There’s no one in music quite like Tank and The Bangas. The New Orleans R&B, funk and hip-hop ensemble impressed ACL with a stunning show at the Austin City Limits Music Festival a couple of years ago, so it was inevitable they would appear on the show. The band made their debut on the ACL stage in support of this year’s acclaimed major label LP Green Balloon, and their presence couldn’t have been any more appropriate – Tank and The Bangas’ joyful performance capped off our 45th taping season on a high note.
The Bangas took the stage to the delight of an already pumped audience – a perfect welcome for a band from the Big Easy. After a rumbling synth intro, singer/rapper/poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball arrived in a fur cape for “Spaceships,” displaying a variety of voices as she parodied hip-hoppers – or anyone, really – obsessed with the green. A classically-inclined piano intro from Norman Spence II brought on “Quick,” a roaring tune that featured two saxophones doubling power chords and ambiguous lyrics that also incorporated work from hip-hop producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder. After Tank enjoined the audience to “make some noise,” the band immediately launched into “Nice Things,” a slinky feast of soul. The ballad “Hot Air Balloon” followed, building to a fiery sax solo from Albert Allenback, before “Smoke.Netflix.Chill,” a sweet come-on if there ever was one.
A funky groove signaled the sardonic “Do Something,” a song that starts out as a riposte to empty platitudes, before becoming an anthem of personal empowerment. The party hit another level with “Boxes and Squares,” a beautifully volatile mix of funk, hip-hop and doubled jazz sax solos. The hard funk continued on “Nile, Den and Latah,” the band bringing their entire bag of tricks to bear on a tune that got the audience hopping. The crowd was able to catch their breath (barely) with “Ants,” which found Tank rapping over a smooth seventies R&B groove. The Bangas kept the music roiling and solos flying as Tank unleashed her powerful vocal chords on “Ripperton,” in tribute to the eponymous R&B favorite, first name Minnie. To say the audience went wild is an understatement.
All that energy had to go somewhere, and that was final song “Brady’s,” in which the band took the audience on a handclapping, swaying, hopping ride through its world: sweet harmonies, crashing drums, rock guitar, relentless groove, singalong “na-na’s” and Tank’s versatile, everywhere-at-once vocal stylings. “Bye!” said Tank, and the show was over, though from the crowd’s reaction they wanted more. It was a titanic way to end our milestone forty-fifth season of Austin City Limits, and we can’t wait for you to see it when this episode when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.
Every year the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Honors feels like a homecoming. This year was no exception, with so many friends and family with us to help celebrate. For this year’s sixth Hall of Fame class, we inducted singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin, blues giant Buddy Guy and Texas icon Lyle Lovett, the man who nearly holds the record for the most appearances on the ACL stage (he’s one behind Willie Nelson), and their pals came out to start the party. It was a night to remember.
Austin drum corps Austin Samba set a festive mood to kick off the evening. KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, CEO & General Manager Bill Stotesbery welcomed the crowd and introduced ACL’s longtime executive producer Terry Lickona. He briefly recapped the show’s iconic history before ceding the stage to the evening’s host, Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen and the ceremony was quickly underway.
Keen introduced the evening’s first inductee – veteran Austinite Shawn Colvin. The legendary Jackson Browne inducted Colvin with a moving speech about her musical history and the genius that has marked it. “He’s my hero,” said Colvin, “and he just inducted me into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame.” She accepted the honor with a heartfelt speech about what Austin and the show have meant to her, before she and Browne took up their acoustic guitars for the lovely “These Four Walls,” which she called a tribute to her town. Following that, Colvin welcomed Wimberley native Sarah Jarosz, who used her mandolin for the classic lick of Colvin’s Grammy-winning smash “Sunny Came Home.” After Jarosz left the stage, Colvin was joined by guitarist Steuart Smith and bassist Larry Klein, both of whom produced records for her, and formed a touring trio with her in the nineties. “This is the first time we’ve played together in 25 years,” she declared, before the threesome nailed a version of her later-period hit “Polaroids.” Jarosz joined the trio for “Diamond in the Rough,” Colvin’s radio breakthrough – which was also enhanced by fellow inductee Lyle Lovett’s surprise appearance on harmony vocals and a thrilling Smith guitar solo. The musicians quit the stage to grand applause.
Keen came back onstage to introduce the next inductee: the one and only Buddy Guy. The blues legend was inducted by his old friend and Austin blues icon Jimmie Vaughan, who talked about discovering Guy as a kid from the album Folk Festival of the Blues, and how that put him on the path he’s followed since. “Better late than never!” exclaimed Guy as he accepted his award, garnering a big laugh. The Chicago axeman paid tribute to his own influences – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins – before thanking the audience and his fellow artists for helping to keep the blues alive. Guy and Vaughan then joined the former’s band onstage, launching into “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues,” one of many signature Buddy Guy tunes. Blues singer Shemekia Copeland came next, duetting with Guy on his latest hit “Cognac,” which made getting tipsy absolutely sensual. One of Guy’s recent mentees, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram then took the stage for a rip through “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” one of the classics from Guy’s own mentor Muddy Waters. Closing out his segment, Guy and Ingram welcomed back Copeland and Vaughan and Guy donned an electric sitar for “Skin Deep,” a deep soul ballad in the style of “Feels Like Rain” that reminded us all that we share more than we differ.
After an intermission (which featured another performance from Austin Samba), Keen returned to introduce his old friend Lyle Lovett. Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn surprised the crowd with an unannounced appearance to induct his pal, calling him “a humble maestro,” “the storytelling heir to Faulkner, Rogers and Twain,” speaking eloquently and humorously about the impact his music and friendship has had on his life. After thanking Penn, Lovett delineated how long his history with Austin City Limits goes back, from watching the show since its first season to closing out Studio 6A in 2010, before thanking the show and his family – his mother was in attendance. Then Lovett announced seminal Texas songwriter, and key Lovett influence, Willis Alan Ramsey, who sang, with help from the large band, his friend’s anthem “If I Had a Boat.” Dallas native Edie Brickell was next, taking on Lovett’s tart country ballad “I Loved You Yesterday.” The maestro himself came back onstage, thanking his crew and the Large Band, before paring the latter down to fiddler Luke Bulla, mandolinist Keith Sewell and bassist Viktor Krauss for “12th of June,” inspired by his family past and present. The Large Band returned and Lovett welcomed Keen back to the stage to sing “This Old Porch,” a song the pair of them wrote nearly 40 years ago – a fitting tribute to enduring friendships and a long-running career. Keen then invited the other inductees and guests on stage for the final song. Lovett took the opportunity to introduce the large band, including his longtime backup singer Francine Reed, who garnered the biggest round of applause.
Then it was time for the closing number – “That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas,” one of Lovett’s most famous songs and one perfect for a chorus of famous backup singers. The audience went wild as streamers came down from the ceiling, as another successful Hall of Fame taping came to a close. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as a special New Year’s broadcast on your local PBS station.
Few artists have hit the superstar stratosphere as fast as Billie Eilish. The 17-year-old L.A. native’s 2019 debut album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? debuted at the top of the Billboard charts, and has thus far spawned five top 10 singles, including the #1 “Bad Guy,” making her officially the first artist born this millennium to achieve both a No. 1 album and single. With a packed house primed and ready, we were thrilled to welcome this young artist for her ACL debut.
The show began with a darkened stage, atmospheric electronics and cries of “We love you, Billie” from the audience. Multi-instrumentalist (and her brother and primary collaborator) Finneas and drummer Andrew took the stage first, before Eilish herself sauntered onstage as the electronic pulse of her dark-pop smash “Bad Guy” began. The audience sang the lyrics louder than she did as she bounced around the stage in a chartreuse Rob Zombie shirt. “My Strange Addiction” followed, with Eilish directing the enthusiastic call and response. Though keeping to her minimalist sound, “You Should See Me in a Crown” added a harder pound to the rhythm, giving both star and crowd a reason to jump. “Scream as loud as you possibly can!” she commanded, and the audience obliged. “Idontwannabeyouanymore” proved she could handle a ballad, before “Copycat” pumped the beat back up. “Everybody go as low as you can go,” Eilish asked, so the audience could explode back up, feeding the energy back to her. The misty “When I Was Older” filled the theater with mystery and magic, belying her post-performance claim that people don’t like the tune (but that she does and will continue playing it anyway). The sprightly, sardonic “Wish You Were Gay” changed the tone in any case.
The dramatic pop song “Xanny” served as a showcase for her lush singing, though the worshipping crowd shadowed nearly every note. The big beats returned for the cheeky “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” which found brother Finneas joining her at the front of the stage. The shimmering “Ilomilo” followed, leading into the acoustic guitar-driven “Bellyache,” which once again turned into a spirited duet with the crowd. Eilish and company brought the pathos for “Ocean Eyes,” her 2015 breakout single and a fan favorite, judging from the waves. “I have only two more songs to do, and then you guys get to go home,” she said following that triumph, and clearly the audience wasn’t ready to oblige. She introduced her accompaniests and reminded the audience to be in the moment for the next song. Sitting on a stool, Eilish delivered “When the Party’s Over” with absolute conviction matched only by the young women in the front row. Barely a second passed before a glam rock gea introduced the singalong thrum of “Bury a Friend,” ending with a crowd-sung shout of the album title: “When we go to sleep, where do we go?” As a quiet outro played, the teenage megastar hopped offstage to give as many people hugs as she could, before leaving the stage. It was a show unlike any other we’ve presented, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 45.
Already a superstar in her native Spain, Rosalía has spent the last year conquering the Globe. A sensation at Coachella, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and our namesake Austin City Limits Music Festival, winner of two 2018 Latin Grammy Awards and recent recipient of five 2019 nominations, becoming the most nominated female artist for the second consecutive year, the Catalonian singer brought her smash album El Mal Querer and its groundbreaking blend of flamenco, hip-hop, reggaeton and EDM to the ACL stage for a massive taping that thrilled a captivated audience.
Producer Pablo Díaz Reixa (AKA El Guincho), four backup singers and six red-clad dancers took the stage first, joined, to huge cheers, by the star in her matching red sweater, adorned in safety pins. A slow build of ambient synth and choreography led to “Pienso En Tu Mirá,” which matched an atmospheric melody with doubletime flamenco handclaps. New song “Como Alí” upped the hip-hop quotient, leading to more rhythmic dancing and complex choreography. After her dancers left the stage, the charismatic performer expressed how happy she was to be present, given how far from home she was. She introduced the clap-driven ballad “Barefoot in the Park,” her hit collaboration with producer and pop star James Blake that puts the emphasis on her songbird vocals. The dancers returned for another new tune: “De Madrugá,” which proves you can still play flamenco without the traditional guitar accompaniment. The crowd went wild, and the singer looked genuinely touched by the wave of love from the audience. Rosalía then dropped all accompaniment for the first part of “Catalina,” an early twentieth century classic originally performed by legendary Spanish cantaor Manuel Vallejo. The singers eventually added handclaps and Reixa clattering percussion, but the spotlight remained on Rosalía’s voice and her firm grip on flamenco tradition.
After a snippet of “Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero,” the singers began their claps again for “Que No Salga La Luna,” a dramatic tune that alternated her keening vocal and examples of her classical flamenco dance. Rosalía left the stage briefly, allowing the dancers to claim the spotlight for a segue featuring a remix of 70s Romani duo Las Grecas’ “Te estoy amando locamente,” which served as a tribute to an important influence. She returned for “A Ningún Hombre,” which found the singer harmonizing with vocoder backing vocals, which shifted directly to the more sparse “De Aqui No Sales.” Following a quick spotlight on Reixa’s beatmaking, the show shifted more firmly into dance territory, starting with “Di Mi Nombre,” which mixed urban pop with flamenco. “Bagdad” functioned as a ballad, focusing once again on the star’s singing, while “Brillo” – which Rosalía cut with reggaeton artist J Balvin – worked a more sensual groove. Another remix of a classic song – this time flamenco star Parrita’s “Embrujao” – allowed the singer and dancers to hit a hip-hop flavored groove, much to the audience’s delight. “Santería” served as a way to not only introduce the folks sharing the stage with her, but also to engage in call-and-response with the adoring crowd.
Yet another new song, “Lo Presiento” returned to her sparse signature flamenco pop. She then prefaced the next song by asking the audience if they wanted to hear a track she performed at the VMAs, leading to “Yo X Ti, Tu X Mi,” her latest single. Then it was on to the irresistible smash “Con Altura,” the J Balvin collaboration that’s one of the songs that put her on the international map. Strobes and beats matched in an obvious buildup, before Rosalía announced she needed a much-deserved break. Producing a fan, she cooled herself off, before handing the fan off to a lucky audience member. The beats picked up where they left off and it was into “Aute Cuture,” another new single and her poppiest song yet. She and the dancers left the stage, but only for Reixa to set up another beat. Everyone returned for the overwhelmingly groovy “Malamente,” the breakout single that garnered six 2018 Latin Grammy nominations and pushed Rosalía from Spanish pop star to international sensation. It was a great way to end the show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 45.
Headed up by the double-headed beast made up of singer/guitarist Jack White and singer/guitarist Brendan Benson, The Raconteurs are hard-wired to play exciting, tuneful rock & roll. Joined by fellow Detroit homeboys Jack Lawrence on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums (plus utility man Dean Fertita, last seen on our stage with Queens of the Stone Age and Iggy Pop), the band is positively deadly. As we found out when the group came back to the ACL stage in support of their long-awaited third album Help Us Stranger, delivering a loud, riff-filled show for the ages, which we streamed live around the world.
With screaming guitars and thrashing drums, the fivesome hit the stage and into the blasting Stranger opener “Bored & Razed,” with White on the verses and Benson on the choruses. That wasn’t raucous enough, so the band hit the bluesy, crunchy “Don’t Bother Me” even harder. One squall of feedback later, Benson donned an acoustic guitar for “Only Child,” a folk rocker of sorts that featured Benson and White harmonizing on the same mic, bluegrass-style. The ex-White Stripes singer moved to the keyboard for the semi-ballad “You Don’t Understand,” a pop song overtaken by White’s passionate delivery and pounding piano. He stayed on his stool for “Shine the Light On Me,” a classic rock anthem for a new generation, but returned to the guitar to lay fuzzed-out guitar licks on Benson’s conflicted kiss-off “Now That You’re Gone.”
That song led straight into the rifftastic “Sunday Driver,” one of the new record’s catchiest and fiercest rockers. So an acoustic guitar had to come back out, with Benson driving “Help Me Stranger” through its mutated power popping country rock. “Thoughts and Prayers” moved back to anthemic folk rock territory, though with rumbling synth embellishment. Benson went back to acoustic for the Southern rock-inflected ballad “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying),” which keyed on ragged three part harmonies as much as loud guitars, and denied its depressive sentiment with the coda “Here right now – not dead yet.” The band double dipped back into 2008’s Grammy-winning Consolers of the Lonely for the countryish “Old Enough” and the snarling “Top Yourself,” before slamming directly into Stranger’s boogieing Donovan cover “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness).” Then a familiar beat underpinned guitars riffing in harmony, leading to an extended take on “Steady As She Goes,” the powerhouse rocker from their 2006 debut Broken Boy Soldiers that introduced The Raconteurs to the world. The crowd broke into call-and-response with “Are you steady now?” before the song crashed back into its blazing wall of guitars.
After that facemelter, the band ended the set with the crime story “Carolina Drama,” which might have been a Marty Robbins-style folk ballad were it not for the rock volume and White’s distinctive wail. “If you want to know the truth of the tale,” White sang, “Go and ask the milkman” the audience answered. The set ended, a guitar fed back, White hugged a member of the audience, and the crowd went wild. “That’s it!” said White, and it was over. It was a hell of a show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 45.
Sharon Van Etten had solidified her position as one of the queens of indie rock long before now. But her latest album Remind Me Tomorrow, with its sensual blend of folk, pop, new wave and electronics is rightly taking the singer/songwriter to a new plateau. We were happy to live stream her first-ever appearance on ACL, with Tomorrow as its centerpiece.
Her four-piece band arrived onstage first, setting up the atmospheric intro of “Jupiter 4.” Wearing a sparkling silver suit, Van Etten took her place in front of the mic, opening her golden throat to give incandescent life to the lines “It’s true that everyone would like to have met a love so real.” Then drummer Jorge Balbi kicked out an insistent beat, part disco, part new wave, to signal the irrepressible RMT single “Comeback Kid,” as Van Etten rocked it like the love child of Patti Smith and the Motels’ Martha Davis. She brought similar gravitas to the throbbing “No One’s Easy to Love,” a tune driven by Devin Hoff’s insistent bass. Donning a Gibson hollowbody guitar, Van Etten mentioned that she and the band were happy to end their tour where it began, before strumming into “One Day,” an older tune that garnered enthusiastic cheers. She applied her powerful voice to the country-tinged “Tarifa,” imbuing it with smoldering power and ending with a quick strum of Charles Damski’s guitar. Van Etten replaced her guitar with a set of chimes, as Heather Woods Broderick’s buzzy synthesizer ushered in the moody “Memorial Day.”
Electric guitar took center stage for the riff for the poppy “You Shadow,” though Van Etten’s voice easily pulled the spotlight. She stepped to the keyboard for the synth ‘n’ organ-heavy “Malibu,” which twisted California pop to her own darker purposes. On came another guitar as the band put the song through a grinding coda, with no pause before the intense, thudding rocker “Hands.” The band left the stage as she sat at the piano for a stunning solo rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys On Mopeds,” a song she noted “was made during another time of unrest, but is sadly still relevant today.” After that emotional powerhouse it was time for something more upbeat, delivered via the deceptive “Seventeen,” the poppy sheen of which was disrupted by Van Etten’s angry shouts, to the audience’s delight. She took a minute to praise and introduce her band and crew before going into the stately folk rocker “Everytime the Sun Comes Up,” another tune from Are We There. Van Etten and band ended the main set with the beautiful anthem “Stay,” to major applause.
The crowd clearly hadn’t had enough, so the musicians came back, with Van Etten back at the piano for the elegant, emotionally fraught “I Told You Everything” (“no changing my mind”). She re-donned her guitar for the last song of the night, the pounding anthem “All I Can,” from her 2012 breakthrough Tramp. It was a fine way to cap a strong show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as early next year as part of our Season 45 on your PBS station.