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Playback: ACL Doubles Down

ACL's dual weekend model next year will feature the same line-ups. Plus, ACL weekend tidbits.

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., Oct. 12, 2012

C3 Entertainment and city officials held a press conference on the mayor's balcony last Wednesday to announce that the Austin City Limits Music Festival will expand to two weekends in 2013. The festival will run Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13 in Zilker Park. Both weekends will feature essentially the same lineup, with C3 planning to have much of Zilker's Great Lawn open for public use between the weekends.

"We like that half the people who are coming are from out of town," announced Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau President Bob Lander. "And as the mayor likes to point out, they leave their money and we don't have to educate their kids."

C3 Festival Marketing Director Lisa Hickey said the percent of ticket revenue donated to the parks department will increase from 8.5% to 10.5% next year. Meanwhile, for this local music journalist, the event was my first opportunity to corner Charles Attal, the big enchilada of Austin's concert promotions market. I asked him if he thought both weekends would sell out in 2013.

"I hope so, obviously. I get really nervous," admitted Attal, who's already begun booking next year's ACL and having conversations with bands about what to do during the six days between performances. "They're like, 'We're not doing anything. We just want to hang out.' Other bands talked about doing shows in Oklahoma or New Orleans. There's a big festival in Mexico City that week too, put on by promoters we work with, so we'll probably do some stuff down there.

"Everyone will be doing their own thing, but we'll help facilitate it."

Since that's then and this is now, here's some ACL news for this weekend:

The Relatives
The Relatives
Photo by Mike Brooks/commiebike.com

• The Relatives, an obscure Dallas gospel group from the Seventies led by brothers Gean and Tommie West (see "Don't Let Me Fall," Oct. 1, 2010), have teamed up with a gang of Austin musicians for a long overdue debut full-length. Former Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears guitarist Zach Ernst assembled a backing band featuring Ronnie James from Jimmie Vaughan's band on bass, Mike Flanigin on organ, former Honeybear Matt Strmiska on drums, Adrian Quesada from Grupo Fantasma on guitar, Hard Proof contributing horns, and Spoon's Jim Eno producing. The Electric Word, a psychedelic mix of gospel and funk, comes out early next year on Yep Roc. Gean West offered a special message for anyone who might catch the Relatives' ACL set, Friday, 3pm: "We're coming there on fire!"

Holy Mountain opens this weekend in the old Beauty Bar building on Seventh Street. "We want to offer a space that's just as fun to hang out at when there's only a soccer game on the TV as there is when a live band's playing," says partner Jared Cannon of Red 7. Omar S and Ghostland Observatory's Thomas Turner pop the venue's cherry on Friday with an ACL afterparty. On Saturday, Holy Mountain hosts Moon Duo and Black Angels side project Christian Bland & the Revelators.

› "We may not know for sure which band he's using 'til he shows up," admits Austin City Limits producer Jeff Peterson of the increasingly spontaneous Jack White, who currently performs with two different bands and no set list. White's Sunday taping for the PBS live music flagship could be a challenging night for the production crew, which typically has its shots synced to the scheduled songs. "We prefer to be as prepared as we can be, but I love what he's doing on this tour," says Peterson. "We're here to capture it and let Jack be Jack. We've got a great crew. If the band can keep up, we should be able to, too."

› Keeping with his 2012 record of playing every music festival humanly possible, this week's Chronicle cover subject, bluesman Gary Clark Jr., announced he'll be playing at Lollapalooza Chile and Lollapalooza Brazil in the spring. Both are put on by ACL organizers, C3.

Stooges guitarist James Williamson will join the Austin School of Rock house band to play "Search and Destroy" at ACL's Austin Kiddie Limits stage on Sunday, 2:30pm. "School of Rock works because we teach a lot of classic rock that exemplifies great music. The Stooges are my classic rock," says music director Rick Carney.

› Local prog-folk outfit the Eastern Sea is following up its superb summer release, Plague, with a Christmas album. First Christmas features holiday classics and soon-to-be-holiday-classics. The band's at ACL on Sunday, 11:20am, and headlining an aftershow at Stubb's indoors on Friday.

› Nashville-based guitar phenom Kenny Vaughan canceled his ACL performance because he's reportedly going through a terrible divorce. We can't wait to see how fast he can play in the future without a wedding ring weighing down his hand.

› For you early risers who can't wait until 11am to hear live music this weekend, I recommend heading to Threadgill's World Headquarters, where KGSR hosts performances and interviews starting at 8:30am for only $5. Friday: Asleep at the Wheel (8:30), First Aid Kit (9), Wheeler Brothers (9:30), Patterson Hood (10), Ben Howard (10:30), LP (11). Saturday: the Dunwells (8:30), the Eastern Sea (9), Patrick Watson (9:30), the Whigs (10), Michael Kiwanuka (10:30).

KUT makes the Four Seasons its ACL headquarters on Friday, 9am to noon, hosting select fest talent, including locals Quiet Company, Sweden's First Aid Kit, New York Afrobeat crew Antibalas, and Jovanotti, an undisputed pop icon in his native Italy, but so obscure in the States that we forgive you if you thought his name was a type of cheese.

› I was just thinking Austin didn't do enough to celebrate Willie Nelson. Good thing SiriusXM, which features the channel Willie's Roadhouse, has opened a broadcast studio in the Moody Theater, a venue in which Nelson has a stake. The grand opening event, Friday, 2pm, plans appearances by Mayor Lee Leffingwell and, you guessed it, Willie.

Curran in 2010 at Rockabilly Revival Fest
Curran in 2010 at Rockabilly Revival Fest
Photo by Gary Miller

Nick Curran (1977-2012)

The only debate about Nick Curran remains one of relativity: Which was greater, his guitar playing or his personality? On Saturday, Oct. 6, the Maine native and longtime Austinite died way too young at the age of 35. He left a big discography and a national legacy.

From his clothes to his soul, Curran was a full-on rocker, performing constantly from his teenage years until 2010, when he was overtaken by oral cancer. Early on, Curran played sideman to Dallas rockabilly great Ronnie Dawson, backed Kim Lenz and the Jaguars, and joined the Fabulous Thunderbirds, recording on 2005's Painted On. Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer knew the six-stringer.

"It was always exciting when Nick was around town and hanging at the Continental," he says, "because you knew there was a good chance he would sit in with whoever and slay the crowd. He could play anything with anybody and sing like Little Richard or Howlin' Wolf."

A life force passing through blues into R&B, informing rock & roll as it exploded into punk – that's the rail Nick Curran's music rode. From head-turning 2000 debut Fixin' Your Head to the critically acclaimed Reform School Girl a decade later, he demonstrated a rare combination of skill and taste.

"Nick had only gotten started and the sad thing is we'll never get to know what he would have done," laments Jimmie Vaughan. "He was raw talent; there was no bullshit. He was real."

As soon as word came out that Nick Curran had died, tribute sets started happening all over town, and don't expect them to stop anytime soon, because he knew a lot of people and they all loved him.

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