Future Islands’ charismatic synth pop

photo by Scott Newton

A few months ago, Future Islands was a cult band with a strong critical following. Now, thanks to the songwriting talents of musicians Gerrit Welmers, Mike Lowry and William Cashion and the indisputable charisma of frontman Samuel Herring, the band is on everyone’s lips. Herring, who mentioned that he grew up watching the show in North Carolina, called Future Islands’ livestreamed ACL debut a “ten-fold honor – I can’t even make sense of it.”

“Back in the Tall Grass” served as a low-key opener, a midtempo pop tune that allowed the singer to build up to his signature stage moves. The band hit its stride immediately with the classicist British synth pop of “A Dream of You and Me,” which found the restless Herring beginning his sweep across the stage. The band stayed out of the singer’s way literally and figuratively, the stripped-down music giving Herring plenty of room to move. From the high kicks in “Balance” to the stripper hips of “Doves” and the reach for the stars in “The Great Fire,” Herring was in near constant motion, augmenting his croon-to-growl vocal gymnastics with completely unselfconscious movement. “His dance moves ARE the best,” enthused livestream viewer Monique Jewett-Brewster. The disco rhythms of “Walking Through That Door” and “Long Flight” seemed particularly conducive to Herring’s flamboyance, as he pulled out all the vocals stops.

Future Islands ended the main set with the uplifting “Spirit,” which Herring revealed is about the “inner flame that keeps us going.” But it was the final song of the encore that really underscored what this band is all about – “Little Dreamer,” from the group’s first album Wave Like Home, featured music even more austere and minimalist than the rest and plenty of room for Herring to emote. “One of the best performers of our time,” commented Chad Parker. You can see for yourselves when Future Islands hit the PBS airwaves in early 2015.

Eric Church: hail to the Chief

photo by Scott Newton

The word “limits” may be in our name, but we at Austin City Limits pride ourselves on not having any, at least when it comes to the styles of music we feature on the show. That said, our roots are in country music, so we’re always happy to welcome one of the genre’s shining stars. Eric Church certainly fits that bill, and so we were thrilled to host his first ACL taping.  “I’ve been watching this show for, like, 30 years,” remarked a visibly excited Church, who noted that seeing Iris DeMent on ACL was a lifechanger. “And I’m a little nervous.” You’d never know from this confident, powerful performance.

The appropriately stalking rhythm and National Steel guitar of “Creepin’” opened the set, the hard rock riffs contrasting nicely with Church’s North Carolina drawl. The louder, heavier “Guys Like Me” followed, the first in a series of anthems that established Church’s songwriting tradition of both paying tribute to and subtly critiquing his characters. With twin lead guitars at his side, Church energetically blasted out paeans to overindulgence (“Jack Daniels,” “Smoke a Little Smoke”), small town values (the CMA-nominated “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag”) and good old-fashioned rebellion (“That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” “The Outsiders”). It wasn’t all just fist-pumpers, however – Church also delved into the more traditional country that inspired him with “Talladega,” “Sinners Like Me” and the inspirational “These Boots,” for which the audience saluted by pulling their own boots off and waving them toward the stage. (One young lady was rewarded by Church taking hers and signing it.)

Of course, Church also performed his anthem to end all anthems – “Springsteen” is the song he’ll be playing until the end of his career, and starting it by singing a few lines from the titular artist’s “Thunder Road” and engaging the crowd to sing the “whoa-ohs” only enhanced this readymade classic. But after all the lighter-waving songs, Church brought it all home solo with “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” an ode to maturity that sent the audience away satisfied. We can’t wait for you to see Eric Church when his show airs as a full-hour episode November 15th on your PBS station during ACL’s 40th Anniversary Season.

New taping: Ryan Adams Oct. 22

photo by Julia Brokaw

Ryan Adams is no stranger to ACL, having appeared on the show in various phases of his career as far back as the late ‘90s and as recently as 2006. The multiple-Grammy-nominated singer / songwriter from Jacksonville, NC has released such critically acclaimed and commercially successful LPs as Heartbreaker (2000), Gold (2001), Love Is Hell (2004), Cold Roses (2005), Easy Tiger (2007), Ashes & Fire (2011) and his self-produced, self-titled 14th album, recently released on his own Pax Am label in cooperation with Blue Note. Adams returns to ACL in support of that eponymous disc, which has been generating arguably the best critical notices of his prolific career. Featuring the singles “Gimme Something Good” and “My Wrecking Ball,” Ryan Adams has moved Entertainment Weekly to hail its namesake as “one of the truly great roots-rock troubadours left.” On Oct. 22, the ACL TV audience will see why.

 

Eric Church livestream on 9/23

photo by John Peets

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce that we will be streaming our taping with Eric Church live on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 8pm CT/9pm ET. The taping will webcast in its entirety via our YouTube channel.

North Carolina native Church got his start playing Jimmy Buffett covers in hometown bars, but quickly transitioned to original material. After graduating from college with a marketing degree, Church moved to Nashville, recording demos and placing songs with other singers before releasing his debut Sinners Like Me in 2006. His second release Carolina included “Love to Love You the Most” and “Hell On the Heart,” his first top 10 country hits. That set the stage for the platinum-selling Chief, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and boasted the massive hits “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen,” his first single to cross over to the pop chart. This year’s follow-up The Outsiders also debuted at No. 1, throwing “Give Me Back My Hometown” and the title track up the charts. Church’s distinctively hard-rocking brand of country, influenced as much by AC/DC and Metallica as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, has earned him a huge audience outside the confines of country radio, prompting him to tell CMT, “I think genres are dead. There’s good music. There’s bad music.” Eric Church does not play bad music, as you’ll find out at his debut ACL taping on 9/23.

The broadcast version of this show will air this fall on PBS as part of ACL’s 40th anniversary season. Join us for this live webcast of the Austin City Limits debut of Eric Church.

 

New tapings: Jenny Lewis, Sam Smith, The Avett Brothers and Spoon

photo by Autumn De Wilde

Austin City Limits is excited to announce new tapings for our landmark Season 40: Jenny Lewis on October 1, Sam Smith on October 2, The Avett Brothers on October 6 and Spoon on October 9th.

Jenny Lewis last appeared on our stage in 2005 as part of the now-defunct Rilo Kiley. Prior to her success with that band, she had been an actress from a young age, appearing in films and TV shows until 1998. That year she and Blake Sennett started indie rockers Rilo Kiley, who went on to success with four LPs, the last of which was 2007’s acclaimed Under the Blacklight. Lewis had already begun her solo career by that time, starting with 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat, which found her working in a rootsier vein. The classy pop of Acid Tongue arrived in 2008, followed by 2010’s I’m Having Fun Now, a duet album with singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice under the name Jenny & Jonny. This year she released The Voyager, a Ryan Adams-produced LP about which Drowned in Sound remarked, “[The] balance of frothiness and fearless introspection make it something pretty special.” Join us Oct.1 as Lewis preps for her ACL Festival appearance with her solo ACL debut.

This year Sam Smith came seeming out of nowhere with his massive hit single “Stay With Me.” The London native is an alumnus of the program Youth Music Theatre UK, having studied under British jazz musician Joanna Eden. He made his musical and chart debut singing lead on electronic group Disclosure’s U.K. hit single “Latch,” following up with a featured appearance on English DJ/producer Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” which hit #1 on the British charts. In between those hits Smith launched his solo career with “Lay Me Down,” but it was his post-”La La La” followup “Money On My Mind” that pushed him to the #1 slot on his own. In the Lonely Hour, his debut LP of danceable pop/soul, arrived in the spring, along with his third single. “Stay With Me” broke Smith wide open on an international scale, earning him a third charttopper in the U.K. and a No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 200. Now, in anticipation of his debut at ACL Fest, Smith makes his debut Oct. 2 on our show as well.

The Avett Brothers last joined us in 2010, appearing in support of their breakthrough album I and Love and You. The North Carolina roots rockers haven’t been idle in the five years between slots, however. In 2012 the quartet released its Rick Rubin-produced The Carpenter, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The LP found the Avetts expanding their sound beyond their folk and bluegrass roots, with Rolling Stone calling it the “sound of a band pushing past an old identity and toward something bigger.” The band quickly followed The Carpenter with 2013’s Magpie and the Dandelion, a record made mostly of songs recorded during the previous LP’s sessions that hit No. 5 on the Billboard charts. Under the Radar wrote that the band “have filled Magpie and the Dandelion with taut, unaffected verses that dredge the past, weigh damage against possibility, and seek emergence through selflessness and emotional responsibility,” while American Songwriter remarked, “The Avett Brothers are (very wisely) growing their sound, while remaining true to their core principles and what listeners like about them to begin with.” Join us on Oct. 6 as we welcome back The Avett Brothers.

photo by Tom Hines

The Austin band Spoon is certainly no unknown quantity for Austin City Limits – the modern rock act has been on the show three times, in 2003, 2005 and 2010. The last time they were here was in support of their hit album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and its hit single “The Underdog.” The band followed up with the equally popular Transference, after which Spoon took an extended break, allowing leader Britt Daniel to work with the group Divine Fits and drummer Jim Eno to produce albums for the Heartless Bastards, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and Phosphorescent. But now Spoon is back with They Want My Soul, a record that proves the extended time off did nothing to diminish their power. Rolling Stone described it as “an immediate grabber on par with the group’s best work to date,” while Exclaim called it “a bold and swaggering declaration that Spoon have undoubtedly still got it – in spades.” We’re thrilled to welcome Spoon back to the ACL stage Oct. 9.

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.

 

J. Roddy and the Business rock ACL

photo by Scott Newton

The amazing evolution of popular music over the last few decades has been a fascinating and necessary process – where would we be without constant change? That said, sometimes you just gotta rock. That’s a situation which J. Roddy Walston and the Business are more than familiar with, as evidenced by their latest LP Essential Tremors, and it was in that spirit that the quartet turned our theater into that hip bar downtown that always features the sweatiest, ballsiest rock & roll. The band’s debut ACL taping was also livestreamed on the Austin City Limits YouTube channel.

The longhaired, leather-jacketed Walston looks like he should be rocking a Les Paul/Marshall combination, but instead he sits at the piano. Though “sits” isn’t quite accurate – instead he bounces, slides and jumps off and on the bench as the music moves him. And no wonder – as he and his homeboys roared into “Sweat Shock,” guitar chugging and piano banging, the energy level shot through the roof. Imagine Jerry Lee Lewis fronting Black Oak Arkansas and you’re in the ballpark.

From then on, rocking out was the priority. That’s not to say the band is a one-note proposition – far from it. They pull from several different strains, from punk to hard rock to classic pop. “Take It As It Comes,” “Midnight Cry” (with its audience singalong “Eye-yi-yi” chorus) and “Full Growing Man” drew from melodic piano pop, with the latter in particular sounding like an Elton John tune taken behind the barn and roughed up. “Marigold” and “Don’t Break the Needle” worked a loud, Stonesy groove, while “Heavy Bells” updated the bluesy hard rock of Led Zeppelin. “Boys Can Never Tell” eschewed drums and bass for acoustic guitar and a surprisingly pretty ballad. It was all a warm-up, though, for the colossal closer “Used to Did,” on which the band pulled out all the stops for a piano-pounding, guitar-wailing, hair-whipping finish. It was a climax that encouraged online viewer joel brown to enthusiastically comment that the band is “The best thing to happen to rock n roll in a long time!”

Viewer johnnYYac said “Hard to believe it was less than a year ago these guys were playing to me and fewer than 20 people in a little club in Iowa, on the Miss. River. They deserve this, but I’ll miss those intimate shows.” For our money, Walston and the Business brought that rock club intimacy in the most widescreen way. We can’t wait for you to see it this fall on PBS.

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