Saturday, October 3, 2009

Austin City Limits - Day Two

Deer Tick - "It's 11:45, so if you think my voice sounds bad normally ..." began lead singer / guitarist John Joseph McCauley III, looking more than a little like Thomas Jane's character from Boogie Nights. Any raggedness in his voice was welcome edge, complimenting their blues, country, and surf-rock-tinged rock. They betrayed their influences by covering Lightin' Hopkins and Townes Van Zandt, but it's hard to imagine either of them closing with Richie Valens' "La Bamba," as the Providence quintet did before being cut-off mid-song for going over their 40 minutes. Even their quiet songs turned loud and anthemic, as exemplified by opener "Easy," with it's snarling chorus "You don't know how easy it is." A great wake-up to the festival's second day.

!!! - the Sacramento group was also struck by the early hour. "We do, like, moody nightclub music - and it's 2:30 in the afternooon," lead singer Nic Offer noted halfway through the set. "Normally we haven't even had our coffee by now." If he was sleepy, it didn't show - he stalked around the stage like a modern-day Mick Jagger, gesticulating rudely with a microphone stand and repeatedly climbing over equipment and jumping into the stands. Between (and sometimes during) songs, the band kept things light by repeatedly shouting "God dammit!" to crack up drummer Paul Quattrone. !!! is a terrific live act; if you're not dancing, there's something wrong with you.

Bon Iver - the first real dud of the festival. I loved For Emma, Forever Ago, their 2008 album, and enjoyed the performance of Justin Vernon and company in Boston last year. In the open festival setting, their spare acoustic music came off as sleepy rather than moody. Two exceptions: anthemic crowd favorite "Skinny Love," amplified from the studio version with extra percussion, and the closer "The Wolves (Act I and II)."

Mos Def - the Brooklyn MC was nearly a half-hour late for his scheduled show, but delivered a solid set of literate hip-hop. He showed a range of talents, drumming, rapping, and singing, freestyling a song ("You feel like you should know this / But I just made it up"), and even breakdancing a little with the dance troupe he brought out for the finale. The set was heavy on this year's strong Ecstatic, and went over well with the fans despite his tardy arrival.

The Decemberists
- as has been their modus operandi on this tour, the group played The Hazards of Love front-to-back. If you love this album and you love the Decemberists (as I do), this is exactly as expected - wild and awesome, with band members switching instruments, goofball theatrics, and some of the most awesome and gorgeous songs of the year - "The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid" and "The Hazards of Love 4 - The Drowned" to name two. If you find the Decemberists dorky and annoying, nothing about their live act is going to change your mind. The crowd was apparently in the first camp, eating up the set even in its more subdued moments.

Deer Tick Site
!!! Site
Bon Iver Site
Mos Def Site
The Decemberists Site

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