Mark Stock at Austin City Limits: Part Three (Photos, too!)
Hangovers, stolen band equipment, migas, God and a severe lack of towels at the hotel. Not to mention Portland's big breakout day (the reason I avoided the National and Band of Horses covering Cee-Lo). It's Sunday in Austin, Texas.
Blind Pilot at the Zync Card Stage
Finally, Portland's day. M. Ward showed well the other day as 1/4 of the supergroup (1/2 in my book) Monsters of Folk, but it wasn't enough. The wait was prolonged courtesy of dance-pop maestros Hockey and their confusing last-minute departure from the ACL lineup.
Still sailing on the success of their highly praised record 3 Rounds And A Sound and a lauded 2008 bike tour, Stumptown's favorite soft-rockers walked on stage with big smiles and giddy mannerisms. Frontman Israel Nebeker was his typically bashful self, blushing between songs and tickled to be jump-starting the strong day of music. Admirably, Blind Pilot wove in three or four new tracks to their lineup, which offered nice counterbalance to safer, established hits like “Go On, Say It” and “Oviedo.” The new material—while maintaining that certain supple quality that's entirely theirs—bounced more, with greater emphasis on percussion and wilier string plucking.
Stage mate Kati Claborn added some antiquity to the set with a steady serving of banjo and the very country and very cool sounding Dulcimer, a four-stringed Appalachian guitar. Her vocals were more prominent on the new material, strengthening Nebeker's oft-hushed lyrics. By this time at ACL, fans were in need of Bling Pilot's soft and seductive ways. They're the musical version of two tylenols, a glass of water and a cool towel to the forehead.
Portugal. The Man at the Budweiser Stage
Responsible for one of the hardest-hitting sets at Coachella this year, Portland (by way of Alaska) band Portugal. The Man us nothing if not dirty, soul-twisted rock. The camera crane that panned over their hour-long afternoon set was fittingly adorned with a white-and-green heart Oregon sticker (the one you've seen everywhere in Portland). John Baldwin Gourley strolled on stage wearing his beloved baby blue hooded windbreaker, laughing in the face of the 90 degree thermometer readings.
The foursome played surefire hits like “People Say,” but really let loose to older songs from '08's Satanic Satanist. “The Sun” simply never gets old, a keys-driven, celebratory chant-along that grooves with the silk typically reserved for a Jeff Buckley track. Ryan Neighbors work on the keys could not be overlooked, the Ray Manzerik of the band, quick to turn any riff into a drugged-out organ solo. Portugal. The Man embodies so much classic rock that it's unsettling to find the band on the internet. They belong in the blaring speakers of a speeding muscle car on the highway.
Gayngs at the Zync Card Stage (Cancelled)
Gayngs has taken a fair amount of heat for their obscure creation Relayted, a record incorporating some 25 musicians, a handful of genres, even Bone Thugs N' Harmony-esque speed rapping. But when it clicks, it's quite good and I was eager to see how the normally gloomy Bon Iver would fare as R&B frontman. Sadly, it was not to be.
Upon entering the press tent on Sunday, I was greeted with an apologetic dry-erase board message and the following email from the band.
Official statement from the band:
Last night, GAYNGS' tour bus, containing all of the band's gear, personal belongings, and livelihood, was mistakenly driven across the country from Emo's Downtown, en route to the ACL Festival Grounds. Unable to reach the driver of the bus, the band reported the gear stolen at approximately 4:20 am.
After a sleepless, worry full night, the band made every attempt to borrow and backline equipment so the show could go on, however, we regret to announce that we will not be able to perform without the necessary equipment that was taken by the bus.
We are insanely bummed out by these events. We can only hope to have the opportunity to make it up to all of you. Thanks for your support on this tour. It was truly a dream come true.
Apparently, Justin Vernon and crew ultimately settled the mishap, paid the bus company and moved on. But we never did get to see Gayngs' ultra-collaborative, outlandish slow jams and reverb rock.
Yeasayer at the AMD Stage
I approached Yeasayer with caution, convinced the band had only been backtracking since the release of the brilliant All Hour Cymbals. But little by little, the new record has grown on me and seeing them perform new-ish tracks like “Ambling Alp” in new formats was refreshing and reassuring. The Brooklyn group has a tremendously high music IQ and its continuously expressed through decadently layered tracks that feature so many parts it requires a reference manual.
Guitarist Chris Keating is more at the fore of new release Odd Blood and his richly toned vocals took my by surprise. Big, Phil Collins-type manufactured beats frame most of the new material, creating an interesting dichotomy of 80's electronica and Beach Boys communal harmonies. Their set was fresh and energizing, climaxing with a emphatic take on “O.N.E.”
Band of Horses at the Budweiser Stage
Like or dislike Horses newest big-label work Infinite Arms, the guys can play. Taking the stage at sunset, a less-scruffy-than-usual Ben Bridwell dedicated track one first to the glaring sun, than his own son (“No One's Gonna Love You”). The band sped through a no-nonsense but solid set that included “Ode to LRC” and the new and twangy “Laredo.” Bridwell took a moment to thank Cee-Lo for his recent cover of “Not One's Gonna Love You” and decided to return the favor with a cover of “Georgia.” Allegedly, Bridwell decided on this song in part as an homage to his favorite football team, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Fans remarked on Horses former tendency to play rougher, sloppier sets and there's truth to that. The band has cleaned up a bit—even gone Brooks And Dunn on us during certain breakdowns in the new record—but that's, arguably, better than sticking to an unsteady mold. Besides, Horses have always had a soft spot, evidenced through older tracks like “Funeral” and “St. Augustine.” What it hasn't lost—and likely never will—is their Western edge and a blissful stage presence that's so genuine you wonder if even the band knows that they're huge now. Props to them.
The National is about to start what will surely be a fine set, but I've had enough. I think I'm the only person on planet earth that doesn't like The National. They play a mean live show, this I know, but I struggle with Matt Berninger's sleepy baritone. Tom Waits could do it, but he's one of a choice few.
A fat thank you to Austin City Limits for rolling out a swell welcome mat once more.
The great big slideshow [all photos taken with a "real" (non-digital) camera...then promptly digitized]: