Taping recap: Rainbow Kitten Surprise

photo by Scott Newton

We always love Austin City Limits debuts, and it’s even better with a young band as fresh and exciting as Rainbow Kitten Surprise. The Boone, North Carolina quintet hit the Moody Theater stage in support of its highly acclaimed third album How To: Friend, Love, Freefall, from which comes the hits “Hide” and “Fever Pitch.” The band presented those and a whole lot more on its first ACL taping, which we live streamed around the world.

The band took the stage to enthusiastic cheers as they launched into the rollicking “Matchbox,” with vocalist/keyboardist/guitar and dancer Sam Melo and bassist/sparkplug Charlie Holt leading the way. The equally effervescent “It’s Called: Freefall” kept the energy level popping, followed by the moodier “Shameful Company,” a showcase for Melo’s soulful vocals. Melo added rapping to his vocal repertoire for “Moody Orange,” traversing a variety of musical moods in a single composition without taking the song anywhere near the rails. Then it was on to “Hide,” one of the singles from Freefall, its anthemic pop crashing into Melo’s bitter cries of “You better hide your love!” Guitarist Darrick “Bozzy” Keller put down his axe to join Melo in front for the theatrical “Devil Like Me,” before re-donning it for the mid-tempo charmer “Cocaine Jesus,” highlighted by a cappella harmonies.

A melancholy piano intro kicked off “When It Lands,” an ambitious, multi-movement composition that showcased each member’s talents. “Wasted” was simpler, but no less impressive, with Melo giving the vocal melody an impressive slow burn. Keller and fellow guitar slinger Ethan Goodpaster exchanged their electrics for acoustics for “Heart (Hey Pretty Mama),” a folky change of pace that was clearly a crowd favorite. The electrics came back for the groovy “All’s Well That Ends,” the better to play those smooth disco rhythm parts. Back at the piano, Melo crooned the intro to the dramatic “Holy War,” before retaking the mic at the front of the stage for the melodic midtempo charmer “Painkillers.” “Hi, we’re Rainbow Kitten Surprise,” said Melo, speaking for the first time between songs.  The band delivered a crowd favorite, “Fever Pitch,” the catchy anthem that brought the group to worldwide attention. The audience went wild as RKS quit the stage.

The fact that the lights didn’t go off signaled that the show wasn’t over. Sure enough they came back for a generous encore, starting with the minimalist “Possum Queen,” essentially a duet between Melo and drummer Jess Haney’s techno-influenced beats. Haney ceded the spotlight solely to Melo for the (mostly) solo “Polite Company.” Following the jaunty “Recktify,” RKS closed out the set with the hard-rocking guitar-frenzy “Run,”Melo doffing his shirt and in-ear monitor to slink around the stage like the rock star he is. The crowd went appropriately crazy.

But it still wasn’t over. Due to technical difficulties, the band decided on re-takes of “Matchbox,” “It’s Called: Freefall” and “When It Lands.” Given that there was nothing wrong performance-wise with the originals, this was a gift to fans for sticking around. It was a nice way to end a stunning show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus 7/30/19

Julien Baker by Nolan Knight and Lucy Dacus by Dustin Condren

ACL is thrilled to welcome lauded indie singer/songwriter phenoms Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus on July 30 for a taping highlight—a one-of-a-kind co-headline evening with these two accomplished solo artists. read more

ACL to live stream Rainbow Kitten Surprise taping on 5/6

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Austin City Limit is happy to announce that we will be live streaming our upcoming Season 45 taping with eclectic North Carolina rock band Rainbow Kitten Surprise on May 6. The performance will stream via the ACL YouTube channel here.  With a devoted and ever-growing fanbase, the band makes their ACL debut in the middle of a North American headline tour which has recently been extended to include a fall leg.

Nearly every song from ACL first-timers Rainbow Kitten Surprise unfolds in a dizzying rush of feverish yet finespun lyrics that feel both intimate and mythic. Throughout their third album How To: Friend, Love, Freefall, the Boone, North Carolina five-piece sets those lyrics to a thrillingly unpredictable sound that transcends all genre convention, endlessly changing form to accommodate shifts in mood and spirit. But while Rainbow Kitten Surprise push into some complex emotional terrain, the band’s joyful vitality ultimately makes for an album that’s deeply cathartic and undeniably life-affirming. Produced by Grammy Award-winner Jay Joyce and recorded in Nashville, How To: Friend, Love, Freefall marks Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s debut release for Elektra Records. In creating the album, the band immersed themselves in a deliberate sonic exploration, infusing their music with the kinetic energy of discovery. In sculpting the inventive arrangements and textures, Rainbow Kitten Surprise embedded each track with indelible melody and chilling harmonies with a long-lingering power. The quintet moves gracefully through infinite sounds and tones: the energetic R&B of “Fever Pitch,” the haunting a cappella harmonies of “Pacific Love,” the full-throttle frenzy of “Matchbox,” the tender psychedelia of “Moody Orange,” the tumbling folk of “Painkillers.” In working through such a kaleidoscopic sonic palette, Rainbow Kitten Surprise show the sharp musicianship and powerful camaraderie they’ve developed since forming at Appalachian State University in 2013. It wasn’t long before they’d gained a devoted following – amassing over a million streams on each song from their self-released catalog – and word spread about their unforgettable live show: a blissed-out free-for-all that typically finds frontman Sam Melo jumping right into the audience, building an unbreakable connection with the crowd, as delivered during stand-out sets at major festivals like Bonnaroo, Firefly, Sasquatch, and Austin City Limits.

Join us on May 6 for this full set live stream of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s debut taping here. The broadcast version will air on PBS later this year as part of our upcoming Season 45.

Maggie Rogers 6/21/19

photo by Olivia Bee

ACL is thrilled to welcome acclaimed producer/songwriter/performer Maggie Rogers as she makes her ACL debut on June 21. read more

New tapings: Maggie Rogers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus

photo by Olivia Bee

ACL is thrilled to welcome three remarkable artists under the age of 25-years-old: acclaimed producer/songwriter/performer Maggie Rogers makes her ACL debut on June 21 and lauded indie singer/songwriter phenoms Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus join us for the first time on July 30 for a taping highlight—a one-of-a-kind co-headline evening with these two accomplished solo artists.

Rogers hits our stage in the middle of a sold-out tour in support of her debut album, Heard It In A Past Life (Capitol Records), which entered Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart at No. 1 and charted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The breakout debut has sold nearly 200,000 album adjusted units to date with cumulative streams across all tracks exceeding 400 million.  Her current single, “Light On,” topped Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart for three consecutive weeks.  Tickets for Rogers’ upcoming October 19thand 20th ACL Live shows sold out immediately at on sale.   

Raised in rural Easton, Maryland, Rogers released her critically acclaimed debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading in 2017 upon graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.   The 24-year-old released her recent debut LP Heard It In A Past Life to critical raves, with The New Yorker declaring, “Maggie Rogers is an artist of her time.”  The New York Times notes, “‘Heard It in a Past Life’ is a collection of buoyant electronic pop songs, but the lyrics are unmistakably the work of an introvert struggling to recalibrate.” Rolling Stone awarded the album four stars and hailed it as “a laser-focused statement with nary a wasted lyric or synth line.” NPR Music agrees, ’Heard It In A Past Life’ (is) smart sparkling pop.”  TIME notes, “The album confirms Rogers as a tender but powerful musical force, putting her in the company of a group of solo female artists claiming space outside of the typical machines of pop, country or R&B.”

2018 was a milestone year for Richmond, VA’s Lucy Dacus.  Her widely celebrated sophomore record, Historian, was met by a cavalcade of critical elation, with NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NBC News, Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, Stereogum, and more choosing it as one of the year’s best albums. Dacus’ remarkable sense of melody and composition are the driving force throughout, giving Historian the immersive feel of an album made by an artist in full command of her powers. “This is the album I needed to make,” says Dacus, who views Historian as her definitive statement as a songwriter and musician. “Everything after this is a bonus.” She played revelatory sold-out shows at clubs and festivals alike, along with multiple high profile television appearances.  A glance at her worldwide touring schedule in 2019 shows little sign that Dacus is slowing down, and in fact, she will release a series of songs titled 2019 to celebrate.  Recorded in here-and-there studio spurts over the last two years, 2019 will be released later this year as a physical EP on Matador Records, and will be made up of originals and cover songs tied to specific holidays, each of which will drop around their respective date: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season!), Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Memphis native Julien Baker’s chilling solo debut, Sprained Ankle, was one of the most widely acclaimed works of 2015. The album, recorded by a then 18-year-old and her friend in only a few days, was a bleak yet hopeful, intimate document of staggering experiences and grace, centered entirely around Baker’s voice, guitar, and unblinking honesty. Sprained Ankle appeared on year-end lists everywhere from NPR Music to The AV Club to New York Magazine’s Vulture. With 2017’s Turn Out The Lights, Baker claimed a much bigger stage, but with the same core of breathtaking vulnerability and resilience. From its opening moments — when her chiming, evocative melody is accompanied by swells of strings — Turn Out The Lights throws open the doors to the world without sacrificing the intimacy that has become a hallmark of her songs. The album explores how people live and come to terms with their internal conflict, and the alternately shattering and redemptive ways these struggles play out in relationships. “Turn Out The Lights is beautifully crafted throughout,” noted Spin, “full of the kinds of songs that linger long after they’ve ended.” Under the Radar declared, “Baker is writing faultless songs that will always have a home in our hearts because finding comfort in even the saddest moments means we’re still feeling. And if we’re feeling, there’s hope for us yet.”  

In addition to their successful solo careers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus (along with Phoebe Bridgers), comprise the indie rock supergroup boygenius, whose 2018 EP landed on the year-end best-of lists of Newsweek, The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times and more, with Pitchfork raving “(boygenius) sing like hell together in lung-shattering harmony.”

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings. The broadcast episodes will air on PBS later this year as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone Season 45.

Taping recap: The Revivalists

photo by Scott Newton

New Orleans rock band The Revivalists earned their success the old-fashioned way: writing good songs and playing ‘em for people as often as they could. After 10 years of grinding, the veteran road dogs scored a platinum single with 2015’s breakout “Wish I Knew You,” setting the stage for their next wave of success with 2018’s Take Good Care and its hit “All My Friends.” We were happy to catch that wave as it crested, hosting the octet for its Austin City Limits debut, which we live streamed around the world.

“What a true honor it is to be here on this stage,” remarked singer David Shaw as the band took the stage. Then the band kicked off with “When I’m With You,” a slow build that turned into a mini-anthem. The group then launched a heavy groove that powered “Oh No,” a bluesy rocker that had the front row singing along. The radio hit “All My Friends” came next, filling the room with its catchy chorus. Shaw put down his guitar for “Change,” a song for the crowd to clap along with and sing the “Ooooohs.” The Revivalists kept the energy level up with “You and I,” Shaw advising the crowd to “give us the good stuff.” A certain psychedelic element crept into “Criminal,” courtesy pedal steel guitarist Ed Williams’ spacy tones, but the electricity never flagged, and the audience responded with its biggest cheers yet.

The band slowed the pace down slightly with “It Was a Sin,” which had a more measured tempo – at least until the bridge, when it all ramped up again. “Fade Away” dived deeper into the pool of soul balladry, a move the eager crowd adored. “Otherside of Paradise” explored more atmospheric pop, before “You Said It All” re-asserted groove without breaking the spell. That presaged “Got Love,” a gospel-inflected tune that carried the group’s love for old-school soul into the audience for some old-fashioned call-and-response. That vibe kept burning bright with “Celebration,” its unabashed “na-na” chorus evoking the titular feeling.

“We’re in the home stretch now!” declared Shaw, which meant that it was time for the Big Hit. Sure enough, the band went straight into “Wish I Knew You,” the lyrics’ yearning tone riding the song’s irresistibly smooth pop groove into a massive crowd singalong. The Revivalists quit the stage to massive applause. But of course the show wasn’t over; a meditative piano line and Shaw strumming an acoustic guitar signaled the start of “Soulfight,” a lighter-waver of the first order that had the crowd going wild. That was the real end, with band and audience happy beyond words. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

New taping: Mitski

photo by Bao Ngo

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce the debut taping of acclaimed indie songwriter and performer Mitski, who will join us on June 4, 2019.

Mitski Miyawaki, “one of the most interesting songwriters of her generation” (Paste Magazine), achieved breakout success with 2016’s critically-acclaimed Puberty 2, and soon after circled the globe as a headliner and as an opener for both The Pixies and Lorde. She was hailed as the new vanguard of indie rock, the one who would save the genre from the white dudes who’ve historically dominated it.  Her carefully crafted songs have often been portrayed as emotionally raw, overflowing confessionals from a fevered chosen girl, but on her stunning fifth album, Be The Cowboy, Mitski introduced a persona who had been teased but never so fully present until now—a woman in control.  Recorded with her long-time producer Patrick Hyland, the album is not a departure so much as an evolution from previous albums. The title “is a kind of joke,” Mitski says. “There was this artist I really loved who used to have such a cowboy swagger. They were so electric live. With a lot of the romantic infatuations I’ve had, when I look back, I wonder, Did I want them or did I want to be them? Did I love them or did I want to absorb whatever power they had? I decided I could just be my own cowboy.” There is plenty of buoyant swagger to the album, but just as much interrogation into self-mythology.  

Be the Cowboy has earned widespread acclaim, topping critics 2018 year-end best lists. It was named the #1 album of 2018 by the likes of Pitchfork, New York Magazine, ESQUIRE, Consequence of Sound, and more, and  #2 by NPR Music, The New York Times (Jon Pareles),  and SPIN. Pitchfork proclaimed it “Mitski’s most triumphant record to date, a refining of her many strengths, splashed across the largest canvas her arms can carry.”  The New York Times raved: “[Mitski] has grown ever bolder musically, moving well beyond the confines of indie rock and chamber pop to try synthesizers, disco beats, country and more, while savoring the sweep of her voice…On this album, even more than she has before, Mitski makes the music her partner.”  “An album defined by impeccable construction and open defiance of the confessional mode,” noted NPR.

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. The broadcast episode will air on PBS later this year as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone Season 45.

Gary Clark Jr. brings rock, blues and soul to his third ACL taping

photo by Scott Newton

The rise of Austin’s own Gary Clark Jr. has been a joy to behold, from his days as a teenage blues guitar slinger to the eclectic, critically acclaimed festival draw he is twenty years later. ACL has followed that rise with four previous appearances on the show, starting with his participation in the Jimmy Reed tribute in 2007 up through his 2012 and 2015 headlining slots and his 2015 guest appearance with Foo Fighters. (Not to mention appearances on our Hall of Fame specials and the 40th anniversary celebration.) Through those years, the ATX native has grown by leaps and bounds – and that’s never been more true than now, with his third Warner Bros. studio album This Land. So we were thrilled to welcome him back for a live streamed taping showcasing the widely hailed LP.

Clark got a loud hometown welcome as he came onstage after executive producer Terry Lickona’s introduction. The Austin homeboy basked in his welcome for a second before donning his Epiphone and going into This Land’s “What About Us,” a choogling blues rocker kissed by Clark’s alluring falsetto and co-guitarist Eric Zapata’s legato slide. “Feels good up here,” noted Clark, as Zapata knocked out the twangy riff to “When I’m Gone,” a R&B tune that could’ve come from a lost sixties soul compilation. The leader donned a Gibson SG and announced, “We’re gonna play some rock & roll for ya,” before launching into the grunged-out soul of “Low Down Rolling Stone” – like the other tunes from This Land, it focused as much on his soulful voice as his guitar. Keyboardist Jon Deas contribute a slinky Mini-Moog solo. Clark went back to his falsetto for the crunchy, but still groovy, “I Walk Alone,” taking it home with a gnarly guitar solo.

After a moment to catch his breath, Clark shifted back to a slice of warm-bath soul with “Guitar Man,” a sexy tune that, surprisingly, does not emphasize his six-string wizardry. The falsetto returned once again for “Feed the Babies,” a socially-conscious soul tune that came closer the classic sound of Curtis Mayfield than anyone outside of the man himself. Then the band went into “Feelin’ Like a Million,” an out-and-out reggae song spiced by stabs of power chords. Clark then started banging away at his axe for a repetitive guitar figure that led right into the near-punk of “Gotta Get Into Something,” a breath of fresh rock & roll air. The mood shifted from rock to funk for the similarly titled “Got to Get Up,” a hard groover that let Clark off the leash on his guitar.

After nine songs in a row from the new album, Clark dipped into his back catalog for “When My Train Pulls In,” delivering a more subdued, less fuzz-encrusted reading than usual, often more reminiscent of B.B. King than Jimi Hendrix – at least until the end, when Clark built an extended guitar solo from croon to scream. As a palette cleanser, he essayed the lovely, moody “Blak and Blu,” slowly moving towards his signature tune “Bright Lights,” which came on like a wave crashing to shore. It was the perfect setting for his latest killer: the angry, defiant “This Land,” given a seething, smoldering read. After that bit of catharsis, he ended the main set on a soothing note with the beauteous “Pearl Cadillac,” another showcase for his falsetto singing. That wasn’t quite all, of course, as Clark and band returned for a crowd singalong through his grungy version of the Beatles’ “Come Together” from the Justice League soundtracks. It was a brilliant way to end his third solo taping, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.