Coverage by Waylon O’Day and Junior Fernandez
The third and final day of the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival was arguably the best, not just because of the stacked lineup for the day, but the weather finally decided to give festival goers a reprieve from the 90+ degree days with little to no wind or cloud cover, the perfect weather to take in some of the best acts the festival had to offer this year, including Whitney, The Growlers, Badbadnotgood, and Gorillaz.
A lot of people are calling MCs such as Lil Uzi Vert and Trippie Redd “rap’s next rockstars,” and a lot of people have issues with music writers blending the two genres together, but when it comes to Detroit rapper, Danny Brown, the title couldn’t fit better. Brown came onto the Honda stage to a looped version of the Black Sabbath classic, “Iron Man,” I mean how rap-rock can you get? Opening up with “Die Like a Rockstar,” it was ever apparent that Brown is rap’s closest approximation of a rock star. The set would drag a little from there, before picking up with “Side B (Dope Song).” From there it was pure energy from both Brown and the crowd, as Brown, sticking his tongue out, and raising the rock n’ roll hand sign between songs would use the second half of his set to play some of his most popular songs; including “Smokin & Drinkin,” “Dip,” “Grown Up,” “Ain’t it Funny,” and “Really Doe,” which Brown recited the Kendrick Lamar recorded chorus. Brown left the crowd after performing a few more songs off of his latest album, Atrocity Exhibition, including “When It Rain,” and “Pneumonia,” before closing with a Rustie track, “Attak,” which he is featured on before having his DJ, Skywlkr, close out the rest of his time with a short DJ set. Brown truly is a rock star, in every meaning of the word, after seeing him perform, there is no way Lil Uzi or Trippie Redd could match his stage presence or energy.
Having seen the Chicago-based band less than a week ago, at a show I thought was pretty spectacular, I had high expectations about what Whitney would look like on a festival stage. The size of the crowd at the Barton Springs stage was definitely was larger than the one that came to their Houston show at the Bronze Peacock, so I expected the band to come out with a lot more energy. However, I was quickly let down, as Julian Ehrlich, lead singer and drummer of the band commented on how the band had been enjoying their week off, and had partied the night away in Austin prior to their set at ACL, forcing the six-piece band to nurse a hefty hangover. Although it did not show for the most part, the rust had set in during their week off, as the show did not seem as fluid as the one in Houston. Ehrlich on more than one occasion flubbed lyrics to the bands songs, such as during the titular track of their one and only album, Light Upon the Lake. Ehrlich commented about midway through the set that it was sort of daunting to be booked for an hour festival set when your acts one and only album clocks in at just about half an hour, however Whitney would make up for the time by performing covers from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Dolly Parton just as they had in Houston. The group filled out their hour slot perfectly, as with time running down the group had to rush through their closer, “No Woman,” thanking the crowd for coming out before playing through the instrumental sections of their most popular song. I thoroughly enjoyed this set, although it may seem contrary based off of my criticisms, I just sort of expected a more energetic set in a festival setting, but I guess a week off and a crazy night of partying at the Unknown Mortal Orchestra approved Uchiko can do a number on a group. Regardless of how I felt about this set, I am still very anxious to see what the group’s next album will sound like, while patiently awaiting more opportunities to see these amazing musicians perform again.
The Growlers’ set at the Miller Lite stage was probably the most upbeat show at ACL this past weekend. “Last weekend I had pneumonia and an ear infection,” lead vocalist Brooks Nielsen joked, “this weekend I’m just drunk.” They performed hits like “One Million Lovers” and “Going Gets Tough” but stuck mostly to last year’s Julian Casablancas-produced City Club. Despite the record receiving mixed reviews last year, Austin City Limit goers seemed to be there for the record. Its title track, “City Club,” stood out as a fan favorite towards the end of the set.
A lot can change in two years, that’s something I learned after watching one of my favorite jazz-hip-hop fusion groups from the city that Drake built. In those two years Badbadnotgood had released a new album, IV, as well as worked with a long list of musical giants, including Snoop Dogg, KAYTRANADA, Ghostface Killah, and MF Doom, just to name a few. The band came to the shaded Tito’s stage to uproarious applause before delving into an hour-long set that was executed perfectly by all four members of the group, especially drummer and de facto front man, Alexander Sowinski. Much like Bonobo on day one, the songs were hard to keep track of as the group occasionally took breaks between songs, however I’m positive I heard “Can’t Leave the Night,” off of 2014’s III. The group closed with the CS60, asking the crowd to get low before the more frantic instrumental sections of the song, and jumping when the song “dropped.” Overall, any Badbadnotgood show is going to be the exact opposite of their name, but this being my second time seeing them live, I longed for the days when they would cover Waka Flocka Flame and Flying Lotus, after all that is why this band has come so far. However, once you have enough of your own original material to play for an hour, it makes sense. No one wants to be labelled a cover band, and for a long time, that’s what BBNG was, albeit the best jazz cover band in recent memory, but now they are one of the best jazz bands period.
Run the Jewels
Unlike rap acts like Jay Z, who stood by a 40-foot tall Jeff Koon sculpture, and Chance the Rapper, whose choir took ACL to church, Run the Jewels kept it relatively simple. The Atlanta/Brooklyn rap duo, Killer Mike and El-P, opened the set with an intro to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and brought out Danny Brown to perform “Hey Kids.” The duo often took breaks between songs to remind the audience to have fun but to be mindful and respectful of one another. Killer Mike took time to ask that the audience took a step back and make sure the people upfront weren’t being squished. The duo also talked about sexual assault which is cool because I didn’t really notice any mention of this anywhere else throughout the festival.
Gorillaz presented a dystopian reality at the Honda stage last sunday night. “Hello! Is anyone there,” Gorillaz’s animated characters yelled out from beyond the insides of a cybernetic black hole as “M1 A1” began to play. Sporting a Gorillaz hoodie and jeans, Damon Albarn looked like a dad. I’m not sure if he is an actual dad but he definitely plays the role of a dad – he unleashes the animated figures that make up this alternate reality and arranges the sound that brings them to life. The set also featured artists Peven Everett, Zebra Katz, Kilo Kish, and Jamie Principle who accompanied Albarn on tour. Overall, Gorillaz was very entertaining and very fun to watch.
This year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival was one of the better in recent memory, the lineup is top notch, and the additions made by the festival, including the larger Barton Springs stage, and addition more CamelBak sponsored “Hydration Stations,” the festival was a treat to be at, and makes all of us here at Coog Radio excited to see how the ever-growing ACL will build on this momentum.
Check back in a couple days for Coog Radio’s best and worst of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, and as always, thanks for reading, leave a comment below and let us know what you think!