Musings From ACL Friday

click to enlarge Obligatory Dave Grohl shot in fuckboi double-filter mode. - JAIME MONZON
Jaime Monzon
Obligatory Dave Grohl shot in fuckboi double-filter mode.

1pm - Son Little

Guitarist and vocalist Son Little has a blues rock sound that's very reminiscent of The Black Keys with its refined grunginess — except this guy is actually black. Numerous influences can be found in his sound. One direction that merited notice was a Police-era, Sting vibe. Not only are his songs soulful but this dude also has a great voice. It breaks in just the right places— a little more than Lenny Kravitz, much less than Anthony Hamilton. His backing from a bassist who should not be slept on, Steven Greenberg, and drummer Jesse Weiner round out his sound and give everyone just enough space to work. When it comes to playing soulful, evocative music, space is everything. This was a delight to be the first thing to wander into.

click to enlarge Son Little, actually black. - JAIME MONZON
Jaime Monzon
Son Little, actually black.

2pm - Royal Blood

Clad in black and moving in time, this guitar/drum duo initially give off a certain rock perception, but the voice is pure pop, the choruses are pop. There's a reaching here. Who knew Muse only needed two people? Sometimes, stripped down just means simple, because there's not much complication in this music. Yet once the European accents appear, the inspiration for this music becomes clear — the appeal to grandiosity, that musical inflection, that winning grasp at a broad base. This crowd felt what they were hearing and they couldn't help it, it was in 4/4 time, the lyrics are simple and see-saw. Somehow these two have asked the question that when it is all laid bare and made loud, what is the essence of pop? This was an effective exercise in the fundamentals. Of course, this Austin crowd appreciated it.

4:35pm - Leon Bridges

Fanfare has already been swirling around this man, about his soulful sound and the mastery of his craft. He was one of the acts people had to see, and that's not hard to get. He is indeed soulful. He's perfect up there on that big stage. He's young, talented, has a great voice, a sharp haircut (alright, okay, okay, the hightop fade with the part in the side is officially a thing again), a cool band all dressed up. He stepped right out of 1958. And about that band…they swing! They can feel like Chubby Checker, they can feel like Little Richard, they can feel like Sam Cooke. This set is a time machine and the ease with which it happened is downright galling.

Bridges gives off the air of a travelling man. He's an artist we don't see too often, despite being a DFW resident. It is as if some bubble has formed around him that spreads through the place. This crowd is dancing, moving on the 1 & 3 even. In Austin!

There's buzz building around Leon Bridges. After this set, it's really not hard to see why.

click to enlarge That fade, though. - JAIME MONZON
Jaime Monzon
That fade, though.

5pm - Brand New

There's a lot of screaming and a lot of wailing, both of voice and guitars. Such is the frenetic and periodic melodicism of Brand New. Tones resound; the "whoa-oh"s are sincerely a part of the vibe, and in that sincerity, they held nothing back.

There's depth here, a notion to let these melodies languish some as they ripen. Space is integral to its chemistry. This is indeed a band that requires so many elements to maintain its longevity. They're a band called Brand New and they've been around for a while. Such an act surely requires maintenance and sincerity.

click to enlarge Brand New, rocking the floral Faith No More motif. - JAIME MONZON
Jaime Monzon
Brand New, rocking the floral Faith No More motif.

6pm - Tame Impala

Kevin Parker knows how to craft music very well. His albums under the moniker Tame Impala have impressed every time they've been released and seem to emerge from some fuzzy psychedelic dimension that finds more and more clarity over the years (hence the synth-ier tones of latest album, Currents). So, the move each time from solo creations from a multi-instrumentalist, to a full-fledged band playing full-fledged sets makes for a different experience altogether. When it comes to the stage visuals, the craftsmanship of the set itself is a wacko-color-washed grand old freak out party. The music, which reached back to InnerSpeaker, displayed Tame Impala's extremely impressive body of work, but one can also see how a bit of the perfunctory nature of this experience felt crammed into a one-hour festival timeslot. This was a fantastic performance, but also the last show of their tour. The fault lines between the sheer enjoyment of music and the craft inherent in the work are a bit more clear.

But...duuuuuuude, that was a full, fun and trippy one hour set that kept people dancing the whole time. Worth it.

click to enlarge Tame Impala playing the WTC? - JAIME MONZON
Jaime Monzon
Tame Impala playing the WTC?

7pm - Gary Clark Jr.

Explosive— his grittiness, the rough edges, the technical skill, it's all part of the sound and it is indeed explosive. Clark's playing ACL is as natural as breathing. He's a showman, encapsulating the bluesy, gripping act he has always been and building his image accordingly, though such scale is still a natural extension of his core self. He's the man you want to hear at sunset.

click to enlarge Austin native son, Gary Clark Jr. - JAIME MONZON
Jaime Monzon
Austin native son, Gary Clark Jr.

8pm - Foo Fighters

The question of whether one can be a showman while seated rarely depends on the size of the chair. B.B. King and (before we were all totally squicked out by him) Bill Cosby have had the ability and gravitas to grab our full attention while prostrate. After breaking his leg, Dave Grohl fashioned a rock throne from which to perform on tour, now forever realigning the elements of what one thinks of when performing seated. It's also a sign of how large and how long the Foo Fighters have been working to get this headlining spot on Friday night.

The set was a run through the catalog and it's familiar and fun. This is everything I heard in high school. The enthusiasm Grohl has in these songs feels weird in their earnest, intense enthusiasm. This is a generation now having kids. This is specifically a nostalgia act that one can pinpoint as being lost on a generation being made right before our eyes. One can see obsolescence in action. It has a familiar melody and a majestic rock cathedra. Essentially, there's a satisfaction on that stage - in the performance, in the crowd singing every word so sincerely that one may look at this moment fifteen years down the line and remember when you saw the Foo Fighters at ACL! Your teenager will roll their eyes, even though they were there as an ear-plugged toddler and totally don't remember, but you don't care, because, to you, they've always been awesome - Dave Grohl has a throne and everything!

This is that moment. Mark it now.

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