Austin City Limits will livestream the highly-anticipated taping with Grammy-winning songwriter, vocalist and virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. on Monday, August 24, 8pm CT/9pm ET. The taping will webcast in its entirety directly from ACL’s stage via the program’s YouTube Channel and the broadcast episode will air during ACL’s upcoming Season 41, which premieres in October on PBS stations.
Austin’s shining star Gary Clark Jr. arrives on ACL’s stage for his second headline performance at the top of his game and in advance of his homegrown new record The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, set for release on Sept. 11. Self-produced at Austin’s Arlyn Studios, Clark’s latest LP reflects his singular visionary landscape as an ever-evolving artist. Relying on the simple tools of his trade – voice, guitar, rhythm and song – Clark firmly establishes himself as a sonic expressionist who has absorbed classic forms of the past while forging his own path.
Clark Jr. has a long history with ACL, going back to his debut in Season 33 as part of the Tribute to Bluesman Jimmy Reed, through his Season 38 solo episode, a 2014 show-stopping appearance as part of ACL’s 40th anniversary celebration and a cameo with the Foo Fighters that same year.
Join us for this live webcast of the return of Gary Clark Jr. ACL’s 41st Season premieres in October. The new season line-up will be announced shortly, stay tuned to acltv for episode updates.
We hope everybody enjoyed this weekend’s episode featuring Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids. If you missed it, you can catch it here. In the meantime, our longtime audio support guy and intrepid gear reporter gives us a new installment in our Gear Blog series, featuring the equipment onstage with these solely acoustic acts. Take it away, Kevin.
All instruments on stage run to their own pickups into their own dedicated Radial Tonebone PZ-Pres and then into the PA.
Hailing from Eagle Rock, California, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan formed, The Milk Carton Kids in 2011 – after years of paying dues as solo artists, they were hailed as an overnight sensations as a duo. Whereas Ms. Jarosz and company avail themselves of a more modern technology to amplify their acoustic instruments, Ryan and Pattengale go the old-fashioned route and use microphones exclusively to project the sound of their voices and instruments. For the taping, MCK brought their own preferred setup of Ear Trumpet Lab microphones. Below you’ll see a couple of pictures of a far more complicated set-up than what was used at the actual taping. For the recorded show, “the less is more” approach was decided and a single microphone was used. Though one microphone makes life simpler (or probably more complicated) for the sound guys, it necessitates a more dynamic approach to performing for Kenneth and Joey, meaning they have to physically move toward and away from the microphone as their musical parts dictate. That’s quite an accomplishment of technique that is rarely seen these days.
Pictured are the Edwina models for vocals and the Ednas placed lower for the guitars. Though they may look ancient, Ear Trumpet Lab mics are quite contemporary, extremely versatile, and very affordable.
Joey plays a 1951 Gibson J-45, pictured below. Kenneth plays a 1954 Martin 0-15.
Our latest installment of the gear blog features Bob Mould and is written, as always, by our front of house engineer Kevin Cochran.
“This is a Big Deal.”
At the risk of sounding selfserving, it’s been a red letter year for the Austin City Limits TV program. I’ll let you review the list of heavy hitters that have walked our boards this taping season, but this week’s artist is my personal favorite for all of Season 38. Coincidentally, it’s been a red (rad?) letter year for Bob Mould as well. After an interlude from recording, Bob came back with one of the strongest albums of his career and ended up topping a drove of “best of lists” for 2012.
It’s especially gratifying to see someone who started as a recusant of underground music and grow into a well revered personage for musicians and music fans from all walks.
Mould’s live shows are synonymous with volume and for our taping, he used mixture of the old and the new. To the left is a Blackstar 100 head. Blackstar Amplification was started in 2007 by a group of former Marshall employees and has made many converts in its short history. I’d never encountered a Blackstar in person before, but was impressed at its versatility between getting “classic” and “modern” guitar tones and all points in between. On the left is a vintage (I believe) Marshall 1987 100 watt head, provided by Soundcheck Austin. The Marshall hadn’t been rented in years and was being finicky, causing Mr. Mould a little consternation. After being given a little attention by the Soundcheck guys, it was brought back to life and is probably one of the best-sounding amp heads I’ve ever heard. Bob became more relaxed as camera rehearsal progressed and commented, “Okay, this sounds like me.”
After 15 seasons of working for the show, I don’t fanboy or fawn like I used to, but Bob’s sound, that day, was one of the best guitar tones I’ve ever heard. It just sounded… right. Doug Chappell, one of our audio crew, has worked with everyone from ZZ Top to Armored Saint and doesn’t get worked up about anything anymore. Even he was impressed.
The most surprising thing about this set-up is that the cabinets are wired out of phase from one another. I’m told this is an old trick to counteract feedback at the vocal microphone when dealing with loud guitar volumes. Our head of audio, David Hough, remarked that sometimes steel guitar players will wire their Fender Twin speakers out of phase to get a “poor man’s stereo”. That would just drive me nuts. Both guitar channels were flipped into the same phase for the broadcast mix.
If you’ve seen Bob Mould play an electric guitar in the past 25 years, it’s probably been this very one to the right, a 1987 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster. The Fender company was bought by CBS from its founder, Leo Fender, in 1965 and the next 20 years are widely considered the nadir in quality and reputation of Fender instruments. Bill Schultz and other Fender employees bought the company from CBS in 1985 and within a couple years the Fender brand began regaining its lost glory. In 1987, Fender introduced a new line of Stratocasters that included locking tuners, the Wilkinson nut, an improved vibrato system, and Lace-Sensor pickups.
In our post show interview (which I like to call the “debriefing”), Michael Toland, ACL’s chief archivist, asked Bob to talk about his guitar.
The silver guitar to the right is a backup of similar vintage and by the looks of the fingerboard, rarely gets played.
I really enjoyed taping this episode. Bob himself was the consummate professional and gentleman as was his band and crew. All he asked of Sachiko Robertson, our monitor engineer, was a loud, clear vocal (preferably not feeding back) and then he was happy. After years of touring clubs with sketchy sound systems, that probably goes a long way.
More importantly, it’s gratifying to see someone who’s paid their dues receive deserved recognition, and still be humbled by the experience. When we were starting our soundcheck, Bob looked around the studio and remarked, “This is a big deal.” That show was true for me, too.
The Gear Blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the instruments and equipment that graces the Austin City Limits’ stage. Our Audio Engineer Kevin Cochran goes in-depth to give our gearheads some insight.
The producers of ACL are always refining and building a wish list of artists they hope to nab to appear on the show. They keep an eye on upcoming album releases and touring schedules between early March through late November, our shooting window, so that we can catch a performer in top form when they hit Texas. Some artists are obvious choices and others are favorites of a particular producer who must lobby (sometimes for years) to prevail upon the powers that be to book a taping.
Some acts clamor to play Austin City Limits. But there are others that seem like a long shot. When I heard that the “ask” for Radiohead had been made, I had my doubts. The five piece from Abingdon, Oxfordshire guards their image fiercely and hold celebrity and exposure at arms length. Their American broadcast appearances have either been late night talk shows or awards ceremonies, giving only a glancing view of their live proficiency. So when I heard that the band had been booked, I was excited but surprised. But then again, a band like Radiohead thrives on surprise.
Once again, Jim Warren plopped his Venue in front of house, this time bringing along Sherif El-Barbari to help tune the room with Lake processing. Sherif was extremely thorough and the end result is what you would expect one of the world’s largest bands to sound like.
What impressed me the most about Radiohead was that they agreed to do a full camera rehearsal. As a matter of course, we ask artists to run through their entire show so that our director Gary Menotti can watch how the band arranges and plays their material live. Many times, bands at Radiohead’s level forgo camera rehearsal, unless there are certain songs that deviate from the arrangement of their recordings. The band thought they could use a run through themselves and rehearsed every song on the set list. It’s extra work but it helps the cameramen immensely. The quality that ACL is known for is, in great part, because cameramen know what musician to focus on in every part of every song and aren’t reacting to things that have already happened like you see in some other shows.
Settings on keyboards are called patches. This comes from the days when sounds had to be physically patched by cables from oscillator to another. Jonny’s key world is a good example of how things used to be done.
Drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood really shine on King of Limbs. The intricate rhythms on the album would be hard replicate live so Clive Deamer was brought along to help out on drums. This is a repeat appearance for Clive. He previously taped with Robert Plant in Season 28. Mr. Plant happened to be on hand to watch the taping live.
Both drummers used Gretsch drum kits that night. Clive’s is on the left. Colin Greenwood’s Ampeg rig is in the back with a couple of synths.
In researching this post, I stumbled upon this very cool website: King Of Gear. This site will give you more detail about the toys and tools of Radiohead than I ever could.
For recording and post production, Radiohead brought their longtime producer, Nigel Godrich with them to record and mix in post. He was very friendly.
Radiohead is very careful about their image and public exposure. When they accepted our invitation, not only was it a feather in our cap that we would be airing one of the biggest and most enigmatic bands in the world, but an honor that a band so guarded felt safe to let us show America what they do for an hour.
In honor of iconic Texas guitarist and ACL veteran Stevie Ray Vaughan’s birthday today, our intrepid FOH mixologist and gear blogger Kevin Cochran turned in this report on the instrument also known as “the Wife.”
As far as guitars go, only a handful are as iconic (and synonymous of their players) as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One guitar. A centerpiece of the Texas State History Museum’sTexas Music Roadtrip, this is the first time this instrument has been seen by the public since Stevie Ray’s death in 1990. Vaughan made two appearances with “the Wife” on Austin City Limits: the first time in 1983 and again in 1989.
After snapping this picture, I was chastened by security that no photography was allowed inside the exhibition. As I’ve learned in the past, it only takes once to run afoul of museum muscle and then they’ll follow you around for the rest of your stay. It’s a bit of a chore trying give your full attention to the next exhibit when the security guard is only a few feet away giving you his full attention. In this case, it was totally worth it.
The original tri-colored sunburst finish has been eroded away by the rigors of years of heavy touring and Stevie’s abusive playing style. A closer inspection of the body will reveal gouged indentation of the wood above the pickguard from repeated contact of Vaughan’s guitar picks. Not just nicks and scrapes, but a deep dent that exposes the bare wood. The vibrato was swapped from the nominal set up of a right-handed player, to left-handed so that that Stevie could emulate Jimi Hendrix’s more exotic techniques. Repairs were needed quite often as Vaughan would break whammy bars and wear down frets on a regular basis. Charley Wirz and Rene Martinez are credited with most of the repairs for Stevie’s instruments.
Because of frequent refretting, the original neck became unplayable by the late ‘80’s and was swapped with the neck of another guitar in Vaughan’s stable, Scotch. Ironically, just a month before his death, a piece of stage rigging fell on Number One and snapped the neck at the headstock. It was the Scotch neck and not the original that was destroyed. Martinez acquired a replacement from Fender and Stevie was without the use of his favorite guitar for only one show. After Stevie Ray’s death, Rene replaced the new neck with Number One’s original and the guitar was given back to Stevie’s family. It now belongs to Stevie’s brother, Jimmie.
If you look closely at the photo, you can see Jimmie Vaughan’s guitar behind Number One. I didn’t get chance to grab any pictures of that guitar. It is a 1963 Stratocaster (according to the exhibit placard) with a Schecter maple neck (sporting a Fender decal on the headstock) and a salacious girly sticker on the back of the body.
It’s quite gratifying for a band at the peak of commercial success to accept an invitation to tape a performance for us – doubly so to have them to comeback and tape with us again. The producers and crew take it as a compliment that visiting artists had such a great time that they are willing to do it again, especially, since they will only be paid scale.
This post will be big on eye candy and small on the proper nouns since:
1.) There is a lot of gear.
2.) There are a lot of Arcade Fires on stage.
3.) Arcade arsonists change instruments with great
frequency (like between every song frequency).
4.) These pictures were taken a year ago and I really can’t
remember who did what, where.
Front of House was mixed by Jim Warren. This is his very own Avid Venue running through Lake EQ. Again, the near field monitors are also seated on top of rubber-based platforms to minimize vibration and give a truer reproduction of sound.
It was a real treat to work with Jim. He found a better way for us to set up our sub-woofers at the Moody Theater and had the rare skill of taking a loud band and making them sound not that loud. Mr. Warren’s expertise also tamed a room that others sometimes find difficulty mixing in.
Even though I can’t prove it, I have a sneaking suspicion the that it was Jim who gave a nod of approval about ACL to another band he mixes. The one that would be our Season 38 opener.