Austin City Limits Music Festival – Weekend 1 Day 3 Review

Daughter 1

The final day of ACL Fest Weekend One had come.  It was definitely the most anticipated day of the festival for me after seeing the stellar lineup.  It was a big day for the UK and Philadelphia artists.  I started things off at the Miller Lite stage seeing Daughter, an atmospheric folk trio from the UK.  Lead singer Elena Tonra has one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.  Her lyrics are so poetic and have so much depth to them.  The atmospheric elements added by Igor Haefeli on his electric guitar brings so much intensity to Elena’s songwriting.  When you add in the drums on top of everything by Remi Aguilella, you get masterfully done music.  This band is definitely one that I don’t think I could ever tire of.  Although it’s pretty dark and there is a lot of tension in the music, the rawness and passion that comes across in the songs is pretty powerful to see live in person.

Daughter 3  Strand of Oaks

The next band of the day was Philadelphia songwriter Timothy Showalter’s project, Strand of Oaks.   The set consisted of mostly cuts off of his newest album, HEAL.  He snuck in “Sterling”, off of his album, Pope Killdragon, but other than that he played songs from HEAL.  HEAL is like a cathartic byproduct of Timothy Showalter going into the studio with his life story and a guitar.  My favorites of the set were, “Shut In”, “Plymouth”, and his final song and Jason Molina tribute, “JM”.  Showalter and the genuine nature of his song shined brightly on the middle stage of ACL.


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Next I headed over to the Samsung Galaxy Stage to catch my most anticipated act of the day, Ben Howard.  Ben is a special performer and artist in my opinion because he puts absolutely everything into his music.  Though not as prolific as fans may want him to be in his career thus far, you can tell that he really spends an incredible amount of time crafting his songs until he gets them exactly how he wants them to sound.  In a live setting, he is absolutely the most amazing performer that I’ve ever seen.  The emotion that comes across through his music is unparalleled in my opinion.  He played all new songs off of his 2014 album, “I Forget Where We Were”.  He started off with the 7+ minute single, “End of the Affair”.  The thing I like best about Ben in a live setting is that the dissonance and sometimes pure tension in his music is amplified tenfold.  He gets really into the music and it comes across as if he’s putting everything that he has into each song.  Where there’s space, there’s meant to be space.  Where there’s delayed guitar on top of delayed cello, it was meant to be there.  Every minor detail seems to be crafted.  Every word sung during the set felt as if it was genuinely meant, as if he was speaking directly to each person in the audience.  My favorite song of the set would have to be “Rivers in Your Mouth”.  When he starts to yell the latter half of the lyrics, it hits you really hard and gives me chills every time I hear it.  Then he finished off the song with some epic instrumental ending incorporating the entire band playing their parts symphonically.  Ben and his band are extremely talented and seem to have serious command over the instruments that they play.  Having said that, they all stay within their roles so well.  They do what they do in service to the song as a whole not just their specific part of the song.  There’s no real point when one person is soloing really long or stepping out of the song.  It’s well crafted, no need for showboating.  Everyone is almost holding back a bit, adding to the tension as it leaves a bit up to the listener’s imagination.  This also leaves a nice platform for the lyrics wander around and linger.  Though the soundscapey set was short and he seemed to have left the stage a bit early, he played one of the most memorable sets that I saw at the festival.

ben howard1   Kurt Vile1From the headline stage, I went back to the middle stage of Zilker Park to see another Philadelphia songwriter, Kurt Vile play with his band The Violators.  Kurt Vile’s newest record, “B’lieve I’m Goin Down” is pretty amazing and I was anxious to be among one of the first crowds to hear that material in a live setting.  He started off the set with a new one, “Dust Bunnies”.  He played songs from all time periods of his career thus far.  From songs like “Freak Train” to “Jesus Fever” to “Pretty Pimpin”.  His stage banter is hilarious.  He’s extremely dry and deadpan in his delivery of jokes in between songs.  My favorite song of the set was “Wild Imagination” which he played on his acoustic guitar with the backing of his band.   He ended things with “Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze”.  I may be biased because he’s from Philadelphia, but I think he’s one of the best songwriters out there right now.  His ability to take serious subject matter and inject humor into it, is amazing.  Some people don’t see Kurt’s sense of humor and mistake it for extreme egoism, but he’s really going for the complete opposite in most cases.  All in all, a great set by the Philadelphia native.  Definitely check him out live if you haven’t already.

Kurt Vile 2

From Kurt Vile, I went to the Honda Stage to check out UK indie rockers, Alt-J.  Although I was pretty far back, I could hear their set and it was pretty incredible.  They played songs from both albums, “An Awesome Wave” and “This Is All Yours”.  The lead singer of Alt-J has one of the most unique voices I’ve heard.  It almost sounds as if he’s putting through an effect pedal, but it’s his genuine voice.  Among my favorites in this set were, “Left Hand Free”, “Tessellate”, and “Hunger of the Pine”.  I’ve wanted to see them live for some time now and they were pretty awesome.  They are so much better live than their records portray them.

From Alt-J, I went across the park to catch Hozier play.  Hozier is an Irish songwriter with a voice that could knock you off your feet.  He has such a powerful presence on stage using mostly his vocal chords for that power.  He did have a band with him, but he is such a strong singer that most times it felt like it could have been just him up there.  His music is really given life in a live setting.  The crowd at the Homeaway stage was very receptive and chanting and cheering long before he even took the stage.  He included a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”.  He ended with his mega-hit “Take Me To Church”.  An incredible live performer.

ACL was quite an experience.  It was a great three days of music and I’m glad that I had the opportunity of attending and writing about the experience.  Although it is a crazy and a heavily populated atmosphere, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Zilker Park for Austin City Limits Music Festival – Weekend One.



Austin City Limits Music Festival – Day 2 Recap

ACL stage

Austin City Limits Day 2.  The madness ensued around a vibrant Zilker Park this past Saturday.   The day had the all of the fixings to be a great one.  The weather was pretty much perfect and there was an excellent lineup in store for festival goers of all tastes in music.

I started my day by wandering over to the opposite end of the park as yesterday’s start for my first show at the Honda Stage.  There I saw Father John Misty, Josh Tillman’s solo moniker that he took on while making the the transformation from the former Fleet Foxes drummer and solo artist J. Tillman to a satirical, catchy, well written solo songsmith.  His newest album “I Love You Honeybear” is also very high on my “albums of the year” list (If I were to actually keep such a list).  His newest material is so refreshing in a pop music world that’s so oversaturated with some serious garbage.  He plays really heavily on what most songwriters take too seriously, the subject of love.  He explains it in the most real, straight forward, and of course, satirical manner.  The great debate is at certain moments when you can’t tell for sure if he’s being serious or being ironic.  He walks the fine line very well.  I think that he’s pretty obviously being sarcastic most of the time.  A great example was when he came out to the crowd during his song, “Bored in the USA”, took a fan’s smartphone from someone who was filming the song and pretended to take a selfie of himself singing the last chorus of the song. He stopped the song and says, “Shit, I didn’t get it. Can we try it again?”  To me, it was a blatant shot at everyone who was on their cell phones the entire gig shooting videos and photos rather than actually taking in the full experience of a live show.  But who really knows?  He could just that tacky.  A couple more of my favorites from the set would have to include, “Chateau Lobby #4″, and the finale, “Ideal Husband”.  All in all, it was a very sardonic atmosphere surrounding the entire set, but through the heavy dose of sarcasm and irony he was able to create a refreshing take on subjects that are usually taken with almost too much sincerity.

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From there I moved onto the Miller Lite Stage to catch Shakey Graves’ afternoon set.  He performed one of the most energetic sets I’ve ever seen from him.  He started things off with a solo version of “Bully’s Lament” which was one of the first songs that I ever heard by him. He went on to covered all facets of his material, going straight into “Roll the Bones”.  From there he moved into a few songs off of his newest album including “The Perfect Parts”, “Family and Genus”, “If Not For You”, “Dearly Departed”.  He even snuck in a live favorite of mine “Where A Boy Once Stood”.  The troubadour finished off the electrifying set with a solo version of one of my favorite cuts of his “Late July” with just a guitar and his signature suitcase drum.  He played with a guitarist/bassist, and drummer, “Boo”, for most of the set.  Shakey Graves is one of those performers who really seems to always put everything he’s got into his music when up there performing.  He’s not just making a bunch of noise either.  His use of dynamics is pretty incredible and I would even dare to say unparalleled in performances that I’ve seen.  At one point he was wailing on his guitar, stopped and hushed the crowd, went back to wailing, then would hush them again.  This was a glimpse at how overall he was able to have great control over the audience and his music throughout the entire set.  He was very humble up there upon entering and exiting the stage and seemed extremely grateful to be granted the opportunity to play to such a large audience at ACL.


From there I had a bit of a break in the acts that I had planned to check out, so I hung out toward the back of the Samsung Stage area, at the other end of the park, to see Twenty-One Pilots.  They played a really incredible live show.  I’ve never seen or heard of this band and was really impressed with their stage presence.  They kept the crowd extremely involved throughout the whole show.  The best way for me to describe their music is as an indie pop, with a dash of alternative hip-hop thrown in the mix.  It was entertaining in a live setting, for sure.  At one point the lead singer climbed to the top of the rafters of the Main Stage and continued singing his song.  It looked pretty sketchy and I have to admit, I couldn’t see too well from afar, but it left everyone sitting there in awe.  At another point in the final song, he and his bandmate went out into the audience and stood on platforms held up in the crowd and played a final drum solo. It was a really cool show to see, especially since it was so unexpected for me.


From there I saw glimpses of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who’s latest album is amazing.  The indie rock outfit signed to Jagjaguwar was definitely a highlight for me.  They really killed it in a live setting especially since they were on a stage that was so prone to getting drowned out by the larger ones. Highlight from them was “Multi-Love”.

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Next up was Jose Gonzalez who played a crazy intimate set with a chaotic and loud atmosphere.  He had a band to back him playing mostly acoustic instruments.  He was playing his solo material and snuck in some material from his band, Junip.  My favorite song of the set was “Line of Fire” which was done solo and completely acoustic without bandmates.  It was pretty amazing.  He included his cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” and ended with the popular “Heartbeats” acoustic cover.  It was a really incredible set and great to see that such quiet music with so much depth could be played in a festival setting like that.

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From there I saw TV On The Radio, who had one of the biggest side stage crowds that I’ve ever seen.  They were really amazing to see in such a large atmosphere like Zilker Park.  Although the sound wasn’t as good as the ACL taping that we saw earlier this year, the energy being given off by them and reciprocated by the crowd was really cool.  They played music from all ends of their career from “Happy Idiot” to “DLZ” to “Wolf Like Me” to their finale and crowd favorite, “Staring At The Sun”.  TVOTR has had two amazing shows that I’ve had the privilege of bearing witness to and they were both amazing.  They’re a really great live band.

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From TV on the Radio, I had to pick a headline show.  Both artists are not artists that I would normally be inclined to see, so it was a tough choice.  It was between deadmau5 and Drake.  Since I saw most of Disclosure (UK electronic band) the night before, I decided to go with Drake.  Let me start off by saying that Drake is an immensely talented individual who has the potential to make great rap music.  Coming from a bit of a hip hop head, I can even admit that he has good cadence and flow, he can sing, he writes extremely catchy melodies.  The beef that I have with Drake is that he doesn’t use all of that to create music that has substance.  He seems to sell out, in my opinion, to “pop-rap” that you can hear all over every turn of a radio dial.  He’s definitely better than some other mainstream rappers, but he doesn’t seem to say something anything that’s really insightful in a non-dramatic.  His music (for the most part) doesn’t appeal to me or say anything worth listening back to. Sure, he has a line here and there that will stick with me and that I can get behind, but for the most part it’s just fluff.  He did give off some seriously hype and energy though.  He fired up the crowd with what they wanted to hear.  How much more could the music industry ask for?  I really do wish that I had counted the number of times that he mentioned that he loved Austin.  End rant.  All in all though, for the portion of the set that I stayed for, he did give the festival an entertaining headlining set, key word entertaining.

Lastly, I have to make sure that I comment on all of the great food at ACL.  This festival has one of the best food selections of any music festival that I’ve ever been to.  It’s all local eats from great restaurants around town. Where else can you get a Freebird burrito for lunch and East Side King for dinner at a music festival?

A review of my final day at ACL is on the way…



Austin City Limits Music Festival – DAY 1 RECAP


Austin City Limits.  I was warned about how crazy, gigantic, and insanely packed this festival is, but I still underestimated it.  I got to the festival entrance and all I could hear was the thud of bass clashing with a bombardment of synths and keyboards coming from the Samsung Stage at the far end of the park.  It was Tame Impala playing a new song off of their newest album Currents.  Tame Impala’s show was quite a spectacle and consisted of a mix of newer and older material.  His older psych-rock leaning, Pink-Floyd-reminiscent material was fantastic live.  Most of the highlights for me though were off of Currents, which is definitely ranking highly on my “albums of the year” list so far.  His soulful falsetto was extremely on point even in the noisy live setting of Zilker Park.

After Tame Impala, I went to grab a spot at the Gary Clark Jr. show across the field.  He walked out on stage and you could tell that he had home field advantage over the rest of the acts.  He started things off with “Bright Lights”.  He was backed by fellow Austinite and guitar legend, Eric Zapata, his drummer, Johnny Radelat, and his bassist, Johnny Bradley.  Some other highlight songs for me were “Grinder” off of the new record, and my personal favorite “When My Train Pulls In”.  Toward the latter half of the set, Gary brought out his two sisters to sing his incredible new song, “Church” which he played without the band, but with the help of his two sisters for background vocals.  He ended everything with his new hit, “The Healing”.  Very impressive night by the guitar hero.  The entire crowd busted into a “Gary” chant in the middle of song change and he stopped to take it all in.  At first when listening to the new album through headphones, I wasn’t sure what to think of it.  It wasn’t him purely showing off his god-like guitar skills.  He seemed to be taking a step back from just wailing all up and down the guitar neck, but after seeing this live set at ACL Fest you can consider me a massive fan of the new material.  He’s proving himself to be not just one of the greatest guitarists ever, but he’s also an amazing songwriter.  His songs are so well put together.  It seems like he’s put serious time into making the songs whole and bigger than just a series of great guitar solos.  There’s still plenty of that in his new songs, but he’s seemed to really be developing his writing ability and other aspects of song production around the jaw-dropping guitar moves.

I finished up the night by first catching the beginning of the Foo Fighters headline set.  Dave Grohl is such a badass.  He was in a cast from a broken leg he got during a set earlier this year and sat through the entire set, but still played a really badass show.  I caught a bit of that set and wandered over to the other big stage to see UK electronic duo, Disclosure, play.  I hadn’t heard their newest record, but was a huge fan of their last album.  I always find it weird to see an electronic band play live, but they did it well.  They definitely didn’t just press play on a laptop and dance around.  They were playing instruments, and mixing things themselves on stage live, which was really awesome to see.  They played an extremely energetic set and had the whole crowd dancing.  The lights and visual aspect of the set was show in and of itself.  During the encore they announced that their new album had just reached #1 on the UK charts that day, after getting the news at the end of the set.  They celebrated and ended with their hit featuring Sam Smith, “Latch”.  It was a great first start to a great weekend at ACL.

ACLDisclosure2   ACLDiclosure  ACLDisclosure3


Unplugged mostly at the Scoot…

Two bluegrass bands on the bill! It was packed and the only folks I knew were in the bands. This is awesome because a whole new crowd digs bluegrass. I hope old settlers is paying attention.

For weeks, I wanted to be at this show. I did not know Wood & Wire by name and was looking forward to checking out someone new to me. By this point, I know most of the music that I see.  I rolled in as they were picking. I looked up to see my favorite mandolin player, Billy Bright. Sure Grisman is a god, but Billy tears it up and down. Some of the best music experiences I’ve had have been with the two high string band and the Texas trio. I know someone you can agree… so I loved this band right away. A guitar, bass and banjo shared the stage. They traded off solos and vocals. I dug this band… next up was the whiskey shivers. Pure fun. I has seen them a few times at the Continental Club. Like the opener, they also owned the crowd. The violin guy had the meanest mullet I have ever seen. He is actually a nice guy . The percussionist who also looked mean, came down to ask me how I liked the show on his way to play an encore in the middle of the crowd. I had a great time. I even bought a poster. Both groups were solid and have a new fan.

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Sonny Rhodes served us blues last night at Justines Brasserie

I love this place. I feel like I am in France as soon as I enter. That sounds cliché or made up. Trust me, that is no bs. The place is authentic. Back in the day I did an exchange program in middle school and spent some time in Paris. Though I was too young to hang in cool clubs. I knew they existed. Years later, I became a student of Henry miller’s literature. I read everything he wrote. The whole ex-patriate thing was just cool to me. Justines Brasserie is a place they would’ve frequented. The food there is other worldly. I’ve only eaten there a few times but each time was beyond good.  I have some good old friends involved with the establishment. I do not get over there as much as I’d like, so when I heard about this gig, I just had to be there.




Blues with gumbo and cornbread. Straight up blues at that! The Everreadies ft. Pamela Allen  opened and they just killed it. I have never heard ” wang dang doodle” performèd that wày. Pamela’s voice was smooth and sultry. It really just fit in with the room. Next up, Sonny Rhodes. The attention of the packed room was mostly his before he played a note. He played his slide and sang which caused the audience to sway and shake. Such a good night. They don’t host music that often,

but when they do it is an awesome time…


Kooza in Austin! Cirque is at the cirquit!

Photos: Matt Beard, Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt ©2012 Cirque du Soleil

Photos: Matt Beard, Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt ©2012 Cirque du Soleil

This is a great location for this tent show. For the past number ôf years, I have avoided the performances because of location. I don’t care to much for Çedar Park. I loved this show.

This was my second trip out to the Cirquit of the Americas. We could see the over sized and modern designed, many pointed circus tent as soon as we made the turn towards the racetrack. It was  awesome, like some  old-school, trippy cartoon. My imagination was on fire. I could not wait to go inside. Let me just say to those who have  been asking about the venue, it is their traveling tent. It is on the parking lot of the racetrack. The tent was made for the experience. I felt like I was in a Terry Gilliam film as I rolled into the first set of tents. We found our seats and watched as performers moved through the audience. They were clowns. Seriously. Not the scary kind, they were comically transfôrming all of us into children. There  were some kids there but I think this is an experience geared towards making adults feel like children again, I know it worked on me. The sèt designs and the costumes are amazing . The acrobatics are jaw dropping incredible. Actually, I was impressed by every performance. Awe inspiring IS an understatement.

i recommend this experience …



Gary Clark Jr. slays us at a taping of Austin City Limits

Photo by Gary Miller

Photo by Gary Miller

This is one I had to be at . It is always great to see him take this stage.  The KLRU tapings are always the best. I am on a first name basis with most of the volunteers and staff. It is a homecoming at every visit. To the point that I have declared many times ” I love it here, I don’t care who is playing. Îf they sucked I’d still enjoy it!” I have alwaze liked the musîc, so I wonder why I have said that. Its the old Austin frièndly vibe and KLRU keeps it alive and well.

This show was all about Gary’s new album, “… Sonny Boy Slim.” He played most of it. The band was rocking hard and loud. Two backup singers joined them on stage. My favorite new addition to the band,  besides Mr. Zapata’s new hat, is The Hardproof Horns. They grooved in perfectly as alwaze. More friends on that stage.  Gary is in a position now that he could’ve brought in anyone tô play horns, but he kept it local.  I have mad respect for that. The best sound is the local sound.  So glad, he still knows that.Who is gonna break out next?

Count me in for the nlbum.…it is gonna be awesome.

All AtX presents: all along the moontOwer 8/26/2015

A concert of some of Austin’s finest musicians benefitting HAAM and future nonprofit ALL ATX Music Factory at ACL Live, to air on KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. As well as the annual “Austin Music Legends Auction” with all proceeds benefiting HAAM.


Special guest TODD RUNDGREN











BIG CAT (ft. Malford Milligan and Dave Sebree)


And many more!

In 1966, the Austin American-Statesman first coined the term “psychedelic rock” in an article covering the sound waves generated by Austin’s own The 13th Floor Elevators—giving an official name to a style that has since threaded its influence over generations of Austin rockers.

In recognition of our psychedelic roots, ALL ATX is proud to bring together some of this city’s finest musicians, including The Black Angels, Ian Moore and Gina Chavez on stage with special guest Todd Rundgren, in support of our local music scene.

Proceeds from this event, which will be taped by KLRU for national distribut3n later this fall, will go to HAAM as well as the future nonprofit ALL ATX Music Factory.

The mission of Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) is to provide access to affordable health care for Austin’s low income, uninsured working musicians, with a focus on prevention and wellness.

Doors: 6:00 PM · Show: 7:00 PM

2nd Annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Thursday night was the 2nd Annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Moody Theater. It was a fantastic night of music honoring some amazing musicians who were and will always be legends of the ACL stage. The night consisted of some amazing singers and songwriters each paying homage to the inductees and covering their most impressionable songs (some inductees even came out to play a few songs themselves).

Photo by Scott Newton

Vince Gill and Patty Loveless. Photo Credit to Scott Newton

The night was hosted by Dwight Yoakam and things started off with Patty Loveless singing Loretta Lynn’s “Coalminer’s Daughter” backed by the ACL all-star house band. Patty sang a few Lynn covers Vince Gill came out to join Patty Loveless for duet, “After the Fire is Gone”. After, Lyle Lovett came out to take the stage to say some words and accept on behalf of Guy Clark. After Lyle played a Guy Clark song, Jason Isbell came out to do a few solo acoustic covers of Guy’s songs, one of which was “Desperados Waiting For A Train”. After honoring the songwriting legend and reminiscing his connection to ACL and Texas songwriting, the mood switched completely, turning to a Tex-Mex affair while honoring the great Flaco Jimenez. Flaco accepted his induction and said some very kind words about ACL and what an honor is was to be inducted. Los Texmaniacs took the stage with guitarist David Hildago of Los Lobos to honor Flaco. Flaco even stuck around and played some accordion and sang a few songs with the band. It was high energy and was really inspiring to see him still able to tear it up on the accordion.

Flaco Jimenez.  Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Flaco Jimenez plays accordion with the Los Texmaniacs. Photo Credit to Scott Newton

After Flaco’s induction there was a short intermission. Then, Gillian Welch came out to induct the Texas legend, Townes Van Zant. It was pretty moving to hear about all of the great memories that Townes created and what an impression he made on so many people. His son, JT, came out to accept the award on his father’s behalf and gave a powerful speech honoring him. The performances that followed honoring Townes Van Zant created the most haunting atmosphere of the night. The gently fingerpicked guitar was enough to silence the crowd and left everyone in their seat reminiscing the Texas Troubadour. Gillian Welch sang a few songs with her partner Dave Rawlings. Laura Marling came out and played a stunning cover of “Colorado Girl” and JT even came out and played one of his Dad’s songs.

Gillian Welch presents JT Van Zant with ACL HOF award for his father Townes Van Zant. Photo credit to Scott Newton.

Gillian Welch presents JT Van Zant with ACL HOF award for his father Townes Van Zant. Photo credit to Scott Newton

Laura Marling sings "Colorado Girl".  Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Laura Marling sings “Colorado Girl”. Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Last, but not least, Ray Benson was inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame with his band, Asleep at the Wheel. Vince Gill gave the induction speech and passed the award off to Benson. Ray Benson brought out the most current members of Asleep at the Wheel to play a few songs along side him for the crowd.   The evening ended with all of the performers, Dwight Yoakam, the all-star house band, and the inductees all playing Townes Van Zant’s, “White Freightliner Blues”. It was an incredible night of music and I am glad that we got the opportunity to be apart of this once in a lifetime experience with so many acclaimed musicians sharing the same stage.

Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel perform.  Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel perform. Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame

Everyone performs “White Freightliner Blues” to end the night.  Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame

The final song of the evening.  Photo Credit to Scott Newton

Sundaze Conversations #13: Willie Pipkin

willie sundaze conversation

Get to know Willie Pipkin with us. Willie has more residencies going on that anyone I know and somehow he seems to add more. This guy is all about the music. When he isn’t playing, he is out watching. It’s really cool that if I’m not seeing an act with Mr. Pipkin playing, chances are he is in the crowd. In fact, a few years ago when I was getting this paper started, I used to often be at Blue Monday at Antone’s. Week in, week out, there were like 5-10 regulars, the Kung Fu Dancers were my favorites, but Willie, dreadlocks and all, was usually there. So is Willie Pipkin my favorite local guitar player? I can’t answer that because I have so many and I am out there digging them every night. I can say that my Sundaze ritual has been to see him play at Sinner’s Brunch. He is also a side gun for Toni. If you haven’t seen this guy, please change that. He’ll be a name that everyone will know soon. Thank you Willie for the time and the words. Thanks to Greg Etter, John Grubbs and CC Bonney for making this happen.


AustinDaze: Why do you do what you do? What kind of drives you to be a musician?

Willie: Lately, it is just who I am now. I play almost every night of the week, and I just fall in love with it more and more every day. I love playing guitar. More today than I did yesterday. That’s just what drives me. It’s just become who I am. What used to drive me really was all the players here in town, like Derek O’Brien, Jimmy, Johnny Moller. Guys like that, I just dug their sound. I always strived to get to that level. I’m still trying to get to that level. But now, I just relax and play. It has become what I do.

AustinDaze: When and how did you start to play guitar?

Willie: I started at 15 years old. My father owned a baseball card shop with Clifford Antone of Antone’s. I used to go up there and hang out with my dad, and I met Clifford through him, and other musicians that used to hang out at the card shop. One night Clifford took me into the club, which was right next to the card shop, and I heard some blues. I knew that night that that’s what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I fell in love with it immediately. So I threw away all of my hip hop records and bought a guitar. I actually got my first guitar lesson from Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, even though I didn’t really know who he was at the time. That’s who taught me my first Jimmy Reed turnaround and everything. That’s when I first started playing.

AustinDaze: When you first started, were you just interested in blues, or country, or what first?

Willie: When I first started, it was nothing but blues music. There is so much great music happening in Austin, that’s what I got into. I really got into Derek O’Brien. I would buy records that he produced or played on, and would just go home and play along with him trying to figure out how he did what he did. So it was always blues for me at first. And I always loved country music. Since I got out of high school, I fell in love with country music. I play it a little bit, but blues is my main thing. All the other stuff kinda came later. When I first started playing in bands, I had a punk rock band called One Trick Pony. We would play just punk rock music, because friends my age they didn’t care for blues, it wasn’t their thing. So I would just adapt to them. Out of that punk rock band turned into a country band, backing up a guy named James Hyland. Then that country band turned into a bluegrass band that became South Austin Jug Band. So I spent most of my 20’s trying to play bluegrass music and acoustic music. Which gave me good acoustic chops to where I could play blues and folk music, and country and bluegrass. Kinda like what I do with Toni Price now. That whole Jug Band thing got me there. But it’s always started with blues, and will always end with blues.

AustinDaze: There are some obvious gigs that you have: Little Elmore Reed on Mondays that you do weekly, you do Sinner’s Brunch at Jo’s almost every Sunday, Toni Price every Tuesday, Warren doesn’t do it all that often any more, but you do the Brew Birds on Sunday night, Tameca on Thursday. What are the ones we don’t know about? Here’s a good question: There are a lot of Austin musicians that have day jobs, which is just the reality of some situations. But I don’t know that you do, do you just play?

Willie: Yeah, I’m just a musician.

AustinDaze: How many gigs do you have to do a day for this to work? Do you try to do two or three daily, or does it just work out that way?

Willie: It just works out that way. Right now, I have 5 and a half weekly gigs, or is it six? Five and a half I think right now, because Warren is only doing the Brew Birds once or twice a month. But it just happened naturally. I know so many people here now. People just call me, you know?

AustinDaze: What are the ones we’re missing? There’s Peacemakers on Wednesday.

Willie: So, it’s every Sunday here at Jo’s, Monday with Little Elmore Reed Blues Band, Tuesday night with Toni Price, Wednesday night with the Peacemakers at Evangeline’s, Thursday night with Tameca Jones. Then the weekends are wide open for me to play with Warren or Tameca. Both of them always have something going on the weekends. But I also get calls from guys to play pick up gigs, like Travis Green, who is a singer here in town. He’ll just call me randomly wanting me to play with him. Or Paul Minor calls me up to play with the Texas Tycoons. Just random stuff like that. And then guys will come in from out of town looking for a guitar player. A lot of times I get to back up guys like harmonica players coming to town looking for a guitar player. I’m on a list of guys.

AustinDaze: One obvious one is Lazy Lester. You got to record with him?

Willie: Yeah, I did a little bit of recording with Lazy Lester. He’s making a country music record here in town. He came to town a couple of times. I got in on one of the sessions, so hopefully I’ll make the record. We pulled in Warren Hood as well.

AustinDaze: Tell us the story of how you met Lazy Lester.

Willie: I got lucky. Every time Lazy comes to town, he stays with Grady Pinkerton, who is a great guitar player here in town. One night Grady came out to one of my gigs, and we were talking about Lester and I was just telling him how I love Lester so much. And he said, “Well next time Lester comes to town, why don’t you come and be in the band?” That just floored me. I was like, “I would love to do that. If it doesn’t work out, that’s cool, and thanks for the offer.” And so we left it like that. Then a couple of months later, Grady called me and said, “Hey, Lester was in town. I think you’d be great. Come out and play with us.” So I went out and played with them. Then it turned out that Lester wanted to do some recording. So I just happened to be there and played some with him. Like I said, I just got lucky, thanks to Grady Pinkerton for that. It was just a great honor to be able to do those gigs with him.

AustinDaze: You tour all over the country and all over the world, what makes playing in Austin so special? 

Willie: You know it’s just the other musicians I get to play with. Everybody brings their own unique thing to the music. That’s my favorite thing. Last year, I did a lot of touring with Warren Hood and Hayes Carll and Emily Gimble. That was fun and all, but right now I’m so busy in Austin. And I just love it, because I get to play with all these amazing people. Like today, we had Greg Izor fronting the band. Greg Izor is a world class harmonica player, blues player. It’s such a great pleasure to play with him. Sometimes it’s Emily Gimble, who is one of the best singers you’ll ever hear. I get to play with her, I get to play with Tameca Jones. The list goes on and on.   So that’s my favorite thing, it’s just the community we have here in Austin. And all the world class musicians I get to play with every week, it’s just amazing.

AustinDaze: What is going on when you and Eric are playing with Tameca? Sometimes it’s like, not really a competition, but sort of throwing things back and forth with each other.

Willie: Yeah, me and Eric Zapata get to play together on the Tameca Jones gig. It’s just a pleasure playing with him. He’s just another type of guitar player that when I play with him, I have to step up. He’s another world class musician. We both have fun, because we’re both guitar dorks. We spend all day every day, me and Zapata, searching out old gear, old guitar effects pedals and everything. So when we get to play together, we have so much fun.

AustinDaze: So Austin’s been growing, obviously, over the years. How has that affected the life of a local musician?

Willie: The unfortunate part about it is that rent has gone up so really high, and property values have gone up. I don’t see me ever being able to buy a house here any time soon. That’s unfortunate. And rent, you gotta live on the outskirts of town now. All that’s unfortunate. Maybe the positive thing is that there’s more people, hopefully they’ll start coming out to the gigs. Friends of mine that play on 6th Street say the bars are starting to pick up again. A lot of people are starting to come out. Maybe that’s a positive thing. The main thing I notice is that the cost of living has gone up and gigs are still paying the same.

AustinDaze: You are always working, and have so many residencies in town. Do you have a favorite that you like to play?

Willie: Like what’s my favorite residency? Oh boy, that’s a slippery one. Like I said, I wake up every day and I’m excited about the night to come. Every night I’m excited to play. My newest gig is with Tameca Jones. And it’s such a different thing than I’m used to playing. That one’s fresh for me. I’ll say that. I look forward to that because that gig pushes me in a different direction than I’m used to playing. I’ve definitely been having a lot of fun playing with Tameca.

AustinDaze: Do you still play with Little Elmore Reed Band at the…? What’s up with that?

Willie: Yeah, Little Elmore Reed Band is still playing. The building is now called the King Bee Lounge. It’s actually a really cool spot. A lot of people are starting to show up to that. They got a full bar now. And pizza. They make a great pizza over there. That’s on 12th and Chicon. We play there Mondays from 10 – 1am and it’s really been picking up. It’s a great new venue.

AustinDaze: So you play a lot of different types of music?

Willie: I do. Like I said, I’m based on blues, but I get away with playing bluegrass and swing music. I’ve played a lot of swing in my day. I’ve dabbled a little bit in jazz, but I can’t say I’m a jazz guitar player by any means. Rock n’ roll, I really like playing rock n’ roll. I just love so many kinds of rooted music, you know, so I’ll give anything a shot.

AustinDaze: You’ve done a little songwriting. Are you doing any now? Is that something that just comes and goes?

Willie: It does for me. I don’t call myself a songwriter by any means. I’ve co-wrote a handful of songs with Warren Hood, and it really worked out. And I’ve got a couple more songs I’ve written recently. But I don’t consider myself a songwriter. They just come to me. I can’t just sit down and say, “OK, go!” I’ll just sit there all day. But every once in a while just a line will hit me, or a melody will hit me, or I’ll just be noodling around on the guitar and all of a sudden go, “Wait, that’s kind of a cool hook.” So I’ll start there.

AustinDaze: Can you tell us more about what is special about the people you play with here in Austin?

Willie: There is just a beautiful community of people and musicians in Austin. The cool thing is like people elsewhere, they get real competitive with each other. You go to Nashville, or LA or New York, it’s a competitive thing. People want to put other people down. You can tell when a musician is not from here. They come here and kinda like put everybody down. They soon learn that its not that way, you don’t have to be that way. People here, they just support each other. We all want each other to do well. Genuinely. When we see Gary blow up, everybody’s so excited about seeing that. Because we think he represents us. He came from the same soil as all of us. That’s how we look at it.

AustinDaze: You certainly see a lot of collaboration in all genres of music in Austin, but the blues community is especially tight it seems. I don’t know if that’s because I see more of y’all because of my particular focus on Austin music. But it seems like the way that group is a circle of people that play in all sorts of combinations of gigs. Not only that, but are out supporting the same people. Like if you were to go see Jimmie Vaughn at the Gallery, you would know certain people would be there. Because it’s like a community center.

Willie: It is. After Clifford died, and Antone’s is, well I don’t really know what Antone’s is right now, the rumor is its coming back, there was kind of a lull in the blues scene and people didn’t know where to go. It kinda got weird for a while. But now its great, there are so many players, of all ages, but young guys especially, coming up in their 30’s. It’s great. There’s a lot of us now. I think the Austin blues scene has really had a resurgence. You’ve got the Keller brothers here. You got the Muller brothers here. All that came from Antone’s. Once that club kinda stopped existing for a while, things got scattered for a little bit. But now I feel its really coming back strong. Especially with guys like Gary doing really well.

AustinDaze: What kind of wisdom can you offer to other musicians out there?

Willie: Just remember that the music itself is the reward, not necessarily making a bunch of money and “making it”. I don’t even know what “making it” is. I’m just so grateful just to get to play. At the end of the day, it’s like, wow, I spent my whole day making music. That, in itself, is the reward. Not being on The Voice, or whatever’s popular now, I don’t even know what that is.

AustinDaze: How do you stay healthy when you are on the road?

Willie: That’s hard. Actually, when I’m on the road, that’s when I’m not healthy. Because you are stuck with gas station food and fast food a lot of the time. Warren always tries to find a good salad bar somewhere when I’m out with him. But I guess the answer to how I stay healthy on the road is staying healthy at home. That’s really the only way to do it. And try to get a lot of exercise.

AustinDaze: What is a favorite gig or venue that you’ve  played?

Willie: This year, playing with Lazy Lester at C-Boys is definitely on the top of my list. We had so much fun with that. I’ve played a lot of gigs in my day, but as far as cool factor, that’s the one.

AustinDaze: Steve is really holding it together a lot for musicians. A lot of y’all really get to play a lot at Steve’s clubs, like the Gallery, the Continental and C-Boys.

Willie: Yeah, I really think that Steve has really held Austin together with all this change going on, all these clubs closing. Steve is really the main guy here in Austin that’s really keeping it alive. Once he opened C-Boys, it was like “Finally, score one for the good guys.” Because all these things were shutting down left and right. He’s really done a lot for the Austin music scene. He’s Number One. It’s like the Continental Club, all those guys are like a family. It’s a beautiful thing.

AustinDaze: Can you tell us about your most epic gig?

Willie: Let me think. I’ve done a handful of Austin City Limits music festivals. I think I’ve played that three times. And that’s always fun. Last year, I played Blues on the Green with Tamika Jones. And that’s a lot of fun, because you are the only stage playing. And you’re playing for I guess 10,000 people. That was a lot of fun. I’ve played the Moody Theater with Hayes Carll last year. That was a lot of fun.

AustinDaze: And the Brew Birds are playing tonight, right?

Willie: I don’t think we’re on for tonight. But yeah, the Brew Birds is a really cool band. We’re backing up Warren Hood. You got Warren Hood and his cousin Marshall, so you got that cool family thing going on, myself, Nate Rowe, and Baby Elvis aka Jordan Cook on the snare drum. That’s a cool thing. We play Strange Brew once a month. It’s a really cool acoustic band. I definitely recommend. We have a lot of fun. And it’s really nice to be able to listen to Warren. He gets to play a little bit more fiddle and gets to sing a little more because it’s not a loud rock n’ roll band. So I highly recommend that show to anybody.

AustinDaze: How did you meet Warren?

Willie: We were just talking about that the other day. I met Warren when we were in a band I mentioned earlier, I think it was the James Hyland band at that point. We were in our early 20’s. A friend of mine’s mother knew Champ Hood and was a big fan of Champ Hood and the Threadgill Troubadors. We were playing country music, trying to. And he mentioned that there was this kid named Warren who was looking to play fiddle. So I met Warren at the Music Lab on Krebbs Street on South Congress. The funny thing is we were in there drinking beer and smoking weed, and here walks in this 15 year old, scrawny, dorky kid, with his shirt way too big for him, walks in with his fiddle, and we didn’t know what to think about him. He looked like he was 12 years old. We’re like, “OK, plug in, let’s play.” And he started playing, and he was really into classical music at that time, so he had a really interesting approach at first to the music. We all did, it was cool, because I had never played in a country band at that point before either. We all learned together. We all came up together. Me playing music with Warren, it’s just like talking, because we learned together. We both influence each other still to this day. It’s just an amazing thing. I’ve traveled all over the country with Warren with different bands, with the South Austin Jug Band and later on with his own band. It was probably like 1999 or 1998, something like that if I remember, when I first met him.

AustinDaze: Were you going to Antone’s and watch the Keller brothers when you first started going to Antone’s?

Willie: I was yeah. I used to go and watch the Keller Brothers all the time. I used to be scared of those guys. Because I was shy when I was like 16 or 17. I would watch Mike Keller burn the guitar in half every night.

AustinDaze: How were all those high school kids getting into Antone’s?

Willie: I don’t know. You’d have to ask those guys. Those guys are from Fargo. Right out of high school they came down. They just moved to Austin to play at Antone’s.

AustinDaze: They must have had some special nose for talent. Or maybe it was an attraction?

Willie: It was an attraction. That was a serious place to play. Everybody in the world wanted to play. It was #1 at that time. The #1 club in the country for blues. I was just grateful. I would just drive down there by myself. Right when I got my driver’s license, I would drive to go to Blue Monday at Antone’s by myself. And they would let you in because it was all ages. So I would do that. It was like going to school for me. Every Monday I would go see Derek O’Brien. I remember one time it was me, my brother and one table behind us watching the Blue Monday Band. And that table behind us was Willie Nelson and his family. And he got up and played a whole entire set with the band, just for me and my brother. That was unbelievable.

AustinDaze: That’s a good place to end there. There’s your epic story. Which brother?

Willie: My older brother, Eric. I used to live with him right out of high school. I would drag him. He loved it. He’s not a musician, but he loved it. He would come up there a lot with me. That one particular night, we’ll never forget that.

AustinDaze: One of the sponsors of Sundaze Conversations is the author of this book, The Rockstar Remedy and Gabrielle Francis wanted to give you a copy.

Willie: Wow, thanks.

AustinDaze: Thank you.

Willie: Thank you.

A Night At The Parish – The Nth Power and Corey Henry And The Funk Apostles

On Thursday, Corey Henry and the Funk Apostles and The Nth Power played at The Parish on 6th Street. Both bands were really cool. Corey Henry and the Funk Apostles opened up the night. They were very keyboard-heavy band which was a good change of pace from what we have been seeing live.   The effects that he used were pretty awesome as well. Frontman, Corey, the Snarky Puppy keyboarist, had two drummers who were the foundation for the genre defying music that he, a second keyboard player and a guitar player were making. The music had elements of a lot of different styles of music ranging from electronic to funk and soul. It was a very high energy set and a great opener for The Nth Power.

corey henry  corey henry2  corey henry 3
The Nth Power took the stage shortly after and completely killed it. This band gave off great vibes from the very beginning. They played powerful soul fueled, jazzy, funk infused set featuring some top notch percussion. The two drummers, one playing the skins and other percussive instruments, the other a full kit, were both taking turns sharing incredible drum fills and seemingly improvised percussion breaks. The keyboardist, Nigel Hall, was also pretty amazing and added some great vocals to the mix. For one song, Corey Henry came out and the two of them played together. Toward the end of the set, one of the percussionists, Weedie Braimah went on this epic djembe solo, silencing the crowd and the rest of the band. I’ve never seen anything like this man’s percussive abilities on all of his instruments, especially on his djembe.   Just when you thought he might end his solo, it picked back up again. The only person who was just as good was his fellow drummer in the band and ex-Dumpstaphunk drummer, Nikki Glaspie. She was amazing, a true heavy hitter on her kit who really showed us her chops throughout the entire set. The two of them together were the backbone of the entire set. She even sang on a few songs. The bassist, Nate Edgar, was also very on point and laid down some unbelievably funky riffs. During the set, special guest and Dave Matthews Band saxophonist, Jeff Coffin, came out to play a few songs with the band. He had some really cool horn solos that he added.  H e sounded great. The front man, Nick Cassarino seemed to bring it all together on guitar and vocals. Overall it was a very funky and soulful night at the Parish with two amazingly talented bands.

nth power   nthpower2 nth power3

Shakey Graves Austin City Limits Taping

Last Wednesday, Russ and I ventured to the Moody Theater for the Austin City Limits taping of Shakey Graves.  I saw the advertisement for this show on the ACL website a few months ago and was excited for it even that far back.   I had seen him live a few times before and his live performances have always been incredible. This taping was no exception. It was a bit of a homecoming for Alejandro Rose-Garcia (Shakey Graves), who was born and raised right here in Austin, TX.

He jumped right into his set after taking a second to soak it all in and feel the good vibes from the hometown crowd.   He kicked off the show with one of my favorites, Roll The Bones. With his suitcase-turned-kick-drum, tambourine pedal and electric guitar he set a precedence for the rest of the show, ensuring that it was going to be a special night. The powerful thud of that kick drum was enough to make you feel like getting out of your seat. He then jumped into some newer stuff and brought out his drummer, “Boo”, and guitarist, Pat O’Connor, for a few songs to add to his sound up there on stage. Some of the notable new songs, for me, played during the set were, “If Not For You”, “The Perfect Parts”, and “Family and Genus”. The dynamic range of within his songs, especially live, is something that I don’t see many musicians even come close to pulling off. He was constantly going from super dirty, overdrive ridden, distortion drenched electric guitar to near silent palm muted fingerpicking. He seemed in control of every aspect of the songs and would let it all go and bring the ruckus and then harness it all back together seconds later. The chemistry between the drummer, Boo, and guitarist, Pat was very impressive considering the amount of tempo shifts that went on during each song.

There was an acoustic portion of the night where Shakey Graves played solo with just his guitar and his voice. He even played a request from his mother, Chinatown (with a bit of kazoo added).  Some material from previous albums was also played, including “Built to Roam” and “Proper Fence”.  Again, the dynamic range even between the songs chosen for the set was very cool to hear. His stage presence was great and banter between songs really added to the fun during of the show. He ended with “Dearly Departed” and brought out local songwriter, Carson McHone. They were a fantastic duo and ended the set very nicely.  An inevitable encore happened and Shakey Graves took the stage solo again playing two songs, Hard Wired and Late July. The entire show exceeded my already high expectations. I would definitely recommend catching one of his shows the next time he comes back to town. This guy is the real deal.

Our Weekend At Old Settler’s

What. A. Weekend. We ventured out to Driftwood, TX this past weekend for the Old Settler’s Music Festival. It was a weekend of the outdoors, BBQ, a bit of mud, great music, great people, and all-around one of the best music festival atmosphere’s that I’ve experienced. We started everything off by heading to Camp Ben McCollough on Wednesday night for a pre-festival party. We saw Rhythmic Statues, who were a really cool jam band, and Dead-Eye, a local Grateful Dead cover band. Both bands set things off right for the weekend that we had ahead of us. This was also the night that I realized that Russ was a celebrity at Old Settler’s. He seemed to know just about everyone.

Thursday night we came back to Camp Ben McCollough where we started things off with Bill Kirchen, who blew me away. The guy was a total badass. He was like a musical encyclopedia in the way that he impersonated so many great guitarists and his original stuff was very solid as well. After Bill Kirchen, we saw the bluegrass band, The Infamous String Dusters. They were a bit poppy and polished for my taste, but they were a fun band of talented, very skilled, fast picking musicians.

Friday night, we went across the bridge to the real festival stages where we saw a newgrass legend, Sam Bush. He was one of the highlights of the festival for me. By the end of the set, he had everyone “Howlin’ At The Moon”. With the help of a band manager of the Mavericks and the Old Settler’s staff and volunteers, Russ got a front row seat for both Sam Bush and The Mavericks (and also for the rest of the festival). The Mavericks took the stage just after Sam and closed out the night with some really cool Tex-Mex style country music.

sambush       mavericks
Saturday, we began by seeing Hot Rize, a progressive bluegrass band who put a fun little creative twist on their set. In the middle, they changed into western gear and pretended to be a separate western swing band called Red Knuckles and The Trailblazers. Both bands were great and had a lot of character to their music. After Hot Rize, we headed down to the Bluebonnet Stage in another area of the festival and saw the end of the Lost Bayou Ramblers.  They were really rocking out and bringing it with some Cajun music. After we snagged some food, we decided to check out the ukulele virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro. At points it was hard to tell that this guy was even playing a ukulele.  It was really astounding that he was playing like he did with just four strings.   The part of his set that we caught consisted of mostly instrumental songs and ended with a really awesome version of George Harrison’s classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Jake left the stage and we stayed for the beginning part of JD McPherson where we heard the first bit of plugged in real Rock & Roll that I had seen all festival. After about 20 minutes of that set, then headed over to check out Chuck Prophet. We got a prime seat in the front center of the stage, but unfortunately had to leave it because a storm was headed our way. I’m glad we did leave when we did because just as we got under cover it really started to come down really hard and they had to postpone the set due to thunderstorms (even some hail) in the area. After waiting around for a little while, we decided to call it a day and head home for the night to rest up for Sunday.

hotrize  redknuckles  jake

Sunday’s music was back over at the campground and turned out to be my favorite day of the festival. We started things off with Pokey LaFarge, who played folk/swing/eclectic American roots music. I felt like we had been transported back in time and hearing a traveling band from a dustbowl carnival. It was really really cool. The lead singer had a killer voice and had a set of really well crafted songs. His band was lively and energetic. They were one of the major highlights of the weekend and a total surprise at that. Shinyribs took the stage after to close down the weekend of music. He put on an extremely high energy, fun, and musically eclectic set that had people up and out of their seats dancing the entire time. At one point there was a conga line going through the crowd which the lead singer, Kevin Russell, and his horn players jumped into and started parading around the stage area. It was an awesome show and the perfect way to cap off our epic weekend.

pokeylafarge   shinyribs


2015 Old Settler’s Music Festival Preview

Mid-April in Texas means it’s time to drive through the bluebonnets out to the Old Settler’s Music Festival, for some Salt Lick BBQ, cold craft beer on tap, and some of the best music America has to offer. Old Settler’s is the world class festival in the Austin area that’s not over-grown, over-hyped, and over-crowded. Here’s a few of our favorites playing this weekend.


Sam Bush – Friday, 8:15pm-9:45pm
Pushing bluegrass into new horizons earned Sam Bush the title King of Newgrass. His bluegrass roots fuse with elements of other genres to make new but familiar sounds. An animated entertainer, Bush’s mandolin playing will blindside you, as will the rest of his backing band.

Hot Rize – Saturday, 5:45pm-7pm
Old Settler’s has a long history with roots music, and knows a thing or two about booking real deal bluegrass like Hot Rize. Acclaimed bluegrass traditionalists Hot Rize influenced a generation of other musicians before they retired from the stage in 1990. The classic recipe calls for heavy servings of fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass, and acoustic guitar. The reformed Hot Rize is still a fresh creative force, touring behind a studio album of new material.

Jeff Austin Band – Saturday, 3:10pm-4:20pm
Jeff Austin was a founding member and longtime mandolinist with jamgrass purveyors Yonder Mountain String Band. These days he’s doing his own thing with less jams, more hooks, and a focus on tight arrangements. Expect fireworks from the supergroup of sorts touring as his backing band. The Jeff Austin Band includes musical assassins Danny Barnes on banjo, Ross Martin on guitar, Eric Thorin on bass, and Cody Dickinson (from the North Mississippi Allstars) on percussion.

Robert Earl Keen – Saturday, 10:30pm-midnight
Keen tried a different approach on his new release Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. The resulting album serves up a Texgrass spin on classic bluegrass. Danny Barnes regularly performs his banjo hysterics live with Robert Earl Keen, and ol’ Danny is already booked at the festival. Will we get to see Danny guest on a solo or two with Keen? Will Keen’s set feature songs from their new bluegrass album? Come on down to find out.

The Mavericks – Friday, 10:30pm-midnight
The Mavericks make highly danceable music from an unclassifiable blend of country music, Latin beats, rock band energy, and soulful crooning. Their last stop in Austin was a sold out ACL Live at The Moody Theater gig. Equally at home in swanky downtown venues or Texas dance halls, this band will be fun to watch outdoors under the hill country stars, especially with their diverse group of fans.

Israel Nash – Saturday, 12:10-1:05pm
The former Israel Nash Gripka, now simply billed as Israel Nash, dropped his last name after relocating across the country to Dripping Springs, a symbolic rebirth of a new life and a new direction in sound. Less name, more volume, tighter Crazy Horse-like band cohesion. Nash’s recent batch of songs were crafted while soaking up the Hill Country lifestyle, so at Old Settler’s you can hear these songs in their birthplace. Music, like wine or bourbon, tastes better when consumed in the hills that produce it. Created locally, but gathering acclaim globally, his new album Rain Plans is a worthy blend of analog-era rock, Americana, and personal songwriting informed by a sense of place. During live shows, when the full band synchs together (which is usually the entire set), they appear energized from the music, unable to sit still, propelled into moving and dancing around stage, instruments in hand. A quick disclaimer for the record: one of band members has the exact same name as me, but I am not the pedal steel player hyping my own band. May we never meet in person, because like the Highlander there can only be one of us. And it would probably be him. Israel Nash and band have an early Saturday daytime set. See them up close and personal while you can, the crowds are catching on.

Lost Bayou Ramblers – Saturday, 6:10pm-7:25pm
Straight outta Lafayette Parish, the center of Cajun culture, this progressive Cajun music band has a fun modern take on the traditional South Louisiana music they grew up with. Their songs still feature fiddle, accordion, and vocals in Cajun French, but it’s also got enough rocking drums and electric bass to earn them an opening slot on Arcade Fire’s tour.

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express – Saturday, 9:20pm-10:30pm
When Alejandro Escovedo was booked in 2010, real animal rock-n-roll was imported straight from South Congress to the main stage of Old Settlers. This year the festival booked Alejandro’s frequent songwriting collaborator and surf buddy Chuck Prophet. These two musical brothers built similar career paths, both starting as the band guitarist before stepping into the spotlight as a band leader. Prophet’s raucous early days set the foundation for evolving into a more countrified and insightful songwriter. Time moves forward, but Prophet’s edge is still there and is on display Saturday night.

Saturday, 10:50pm-midnight
Sunday, 4pm-5pm
Kevin Russell gets the honor of two closing spots, one as the Saturday night midnight finale, and another as the last act closing down the campground stage on Sunday. After years of festival appearances with the Gourds under his belt, he’s somehow still finding a way to reach new career peaks in his Shinyribs manifestation. Still rooted in the Americana universe, his sound now covers a broader range from acapella to ukulele strumming to full on honky-tonk dancing. The man’s got the creative flow I guess. Songs and dance moves pour out of Russell, if the moment calls for it, he’ll dance like a flamingo taking flight or bounce around like a dashboard Jesus. When it happens, just roll with it, that’s what he’s doing.

The 2015 Old Settler’s Music Festival takes place Thursday April 16 through Sunday the 19th. Full lineup and ticket information can be found at:

Another Great Saturdaze of Music!


Another great Saturday night of music in Austin was had last night. We started off our night by heading out to Stubb’s to see Yonder Mountain String Band play the Waller Creek Amphitheater. Ben Sollee was the warm up act for Yonder Mountain String Band and he was amazing. He took the stage with Jordan Ellis, a percussionist playing a Cajon, a symbol and other smaller percussive instruments. Ben Sollee was equipped with his cello.   I used to be obsessed with Ben’s album “Dear Companion” that he made with Daniel Martin Moore, so it was a quite the pleasure to see his cello skills live and in person. His voice sounded great above the well crafted instrumentation. His set was lively, and jaw dropping at times.  Although it was a short opening act, it was a great one.


After Ben Sollee, Yonder Mountain String Band headed out across the stage. I had never really heard more than one or two of their songs before going to this show and had never seen them live. They played a mix of progressive and traditional bluegrass songs and had a great familial energy to them. The band consisted of Adam Aijala on guitar, Dave Johnston on banjo, Ben Kaufman on Bass, Allie Kral on the violin, and Jacob Jolliff on the mandolin. They all played very well took turns ripping on their instruments throughout each song. I have to say, I’m always impressed with how fast bluegrass players can strum and fingerpick, but the mandolin player in the band, Jacob Jolliff , was unbelievable. His fingers were moving a lot faster than I could follow as they went up and down the mandolin fret board. Allie Kral was also incredible with her violin. She had some pretty epic moments throughout both of the two sets. Banjo solos always stick out to me and are always the ones that I remember most and Dave Johnston’s were no different. Adam Aijala was holding it down on guitar with some awesome bluegrass guitar playing. Ben Kaufman was the backbone of the entire band with his stellar bass playing skill.  He was the heartbeat of the operation.  They all sang really well together and that added to the family aura being presented to the everyone.  It felt like, as they mentioned throughout the set, “homemade bluegrass” performed by a family.  During the encore they snuck in a bluegrass take on Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, which was really well done.  They played over two and a half hours (two sets that lasted over an hour each).  It was an awesomely authentic bluegrass gig.

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After Yonder Mountain String Band, we switch gears completely and stopped over at the Continental Club to see T Bird and the Breaks play. They were a very high energy, part funk, part hip-hop, part rock and roll group from Austin.  It was a great eclectic mix of genres that just seemed to put a smile on your face from the first song.  They put on a really fun show and had everyone feeling all of the good vibes. T Bird and his band gave off some incredible energy and looked like they were having a lot of fun up there on stage. It was one of the more memorable gigs that I’ve seen at the Continental Club so far.

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The War On Drugs – Taping For Austin City Limits


Yesterday, Russ and I went to the ACL taping for The War On Drugs. The War on Drugs is a fantastic band from the city that I used to call home, Philadelphia. Their latest album Lost In A Dream was crafted near perfect, in my opinion, and was one of my favorite albums of 2014. I was pretty excited to finally get to see them live. They played songs spanning their entire career from Lost In A Dream, all the way back to Wagonwheel Blues. The set started out with the first song off of their record, “Under The Pressure” which set a great tone for a great live show. Hearing the record in full continued to blow me away more and more with each listen, but actually seeing Adam Granduciel and the band play it live made those songs hit even harder. Adam’s guitar solos are atmospheric and so big. To hear him play in a venue like the Moody Theater was incredible. All of the songs played were amazing, but some of the standouts for me were “An Ocean Between the Waves”, “In Reverse”, “Lost In A Dream”, “Eyes to the Wind”, and the final song of the set “Suffering”. All of the guitar effects, keyboard melodies, saxophone riffs, harmonica solos, lyrics sang, and lively drumbeats seem so meticulous and deliberate with this band, while also sounding incredibly natural and free flowing.   It was a very well done show by an extremely talented group of musicians.

Saturdaze – Alejandro Escovedo at Strange Brew and Mike Flanigin Trio ft. Jimmie Vaughan at C-Boys

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Saturday night started off at Strange Brew where we saw Alejandro Escovedo play an acoustic set. I expected it to be a pretty awesome show and was interested to finally hear a stripped down version of the loud, high energy shows that I’ve heard him play at the Continental Club. It was even better than I had expected though. He featured Brian Standefer on cello and Elias Haslanger on the tenor saxophone.  The acoustic setting gave the songs a completely different feel. The arrangement of the saxophone and cello around his acoustic guitar was incredible. I felt like I really heard his songs for the first time. The Continental Club shows are great and a lot of fun, but at this show I got to hear Alejandro play the songs in a more bare bones (probably closer to how they sounded when they were first written) way. They had a much more honest feel to them and really highlighted his storytelling abilities. I gained even more respect for him as an artist and songwriter after hearing him in this intimate setting like this. As I told Russ, this was one of my favorite shows that I’ve attended since moving to Austin.  The atmosphere, the stripped down feel, the venue’s acoustics, everything was very well done.

After a great gig at Strange Brew, we decided to head to see the Mike Flanigin Trio at C-Boys featuring Jimmie Vaughan. I had never seen Jimmie live. Mike Flanigin played the organ and sang. Jimmie Vaughan played guitar and also sang on a few songs. They had awesome drummer, George Raines playing with them as well and they all sounded great together. It was very cool to see such a legendary blues guitarist live in person and at a local club like C-Boys. Flanigin’s vocals and organ playing, alongside the excellent drumming by Raines, created a great platform for Jimmie to show us his chops. I’m happy that we made the move to go to C-Boys. We had a great Saturday night and got to see a lot of really amazing music.

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(Photo Credit: Eric Swanson)

Grimy Styles returns to the Flamingo Cantina

We went to Grimy Styles at the Flamenco Cantina last night on 6th Street.  The show was insane.  It was a packed house for was their first gig there in a while.  I had never seen them or heard of them before last night.  I was told that they were one of Russ’ favorite bands and his old friends from when he used to do the First Thursdaze gigs down at Ruta Maya.


Grimy Styles definitely didn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

The Nymphets

downloadWith a name like this, I thought I was getting into something risque, maybe taboo, or at least something that pushes the envelope. The Nymphets didn’t deliver any of this. In fact, the only thing I can say about The Nymphets is it was a giant tease. Writer/Director Gary Gardner must have wanted to show the audience what the ultimate blue balls looks like for a creeper.

Joe (Kip Pardue) rescue’s two young girls fake ID’s from a bouncer and then invites them back to his apartment. Joe is a fairly successful something year old who indulges the everlasting giggly twins, Brittany (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) & Allyson (Jordan Lane Price), two under age teens looking to get into trouble.

The Nymphets came across as more of a study on what happens when you let two teenage girls run their dirty mouths for an hour and a half. The two girls playfully tease and antagonize Joe, when really all he wants is to get laid by one of them. What makes The Nymphets uncomfortable is how Joe constantly creeps on these two girls that may or may not be able to legally drive. You can never tell if they want to sleep with Joe or just tease him, but either way it’s hard to really care.

I guess I was expecting something that had the ferocity of Funny Games or Cheap Thrills, but instead it played more like Lolita (the Jeremy Irons remake).

Petting Zoo

petting-zoo-sxsw-berlinWell, this film only affirmed for me why living in San Antonio doesn’t seem great. Getting past the city, Petting Zoo had potential and I’d be curious to see what writer/director Micah Magee does next.

Petting Zoo Takes place in the aforementioned city, and centers around a shy teenage high school senior, Layla (Devon Keller). Although I can’t say I remember what it’s like to be a teenage girl, I could never tell if Layla was acting on teenage angst, apathy, or maybe both. When we are introduced to her, she is just about to graduate and ride a scholarship to The University of Texas. When she is forced to with a game changing decision (teen pregnancy), Layla is forced to grow up (sort of) quicker than expected.

Most of the characters seemed wooden to me. I didn’t care or buy into Layla’s world. Part of this was due to the very unnatural dialogue that just didn’t seem to have much flow. To boot, the story didn’t go anywhere until maybe the last 20 minutes. I’m alright with a slow burn, but this just kind of caught a spark and fizzled right away. I think that was intentional because Layla’s ambivalence about things made for an ambivalent response from this viewer.

One particular scene was tough to watch where she has to have an induced labor after discovering her 3 month old baby is a stillborn. Not for the squeamish, so if you don’t like seeing dead fetuses, you might want to cover your eyes.

Petting Zoo wasn’t all bad. There were brief moments when Layla seemed like an actual person and not just flying on autopilot. She snapped out of her daze in one particular scene in time to argue with her and her man friend. The dialogue felt very real and raw, which was not felt in many of the other scenes. There were also some odd choices for edits/cuts, but the acting was fairly solid, throughout, especially by Layla.