Playback: Festival Buzz
Festival, Texas – spring edition
Austin's festival season comes in like a lion with South by Southwest in March, but never turns into a lamb, instead roaring through April and May.
Weeks like this, we're caught in a deluge of music fests directly behind and ahead of us, announcements coming left and right, and all we can see on the horizon are festivals, festivals, and more festivals. This is when our heads spin with schedule making, day drinking, tent pitching, sun blocking, porta-potties, and new music. Daunting? Hell no, we're pumped.
On Tuesday at 6am, concert promotion kingpins C3 Presents unveiled the lineup for their fall outing, the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Of their top five headliners – Eminem, Pearl Jam, Outkast, Skrillex, and Beck – only one act, the DJ with half a haircut, would be out of place on a festival poster from 1999. From another angle, multiple rap headliners evidence that hip-hop has become industry practice.
ACL Fest again doubles down at Zilker Park for two weekends, October 3-5 and 10-12, but this year, a top-tier act, Lorde, has been scheduled to perform only once. Last year, that latter weekend's passes didn't sell out until days before the festival. The Kiwi teen chart topper could change that dynamic.
Other notable talent appearing at the eight-stage outdoor music festival include Lana Del Ray, Foster the People, Calvin Harris, Avett Brothers, Zedd, and Gaslight Anthem. Austin will rejoice in reggae great Jimmy Cliff, local boys Spoon, St. Vincent, and a pair of female-fronted eclectic indie outfits that made big splashes at Central Texas festivals this year: Utopia Fest alums Lucius and recent Old Settler's standouts Lake Street Dive. ACL's most intriguing booking is reformed Minnesotans the Replacements, who just left hundreds of aging rockers shaking their heads saying, "Now I need to buy a ticket to ACL Fest?"
To me, they seem like obvious Fun Fun Fun Fest territory, where their shambolic, plaid-shirted influence would resonate. Second that for glammy goth punks AFI.
Speaking of Fun Fun Fun, festival promoters Transmission Events have scheduled their lineup announcement for May 20, almost two months earlier than usual. Either they got their booking work done early or they're getting the jump in an increasingly competitive festival market.
Another surprising fest announcement landed last week when Timmy Hefner, who axed his popular Chaos in Tejas earlier this year, announced he'd host a smaller, but similarly booked series of shows May 28-June 1. A Weekend in Austin will feature the second U.S. performance by Russian blackened death metallurgists Pseudogod, plus stoner/doom vets Floor, and Mexican hardcores Tercer Mundo, along with Parquet Courts, Destruction Unit, Nothing, and others. Hefner downplayed the event, telling "Playback" he didn't try to plan a fest.
"It just worked out that some rad bands were coming through on the weekend that would have been Chaos to the point where I felt like it was meant to be and invited a couple more bands and called it a day," he explained.
Regardless, it comes as a welcome addition to the landscape of local fests. Now get out your planners. This is how Austin's immediate festival itinerary breaks down:
• The 21st annual Austin Reggae Festival ran last weekend, smoking up Butler Park, across the road from its usual grounds at Auditorium Shores due to ongoing renovation, which also displaced SXSW's free concert series and will affect the layout of FFF Fest in November.
• This Friday and Saturday, Euphoria Music & Camping Festival raves on at Austin's Carson Creek Ranch, featuring an epic lineup of electronic music including both live acts like Beats Antique and Lotus as well as DJ sets from Zeds Dead, Crystal Method, Gareth Emery, Bonobo, and Bro Safari. Also on Saturday, freaks and families swarm Pease Park for a celebration of Eeyore's Birthday. Live music runs noon-6pm. Expect drum circles, costumes (or nudity), and an appearance from an old gray donkey.
• The following weekend, May 2-4, Carson Creek Ranch comes to life again for Austin Psych Fest, slated to reverberate with Loop, Zombies, Black Angels, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dandy Warhols, Black Lips, and Of Montreal over three days. That Saturday, May 3, local hip-hop and EDM concert promoters Scoremore host JMBLYA at the WhiteWater Amphitheater in New Braunfels. This year's cutting-edge lineup includes Chance the Rapper, Baauer, RL Grime, A$AP Ferg, Riff Raff, and a Purity Ring DJ set.
• On May 10, it's time for Pachanga Latino Music Festival, which has shifted gears this year. Focusing on a younger generation of artists, it's downsized into a single-day event, a move that organizer Rich Garza chalked up to festival fatigue, saying he thinks fans will respond to a well-done, single-day event more than to a weekend. That concert, taking place at Fiesta Gardens, includes Mexican superstar Julieta Venegas, Monterrey dub rockers El Gran Silencio, Venezuelan dance punks La Vida Bohème, Mexican MC Niña Dioz, and Puerto Rican garage rocker AJ Dávila.
› Hole in the Wall announced the lineup for the venue's 40th anniversary celebration, slated for June 19-28. The list features 40 Hole regulars from four decades including Fastball, Black Joe Lewis & Founding Fathers, Pocket FishRmen, Riverboat Gamblers, Two Hoots & a Holler, LeRoi Brothers, Pong, Mike & the Moonpies, Shoulders, Sincola, and of course Mojo Nixon, who was famously joined by Don Henley to sing "Don Henley Must Die" at the eternal campus-area watering hole in 1992.
› When experimental rockers Boyfrndz played Brooklyn's St. Vitus Bar on April 10, they had no idea the gear behind them was that of Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear. Directly after their set, the Nirvana alums executed grunge-era Kurt Cobain reenactments with Joan Jett, St. Vincent, Kim Gordon, and J. Mascis. Sadly, the local trio wasn't permitted to stay and watch the secretive, invite-only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame afterparty. Boyfrndz hit Red 7's outside stage on Saturday for a homecoming gig and belated record release show for their latest LP, Breeder.
› Felicidades Willie Nelson! Austin's favorite outlaw blows out 81 candles on Tuesday, then performs at the Backyard with daughter Amy's Folk Uke and Peterson Brothers opening. The day before, Nelson heads to a local martial arts studio to receive his fifth-degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul from his longtime master Sam Um. Keeping with family tradition, Willie's daughter, singer Paula Nelson, was arrested on Sunday (4/20) in Menard County for possession of marijuana.
› Big week coming for the longest-running music show in television history. KRLU's Austin City Limits inducts Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble at Saturday's Hall of Fame event at the old Studio 6A, then continues taping stars for their 40th season with Beck arriving on Sunday night at the Moody Theater. ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona confirms that the show's putting together a two-hour prime-time special to air on PBS in the late fall. That will include footage from a yet-to-be-announced concert in late June as well as highlights from Saturday's show and memorable performances from the last four decades.
› "Real life awaits us" on Saturday night as Tulsa trio Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey crafts an original live soundtrack to the film The Holy Mountain at Austin's namesake music club Holy Mountain. For those uninitiated, the 1973 Alejandro Jodorowsky surrealist drama remains one of the strangest and unforgettable movies ever created. Can't wait to hear what these jazz journeymen come up with for it.
› Austin's Jazz Alliance hosts an awards ceremony on Saturday, 7-9pm at the Brass House, the swanked-out club where Skinny's Ballroom used to be (115 San Jacinto). The event, which features live music from the Texas Jazz Jam Cruise house band, honors organizations that support and nurture the jazz scene and creative arts in Austin.