Encore: The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers

photo by Scott Newton

Join us this weekend for a night of intimate and supremely talented performances from The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers. With zero percussion assistance for each performance, one acquires a clear picture of the depth of musicianship and delicately crafted songs that both of these artists brought to our stage. What you’ll find from both artists is nothing short of moving, inspiring, and wildly intriguing.

With open arms and a bare stage, we welcomed The Civil Wars back in February 2012 as the first taping that year. The Grammy Award-winners proved to be a perfect start to the newest season on so many levels. Their minimalist set with the ever-so perpetual Austin skyline in the background highlighted the voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White as they played hits off their 2011 release Barton Hollow. Included in this performance are two very intense, but true to the original spirit, renditions of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm.” At one moment you realize that Williams and White had the entire audience in their hand when Williams remarked about how quiet and attentive the audience was reacting. It’s true – at many points during this episode you become so captivated by Joy’s sashaying and John’s guitar playing that you forget where you are and immediately realize why these two have garnered their much-deserved praise.

“When you start a band, this is all you ever really want to do – play Austin City Limits,” mentioned Chris Thile in the middle of Punch Brothers’ set. Thile, who is no stranger to ACL (this is his third appearance), brings his all-star band that formed back in 2006 to the show. Again there is no percussion, but unlike the simple quietness that we get from The Civil Wars earlier, we get an influx of sound from the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass. The progressive rock stars of the bluegrass world take us through their 2012 release of Who’s Feeling Young Now? with a few sprinkles of the 2010 album Antifogmatic. This group’s genre-jumping and incredible musicianship will have you tapping your toes and wishing you had taken up banjo back in 10th grade.

photo by Scott Newton

This is something you will not want to miss, but don’t take our word for it – see it for yourself! You can preview the episode and get more information here; check here for local listings and times in your area. Also, be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for all things Austin City Limits, and sign up for our newsletter for further info. Next week: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson.

 

Encore: Gary Clark, Jr. and Alabama Shakes

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend, ACL presents two game-changers bringing modern blues and soul to a new generation: Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes. The power of live performance is front and center as Austin’s own rock ‘n’ soul phenomenon Clark and soulful rockers Alabama Shakes take the ACL stage in separate showcases.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for sixteen years” says a stoked Gary Clark Jr. from the stage. “It feels so good to be here right now.” Long Austin’s favorite son, the twenty-eight year old bluesman exploded onto the international music scene when he delivered an incredible performance at Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Born and raised in Austin, Clark began playing guitar at age 12, tearing up hometown stages since he was a teenager. He made a name for himself across the globe with the release of his critically-acclaimed 2012 major label debut Blak and Blu, and kicked off 2013 with a performance for President and Mrs. Obama at The White House. Clark has earned across-the-board raves for his singular talent, with The New York Times hailing Clark as “a guitarist of deep magnetism and tremendous feel.” The guitar virtuoso flaunts his six-string chops in his ACL appearance, thrilling the audience with a bold mix of blues, rock, soul and funk. Clark made his auspicious ACL debut back in Season 33 as part of the Tribute to Bluesman Jimmy Reed, with Jimmie Vaughan and Omar Dykes, and with his own set Clark proves he’s the one to watch.

“He’s already shared the stage with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton, but Gary is the essence of what his hometown Austin’s music is all about,” says executive producer Terry Lickona. “He learned from the best in every genre from the age of 12, and remains true to his heart and his roots. He’s our pride and joy.”

Raucous newcomers Alabama Shakes combine the old and the new to create gritty, joyous and soulfully raw music. Muscle Shoals-inspired and hailing from Athens, Alabama, the foursome enthusiastically blend rock with soul, country, blues and roots. The rock quartet has attracted widespread praise, including their recent Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.  Alabama Shakes’ style is marked by lead singer Brittany Howard’s powerful vocals—which have been compared to those of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding—and the group’s irresistible energy. Performing tracks from their breakthrough release Boys & Girls, the band open their ACL debut with the breakout hit “Hold On,” and launch into an ecstatic, transcendent, rafter-shaking set.

photo by Scott Newton

“There’s a reason Grammy voters nominated them for Best New Artist of the Year, the same reason we taped this show before they had even released their first record,” declares Lickona.  “Raw talent is hard to miss, and a vocal talent like Brittany Howard comes along once in a decade – if that.”

Check out the episode page for more info on this great show. You can keep up with ACL events via our Facebook and Twitter pages and our newsletter. Next week: The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers.

 

Nine Inch Nails previews ACL’s new season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an epic hour with Nine Inch Nails. The special broadcast airs as a preview of our upcoming milestone 40th Anniversary Season.  NIN’s arena-worthy ACL debut showcases ten songs, and will encore during the program’s Season 40, launching in the fall of 2014.

“We’ve waited a long time to do anything like this,” says Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor from the ACL stage. This rare hour of television with the legendary industrial rock band offers a fascinating look at their artistry in a flawless performance filled with unparalleled intensity. NIN’s Reznor and the seven-piece band—Alessandro Cortini, Josh Eustis, Robin Finck, Lisa Fischer, Sharlotte Gibson, Pino Palladino and Ilan Rubin—deliver an electrifying set that is a masterpiece of tension and release. Opening with the sultry “All Time Low” from the critically-acclaimed Hesitation Marks, their first album in five years, the band perform tracks from the recent release as well as earlier works, including 1999′s The Fragile. NIN segue into a revamped version of “Sanctified” from the 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine, with the vocal duo of Fischer and Gibson adding soaring depth and texture to the pummeling rhythms throughout the riveting hourlong debut. The cathartic performance comes to a close with a redemptive take on the NIN classic “Hurt”, with Reznor gripping the microphone while howling the confessional lyrics as the Austin audience begs for more.

photo by Scott Newton

“We never thought we’d see the day when Nine Inch Nails would set foot on the ACL stage,” says Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “I mean, they never did television for 25 years! I came away from this show having the greatest respect for Trent Reznor. He’s one of the most focused, intense and creative artists I’ve ever worked with.”

Encore: Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend, ACL brings you Mavis Staples and Bonnie Raitt, two legends and soul sisters with the perfect combination of soul, R&B, blues, and gospel.  “We come this evening to bring you some joy, some happiness, inspiration and some positive vibrations,” declared Miss Staples back in June 2012 during the taping, and boy, did they deliver! This was a night full of smoky voices, sassy guitar playing, audience hooplah and ardent exhibition.

This episode marks Bonnie Raitt’s third appearance on Austin City Limits. The audience greets the nine-time Grammy Award-winner and bestselling artist with much love and admiration. She predominantly plays off of her 2012 album Slipstream, including “Down to You,” “Used to Rule the World” and a bluesy take on the Bob Dylan song “One Million Miles.” She finally exclaims, “Awww man! I love John Hiatt!” before ending with her Nick of Time hit “Thing Called Love.”

photo by Scott Newton

Mavis Staples is a clearly a legend. This lady has seen it all from singing songs on the forefront of the Civil Rights movement to being inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Joined onstage with three backup singers and a backing band, Mavis’ energy and famous low register voice charm the audience like we’ve never seen on classics like “Creep Along Moses” and “Freedom Highway.” At the end of the set, Mavis invites her lovingly coined “baby sister” Bonnie Raitt onstage for a couple of songs. On the emotional duet “Losing You,” dedicated to their fathers, Mavis and Bonnie share a moment where they hold hands and look at each other – it’s one of the incredibly touching moments of the evening. They end the night with a rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” that had the entire audience clapping and dancing.

photo by Scott Newton

Don’t miss this inspiring and heartfelt episode – you won’t regret it. To find out when and where you can catch this episode check here for local listings. Also, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or sign up for our newsletter, for more ACL news and info. Next week: a brand new episode featuring Nine Inch Nails.

 

Encore: Esperanza Spalding

photo by Scott Newton

Triple Grammy-winning artist Esperanza Spalding makes her return to Austin City Limits  this weekend with a mesmerizing performance that transcends jazz. In a touching tribute Spalding dedicates the episode to legendary guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away January 28, 2013. The appearance marks their final performance together.

Joined by a stellar 11-piece band, Spalding performs songs from her latest release Radio Music Society, which scored two 2013 Grammy Awards, including Best Jazz Vocal Album. The album represents a celebratory vision of the artists who helped cultivate and inspire Spalding’s career throughout the years. Radio Music Society has received high praise from critics, who hail the album’s “journey through soul, gospel, balladry and big-band swing” [The New York Times] and “torchy swaggers, world-jazzy guitar grooves propelling smoky saxes, and political songs with only a Hammond organ for company” [The Guardian].

Spalding made her ACL debut back in Season 35, performing tracks from her 2008 breakthrough Esperanza, and wowed an audience largely unfamiliar with her music. Her appearance continues to be one of ACL’s most popular encore episodes. She has since gone on to capture the attention of audiences around the globe, leading to her stunning 2011 Grammy win as the first jazz musician to win for Best New Artist. Spalding’s dynamic relationship with her acoustic double bass has cemented her presence in musical history as a modern jazz virtuoso with “a light, fizzy, optimistic drive that’s in her melodic bass playing and her elastic, small-voiced singing” [The Times].

photo by Scott Newton

“The first time Esperanza appeared on ACL, she was a best-kept secret,” admits ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “But now the word is out, and the world is her stage. This time she also brings a stage full of incredible jazz musicians, and an hour full of new music. People will be writing about this show 50 years from now.”

Check out the episode page for more information. Don’t forget to keep up with ACL goings-on on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or via our newsletter. Next week: Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples.

 

Encore: Bon Iver

photo by Scott Newton

In a few short years, the world watched Bon Iver’s progression from the “bare boned” yet profound debut For Emma, Forever Ago in 2008, to the lush self-titled LP. Justin Vernon came a long way from writing in total seclusion in a cabin in the mountains to collaborating with artists such as Kanye West and winning Grammys. When the group recorded this episode in April 2012, we were eager to see how this progression and critical acclaim would manifest in the performance. The result is a passionate, meticulously layered display of talent and musical tranquility.

In this episode, Bon Iver draws mostly from the eponymous 2011 album, starting with the opening track, “Perth,” and seamlessly leading into the next tune, “Minnesota, WI.” From there we get “Brackett, WI,” a beautifully-written track that appeared on the 2009 Dark Was the Night compilation album that raised funds and awareness about HIV and AIDS. Audience favorites included a more fleshed-out version of “Blood Bank,” complete with various horns, and of course the hits from For Emma, “Skinny Love” and “For Emma.”

photo by Scott Newton

Go here for more information on this episode, and check here to see where/when you can catch it. Be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest ACL update, and subscribe to our newsletter for even more info. Next week: Florence + the Machine and Lykki Li.