Posts Tagged ‘Austin City Limits Festival’

Austin City Limits Taping – Sonic Youth

Season 36 of Austin City Limits kicked off this past Saturday with Jimmy Cliff. The festival that bears its name starts today so that means that there are several tapings this week. I got the chance to check out Sonic Youth last night. Monsters of Folk taped Wednesday night. Band of Horses will tape Saturday night. The National will tape on Monday and the Black Keys will wrap things up on Tuesday.

Sonic Youth is one of , if not THE, elder statesman of alternative/indie/punk rock. I’ve followed them since the late 80s around the time that Steve Shelley joined. I was a big fan of his from the Crucif**ks days. The band has actually been around for over 30 years,  According to a trivia contest on their site for the La Zona Rosa show Saturday night, their first show in Austin was 08.27.1985 with Scratch Acid opening. Their most recent album, The Eternal (“Antenna”, “Sacred Trickster”, and “No Way” are stand outs), was released last summer on Matador Records after choosing not to renew on their 16 year major label relationship with Geffen/DGC records. For those of you old enough to remember, Sonic Youth played a role in Nirvana signing with Geffen in the early 90s. The two bands were featured in a documentary on their 1991 European tour that I think is out-of-print now, 1991: The Year Punk Broke. It’s a great documentary if you can track down a copy.

Sonic Youth is one of those bands that I always meant to see live, but never had the chance. They impressively re-create the wall of guitars that marks many of their songs, many of which have two bass guitars. The band is notorious for odd guitar tunings and I noticed that a lot of their guitars have tape along the head stock at each of the tuning pegs, no doubt to help the guitar techs to know how to properly tune the guitar for the songs they’re playing. I’m guessing that means there can’t be a lot of spontaneity in the set list. (more…)

ACL reviewed in big-city press

The story headline for the feature on the front page of the arts section in today’s NYT is “Hitting the Rader: A Festival Soars in Texas,” byline Nate Chinen. It’s possible that this is a first-time visit to Austin for the author. His verdict? In brief, it’s that, “judging by the strength of the music, the smoothness of operations and the fervor of crowds averaging 65,000 daily — [the ACL fest] deserves recognition as a first-tier rock fest, with a regional twist.” Cons mentioned are sound bleed between the stages, heat, and dust. Heat? This weather was practically arctic, compared to what we’ve endured thus summer! The pros, according to the reporter, are many. He seems to especially like all the must Austin-specific features.

ACL spillover

There was barely any music to be heard away from the festival site; when there was, it was full-spectrum sound, not just bass only, and it was always dampened within five minutes. This is different from other years, so there was not much in the way of free music outside a very small radius. It also seemed as though there were fewer out-of-town attendees. In saying this, I’m going only by the few requests for directions and sightings of perplexed map-reviewers. There was little evidence of touring neighborhoods in rental cars, but there were more people out on scooters and bikes. Either there was less beer-drinking, more care taken about containers leaving the park, a more sober crowd, or one composed of anti-litter activists. There was no beverage trash in any nearby gutters on any of the following mornings, including this one. One significant effect beyond the pay-to-go-in area was that dust was carried quite far by any prevailing breezes, and there’s been much sneezing to be heard. And something that has never happened before is that the aroma of cooking food and the scent of smoke covered a widespread area on Friday and Saturday nights and, minus the smell of food, well on into the early morning. It reminded me of the old days, when there were active railroad sidings downtown and when one of Austin’s largest hobo camps was along the river, concentrated near where the physical plant of the local daily covers all that once was wild. Right along by Duplex Sign, at the southeast end of the Congress bridge, on a cold morning the rising auras of woodsmoke, coffee, bacon, and chile would greet the pedestrian heading downtown to work.

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