With this second-half installment of our Austin City Limits Music Festival 2015 (ACL Fest) recommendations the emphasis is on the middle-tier acts booked. To our sensibility that is where the gold is found. A good example is TV on the Radio who played an exceptional Lollapalooza set last month. The group was booked on a second-tier stage at sundown. Their performance was spellbinding. They may not get the attention of acts like the Foo Fighters but they get plenty of respect from musicians and hard core music fans. The bulk of our recommendations reflect that sentiment.
The lone exception to our list might be Alabama Shakes as Brittany Howard and company are on a meteoric rise. Howard’s surprise solo album Thunderbitch which dropped without warning last month served to magnify the attention her band is getting. The vinyl edition has been on repeat on the office sound system as has this year’s Shakes release, Sound and Color. As good as their recordings are, Alabama Shakes live is a nearly religious experience with Howard acting as high priestess of the group. Yeah, they’re that good.
A few of the groups included below are Texas acts we like. One of the benefits of attending ACL Festival or any similar destination festival is the opportunity to see good bands from the region the event is held. If you are one of those festival goers that likes to log an entire day of music this is how you discover new bands (and get your money’s worth).
Alabama Shakes – Saturday – 4 p.m. – Honda Stage
Of the 12 bands in our list Alabama Shakes might be the most significant for a couple of reasons. First, the group is only appearing at ACL Festival during weekend one. Second, Brittany Howard is one of the most emotionally evocative artists we have seen. Period. Think the intensity of Janis but add guitar wizardry to the mix and you sort of get the idea.
The group is also slated to record an episode of Austin City Limits TV on October 2 at ACL Live. Follow ACL TV on Twitter or click the link to find out how to enter the drawing for free tickets to the performance. Typically giveaways for ACL TV are announced one week before the event. A limited number of stand by tickets will be available at the door for those willing to wait in line.
TV on the Radio – Saturday – 7:20 p.m. – Miller Lite Stage
TV on the Radio may be the most respected band on the ACL Festival bill among working musicians. The New Yorkers have been plying their trade in indie rock for almost 15 years with fantastic results. Their ACL TV taping last year (see link at bottom of page) was a bellwether performance for a group with as original approach to rock and roll as any intelligent working band today.
At Lollapalooza TVOTR was a highlight of the three-day festival. Expect more goodness from Tunde Adebimpe and company come Saturday on the Miller Lite Stage.
Ume – Sunday – 12:30 p.m. – Austin Ventures Stage
One of our favorite Austin hard rock acts, Ume is slated to hit the Austin Ventures stage Sunday. Lead by electrifying guitarist and vocalist Lauren Langner Larson, the group has enjoyed a steady rise. The group appears ahead of the female frontwoman trend that has revealed acts like Haim, Warpaint and Courtney Barnett. Last year’s release, Monuments is an Examiner favorite.
Look for Ume to include cuts from their recent EP Too Big World which dropped last April. Stream the EP on Bandcamp. Then plan on arriving to the festival early to thrash along with Langer and company on the Austin Ventures stage.
Lord Huron – Sunday – 12:30 p.m. – Samsung Galaxy Stage
Indie folk act Lord Huron is the brainchild of Ben Schneider an artist from Michigan who relocated to Los Angeles from New York in 2005. The solo project eventually expanded to a foursome comprised of Schneider’s childhood friends. The band’s debut album, Lonesome Dreams was released in 2010. The album featured a nostalgic western theme. Schneider explained the band’s’ intention:
“We had this fun idea that Lonesome Dreams was kind of this series of old adventure tales. It’s sort of a collection of pulp fiction and we wanted the videos to kind of reflect that and have that same feel and style,” Schneider said in an interview
Lord Huron’s latest release, Strange Trails has been featured on NPR and has been lauded as strong follow-up to their debut. If you clicked the link to the band’s website above then you have already discovered new Lord Huron tracks to listen to.
The Suffers – Sunday – 4:30 p.m. – BMI Stage
It is rather appropriate Houston soul band, The Suffers will be on the BMI Stage for a happy hour set to close out weekend one at ACL Festival. This is the same stage where Gary Clark Jr. has his breakout festival performance in 2013. The group is a “feel-good” act with 10 members anchored by the euphoric vocal stylings of Kam Franklin.
The Suffers performed earlier this month at Utopiafest and garnered a terrific response. Their joyful music encouraged fans to dance despite the high temperatures and humid weather. Join the party for a performance that promises a good time.
Dwight Yoakam – Sunday – 7:30 p.m. – Austin Ventures Stage
We will admit our first impression of Dwight Yoakam was he is just another country singer who happens to be a good actor. After catching the man perform at ACL Live we were forced to reassess the performer Nashville rejected in the 80s. When Yoakam got his start, “new country” was experiencing a surge in popularity while Yoakam was writing what he called new honky tonk.
The singer did not fit into that mainstream mold and headed to Los Angeles where he found himself opening for popular punk and rock bands such as X, Los Lobos and The Blasters. The unlikely pairing of Yoakam and those non-country acts informed his writing sensibilities such that several of his songs feature a rock beat as opposed to traditional country rhythms.
In a festival setting, Yoakam is fantastic as he was during his rain-delayed set at Free Press Summer Fest in Houston in 2014. You will not be disappointed if you head to the smallish Austin Ventures Stage at ACL Festival on Sunday.