Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

ACL 2010

The sun has set on another year at ACL, and although I knew nothing would top seeing Eddie Vedder and the boys last year, this was another great year.  Each year I am always impressed by the level of talent that gathers together for three days of music in Austin, TX.  I am a live music connoisseur, so I am not impressed by big names or commercial success.  I want to see someone who is talented and can put on a good show.  So far ACL has not disappointed.  Here are some of the highlights from this year’s festival.

Friday started off great with the southern sounds of J.J. Grey and Mofro.  They served up some pure southern rock and soul.  One of the best parts of their set was a song about what the lead singer’s grandmother used to cook up in the kitchen.  Not only did it remind me of my southern upbringing, but it was a fun song that allowed the band to shine.  After hearing J.J. Grey and Mofro I had to wait a few hours before things picked up again, but did they ever pick up.  The Black Keys turned in an amazing set.  This drummer and guitarist duo rocks harder than most bands with twice as many members.  Although The Black Keys are a modern alternative rock band their roots go back to the blues.  After The Black Keys set I caught a few songs from Austin’s own Band of Heathens, who remind me a lot of The Band.  They have three capable singers and who are great songwriters as well.  I wrapped up the day by seeing Spoon, Sonic Youth, and The Strokes, but the high point of Friday for me was listening to Ryan Bingham.  Bingham is a part of the alternative country movement, although I think his lyrics have more in common with Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen than Cross Canadian Ragweed.  I think Bingham is one of the most talented songwriters to come around in a long time.  Even though he is a fairly new artist he has already won an Oscar for his song “The Weary Kind” which appeared in the movie Crazy Heart.

For me Saturday presented the best lineup of all three day, but sadly I wasn’t able to see everyone I hoped to see.  The highlight of the day was catching the supergroup Monsters of Folk.  M. Ward, Conor Oberst, and Jim James all performed solo stuff as well as songs off the Monsters of Folk album.  All three individuals showed their talents by switching instruments after every song.  Perhaps the most fun I had at ACL was at Mayer Hawthorne.  Hawthorne is a soul singer as talented as some of the greats from the 60’s and 70’s.  Although Hawthorne is steeped in the tradition of classic soul music his lyrics often have a sense a humor.  I think he is an artist that will only get more and more popular.  Another new artist to check out is First Aid Kit, a Swedish duo who have a love for country music.  This band first became popular on youtube after they recorded a cover of a Fleet Foxes song.  Although these two girls are young they are quite talented and worth a listen.  Saturday was a great day, but I was disappointed I did not get to see Broken Bells or The Gaslight Anthem.

Some might call me crazy, but I was more excited about seeing Norah Jones on Sunday than The Eagles, and she did not disappoint.  Jones proved why she is one of the greatest talents to emerge from the last decade.  She combines great lyrics and music which display a diversity of influences such as Jazz, Country, and Rock.  I predict she will be around for a long long time.  ACL always invites several gospel groups, and this year they had probably the best one I had ever seen.  The Relatives are an obscure group from Dallas, TX who made a few rare recordings back in the 70’s.  I don’t know if ACL has ever had an artist that has not released an album in over thirty years, but I am glad someone had the courage to suggest The Relatives.  Robert Earl Keen opened his set with his fantastic new song about Levon Helm, the famous drummer from The Band.  I’ve seen Keen several times, but I think this is one of the best sets he has ever had.  Band of Horses were great as well as Blind Pilot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

ACL was outstanding again and I did not even mention the food.  The great thing about this festival is it has not become commercialized like many things in America.  They choose artists because they are good, not because they sale lots of records.  They have lots of great food from local restaurants as well as a farmer’s market.  They also strive to make the festival family friendly by having an entire stage dedicated to children’s music and including lots of activities for kids.  If you are thinking about going to a music festival I cannot recommend ACL enough.  I’m already looking forward to next year.


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