Coverage by Waylon O’Day and Junior Fernandez
Every October, something special happens in the city of Austin. People from all around the world descend on the Live Music Capitol to take part in one of the most prestigious music festivals in the country. Friday marked the beginning of the festival’s second weekend, and Coog Radio was there to give you the skinny on what you missed.
Sandy (Alex G)
Okay, I’m a little confused on this guy’s preferred stage name, so I will be referring to him as Alex from here on out. Alex G has been called one of the best songwriters of this generation by the likes of Fader, as his music often delves into subjects such as addiction, mental illness, and other dark corners of life’s journey. The Philly-based DIY multi-instrumentalist and his band came out to a rather small crowd at the Barton Springs stage, however it was still early in the day. They opened with “Judge,” off of their latest full-length, Rocket, which made up the majority of the hour-long set. Surprisingly, Alex and company decided to play some of their more popular tunes, such as “Bobby,” and personal favorite, “Proud,” early in the set, prompting some members of the crowd to leave the stage in search of other live acts. Other songs played were fan favorites, including “Poison Root,” “Kicker,” and “Sportstar.” About midway through the set, Alex sat down at a piano which he had been using to play loops while the band tuned up their instruments for the next section of songs. While sitting, Alex gave off more energy than he did for the rest of the time, literally standing on his seat screaming into a microphone. I think the biggest takeaway I got from this set was how different Alex G’s music sounds in a live environment. It’s a lot more raw, aggressive, and at times, abrasive. This is not to say the music was rendered un-enjoyable, just that it seemed like these tunes were the distant cousins of the ones I had been listening to in the days before ACL. It was definitely a solid way to start off what is sure to be a fantastic weekend of live music.
The Lemon Twigs
I’ll be honest, I went to this set based off of all the talk I had heard of this group’s live performances, and had no idea what to expect when I walked up to the Miller Lite stage. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what was one of the single greatest festival performances I have ever seen in my life. Their music is reminiscent of 60’s pop-rock, and their dress certainly matches as well. The group opened up with the popular “I Wanna Prove to You,” which much like Alex G, sent some of the crowd to other stages because they had heard what they came to the stage to see. Those that left missed out on an amazing performance, and although I knew little of their music prior to seeing them , the energy the band exemplified onstage will go unmatched for years to come. The D’Addario brothers are spectacular showmen, who know how to turn a crowd of strangers into a collection of fans, myself being one of those the Twigs won over. About half-way through the set, the brothers traded places onstage as one took over the drums, while the other took over lead vocals and guitar duties. From there, the show got even crazier, as the brother who took the vocal reins was doing his best Angus Young impression, jumping probably about two feet in the guitar in hand, doing wheel kicks and all. Other songs the band played included “As Long as We’re Together,” “Baby, Baby,” and “These Words.” Now, if I haven’t convinced you that these guys are awesome live, then maybe my friend Matthew McConaughey can, as he was in attendance for a large part of the Lemon Twigs set.
At the Honda Stage Crystal Castles set out to fashion a world of glitch and electro-punk. Lead vocalist Edith Frances took the stage sporting ripped tights that covered her head. Although her face was hidden the singer wore a choker with her name written on it – perhaps to remind onlookers that she was not former vocalist Alice Glass. Glass left Crystal Castles back in 2014 and Frances stepped in to be featured on last year’s Amnesty and to take on the task of making Crystal Castles’ hits her own. She did this with songs like “Crimewave” and “Vanished” from their 2008 self-titled record. Frances jumped, screamed, whispered into her microphone, and occasionally emptied bottles of water on herself. Her lo-fi attitude and look are representative of the world producer Ethan Kath has set out to create. Despite the theatrics, Crystal Castles somehow lacked energy. Maybe it was the way in which Edith dragged herself across the stage, as if she was dying, or maybe it is that I can’t help but want Edith to be Alice.
So, I finally found out how to actually pronounce the stage-name of British multi-instrumentalist, producer, and DJ Simon Green, after years of being a fan. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally see what a live Bonobo performance would look like, it also helped that the set was taking place at the shaded Tito’s stage. Along with his backing band, Green came onto the stage with a guitar in hand, in front of a bevy drum machines and other small instruments which he would use throughout the hour-long set. Throughout the set the group would bring in a vocalist to sing some of the songs, including one that originally featured Nick Murphy (f.k.a Chet Faker). The fun did not end there as one of the members who had been playing the keys, came from his seat and played the flute, definitely not the most popular instrument in contemporary music. Near the end of the set, Green’s backing band left the stage, leaving him alone to play with his drum machines, then inexplicably, about five minutes later, the band reappeared to play the rest of the set. Although I couldn’t recognize any of the songs played, it was still an extremely enjoyable time, however, I don’t think I will go to any great lengths to see them live again.
Solange was about forty minutes late due to a flight delay which was strange because I always imagined Solange traveled via dragon – think Game of Thrones but with black people. Many cleared out due to the travel delay but Solange made it worthwhile for those who waited. Her set focused primarily on content from last year’s A Seat at the Table, a documentation of blackness and womanhood. She opened with “Rise” which soon transitioned into “Weary” as the crowd sang along. (because who isn’t weary of the ways of the world?) During “F.U.B.U.” Solange embraced a black woman in the crowd who soon began to cry as Solange sang.
“All my n****s in the whole wide world, Made this song to make it all y’all’s turn. For us, this shit is from us. Get so much from us. Then forget us.” She also managed to perform older hits like “Lovers in the Parking Lot,” “Losing You,” and “Bad Girls.” All in all, Solange turned out to be one of my favorite sets of the day.
Jay-Z closed out the American Express stage with a 40-foot sculpture by artist Jeff Koons. He opened with Kanye West collabs “Run This Town” and “Church in the Wild” which set the tone for the rest of his set – mostly hits along with some new content from this year’s 4:44. Hits like “Empire State of Mind” really got the crowd going. For “N****s in Paris” he asked fans to make a circle and joked about everything being bigger in Texas. He saluted anyone affected by hurricane Harvey and referenced recent events. “There’s a lot going on in the world, a lot of evil,” Jay-Z said,“But love will always conquer hate.” He then dedicated “Numb/Encore” to the late Chester Bennington, of Linkin Park. He closed his set fifteen minutes early with an encore performance of “99 Problems”.
Thanks for reading, let us know what you think? If you were there, what sets did you see? How were they? Check in the next couple days as we will have coverage of the final two days of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival.