Encore: Natalia Lafourcade and Grupo Fantasma

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents the contemporary Latin sounds of two of music’s best in show, Natalia Lafourcade and Grupo Fantasma. Mexican superstar Lafourcade performs songs from her Grammy-winning album Hasta la Raíz and powerhouse Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma deliver show-stopping grooves. 

As one of Mexico’s biggest music stars, Natalia Lafourcade’s infectious mix of pop, rock, folk and bossa nova has earned the singer-songwriter multiple international chart-topping albums.  In her Austin City Limits debut, Lafourcade and her backing quintet perform selections from her sixth studio album, the acclaimed Hasta La Raíz, which won universal accolades, culminating in four 2015 Latin Grammys, including top honors of song and record of the year for the title track, and a 2016 Grammy Award (her first) for Best Latin Rock album.  Opening with the title track, an intimate, melodic anthem about holding on to one’s roots, the set showcases her sweet, airy vocals. Lafourcade reaches back to the catchy “En El 2000,” her 2003 breakthrough radio hit and a song she explained that she’d come to hate due to constant requests for it, but now “we’re friends again.”  She closes out the captivating set with the pretty, bossa nova-influenced gem “Para Qué Sufrir,” a clear fan favorite.

“I was hooked as a fan when I saw Natalia Lafourcade perform at the Latin Grammys,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “She may seem an unlikely Latin superstar, but her sweet voice and personal songs have a way of connecting with her fans and the world around her.”

Austin originals Grupo Fantasma deliver a white-hot, delirious blend of big-band samba, merengue and Latin jams in a powerhouse five-song set.  Formed in 2000, the 9-piece funk outfit first-appeared on ACL in Season 33. The Grammy-winning funksters continue their decade and a half of magic with danceable, irresistible songs from their new, acclaimed album Problemas, produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin.  Opening with the slow-burning cumbia “Nada,” the crowd is on its feet.  The band is joined by special guests Steve Berlin and renowned saxophonist Karl Denson for “Cayuco,” a sultry mambo torn from the horns and heat of Cuban dance halls.  The group welcomes Los Texmaniacs accordionist Josh Baca and former Grupo founding member Adrian Quesada for the conjunto-flavored “Esa Negra.” Performing the title track of Problemas, Grupo’s charismatic bandleader Jose Galeano gives dance instructions to the front row.  For the final song, a tribute to the band’s late friend and champion Prince, the 9-piece orchestra swells to 17-pieces. Galeano, at a momentary loss for words, simply remarks “There’s not much we can say.  We’re just gonna play.” And so they do, 17-strong across the stage, lighting the room aflame with the Purple One’s disco-fied early hit “Controversy.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Kick-ass Latin funk might not be a music genre, but it defines what Grupo Fantasma does,” says Lickona.  “There were 20 musicians blasting and riffing their way through the night, shaking the stage if not the balcony high above! Austin is not usually known for its Latin grooves, but Grupo could change that!”

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Tune in next week for another encore episode featuring raucous Americana from Chris Stapleton and Turnpike Troubadours.

Encore: Angelique Kidjo

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a joyous, irresistible hour with international superstar Angélique Kidjo making her highly-anticipated ACL debut. A two-time Grammy Award winner, the world-renowned African singer-songwriter delivers a high energy performance celebrating the universal power of music.    

Hailing from the West African country of Benin, Kidjo has been a major force in world music since the early 1990s. Her extraordinary musical achievements span a 25-year discography and thousands of concerts around the world. TIME Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva” and The Guardian named her one of the Top 100 Inspiring Women in the World.  Kidjo has enjoyed a long history of notable collaborations with greats from the jazz and pop worlds, including Bono, John Legend, Josh Groban, Peter Gabriel, Carlos Santana, Branford Marsalis, Vampire Weekend and Alicia Keys. In addition to her music she is known as a powerful advocate for women’s rights, education and public health issues in Africa. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002 and a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, honoring individuals “who not only excel in their art, but also help to improve the world around them.”

In her ACL debut, Kidjo performs a buoyant, career-spanning, eleven-song set including songs from her 2015 release Sings, a 2016 Grammy nominee for Best World Music Album. Backed by her four-piece band, the spirited artist takes the stage resplendent in colorful dress, letting her powerful voice soar and her feet move. “I can see you’re ready for singing and dancing,” she tells the Austin crowd, “so don’t hold back.” Kidjo is accompanied by Austin choir Veritas for a soulful rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” She pays homage to the pioneering South African singer Miriam Makeba, widely known as Mother Africa, with a version of her classic “Pata Pata,” delivered in Swahili as a funky, infectious call to dance. Kidjo ventures out into the audience for “Afirika,” a celebration of the human family, as the crowd happily joins in. The revelry continues as she invites the audience onstage for the luminous “Tumba.” Kidjo leads the packed stage in dance, closing out the hour in a jubilant crescendo, with the entire audience on its feet, showering the singer with cheers and applause in appreciation.

photo by Scott Newton

“This is an amazing hour — a very joyful and emotional musical experience,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “You will want to dance, and you will cry. It really stands out in an otherwise great season, and represents what makes Austin City Limits unique. Angélique is a special artist — and she makes the best dance music on the planet!”

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Tune in next week for another encore episode featuring an hour of Latin music with Natalia Lafourcade and Grupo Fantasma.

Austin City Limits announces lineup for Season 44

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits announces a new season premiering October 6 with an an epic hour featuring innovative art-rock performer St. Vincent. ACL, officially the longest-running music program in television history, has provided viewers with a front-row seat to the best in performance for over 40 years, and continues its legendary run showcasing more stars, innovators and highly-anticipated debuts. The series airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at pbs.org/austincitylimits immediately following the initial broadcast.

Austin City Limits returns to PBS on Saturday, October 6 at 9pm ET/8pm CT (check local listings) beginning Season 44 with the promise of another year of musical trailblazers and vanguards. This season features—among many—the amazing St. Vincent, in a visually and sonically stunning hour, and songwriting legend John Prine—making his eighth ACL appearance —showcasing his acclaimed new release and gems from his catalogue. A number of artists return including singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who delivers a crowd-pleasing performance in a radiant hour; worldwide superstar Sam Smith who brings along mega-hits and some new songs from his sophomore release; and boundary-pushing country artist Kacey Musgraves, who shines while sharing the stories behind her songs. Austin City Limits continues its legacy of spotlighting music’s finest with debut appearances from Grammy-winning R&B star Miguel alongside the 2018 Grammy Awards Best New Artist Alessia Cara, along with standout singer-songwriters: soul/R&B singer Anderson East and roots rocker Lukas Nelson.

“The key to ACL’s marathon success story is our commitment to the best, most original music being created,” says longtime ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “No matter what gender, genre, style or era, we have always delivered a remarkable mix of compelling, heartfelt, and groundbreaking performers. Season 44 delivers on that promise once again.”

Season 44 Fall Broadcast Schedule (additional episodes to be announced):

Oct. 6   St. Vincent

Oct. 13 John Prine

Oct. 20 Sam Smith / Anderson East

Oct. 27 Brandi Carlile

Nov. 3   Miguel / Alessia Cara

Nov. 10 Kacey Musgraves / Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real

The complete line-up for the full 14-week season, including eight new episodes to air beginning December 31, 2018, will be announced at a later date. Austin City Limits continues to offer its popular livestreams of select performances for fans worldwide on ACL’s YouTube Channel. Viewers can visit acltv.com for news regarding livestreams, future tapings and episode schedules.

Encore: Dan Auerbach and Shinyribs

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a feel-good hour featuring Black Keys superstar Dan Auerbach, performing songs from his acclaimed solo album Waiting On A Song and joined by a stellar band of legendary Nashville musicians, in a double-bill with Austin’s country-soul juggernaut Shinyribs.

Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach takes a break from his main outfit, the eight-time Grammy-winning Black Keys, and returns to the ACL stage to showcase songs from his radiant solo release Waiting On A Song. Conceived in his adopted hometown of Nashville with an all-star cast of Music Row’s finest musicians, NPR raves “Each track on Waiting On A Song sparkles like a long-lost gem of early-’70s AM radio.” The restless creative and his ace seven-piece backing crew, featuring many of the record’s legendary silver-haired sidemen, perform a blissed-out seven-song ACL set.  Highlights include a pair of timeless tunes co-written with songwriting icon John Prine: the buoyant set-opening title track and an unrecorded gem, “Somewhere Between Eau Claire and East Moline.” In old-school soul revue style, Auerbach introduces his own Easy Eye Sound label signee, 63-year old soul singer Robert Finley, who takes center stage to deliver a dose of his show-stopping “Medicine Woman.” Auerbach closes out the sparkling set with the sunny, melodic delight “Shine On Me” and the crowd is happy to sing-along.

Swamp-pop band Shinyribs keep the party going, delivering a high-energy, full-throttle four-song tour de force in one of the most entertaining performances on the ACL stage. Flamboyant frontman Kevin Russell, aka the “shaman of soul,” is no stranger to legions of music fans as the former leader of beloved Austin band The Gourds (who appeared on ACL in 2007). Russell has ramped up the showmanship in Shinyribs, and the East Texas rockers have become one of Austin’s favorite live acts since forming in 2010. The eight-piece outfit is a party machine, complete with horns, back-up singers and dancers. Performing songs from across their four albums, powerhouse singer Russell is a bigger-than-life force of nature with stage theatrics as lively as the music, delivering delightful repartee, guitar solos, enviable dance moves, call-and-response with back-up singers the Shiny Soul Sisters, all while whipping up a brew of Texas country soul with a side of hip-shaking swamp-funk. The band’s trio of onstage dancers –  dubbed the “Riblets” – drape the frontman in a glittery silver robe tricked-out with colorful flashing lights for the roof-raising set-closer “East Texas Rust” as Russell wails on electric guitar. You in Texas baby.

photo by Scott Newton

“You can’t not watch this show without feeling good afterwards,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Dan Auerbach has five times more creative energy than anyone with half his credits! And ‘seeing is believing’ with Shinyribs. Kevin Russell goes above-and-beyond to ‘Keep Austin Weird’!”

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Join us next week for another encore, featuring African powerhouse Angelique Kidjo.

Encore: Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two of today’s most original and exciting live acts: Grammy-winning songwriter, vocalist and virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett. Two talked-about artists worthy of the buzz, both rising stars have gained recognition around the globe for their dynamic live shows.  

Austin’s Gary Clark Jr. arrives on ACL’s stage at the top of his game for his second headline performance, showcasing songs from the acclaimed new top-10 album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. The young Texan has had a whirlwind ascent from the Austin club scene to earning slots on festival stages, on the road with superstars Foo Fighters and his own headlining tours. The LA Times hailed him “the most exciting blues-based experimentalist since Jack White.” Clark writes another chapter to his story with this appearance, firmly establishing himself as a sonic force of nature in a confident, blazing five-song set filled with searing, soulful new songs. The guitar phenom opens with a new album highlight “Grinder” and demonstrates his astonishing musical chops with scorching renditions of the deeply personal originals. Closing the thrilling set with the uplifting, gospel-infused anthem “Healing,” Clark sings with newfound passion, owning the ACL stage and receiving a heartfelt standing ovation.

Australian singer/songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett released one of the most arresting music debuts in years, 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, and received critical acclaim in spades: Rolling Stone hails Barnett “one of rock’s most beguiling young stars and deftest lyricists,” calling the album “2015’s sharpest debut.” Paste says she’s “one of the most charming, whipsmart performers currently touring the world,” and NPR raves “the new album will thrill any fan of smart, biting guitar driven rock,” calling her “the best lyricist in rock music today.”  Spin calls it “one of the most thrilling albums you’ll hear this year,” and hails the garage rocker a “goddamn rock star.”  Riding the wave of media acclaim, Barnett proves she has the talent to match in her standout ACL debut. The six-song set is a great introduction to her signature style: mixing straightforward, four-chord crunch with witty, often hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking observations with unflinching self-assessment. Aided by her tight band featuring bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie, she brings the ACL set to a crashing close with the crowd-favorite single “Pedestrian at Best,” proving she’s nothing of the sort, but one of the most distinctive and compelling new voices in modern rock.

photo by Scott Newton

“Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett are the rock stars of tomorrow, if not today, and they’re doing it the old-fashioned way – with their guitars,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “They are both blazing different trails, but they are totally original, and that’s why this makes for such a great double bill!”

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Next week: high-powered rock and soul from Alabama Shakes and Vintage Trouble.

Encore: Father John Misty and The Black Angels

Father John Misty on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a deep dive into the unconventional with two acts whose music provides a soundtrack to uncertain times: indie sensation Father John Misty in his ACL debut and modern psych-rockers The Black Angels in a return appearance.

Father John Misty, the pseudonym for the singer-songwriter also known as Josh Tillman, dazzles in his 5-song debut, offering a fascinating glimpse of one of today’s most charismatic artists. The indie-rock provocateur performs songs from his latest, Pure Comedy, a 2018 Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Album. Hailed “a sprawling masterwork” by NPR, the New York Times called it “an ideal album for the era of outrage.” Father John delivers an epic performance filled with his dry wit and keen insights on religion, fame, social media, technology and the overall state of humanity, backed by a 16-piece orchestra, including a full string and horn section. For the set-closer, the sweetly cynical “I Love You, Honeybear” (title track from his 2015 sophomore album), the magnetic bandleader playfully dances with the mic stand and waltzes offstage to embrace the crowd, a cult leader for the ages, as the audience sings along for an ecstatic climax.

Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock. The New York Times raves they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The quintet debuted on ACL in 2013 and make their return appearance with a charged set of songs from their first full-length release in four years, the acclaimed Death Song. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.” Frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals channel 21st century outrage on hypnotic set opener “Currency,” which pillories our capitalism-above-all-else society. Surrounded by screens swirling with kaleidoscopic images, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease, anchored by cutting wordplay and the distorted fuzz of menacing guitars.

“‘These are perilous times,’ somebody once wrote, and writing songs that define or defy today’s times can be a perilous exercise,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Nobody does it better than Josh Tillman and Alex Maas. They infuse their songs with a musical urgency that is really hypnotic. The impact of their two sets together makes this a unique ACL episode.”

The Black Angels on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring Americana giants Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.

Encore: Sleater-Kinney and Heartless Bastards

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents two of indie-rock’s finest in a must-see installment featuring Sleater-Kinney splitting the episode with Heartless Bastards.

Legendary punk group Sleater-Kinney make their inaugural appearance on the ACL stage armed with songs from their first new album in a decade, No Cities To Love. The surprise release landed on top of many 2015 year-end best lists including the New York Times’ Jon Pareles, who raved “Reunited for its first album in 10 years, Sleater-Kinney returns as joyfully rigorous as ever, sinewy and ready to grapple.” Consisting of guitarists/vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (also the co-creator/star of IFC’s Portlandia), and drummer Janet Weiss, the powerhouse trio came crashing out of the Pacific Northwest in the mid-90s, setting a new bar for punk’s political awareness and emotional impact. The seminal band perform a searing, musically thrilling, career-wide seven-song set with ferocious new material alongside classic anthems including “Dig Me Out,” the title track from their 1997 breakthrough, and songs from 2005’s The Woods.

Austin-based Heartless Bastards, fronted by dynamic vocalist Erika Wennerstrom, return for their second ACL appearance since their Season 35 debut, focusing on their acclaimed new release Restless Ones. Heartless Bastards have spent the past decade in motion, bolding pushing their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll into new shapes over four albums and nearly non-stop touring. Rich with purpose, passion, seasoned songwriting and commanding musicianship, Restless Ones, their fifth studio album, captures the idiosyncratic band exploring their craft and soul in an effort to reach a place that’s both real and transcendent. With a voice NPR describes as “warm yet gritty, throaty yet sweet, gigantic yet intimate,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Wennerstrom opens the set with the effervescent country rocker “Hi-Line.” As she switches from acoustic to electric guitar for the garage rock gem “Black Cloud,” the rockers hit their stride, juxtaposing dark subject matter with up-tempo style. The band reach back to 2012’s Arrow for “Parted Ways,” closing out the sublime set on a pitch perfect note.

photo by Scott Newton

“This show is all about women who rock, not to mention awesome singers!” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It took a decade for Sleater-Kinney to bring us new music, but it was worth the wait. They’re living proof that a band can keep getting better and better. Same goes for Heartless Bastards. Always hometown favorites, Erika’s voice is one-of-a-kind – raw and polished at the same time!”

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring indie rockers Father John Misty and The Black Angels.

Encore: The Head and The Heart and Benjamin Booker

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two standout acts featured on this year’s namesake ACL Festival: The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker. Both acts are highlights on the touring circuit, drawing raves for soulful live performances.

Seattle folk-rock band The Head and the Heart make their second ACL appearance with a luminous performance featuring songs from their newest release Signs of Light. The indie favorites are one of live music’s biggest draws, with high-profile 2017 festival appearances including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk in addition to Austin’s own ACL Festival. The sextet deliver an uplifting, singalong set filled with new musical touchstones including “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels.” A moving cover of “Hunger Strike” honoring late Seattle icon Chris Cornell is a set highlight, rich with three-part harmonies. The band bring the passionate set to a glorious close with the soaring “River and Roads” from their 2011 self-titled debut, a fan favorite.

Florida-raised, New Orleans-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker delivers a raw, impassioned ACL debut packed with songs from his acclaimed 2017 album Witness and his 2014 self-titled breakout debut. Opening with his rocking radio hit “Violent Shiver,” the twenty-eight year old phenom draws on soul, blues and gospel, showcasing stirring soul-rockers “Carry,” “The Slow Drag Under” and “Believe” backed by a gospel choir. A powerful performance of his Civil Rights anthem “Witness” combines Booker’s husky, soulful voice with a profound message on racism in America. 

“The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker are prime examples of artists who just keep getting better,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than finding a groove and just staying with it, they are constantly searching for new ways to express their voices, and new sounds to go along with them. The end result can be surprising but always inspiring.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend 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 info. Join us next week for another encore episode, featuring jazz singer Cassandra Wilson performing a tribute to Billie Holiday.