This weekend's 10th Austin City Limits Festival is viewed by many to be highlight of the Live Music Capitol of the World's calendar. That's saying something in light of the behemoth known as South By Southwest (SXSW) and the upstart Fun Fun Fun Festival. (The Austin Psych Fest and the nearby Kerrville Folk, and Old Settler's Festivals are also worthy of a shout). What started as an extension of the Austin City Limits television series, the lineup focused for many years on Texas singer/songwriters, country and folk performers, and instrument specialists but over the years has evolved into a multi-genre smorgasbord that's included metal, hip hop and dance.
Now, I'll make no excuses: I'm a SXSW guy. Sure, the cost of a badge is ridiculous if'n you can't finagle one otherwise. But while you could argue that the cost keeps casual fans away, the reality is that's simply not the case. They just come for the unofficial free shows, which have exploded in number as a direct response to Festival's high price. Besides, I'll take a seeing a band in a small club vs. a big outdoors crowd every time. Either way, since it's truly the place to catch buzzworthy up-and-comers and that's your thing, then you've gotta be there.
ACL, on the other hand, is where you're likely to spot Mom & Dad out for a day that's been circled on the calendar for months. The lineup is usually stacked with more mature artists who've been around a bit, designed to lure fans who enjoy music but don't have the desire to delve into the blogosphere. Historically, it's much lower on the hipster quotient (which is where Fun Fest comes in, but we'll talk about that another time). Still, they manage to hit the right balance almost every time.
This year's headliners include Coldplay, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Aracde Fire, and My Morning Jacket along with Bright Eyes, Fleet Foxes, Death From Above 1979, Elbow, Santigold, Foster The People, Sara Bareilles, Mavis Staples, Pretty Lights, Cults, Iron & Wine, Court Yard Hounds, Alison Krauss & Union Station, the North Mississippi Allstars, Gillian Welch, Cut Copy, Manu Chao, Empire Of The Sun, Cee-Lo, James Blake, Social Distortion, Broken Social Scene, and The Walkmen. Lots more, too.
On this week's show I'll touch on a few bands I'm looking forward to seeing this weekend, alongside a host of new music you should be listening to. Two hours of The Big Beat starts at the press on a button below.
LOS CAMPESINOS! “By Your Hand” (Arts & Crafts), from Hello Sadness
WILD FLAG “Racehorse” (Merge), from Wild Flag
THE WAR ON DRUGS “Baby Missiles” (Secretly Canadian), from Slave Ambient
GARY CLARK JR. “Bright Lights” (Warner Bros.), from The Bright Lights EP
THEOPHILUS LONDON “Lighthouse” (Reprise), from Timez Are Weird These Days
THE ANTLERS “Parentheses” (Frenchkiss), from Burst Apart
STEVIE WONDER “I Wish” (Tamla/Motown), from Songs In The Key Of Life
GOTYE “Somebody That I Used To Know” (feat. Kimbra) (Samples ‘n’ Seconds), from Making Mirrors (via The Music Ninja)
SPOTLIGHT KID “Forget Yourself In Me” (Tri-Tone/PIAS), from Disaster Tourist
WE ARE AUGUSTINES “Chapel Song” (Turnout/Oxcart), from Rise Ye Drunken Ships
ELBOW “Leaders Of The Free World” (V2), from Leaders Of The Free World
DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 “Romantic Rights” (Vice), from You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (via Austin Town Hall)
ARCADE FIRE “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” (Merge), from Funeral