Taping recap: H.E.R.

photo by Scott Newton

H.E.R. has had an eventful couple of years. Scoring a gold record with her full-length self-titled debut, a NPR Tiny Desk concert and two 2019 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance, the erstwhile Gabriella Wilson has moved from strength to strength since beginning her performance career ten years ago. The fast-rising singer and songwriter brought her award-winning artistry to the ACL stage for the first time with a set of songs guaranteed to slow jam the night away. 

After a brief intro from her six-piece band, multi-instrumentalist H.E.R. took the stage with an acoustic guitar for the funky “Carried Away,” also contributing bass and electric piano solos before the song’s end. She picked up a pair of drumsticks to pound out the intro of the Latin-influenced “2.” Hands-free, she said she was proud to be on “this legendary stage,” before giving her husky alto a workout on the roiling “Feel Away” and the lush “Avenue.”  Donning her acoustic guitar, she sang a couple of verses of Deniece Williams’ “Free,” leading directly into her hit ballad “Best Part,” with backup singer Malik Spence delivering original duet partner Daniel Caesar’s lines. Built on a fingerpicked acoustic guitar figure, “Fate” danced gracefully on the line between folk and soul. 

While engaging the crowd in call-and-response “whoa’s,” H.E.R. switched to a plexiglass Stratocaster for the soulful, gospel-informed anthem “Hard Place,” a clear audience fave. After that bag of originals, she pulled a surprising cover: Northern Irish songwriter Foy Vance’s lighter-waving ballad “Make It Rain.” Though it was originally popularized by Ed Sheeran on the soundtrack for the TV show Sons of Anarchy, H.E.R. made it her own with blues rock guitar soloing and powerhouse singing. The crowd agreed, going nuts as she paused at the end for dramatic effect. She moved back to the electric piano for the slow jamming hit “Focus,” a song that allowed her to really show off her liquid vocal flexibility. That tune also served as a jumping-off point for a grooving cover of Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “X Factor,” clearly a key influence. The band kept that rhythm going for “As I Am,” namechecking Hill by comparing her lover to “my favorite Lauryn song.” Then it was time for “Lights On,” one of her earliest hits and a song that actually required phone participation, as everybody held their lights into the sky. H.E.R. responded by re-donning her electric guitar and seguing into the guitar solo coda for Prince’s “Purple Rain.” With the backing vocalists and crowd singing the “ooo-ooo’s,” H.E.R. took us all home on her Strat and quit the stage to thunderous applause. And that was the end of a remarkable show from an explosive young talent. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station. 

Taping recap: Patty Griffin and Steve Earle & The Dukes

photo by Scott Newton

Singer/songwriters Patty Griffin and Steve Earle have been frequent visitors to the ACL stage in the past couple of decades. Griffin first appeared in 2000 as part of a songwriters’ special, getting her own show the next year, while Earle debuted way back in 1987. It’s always a pleasure to welcome back old friends, and doubly so under such special circumstances: Griffin to showcase songs from her highly-acclaimed, self-released and self-titled new album, and Earle, joined by some special guests, spotlighting Guy, his tribute to his songwriting mentor Guy Clark. Both turned in shows for the ages, which we live streamed around the world.  

Patty Griffin comes off of a four-year hiatus while the singer dealt with breast cancer, and her performance pulled generously from it. After a boisterous welcome from the crowd, she opened with the album’s “Mama’s Worried,” essentially a duet between David Pulkingham’s flamenco guitar and her own resonant singing. Next up was “The Wheel,” a bluesy declaration built on its writer’s jagged rhythm guitar and multi-instrumentalist Conrad Choucroun’s bass guitar/kick-drum rhythm. She followed with “Boys From Tralee,” a Celtic folk-tinged tune about Irish immigrants (of which Griffin’s grandparents were two), tying it into the current situation at the U.S. border. From the Emerald Isle to the American swamp: Griffin moved back to her 2004 LP Impossible Dream for the shuffling, tremolo-heavy “Standing,” allowing her to draw from her love of gospel. But she quickly shifted from the sacred to the secular, with the sly “Hourglass,” inspired by the great Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and featuring a Pulkingham solo that earned cheers. 

Guitars went to their stands as Pulkingham moved to the piano and his boss to the mic for the gorgeous “Luminous Places,” a well-titled standout from Patty Griffin. Then it was on to the “Truth #2,” a fan favorite, as evidenced by the cheers at the opening chords, and “Where I Come From,” a narrative Patty Griffin highlight. “River,” the self-titled album’s single, once again showcased her rich vocals, accompanied by Pulkingham’s acoustic guitar and the ridiculously multi-tasking Choucroun on piano, and greatly appreciated by the audience. Wielding a mandolin, Griffin finished her set with the rocking, inspirational “Shine a Different Way,” to the crowd’s delight. 

photo by Scott Newton

Joined by his long-running five-piece band The Dukes, Earle hit the stage kicking off his Guy Clark tribute with the classic “Dublin Blues,” receiving exuberant cheers at the opening line “Wish I was in Austin.” Earle immediately went into “Texas 1947,” featuring the expert pedal steel work of Ricky Ray Jackson. After sharing a short story about how he met Guy Clark while hitchhiking around Texas, the band performed the ode to the Hill Country honky-tonkin’ queen “Rita Ballou,” featuring Eleanor Whitmore on violin. Following a tale about Clark’s loyalty to Texas BBQ over Tennessee style BBQ, Joe Ely joined Earle on stage to perform “Desperadoes Waiting For a Train” – two Texas music legends trading verses on one of the state’s most influential songs. The Dukes quit the stage temporarily, so Earle could essay “The Last Gunfighter Ballad,” a Clark song made famous by Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. The band returned for “The Randall Knife,” one of Clark’s most autobiographical and arresting tunes, followed by the beloved “L.A. Freeway,” one of his most famous. With Earle donning his mandolin, he and The Dukes got acoustic for “New Cut Road,” an explicitly bluegrass-flavored tune that threw another spotlight on Whitmore, as well as her flatpicking husband Chris Masterson. After introducing the band, Earle went into “Heartbroke,” going through the first verse before being joined onstage by another Clark mentee – songwriting great Rodney Crowell, who originally recorded the song in 1980, before it became a hit for Ricky Skaggs in 1982. 

“I guess I should play a couple of songs of mine so y’all won’t think Guy didn’t teach me anything,” Earle quipped before launching into “Guitar Town,” the song that put him on the map as a writer and performer. After that hit, there was only one other song The Dukes could hit, and sure enough: the opening synth riff of “Copperhead Road” – the powerhouse rocker that served notice that Earle was simply country – got the crowd going wild. “That’s what Guy taught me,” he asserted. After that explosion, Earle brought Crowell and Ely back, joined by Lubbock legends Terry and Jo Harvey Allen, for “Old Friends,” Clark’s beautiful evocation of friendship, with each singer taking one of the spoken verses. Earle led the audience in a round of the chorus, before an instrumental coda and the singers laying down one last “old friends” to close. A better elegy for Clark would be hard to imagine. It was a beautiful moment, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station. 

 

ACL to live stream Patty Griffin and Steve Earle & the Dukes on July 2

GriffinEarle_Livestream_45_square

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce that we will be live streaming a highlight of our milestone Season 45, a rare double-bill taping with Texas-rooted artists Patty Griffin and Steve Earle & The Dukes on July 2, starting at 8 pm CT on our YouTube channel.  

On her sixth appearance on our stage, Patty Griffin is among the most consequential singer-songwriters of her generation, a quintessentially American artist whose wide-ranging canon incisively explores the intimate moments and universal emotions that bind us together. The Grammy®-winning Austinite’s recent, self-titled LP (her tenth studio album), represents an extraordinary new chapter for this incomparable artist and stands among the most deeply personal recordings of her storied two-decade career. The album – which follows 2015’s Grammy® Award-nominated Servant of Love – collects songs written during and in the aftermath of several years in which she battled – and ultimately defeated – cancer. Yet as always, like very few others, Griffin’s power lies in how, as music critic Holly Gleason observed, “her songs seem to freeze life and truth in amber.” It’s in how Griffin can express the strikingly intimate while never making it about herself, all wrapped in sparse arrangements that breathe an incomparable force and import into her songcraft. NPR raves, “One quality that’s distinguished Griffin’s body of work throughout her nearly quarter-century career is her gift for imagining the untamed forces of people’s inner lives.”  

For his fifth appearance on ACL, the legendary Steve Earle presents Guy, his acclaimed tribute to his songwriting mentor and ACL Hall of Fame legend Guy Clark. Earle first met Clark after hitchhiking from San Antonio to Nashville when he was 19, becoming the older songwriter’s bass player and maintaining a lifelong friendship after striking out on his own.  “No way I could get out of doing this record,” says Earle. “When I get to the other side, I didn’t want to run into Guy having made the TOWNES record and not one about him.”  “Guy wasn’t really a hard record to make,” Earle says. “When you’ve got a catalog like Guy’s and you’re only doing sixteen tracks, you know each one is going to be strong.” Earle and his five-piece band The Dukes take on Clark classics including “Desperados Waiting For a Train,” “LA Freeway,” “New Cut Road” and “Heartbroke” with a spirit of reverent glee and invention.  Earle’s raw, heartbreaking vocal on the sweet, sad “That Old Time Feeling” sounds close enough to the grave as to be a duet with his departed friend. Guy is a saga of friendship, its ups and downs, what endures. Like old friends, Guy is a diamond.

Join us on July 2 here for both full live sets of these iconic singer/songwriters. The broadcast episodes will air on PBS later this year as part of our upcoming Season 45.

 

Taping recap: Maggie Rogers

featured_001_ACL_MaggieRogers_byScottNewtonKLRU__SNP1410

After ten years of writing and producing music, Maggie Rogers’ career has culminated in her bestselling major label debut Heard It In a Past Life, boasting the hits “Light On” and “Burning.” ACL is always thrilled to welcome fast-rising young artists, so we were happy to host the young Easton, Maryland singer/songwriter for her debut taping.

The crowd greeted executive producer Terry Lickona’s announcement with big cheers as the band took the stage, before the star herself bounded onstage to kick off “Give a Little,” her high energy stage presence matching the song’s caffeinated bounce. Her voltage doubled for “Burning,” as she ranged all over the stage like she wanted to cover every centimeter before the song was done. “This is a song about a crush,” Rogers said by way of introduction to “Say It,” a tune that entered ballad territory to allow everyone to catch a collective breath. Though it stayed with a slower tempo, “On + Off” adopted a slinky R&B groove that built to near-anthemic spirit. After expressing how thrilled she and the band were to be there for ACL’s 45th anniversary, they launched into the shimmering “Dog Years,” which she described as “a song about friendship.” She showed off her funky side again with “The Knife,” an undulating tune that really got her moving. On “Retrograde,” Roger and band grabbed a winsome pop melody and didn’t let go until extracting every ounce of emotional strength.

By way of once again giving band and crowd a break, Rogers expressed her gratitude at being allowed “to do this thing that I love more than anything,” seguing from stating her thanks to singing it with the pop anthem “Light On.” Her audience responded with a loud outpouring of love. She kept the powerful feel going with “Past Life,” which would’ve no doubt gotten lighterwaving if we allowed them into the theater. The band dug back into groove for “Overnight,” another tune that got Rogers’ feet moving, with the energy continuing for the airy “Alaska.” Then the ensemble jumped back into anthem territory for the emotional “Back in My Body,” before ending the main set with the lovely, almost gospel-tinged “Falling Water,” giving the crowd a chance to clap along before cheering their lungs out.

Rogers returned to the stage alone, eschewing backing for the ghostly, a cappella “Color Song,” a highlight from her 2017 EP Now the Light is Fading. At one point she even abandoned the mic, her voice still carrying across the crowded theater. It was a wonderful way to end this high-energy show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs on your local PBS station during ACL’s 45th season.

Taping recap: Mitski

photo by Scott Newton

Mitski has undoubtedly carved out her own unique space in modern music – appropriately enough for an artist equally comfortable opening for either the Pixies or Lorde. The Japanese-born/NYC-based singer, songwriter and university-trained composer has her own distinct point of view and a singular performance style that owes as much to theater and dance as rock and pop. With a generous setlist covering her entire career, Mitski and her four-piece band gave us a stand-out show, made all the more special by her announcement on her Twitter feed earlier today that this would be her final tour.

The band took the stage behind a table desk and chair, followed by Mitski herself, holding a mic and standing still at stage right. As she sang “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart,” she did a slow walk from the side of the stage to her desk, taking a seat as the song ended. She sat stock still as the synth pulse of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” kicked off, going into full-on choreography as the song progressed. She went back to the desk for the atmospheric “Old Friend,” climbing atop at the song’s climax. The band cranked up the volume for “Francis Forever” and “Dan the Dancer,” which contrasted nicely with her stoic performance style – at least until the leg kicks began on “Dan.” A plethora of sampled claps heralded the arrival of “Washing Machine Heart,” which garnered immediate cheers and encouraged Mitski to leave the desk. She returned to the prop for the throbbing “I Will,” ending the song standing atop it.

The music became noisier and more insistent for “I Don’t Smoke,” which Mitski performed with her arms as much as her voice. The more straightforward “First Love/Last Spring” earned a more energetic performance from the auteur, as if she was fueled by nervous energy. The dramatic “Geyser” followed, with the table desk taking on a role closer to dance partner than prop. Leaving the table on its end, she stalked the stage for the vibrant, aggressive “Townie,” before straddling the chair like a Bob Fosse character for the danceably poppy “Nobody.” She re-embraced the table for the tightly powerful “Liquid Smooth,” before taking to a microphone stand for the clamorous “A Pearl.” The languid, spacey “Thursday Girl” found her back on the table, as did the heartworn “Lonesome Love.”

After a quick sip of water, she sat on her knees on the table as guitarist Patrick Hyland strummed the chords to “Your Best American Girl,” which moved from meditative pop song to loud rock thumper, complete with whipped hair. The more melancholic “I Bet On Losing Dogs” followed, which also used the soft/loud dynamic to great advantage, as Mitski took over the desk once again. She then turned the desk over and stood behind it for the angry, strident “Drunk Walk Home,” brandishing her mic stand like a soldier practicing with a rifle and crawling on the floor in defiance. She ended the main set with the heartbroken pop anthem “Happy,” after which she left the stage.

It was only to retrieve her guitar, however, as her musicians continued to play. “My band, everyone,” Mitski remarked as they quit the stage, leaving her alone for the stark “A Burning Hill.” She then left the stage herself, leaving her adoring fans to cheer wildly. She returned, of course, as did keyboardist Kyuhyun Marie Kim, launching quietly, almost resignedly into the lovely “Two Slow Dancers.” She then thanked both the audience for supporting her in doing her “favorite thing in the world,” before praising the ACL crew as “the kindest, most accommodating, least pretentious people” with whom she’d ever done a TV gig. Then it was time for the big, show-closing anthem: “Carry Me Out,” a clear crowd favorite and the perfect way to end such a special show. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of our upcoming Season 45 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

New tapings: Patty Griffin/Steve Earle & the Dukes/H.E.R./Vampire Weekend

photo by Michael Wilson

Austin City Limits is excited to announce four new tapings for our landmark Season 45. On July 2, we present a double shoot with a pair of veteran singer/songwriters with Texas roots and extraordinary range: Patty Griffin and Steve Earle & The Dukes. On July 8, we welcome remarkable Grammy®-winning singer, songwriter and guitarist H.E.R. On August 22, we welcome back Vampire Weekend for the indie rock titans’ second ACL taping.

On her sixth appearance on our stage, Patty Griffin is among the most consequential singer-songwriters of her generation, a quintessentially American artist whose wide-ranging canon incisively explores the intimate moments and universal emotions that bind us together. The Grammy®-winning Austinite’s recent, self-titled LP (her tenth studio album), represents an extraordinary new chapter for this incomparable artist and stands among the most deeply personal recordings of her storied two-decade career. The album – which follows 2015’s Grammy® Award-nominated Servant of Love – collects songs written during and in the aftermath of several years in which she battled – and ultimately defeated – cancer. Yet as always, like very few others, Griffin’s power lies in how, as music critic Holly Gleason observed, “her songs seem to freeze life and truth in amber.” It’s in how Griffin can express the strikingly intimate while never making it about herself, all wrapped in sparse arrangements that breathe an incomparable force and import into her songcraft. NPR raves, “One quality that’s distinguished Griffin’s body of work throughout her nearly quarter-century career is her gift for imagining the untamed forces of people’s inner lives.”  

photo by Tom Bejgrowicz

For his fifth performance on ACL, the legendary Steve Earle presents Guy, his acclaimed tribute to his songwriting mentor and ACL Hall of Fame legend Guy Clark. Earle first met Clark after hitchhiking from San Antonio to Nashville when he was 19, becoming the older songwriter’s bass player and maintaining a lifelong friendship after striking out on his own.  “No way I could get out of doing this record,” says Earle. “When I get to the other side, I didn’t want to run into Guy having made the TOWNES record and not one about him.”  “Guy wasn’t really a hard record to make,” Earle says. “When you’ve got a catalog like Guy’s and you’re only doing sixteen tracks, you know each one is going to be strong.” Earle and his five-piece band The Dukes take on Clark classics including “Desperados Waiting For a Train,” “LA Freeway,” “New Cut Road” and “Heartbroke” with a spirit of reverent glee and invention.  Earle’s raw, heartbreaking vocal on the sweet, sad “That Old Time Feeling” sounds close enough to the grave as to be a duet with his departed friend. Guy is a saga of friendship, its ups and downs, what endures. Like old friends, Guy is a diamond.

“The musical sensation H.E.R. is changing how we hear – and feel – music with her talent, vision and mystique,” hails Grammy.com and the forecast is bright for this young star with two 2019 Grammy® Award wins for Best R&B Album (H.E.R.) and Best R&B Performance (“Best Part” featuring Daniel Caesar). Elle magazine proclaims, “H.E.R. is more than a rising star – she’s a damn galaxy.” The 21-year-old is commanding stages on her own sold-out headlining tour, earning praise for live performances that not only showcase her honeyed vocals and self-penned lyrics, but also showcase her skills as a multi-talented musician playing keyboards, drum pad, acoustic and bass guitars.  With over two billion combined streams to date, the release of the breakthrough H.E.R. and the recent releases of I Used To Know Her: The Prelude and Part 2, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist H.E.R. firmly established herself as one of modern music’s most fascinating new voices. H.E.R. Vol. 1 peaked at #1 on the iTunes R&B/Soul Albums chart upon its release and H.E.R. Vol. 2 saw the same trajectory, resulting in two EPs within the Top 5 at the same time. Her latest release, I Used To Know Her: The Prelude, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart, while fan favorites “Focus,” and “Best Part” earned the #1 slot on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs Airplay chart and Urban Adult Contemporary chart, respectively. H.E.R. recently earned two 2018 Soul Train Music Awards for Album/Mixtape of the Year for H.E.R. and Best Collaboration Performance for “Best Part” feat. Daniel Caesar and captivated audiences with performances on the 2019 Grammy Awards, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Late Late Show with James Corden,  and the 2018 BET Awards.

photo by Monika Mogi

Ending months of fevered anticipation punctuated by three brilliant double-A-side singles and a slew of over-the-top positive early reviews, Vampire Weekend’s long-awaited fourth album Father of the Bride was released this month, landing the #1 spot on the U.S. charts in its debut.  The rapturous reviews continue: GQ says “One of the most important bands of the 21st century…With Father of the Bride, their fourth album, the group has expanded itself and the conception of what a band can be”;  Stereogum hails Father of the Bride, “Quite possibly their magnum opus”; USA Today raves “Vampire Weekend returns as the best indie band of their generation.” The third Vampire Weekend album in a row to reach #1 on the Billboard 200, Father of the Bride’s first week tally of 138,000 is both the year’s biggest sales week for a rock act and the highest single week sales of the Grammy-winning band’s career. Vampire Weekend recently made their first television appearance in five years and kicked off their Father of the Bride North American Tour with sold-out dates throughout 2019.

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

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.