ACL Live Shot: Imelda May

Dublin rockabilly turns in a Kustom Kar set and owns the place

Sunday afternoon, Zilker Park became a swamp that smelled like stockyards. Large chunks of lawn transformed into muddy bogs getting steamier once the sun came out and cut through the chill. Which made it all a big, stanky sauna.

Graciously, church was in session inside the Zilker tent. A sermon preached by rock & roll consultant BP Fallon, “I Believe in Elvis Presley” (“I believe in rockabilly and rock & roll”) improvised its climax: “I believe in Imelda May.” One force of nature thus made way for another.

Girl Just Can’t Help It: Irish rose Imelda May (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

With May’s crackerjack band setting a gravedigger groove, the Dublin-born rockabilly sensation slinked out in a form-fitting, black-striped dress, hair piled high. Her husband Darell Higham laid down fat, reverb-drenched Eddie Cochran figures from a big, orange, hollow-body guitar as the rhythm section crackled.

Meanwhile, May oozed sultry tones suggesting Wanda Jackson on a Billie Holiday bender. Mind you, neither Jackson nor Holiday ever wrote a lyric complaining about their man being on eBay too much. Nor would they have gleaned inspiration from Aleister Crowley via “Hellfire Club,” found on new LP Tribal and here a live set highlight.

May’s enormous voice filled the room, captivating a crowd with more Jayne Mansfield-proportioned young women than a Kustom Kar rally. Two tunes from the end, she and Al Gare sat atop his doghouse bass. He strummed a ukelele, she crooned Blondie’s “Dreaming.”

In that quiet moment, Imelda May owned ACL Fest.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More ACL Fest
Police Chief: ACL Fest Will Be “Safest Part of the City”
Police Chief: ACL Fest Will Be “Safest Part of the City”
Shooting at Las Vegas festival prompts press conference on security

Kevin Curtin, Oct. 2, 2017

ACL Live Shot: Calvin Harris
ACL Live Shot: Calvin Harris
Scottish DJ demonstrates global demand

Luke Winkie, Oct. 13, 2014

More by Tim Stegall
Free Week 2019 Is in the Rearview Mirror, but These Homegrown Standouts Aren't
Free Week 2019 Is in the Rearview Mirror, but These Homegrown Standouts Aren't
10 local showcases that got us excited for what's to come this year

Jan. 11, 2019

10 Free Week Acts to Watch This Weekend
10 Free Week Acts to Watch This Weekend
Keep an eye out for these musicians in 2019

Jan. 4, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

ACL Fest, Imelda May, ACL Fest 2014, Darell Higham, Al Gare, Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, Wanda Jackson, Billie Holiday, Blondie, Jayne Mansfield, Aleister Crowley

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle