Austin City Limits is saddened to learn of the death of Paul Bosner on March 24, 2022, at the age of 94. A veteran television producer, filmmaker and photographer (click over to his obituary for an overview of his amazing career), Bosner was one of the original triumvirate of ACL creators, along with director Bruce Scafe and executive producer Bill Arthos. Despite living in Dallas, it was Bosner who hit the music clubs and soaked in the cosmic cowboy scene, encouraging KLRN/KLRU program director Arhos in 1974 that the station needed to produce a music show for PBS national.
Alongside Scafe, Bosner was key in developing the look and feel of ACL in its first season. “He wanted honesty,” wrote Clifford Endres in the 1987 book Austin City Limits. “The only way the camera would capture the truth of the event was for all concerned to concentrate not on technique but on understanding their subject: the music and its audience.” As Bosner himself put it in a memo to the production staff, quoted in Endres’ book:
“…the essence that is to be recorded on tape is that magic that floats back and forth between the musician and the audience, an energy that permeates the atmosphere…There will be no need to establish a visual point of view as to where the camera is – it will be everywhere seeking out relationships, audience to musicians, musicians to each other, musicians to audience.”
The influence of those ideas drives the show to this day.
On top of that, Bosner is usually credited with coming up with the name Austin City Limits. Arhos wanted a three-word title inspired by the movie Macon County Line; since Bosner’s weekly commute from Dallas saw him pass the “Austin City Limits” sign, “the image gradually merged in his mind with the music he heard during his nights in the clubs,” as Endres put it. “‘I’ve got the perfect title,’ he told Scafe.” Thus Bosner saved the show from being titled Hill Country Rain or Travis County Line, and an icon was born.
Our condolences go out to his family, friends and industry colleagues. May he rest in peace.
Austin City Limits is excited to announce we will live stream our upcoming taping with Cuban sensation Cimafunk on May 3 at 8 p.m. CT. Watch one of music’s most talked about live performers, Cimafunk, and his nine-piece band from Havana, take the stage for an electric ACL debut. ACL offers fans worldwide the unique opportunity to watch the taping live in its entirety on our ACLTV YouTube Channel. The broadcast episode will air this fall on PBS as part of our upcoming Season 48.
Cimafunk is an Afro-Cuban rock star whose name refers to his heritage as a “cimarrón,” Cubans of African descent who resisted and escaped slavery, as well as to the essence of his music that aims to subvert conventional sounds with rhythmic innovation. As innovative funk forefather George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic fame says, “he is the one, the next one.” By bringing out the best in Cuban rhythms and traditions and infusing sounds and styles from Africa and the U.S., Cimafunk has created something unique and special, both in terms of music and the values he stands for. His monumental second album El Alimento, released in October 2021, received overwhelming praise: Rolling Stone ranked it #3 of the Best Spanish-Language and Bilingual Albums of 2021 and #23 of the 50 Best Albums of 2021. El Alimento was also among NPR’s Best Latin Music of 2021 and #1 of Le Monde’s Latin Music favorites. Singles also made their way through 2021 lists: “Rómpelo” ft. Lupe Fiasco was among NPR Alt.Latino’s best singles of 2021, and “Funk Aspirin” ft. George Clinton in Remezcla’s 10 Best Indie Pop, Rock, & Chill Songs of 2021. Co-produced by Cimafunk and Grammy-award winning producer Jack Splash (CeeLo Green, Kendrick Lamar, Alicia Keys), the sonically dynamic collection masterfully blends Afro-Cuban sounds and rhythms with global funk, hip hop and soul, resulting in a progressive, head-bopping celebration of black music’s power to eclipse borders and cross-pollinate across cultures. Written and recorded over 2020, the album served as an alimento for the soul, a motivation to persevere through the pandemic, as Cimafunk spent countless hours studying decades of musical influences to help understand who he is musically and culturally, and thus, where he wanted this album to take him. According to The New York Times, Cimafunk is on “Quest to Create One Nation Under a Groove.” Cimafunk became a household name in Cuba with his 2018 hit “Me Voy,” which generated a frenzy, creating a movement in Havana and throughout the island, selling out venues with thousands of fans excited to dance to the groove of Afro-Cuban Funk and millennials replicating his style and appearance, one that draws heavily on his African roots and the black showmen of the 20th century. Named by Billboard as a “Top 10 Latin Artist to watch,” Cimafunk stole the show at the 2019 South by Southwest Music Festival and has toured aggressively in the U.S. and Europe, making a name for himself as one of today’s great showmen, performing an electric live show with his nine-piece band from Havana.
Join us here on May 3 at 8 p.m. CT for this much-anticipated performance by Cimafunk. Join us this fall on PBS for the broadcast premiere of Austin City Limits’ upcoming Season 48.
It may be a “say it ain’t so” moment for Austin City Limits fans, but it’s true: Robert Earl Keen’s seventh time on our storied stage will apparently be his last. We first welcomed him in Season 14, thirty-four years ago, and have been diehard fans ever since. While the Houston native won’t be retiring from live performances until September, he still threw himself and his legions of fans a hell of a goodbye party with an epic set traversing his entire career.
As the sparkly-jacketed Keen took a seat centerstage, he noted that ACL has been a big part of his career arc, in part due to meeting his wife at a Nanci Griffith taping back in 1983. Then, backed by his five-piece band – stalwart rhythm section Bill Whitbeck (with Keen for 27 years) and Tom Van Schaik (25), guitarists Brian Beken and Noah Jeffries, and his longtime friend and ACL Hall of Famer Lloyd Maines on the pedal steel – Keen opened with a one-two punch of classic tunes: “Feeling Good Again,” from 1998’s Walking Distance, and “Gringo Honeymoon,” from the 1994 album of the same name. Keen then introduced the band, before going into the warm folk rocker “For Love I Did It,” from 2005’s What I Really Mean. Due to a technical snafu, we had to run “Gringo Honeymoon” again – the amiable Keen offered the audience the option to redo it right then, or “cram us all in your mini-van and do it then.” The redo got even bigger applause than the first take, especially when the audience got to sing “We ain’t never comin’ back!” themselves. “We might just double down on the whole set,” Keen grinned.
The songwriter noted that the next song was the unofficial theme song for his popular Americana Podcast—the appropriately melody-rich “Let the Music Play.” After paying tribute to a genre, Keen honed in on a specific musician, telling the story of visiting the late Levon Helm’s combination venue/studio/residence the Ramble in upstate NY, which inspired his fan favorite “The Man Behind the Drums.” He then switched from stories of great musicians to tales of the criminal element with “Shades of Gray,” a hidden gem from 1997’s major label bow Picnic. Contrary to its title, “Dreadful Selfish Crime” didn’t continue the theme, but instead addressed the sin of wasting one’s life – despite its sobering message, the crowd responded to it with wild applause. Keen then revisited one of his certified classics, giving “Corpus Christi Bay” a rocked-up arrangement, garnering another round of hurrahs.
Keen talked about his early days as a songwriter, first moving to Austin in 1980, then trying his luck in Nashville at the urging of friend Steve Earle, before returning and settling in Bandera, Texas. There he met a co-worker named Mariano, who lent his name to the eponymous minor-key song found on Keen’s second LP, 1989’s West Textures, and given an earnest reading here. Speaking of earnestness, he followed that up with “I’ll Be There For You,” from the 1998 LP Walking Distance, and as heartfelt a ballad as he’s likely ever written. He then leapt forward thirteen years to 2011’s Ready For Confetti, his most recent studio album of original material, for “Black Baldy Stallion,” a tribute of sorts to a horse he once owned, telling a story about playing that song for the late Guy Clark, whose only response was to roll a cigarette, blow a plume of smoke and note, “Too many fuckin’ words.” “I cried all the way home,” Keen said, only half joking.
He led the band and crowd into the home stretch with “Sinnerman,” a tune he hasn’t yet recorded himself, but was recorded by the Stryker Brothers. After that he lightly strummed some chords before singing “Sherry was a waitress at the only joint in town,” to which the audience responded with a cheer. It was, of course, “The Road Goes On Forever,” Keen’s signature anthem from early-career breakout West Textures, and one on which the crowd sang along, sometimes louder than its writer. Needless to say, band and audience went wild, taking a minute to settle down enough for the next song. Keen reiterated his retirement, adding that he was sitting in the chair “to practice a little bit,” logically preceding Gringo Honeymoon’s “I’m Comin’ Home,” a sentiment that evolved into a full audience singalong. Fittingly, Keen ended the show with the jaunty “I Gotta Go,” because, well, he did. “You can take this one with ya,” he told the fans. They did as he stood up center stage, raised his guitar, and poignantly took a bow, letting the band play him offstage.
But it wasn’t quite over, as Keen almost immediately came back. “Somebody backstage told me he’d missed one of our Christmas shows,” he explained, “and he gave me five bucks, so what am I gonna do?” That, obviously, meant “Merry Christmas From the Family,” his Christmas classic eight months early. It became another singalong, of course, as well it should have. It was a truly special performance from an ACL favorite, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station as part of our Season 48.
Listening to the music of Japanese Breakfast is like a masterclass in how to take the personal and make it universal. Bandleader Michelle Zauner is an expert at drawing inspiration from her life without creating insular art – see her bestselling memoir Crying in H Mart, which resonated with millions of readers worldwide. Her music does the same, as she proved while bringing her full band to the ACL stage, following her solo guest appearance at last year’s ACL Hall of Fame ceremony.
The eight-piece band took the stage to enthusiastic applause, opening with fan-favorite “Paprika,” one of the catchiest of the catchy tunes that adorn the 2022 Grammy-nominated act’s breakthrough third LP Jubilee. A gong decorated with lights became the centerpiece as Zauner thrilled the crowd punctuating the chorus of the banger with each hit. That was followed by the album’s synth-driven, perfectly crafted pop confection “Be Sweet,” which Zauner sang with a big smile. She donned her guitar for “In Heaven,” a melodic rocker from her first album Psychopomp, supported by Adam Schatz’ sensual saxophone and seguing smoothly into “Woman That Loves You,” from the same LP. Zauner admitted that when she appeared at the ACL Hall of Fame last fall to perform in tribute to Wilco, she never imagined she’d be back with her own band so soon. The group then dialed back its normally sunshine-bright sound for Jubilee’s moody midtempo charmer “Kokomo, IN,” driven by Peter Bradley’s slide guitar. Zauner visited JB’s second album Soft Sounds From Another Planet for the nostalgic “Boyish,” which earned cheers the moment it began. The band stuck with that album for the pretty indie rocker “The Body is a Blade,” ending the trip (for now) with the ambiguous, unsettling “Road Head,” which also garnered cheers as soon as the opening chords rang.
Things took a turn back to the upbeat with Jubilee’s “Savage Good Boy,” which ended on harmony guitar riffs from Zauner and Bradley. Drummer Craig Hendrix’s counterpoint vocals and Zauner’s playfully naughty lyrics highlighted Psychopomp’s “Everybody Wants to Love You,” after which Zauner introduced the musicians. The airy, horns-spiked pop of “Slide Tackle” came next, its chorus of “Be good to me/We’ve always had a good time” sung directly to Bradley, who’s also Zauner’s husband. Ironically, that was followed by the romantic yearning of “Posing in Bondage,” which turned from melancholy to joyful by tune’s end. Bradley’s keyboard and Christabel Lin’s violin dominated the dreamy “Glider,” composed for the video game Sable.
Seated at the keyboard, Zauner noted the day was a special one, as it also marked the first anniversary of the 2021 release of Crying in H Mart, her powerful memoir about growing up Korean American and dealing with the grief of losing her mother. She explained the book paved the way for Jubilee, an album about giving yourself permission to welcome joy back into your life after experiencing tragedy. That led to “Tactics,” a song about moving forward from sadness, as difficult as it might be. The band quit the stage, leaving Zauner solo with her guitar for “Posing For Cars,” a song that builds in intensity, a tactic emphasized by the musicians returning one by one, until the whole thing culminated, appropriately, in her epic guitar solo. Japanese Breakfast wasted no time in going into the final song, the widescreen Soft Sounds rocker “Diving Woman,” on which everyone cut loose before Bradley and Zauner brought the song to a ringing, jangling close. It was a great show and a great debut performance, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our upcoming 48th season on your local PBS station.
Austin City Limits is excited to announce we will live stream the highly-anticipated debut taping of Grammy-nominated indie-pop rock band Japanese Breakfast on April 20 at 8 p.m. CT. ACL offers fans worldwide a unique opportunity to watch the ACL taping live in its entirety on our ACLTV YouTube Channel. The broadcast episode will air this fall on PBS as part of our upcoming Season 48.
2021 was a big year for Michelle Zauner. She released Jubilee, her third album with her band Japanese Breakfast, which quickly became one of the most praised releases of 2021, landing her two 2022 GRAMMY nominations for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album, as well as placement on Best Of 2021 lists from Rolling Stone, People, Pitchfork, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, NPR,Spin, Wall Street Journal and more. The album was also voted the #1 album of the year on NPR’s Listeners’ Poll, and its hit single “Be Sweet” was voted the #1 song of the year on Pitchfork’s Readers’ Poll. From the moment she began writing her new album, she knew that she wanted to call it Jubilee. After all, a jubilee is a celebration of the passage of time—a festival to usher in the hope of a new era in brilliant technicolor. Zauner’s first two albums garnered acclaim for the way they grappled with anguish; Psychopomp was written as her mother underwent cancer treatment, while Soft Sounds From Another Planet took the grief she held from her mother‘s death and used it as a conduit to explore the cosmos. Jubilee is an album about processing life and love in the quest for happiness, and how that process sometimes requires us to step outside of ourselves. In addition to Jubilee, 2021 saw Zauner release her New York Times best-selling memoir Crying in H Mart, which she’s currently adapting for the screen for MGM’s Orion Pictures. Crying in H Mart is an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. The book has been on the New York Times Best Sellers’ list for 30 weeks. She also released the original soundtrack to the anticipated video game Sable, which Entertainment Weekly compared to David Bowie’s 1977 masterwork Low and Pitchfork said is “a streamlined glimpse into her versatility as a narrative artist.” Michelle Zauner first appeared on our stage at the 2021 ACL Hall of Fame celebration to salute honorees Wilco and we’re thrilled to have her return with Japanese Breakfast.
Join us here on April 20 at 8 p.m. CT for this performance by Japanese Breakfast. Join us this fall on PBS for the broadcast premiere of Austin City Limits’ upcoming Season 48.
One of the coolest experiences we can have at Austin City Limits is to open a brand new season with new talent. The 21-year-old from West London, singer/songwriter Arlo Parks, took her own country by storm with her album Collapsed in Sunbeams, which earned her two 2022 Grammy nominations in the States and won the Mercury Prize at home for Best British Album of 2021. With major dates opening for Harry Styles and Billie Eilish, and a stateside tour with Clairo under her belt, the singer of radio hits “Hurt” and “Softly” capped the first half of 2022 off with her debut taping for Austin City Limits.
Parks’ eight-piece band came out first, singers and horn players on either side of the usual guitar/bass/drums/keys lineup, and started a warmly funky groove. Arriving in shorts, lime-green sneakers and a Dizzy Gillespie T-shirt, Park went immediately into the smooth R&B of “Green Eyes” to great applause. After introducing herself to the audience, Parks and the band kept the soulful vibe going with “Portra 400,” a gem from Collapsed in Sunbeams that began in her bedroom home studio. She followed with the moodier, more atmospheric “Caroline,” encouraging the crowd to sing along to the chorus, before going into “Cola,” her very first single from her attention-getting EP Super Sad Generation, made while she was in high school. She then announced “Eugene,” which she called “my favorite” – a sentiment to which her fans apparently agreed, as they cheered the soul-pop take on unrequited love before it even began.
Parks then did something that’s never happened on the ACL stage before: she read an original poem. Besides giving her a chance to catch her breath, it also took the audience back to her beginnings, when she wrote poetry and fiction before incorporating music. She followed that ACL milestone with the lovely ballad “Angel’s Song,” which truly sounded like an extension of her roots in written verse. The song has barely finished before a cymbal wash and electric piano chords heralded “Romantic Garbage,” an emotional but witty ballad from Super Sad Generation that was the song which led her manager to her and started her career. “I love playing that song,” she noted. Parks shifted the mood for the next song, the darker “Black Dog,” though it was less dwelling on depression than insisting it can be overcome. Then the groove pumped back up, the horns started to soar, and Parks led the band in “Hurt,” another song determined to pull its main character from the brink.
Parks took a break to introduce the band, before launching into the soul tune “Too Good,” dismissing an emotionally detached ex with hooks and a groove and proving to be an immediate crowd favorite. She followed with “Softy,” a catchy electropop tune released as a single only a couple of months ago and destined for greatness, if the audience hand-waving is any indication. “It’s been very magical,” proclaimed Parks as the last song of the set loomed. “Sophie” ended the main set on a slinky, luscious soul groove and an epic guitar solo. Of course, Parks and her band returned for one more song, accepting flowers from an audience member before sending the crowd home with the affirmational, gospel-tinged “Hope.” “You’re not alone!” Parks declared, and everyone was with her as she left the stage. It was a strong showing by a relative newcomer, and we can’t wait for you to see Parks and her band when her episode airs this fall on your local PBS station as part of our Season 48.