’s distinctive vocal style with the late classic rocker’s.

P of the R returned to the stage for “Forget About Georgia,” a melancholy country song that bespeaks driving all night and thinking too much about the love left behind. Nelson left heartbreak behind for the skanking kiss-off “Find Yourself,” which became an enthusiastic crowd singalong. A faithful cover, complete with a cappella intro, of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes” was a surprise, giving bassist Corey McCormick and percussionist Tato Melgar chances to show their stuff. The spotlight then turned to steel guitarist Jesse Siebenberg, who provided an extended intro to “Set Me Down On a Cloud,” returning the band to the kind of elegiac anthemry with which they began. Nelson reclaimed his acoustic guitar for the gentle ballad “Turn Off the News,” before sending the appreciative audience into the night with the Southern rock singalong “The Awakening.” It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs in ACL’s forty-fourth, only on your local PBS station.