New taping: Courtney Barnett

Austin City Limits is happy to announce the ACL taping debut of Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett on June 4th.

Mixing witty, often hilarious, occasionally even heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment, Courtney Barnett’s debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, cements her standing as one of the most distinctive and compelling new voices in indie rock. After leaving art-school in Hobart, Tasmania, Barnett moved to Melbourne and became a mainstay of the local scene. She paid her dues and honed her chops in short-lived garage outfits before playing lead guitar in the twang-psych band Immigrant Union. When she went solo, Barnett launched her own label, which she dubbed Milk! Records, to release her own material as well as music by some of Melbourne’s finest singers and songwriters. With the 2013 release of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (which combined her first two self-released EPs), she embarked on an almost never-ending tour that took her to North America and Europe, barely stopping long enough to record her first true album. Sometimes I Sit and Think is a beguiling collection of songs that reveals her as an ambitious writer with an ear for clever turns of phrase and an eye for story-song details that are literate without being pretentious – Barnett even did the artwork and hand lettering for the liner notes. The Guardian calls the record “fun, intelligent and sets up Barnett as a voice who can tread between both high and low culture and treat them the same.”

“There’s something about the way she sings where I feel like I know that person,” says Britt Daniel of Spoon, who have invited her to play a show with them and the Decemberists at Red Rocks. “Her songs are fairly simple in their construction, and they’re carried by her lyrics, the way she finds humor in the mundane.” We’re thrilled to host this rocking singer and songwriter. Please join us in welcoming for the first time: Courtney Barnett.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

 

The War On Drugs’ psychedelic classic rock

For its debut ACL taping The War On Drugs lived up to the critical acclaim that’s been showered upon them since their 2011 breakthrough Slave Ambient. Drawing mostly from last year’s Lost in the Dream, widely praised as the Philadelphia band’s best so far, topping critics year-end Best lists, TWOD performed a strong set of its patented blend of spacey psychedelia and classic rock to an adoring audience.

Starting with a hazy synth intro, the sextet eased in “Under the Pressure,” also the first song on Lost in the Dream. Over a driving motorik rhythm, leader Adam Granduciel overlaid Dylanesque vocals and tasteful guitar solos, painting a vibrant picture that coaxes attention instead of demanding it. TWOD worked that formula even more successfully on “Red Eyes,” “Baby Missiles” and the midpoint anthem “An Ocean Between the Waves,” crowd-pleasers all. The band didn’t stick only to that groove, however. “Disappearing” added an almost disco rhythm to the drumming, giving the song its own buoyancy. “Lost in the Dream” and “Eyes to the Wind” worked more dynamic melodies, adding a certain wistfulness to the vibe, even as Granduciel traversed his fretboard. TWOD combined everything into “In Reverse,” the penultimate tune that served as the set’s climax.

Following that peak, the band closed by taking the crowd into the lush green valley of “Suffering,” the cathartic ballad pushing us gently into the good night. Eschewing the Big Rock Finish was the perfect way to bring this stunning, shimmering show to an end. We hope you’ll feel the same when this episode airs this fall on PBS.

 

Giveaway: Sleater-Kinney

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Sleater-Kinney on Wednesday, April 15th, 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 April 7th. 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 allowed in venue.

Encore: Ed Sheeran and Valerie June

Austin City Limits presents two innovative singer-songwriters: UK sensation Ed Sheeran and rising star Valerie June. Ed Sheeran makes his ACL debut in a must-see episode that features the breakout star performing his entire set solo. Sheeran exudes the raw talent that has made him a worldwide superstar, with charged versions of hits from his landmark debut and new songs from the chart-topping follow-up release. Acclaimed Southern singer-songwriter Valerie June shares the bill, making a captivating ACL debut with her starry-eyed roots music.

Ed Sheeran brings his A-game in his ACL debut, with a remarkable one-man solo performance that demonstrates why he’s one of music’s most popular live performers. Clad in an ACL t-shirt, the 23 year-old three-time Grammy nominee performs his  breakthrough hits “The A Team,” “Lego House” and songs from his new release x.  With an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal as his only accompaniment, Sheeran creates a perfectly balanced mix of hip-hop and acoustic balladry. He showcases the honest songwriting and vocals that have earned him legions of fans across the globe.  Closing out the crowd-pleasing set, Sheeran leads the rapturous audience in an epic sing-along of his hit “Sing,” with the Austin crowd still chanting as Sheeran leaves the stage.

Striking Southern singer-songwriter Valerie June makes her first appearance on the ACL stage performing songs from her luminous debut Pushin’ Against a Stone. The Washington Post raves of the release: “Shades of Nina Simone, Dolly Parton and blueswomen of decades past flicker throughout; you can easily picture it crackling out from a timeworn record player.” The Tennessee native’s heartfelt sound and beautifully timeless voice have earned her critical raves and a 2014 Americana Awards nomination for emerging artist. With one foot in country blues, the other in mountain folk music and her head in the stars, June and her band conjure a distinctive brand of genre-blending that she calls “organic moonshine roots music” for a memorable ACL debut.

photo by Scott Newton

“In some ways, Ed Sheeran and Valerie June are as different as night and day,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona, “but they are both distinctly original in their music. Through their intimately personal songs and unique onstage personas, they represent everything that Austin City Limits is all about.”

Tune in this Saturday 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 goodies. Next week: Juanes.

 

Sturgill Simpson’s forward-thinking tradition

Country singer Sturgill Simpson is exactly the kind of artist we like on Austin City Limits: mindful of tradition but with a forward-thinking attitude. Inspired equally by Waylon Jennings and Carl Sagan, the Nashville-based Kentucky native makes hardcore country that comes from another place, as his acclaimed breakthrough LP Metamodern Sounds in Country Music proves.  Aaron Taylor, one of our live stream viewers on YouTube, remarked, “No boots like a fake cowboy, no cowboy hat, just pure country.” So we were thrilled to welcome the recent Atlantic Records signee to his debut ACL.

Simpson and his four-piece band wasted no time once they hit the stage, launching into “Sitting Here Without You,” a high-speed burner with plenty of room for skillet-licking guitarist Laur Joamets to shine. Indeed, Simpson often featured Joamets’ picking, letting the Estonian native rip through the trucking “Long White Line,” the hot-rocking “Life of Sin” and the bluegrass-blazing Ralph Stanley cover “Poor Rambler,” on which Simpson traded licks with his lead guitarist. “Found myself stomping my floorboard,” exclaimed theoskeewhoat on our YouTube live stream. As happy as he was to showcase his band, though, Simpson ultimately is about songs, and he has plenty of good ones. From the philosophical “Time After All” and “Water in a Well” and the angry “Some Days” to the romantic cover of synthpop band When in Rome’s “The Promise” and the pitch-black “Living the Dream,” Simpson gave a masterful performance. He and his band closed the main set with the back-to-back killers “Turtles (All the Way Down” and “It Ain’t All Flowers,” which started honkytonkin’ and ended rockin’.

Of course, it wasn’t quite over, as the audience didn’t want the band to leave. Simpson paid tribute to the outlaw country scene that inspires him with a cover of “I’d Have to Be Crazy” by Austin cosmic cowboy Steven Fromholz, before digging into the repertoire of his old band Sunday Valley for a ripping take on the Osborne Brothers’ “Listening to the Rain,” which incorporated T.Rex’s “The Motivator.” With that, Simpson brought down the house, leaving the crowd wanting more. “Hard to believe how absolutely great Sturgill is!” enthused Chris Durand on our Facebook page. It was a great show and a strong debut, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs on PBS this Fall.

 

Giveaway: The War on Drugs 4/6

* The giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by The War on Drugs on Monday, April 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 9 am on April 3rd. 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 allowed in venue.

Encore: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros/tUnE-yArDs

Austin City Limits is proud to present the encore of an inspired double-bill featuring the experimental sounds of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and tUnE-yArDs.

The psychedelic folk troupe Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros bring their shared spirit to the ACL stage in their debut appearance on the show. Equipped with infectious melodies, catchy sing-a-longs and a free-spirited frontman, the 12-piece ensemble have gained fans all over the world. With two critically-acclaimed albums and a widespread reputation for energetic performances, the down-home outfit create what NPR calls a “gloriously uplifting ruckus.” The Los Angeles-based group draws inspiration from the communal musical communities that peppered Southern California with positive vibrations during the ’60s and early ’70s. The gang of animated musicians perform their bright music and homespun harmonies on ACL complete with spontaneous dancing, bare feet and bared souls.

“This is a band that loves to make music, pure and simple,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “They may look and sound like they came straight out of the 60’s, but there is a joy to their music that is infectious – onstage or off. In fact, frontman Alex Ebert had a hard time staying ON our stage during the show, and to everyone’s delight he plunged into the crowd more than once.”

Next up is the bold, uncompromising music of tUnE-yArDs, performing tracks from the critically-acclaimed opus whokill. The brainchild of indie singer-songwriter Merrill Garbus, tUnE-yArDs have fashioned an expansive sound incorporating layered ukulele, voice, electric bass and drum loops into an eclectic DIY aesthetic. Technology meets primal in the music of Garbus, who The New York Times describes as “somewhere between Aretha Franklin and Yoko Ono.” She showcases her striking sound for her first appearance on the ACL stage. With a bassist and two sax players joining Garbus’ frontline of drums, amplified ukelele and looping technology, tUnE-yArDs put on a show unlike any other.

photo by Scott Newton

“I don’t think we’ve ever had an act quite like Merrill Garbus and tUnE-yArDs on ACL,” says Lickona. “But don’t be fooled…just when her music seems to veer off in a strange direction, Merrill brings it all back home with the raw power of her voice and those loopy rhythms.”

Check out the episode page for more details on this remarkable show. We also hope you’ll visit us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our newsletter. Next week: Ed Sheeran and Valerie June.