Austin City Limits: Day Two

“Does anyone have a tampon?” asked bloody Ben Kweller yesterday afternoon. The Brooklyn rocker had just taken the AT&T stage, and despite the Tampax now hanging off his face, the nosebleed was too dangerous to ignore. Poor Ben went to the hospital on medic’s orders. “Everyone’s gonna think I’m a cokehead,” he told us. Dude, you’re on tour with your wife and kid — we know you just rocked too hard for your own face. Video of Mr. Kweller’s heavy flow day can be found here. (Ben’s OK now!)

While the incident was much buzzed-about among the bloggers, we had more important matters to attend to. TV On The Fucking Radio! Yesterday, the Austin American-Statesman asked, “Nada Surf Or TV On The Radio? We Can Argue Both Sides.” We love Matthew Caws, but it was not a tough decision. Whatever the route to Cookie Mountain, TVOTR best not lose that map. Along with one of the year’s best records, Kyp, Sitek, and Tunde are coming with a revitalized live show, all noise guitars and hip gyrations. And while Sitek may be Mountain’s mastermind, the ‘fro makes Kyp look like a mad genius. TVOTR hit us with indispensible cuts from Return To Cookie and treated us to “Young Liars,” reminding us of their buzz-building EP. All aboard for their Grizzly Bear tour.


Elvis Perkins, one of this year’s artists to watch, turned up in hip shades and a fresh cut coiffure. This was the first time we’d seen him lead his lyrical laments with an electric axe, allowing him to punctuate his wandering vocals with curt, staccato strums. The results were mixed, and the band seemed a little off, having to restart a tune begun in the wrong key. Still, “Ash Wednesday” and “Emilie’s Vietnam In The Sky” were exceptional, and we’re excited to see a new crop of electric tunes.


Thirty seconds after taking the Heineken Stage, Aimee Mann realized her mic was not on. Then she started over and all was good. Watch the hilarity, and her lovely “High On Sunday 51,” here:

The singer/songwriter, bemused to be playing for thousands of kids, thanked the audience for “wandering over” to see her. The setlist spanned her solo career, and highlights included “You’re With Stupid,” “You Could Make A Killing,” and Magnolia’s heartwrenching “Save Me,” which, she reminded us, “lost an Oscar to Phil Collins and his monkey song.” Unfortunately, schedule overlap prevented us from knowing if she closed out with her usual haunting acoustic version of “Voices Carry.” So looking forward to that XMas album! (Full disclosure: Scott’s old bedroom in his parents’ house still has a Whatever poster on the wall.)


We know Caleb said he quit smoking, but he and the rest of the Kings Of Leon crew were a testament to the nicotine diet, rake thin and hyper styled. Last time I saw ‘em was during their ballyhooed trek opening for The Strokes, and they’re getting better all the time. Their set began with “Charmer,” a fucking great new song, continuing in the vein of Aha Shake Heartbreak, and didn’t let up through kick-ass renditions of “The Bucket” and “King Of The Rodeo.” One of the fest’s better sets.


But if you wanna hear who’s wearing the belt for Best Fest Set into Day Three, it’s Austin’s own Explosions In The Sky. Scott and I love ‘em on record, but this was our first live and loud taste. Each crescendo of their epic post-rock was worn in limb-flailing guitar assaults, moving from pure melody to metallic catharsis with drama and tension. The sound will be familiar to Mogwai fans, but these Texans are true titans.


“ACL legend” Willie Nelson drew the biggest crowd we’ve seen yet; the man can do no wrong in these parts. Willie’s runaway vibrato was drowned out by the legions there to adulate their tax-evading hero. Seems his libido’s in check, ’cause he made the eyes at more than one female photog in the pit. (“I think Willie likes you!” his roadies told ‘em one by one. They swooned!) Near the stage it was pot smoke and applause, but the sing-alongs turned to “Turn it up!” chants as I made my way back, the crowd bemoaning the PA system’s inability to project Nelson’s country standards to the cheap seats. (Then again, the years have taken a wee bit off of ole Willie’s dynamic range.) Songbird, his new album featuring Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, is out 10/31.


The lazy journalist’s reaction to any three-day live music weekend is “There’s something for everyone!” It’s just not true at ACL. Least diverse stateside fest we’ve been to this year (no hard rock, no hip-hop — unless you count Matisyahu, which we don’t –and certainly not a trace of those en vogue emomanics). That said, seeing old-school countryman Willie Nelson and throbbing trip-hop heroes Massive Attack back-to-back was a welcome 180 turn. Bathed in red light and fog, the Bristol beatmakers hypnotized the crowd with “Risingson” and featured guest turns from vocalists Elizabeth Fraser and Horace Andy. A bit of video. Listen closely toward the end for a security dude asking Scott, “You’re not videotaping, right?”


Tonight: Raconteurs and Sufjan Stevens tapings for Austin City Limits. Chris has us antsy to hear “Majesty Snowbird.” Fingers crossed.