Category: Events

Austin City Limits 2017 Recap: The Show Must Go On

Five days after the devastating Las Vegas shooting left 59 dead and hundreds injured, all eyes were on the first major music festival since tragedy struck the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

While the organizers of the music festival, C3 Presents, offered refunds to any and all patrons who felt uncomfortable with attending an event so soon after the shooting in Las Vegas, the message from ACL’s audience was best voiced by Austin-native attendee and father of three Kyle Chandling, “We can’t let those who spread hate and violence stop us from doing what we love. The show must go on!”Beauty_304962 by Roger Ho_preview

While the show did go on, it was not without any adjustments to security and police presence. Many festival-goers felt that they were searched and patted down inappropriately, leaving Eric from Alabama saying, “I get that they’re just trying to be safe, but I just don’t know what they were looking for when they frisked my asscrack from outside my shorts.”

When I expressed my doubts to him that this incident ever happened, he pulled out a joint from his shoe and said, “It’s always the last place you look.”

However, caution was thrown to the wind as soon as the crowd got past the entrance, anxious to experience all the sights and sounds ACL had to offer.

This year, Austin City Limits introduced a brand new layout with a new stage named the Barton Springs Stage, which held performances from Tove Lo, Eagles of Death Metal, Louis the Child. Festival-goers were also treated to food vendors in an additional brand new setting, serving Austin’s signature tastes with staples such as Mmmpanadas and Amy’s Ice Cream.

Asutin-based country band Asleep at the Wheel Grace kicked off the Honda stage Friday afternoon, having the audience swinging and dancing. The ten-time Grammy Award winning band even got a shoutout from Mayor Steve Adler in the ACL Map & Guidebook, so people knew not to miss out on their performance.

Vulfpeck_00071 by Sydney Gawlik.jpg

Also shining Friday afternoon was fan-favorite Vulfpeck, a funk rock group from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The sun was beaming right on the American Express stage, but the sweltering heat didn’t stop their electrifying performance from pleasing their fans and garnering some new fans in the audience.

What seems to have been one of the biggest takeaway from Friday’s performances was actually the performance that never happened. When the ACL lineup was announced, people were excited to hear Solange perform her Best R&B Performance Grammy winning “Cranes in the Sky.” When Jay-Z was later announced to be performing at the festival, it was more expectation than speculation that Beyonce would make a special appearance to support her sister and husband.

Throughout his entire set, Jay-Z put on hit after hit, and even eased the audience into his new songs from the 4:44 album. Still, audience members were bracing themselves after every song for Beyonce to come out. Even though he brought on NBA stars James Harden and Chris Paul for Weekend One, Beyonce never showed up, leaving casual Jay-Z fans yearning for more while die-hard fans couldn’t have cared less and sang along regardless.

It was apparent that Saturday was the most popular and attended day of both weekends, with each Saturday date sold-out and second-hand ticket overpriced on resale markets. Saturday promised a mix of throwback hits from 90’s as well as modern hits from the past few years.Grace Vanderwaal_7812 by Greg Noire.jpg

Early attendees were treated to Grace VanderWaal, the winner of the 2016 America’s Got Talent competition. At only 13-years-old, VanderWaal is a child prodigy with the voice of a woman twice her age and four times the soul.

Gracing that very stage only a couple hours later, hip-hop singer-songwriter Russ brought the energy, but not the vocal follow-through, as he simply relied on a backtrack and lip synced for several songs. The crowd was hyped, and was actually one of the best crowds all day, but Russ did not deliver a performance worthy of the crowd before him.

Right before the headliners on Saturday night of Weekend One, festival-goers throughout the grounds were reminded of another tragic incident that happened earlier that week – the death of rock-and-roll legend Tom Petty. Video screens throughout the festival played Tom Petty’s 2006 ACL performance of “Free Fallin'” while members of the Red Bull Air Force Skydiving Team parachuted from a biplane above to pay homage to the late rock icon.

Shortly after the tribute, Chance The Rapper came onstage and put on an exhilarating performance. Often giving thanks to his mentor Kanye West, he played a Kanye medley which consisted of Waves / Father Stretch My Hands / Ultralight Beam. Chance took us to church with Blessings, later followed by Blessings (Reprise) as his encore. In tune with his audience, his energy was as contagious as the smile he never hid from his face after each song.

Side note: If you’re looking for a fun drinking game, take a sip of your $9 beer every time you see a white kid rapping the n-word and acting like it’s okay because it’s used in a song.

RHCP Aerial_5304 by Roger Ho.jpg

On both weekends, headliners left the stage a long time before they were scheduled to end, and Red Hot Chili Peppers was no exception, having left the stage nearly 12 minutes before the set time. Despite their early departure, they proved to be the highlight of the night, from Flea’s funky bass slapping to Chad Smith’s thumping rhythms to Josh Klinghoffer’s Tom Petty tribute with “A Face In The Crowd.”

Led by the ever-so-energetic Anthony Kiedis, the Peppers played all their huge hits towards the first half, making casual listeners head towards the exit to avoid the post-festival traffic. At around the halfway mark of their sets, the energy died from the crowd and was reflected onstage. 12 minutes off the stage too early, the audience was eager for more, but as one person beside me notably stated, “Flea already gave his ‘peace on Earth’ speech. It’s over, go home.”

Sunday started on a powerful note for many, with up-and-coming artist Bibi Bourelly opening the Honda stage with her empowering music, preaching a “fuck the haters, love yourself” mentality. The crowd was pleasantly treated to guitar solos galore during her setlist, an element that’s been missing in so much music nowadays.

Later in the day, there was another artist that was able to gather a rather diverse group of fans. Minutes before their setlist, there were people beside me learning the lyrics in a thick Spanish accent and saying the n-word freely, so that was fun! The artist I’m talking about is none other than D.R.A.M., who had one of the best crowds and gave one of the best performances of the weekend. He took the audience back in time to his first huge hit “Cha Cha,” and delivered a jubilant rendition of his crowd-pleaser “Broccoli.”

There’s no better way to end both weekends of Austin City Limits than The Killers by Rob Loud_6108.jpgending it with The Killers. Putting on arguably one of the best performances by a closing headliner, The Killers knew their audience better than any other headliner (and didn’t leave over 10 minutes before their set ended).

There was an unspoken aura of sadness before they hit the stage, with many fans acknowledging that Weekend One’s performance was The Killer’s first show since the shooting in their hometown Las Vegas. Instead of addressing the tragedy that hit their city, they opened Weekend One’s set with an homage to Tom Petty by performing “American Girl,” later followed by “The Waiting.”

The audience for The Killers showed nothing but love, singing their hearts out to “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” air-guitared along to Guitar Hero 3’s staple “When You Were Young,” and dancing to their new single “The Man.” Brandon Flowers interacted with the crowd better than any other headliner, teasing an encore following “All The Things That I’ve Done.”

At the end of the weekend, Austin City Limits showed the world that nothing can get in the way of good music & good vibes with some good friends, and while fear arose early in the beginning, there was nothing left after ACL weekend but great memories for years to come.

 

FPSF: Lightning Strikes Twice, Sparks Fly at Free Press

It was early afternoon on Day 2 of Free Press Music Fest, and the California-based Stick Figure was playing a reggae cover of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. It was then that God exhibited his twisted sense of humor, so that as the final chorus was sung, festivalgoers were notified to evacuate the premise immediately. Wish You Were Here? Attendees forced to leave halfway through the day were left wishing they could stay.

But this day, the evacuation was different – different because they had to do the exact same song and dance the day before. Except this time, they were never allowed back in.

For every great performance, there’s a stormed-out story to overshadow it. For every great bite, there’s a soggy romper crumpled up in the back of the car. For everything Free Press Summer Fest had done right and gotten under control, it will be remembered for the weather that was out of their hands.

Free Press has been under fire for years, with criticisms pointed at weak lineups and poor days of the year. C3 Presents, the festival’s majority shareholder, has been feeling the pressure ever since, made evident by their lack of ticket upcharges and single-day ticket sales.

But while the critics stayed at home, a lively and captivated audience stepped foot on Eleanor Tinsley Park to find a masterfully produced event. From corporate sponsors like Brisk and the Taco Bell Food Truck giving away free items, to the Houston Eats row of local restaurants serving some of our cities finest meals, the first half of Day One was finely tuned and orchestrated seemingly with ease.

Free Press has always strived to provide the most inclusive entertainment for the nation’s most city, proven by their large variety of artists, genres, and amenities. You know that if a festival starts Day One off with Black Swan Yoga for fit and adventurous festivalgoers alike, you’re up for a fun ride.

The calm before the storm was anything but: local artist -Us had the audience vibing to his electronica symphonies, Hurray for the Riff Raff struck all kinds of chords with their anti-war melodies, The Struts rocked out with unparalleled audience engagement, and Jon Bellion captivated an audience with a vocal range wider than Buffalo Bayou’s flood gauge.

But it was during Bishop Briggs’ set, the artist most known for the rock hit “River,” that torrential downpour flooded Eleanor Tinsley Park quite literally like a river. The hill between the Budweiser and Mercury Stages turned from a relaxing viewing spot to a muddy slip-and-slide that claimed the outfits of many, leaving many retro basketball jerseys and floral rompers looking like something you could buy from Nordstrom’s for $425.

Beneath the heavy downpour were more than attendees sprawling for the exits, but rather an amazing showcase of human nature – not what you’d expect from a summer music festival with a predominately high school audience.

While attempting to escape the rain, it wouldn’t be odd to be helped up those muddy slopes by a human chain of people, linked arm-in-arm, pulling people through as if they were horses stuck in quicksand.

While looking for shade, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to find a bridge with over a hundred people covering underneath, still managing to squeeze closer together to make room for the occasional straggler. 

While venturing towards unpopulated areas of cover, it was commonplace to find an extended poncho or blown-down Taco Bell banner draped above a swingset for use as a makeshift tent.

As terrible conditions had been, there were still people refusing to leave, even when forced out by the security crew, because the thought of that night’s musical performance overshadowed the thoughts of staying dry. And when the festival reopened their doors hours after having been closed, the festival continued as if nothing ever happened, with avid festivalgoers rushing to see the artists they came there to see in the first place.

Post Malone was grateful in his welcoming on stage, understanding the shit each and every one of the audience members experienced just to see him play. And with that graciousness, he blew the crowd away with party anthems “Congratulations” and “Go Flex” showcasing his raspy rap style and graveled vocals. He may as well been the headliner for the evening, because if anybody were to remember one performance at all that night, it was going to be his.

But Day Two came and went. Cut short well before the halfway point of the day, some had not even been able to attend Day Two at all. Hundreds of ticket payers checked their phones for any updates while huddled in the nearby parking lots, only to receive word of its cancellation and 50% refund policy.

And like that, Free Press will be remembered for its downfalls and downpours, rather than the truly amazing event it had been prior to its setbacks.

And like that, the future of Free Press remains in the balance.

 

 

Bonobo, Yppah @ GroundHall 11/19/10 (video)

groundhall from Gary Clawston on Vimeo.

The night started off with me listening to my good friends, Yppah, outside the front door to Groundhall. Why? Because I didn’t have cash and the credit card machine was down, so I couldn’t get in. Boo. From what I heard, Yppah sounded great although, sadly I can’t comment much further than that, for the aforementioned reasons.

Eventually I was able to get in, thanks to the kindness and generosity of my devilishly handsome friend Metal Adam (thanks again – I owe you one!). Bonobo, with their deep basal tones, playful keys and nonstop horns, combined with Andreya’s raspy voice make this 7 piece the type of band you can’t help but bob your head, no matter what mood you’re in. Drum & sax solo with distortion on the sax! It’s not nearly as lame as it sounds. In short, Houston loves Bonobo and I think the feeling’s mutual.

-Iris

twitter.com/iweeden

 

Exclusive: Junip @ Fitz

So I got the chance to catch Junip Friday night. I’ve been listening to these guys for a bit now but their album does not do them justice, they are spectacular live. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I got there. I mean, album is very relaxing,  a very mellow listen and as most know those shows can honestly go either way. I was more than exciting to know that these guys are true performers. A xylophone solo?.. COME ON!! Thats bad ass. Needless to say if I these guys come back to town I will surely be there and for of those who were not there this time I seriously recommend you not miss it. Enjoy the video I caught of them this past Friday night.

 

IndieHouston Goes to Fitzgerald’s to see Freelance Whales

Freelance Whales performed at Fitzgerald's on Nov. 10, 2010

NOV. 16, 2010

Last Wednesday I went to Fitzgerald’s one of Houston’s oldest and finest venues for two reasons: to experience Freelance Whales – a band that has received much media coverage over the past year; and, of course, to see Grandfather Child with Robert Ellis & the Boys perform the songs that have made both bands local legends.

Based in Queens, N.Y., Freelance Whales is comprised of 5 people all of which are multi-instrumentalists. The muted drums, harmonium, banjo, & xylophone were all nice touches and I believe is the main factor that sets this band apart from others. Their synthisized tones and vocals, though, reminded me of The Anniversary, which, if you haven’t heard of before – I highly recommend. Although Freelance Whales reminded me of one of my favorite groups, their energy simply wasn’t present – it seemed to me as if they were deflated or perhaps exhausted from the tour. Even the audience, despite cheering and yelling requests for Broken Horse and The Great Estates, also seemed unenthused and didn’t really dance. I say that with the caveat that Houston audiences generally seem unenthused and don’t dance (tsk tsk).

I understand this isn’t a band that you’re going to rock out too – they are much more mellow – the type of band you listen to on a rainy day. Their sound is so soft and sublte, the build ups they had were nice but still anti-climactic. Maybe that’s what they’re going for, but I think you can still be a somber band and put on a great live performance that leaves the crowd pumped and talking about what a great experience it was. In fact when the show was over, and as I walked with the crowd down the stairs, I really didn’t hear much banter about the show. People didn’t linger, they just left Fitz – don’t they know Robert Ellis & the Boys are playing?!?! Seriously, if you haven’t seen them or Grandfather Child you’re missing out.
I asked a couple of people in the crowd what they thought of Freelance Whales, here are their responses:
Nathan like Freelance Whales because of their “thriving 4/4 rhythm and airy melodic tunes”
Austin came to the show because he “heard one song [online] and there wasn’t shit to do on Wednesday night.”


Iris Weeden
twitter.com/iweeden

 

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