ACL Review: The Maccabees & Royal Blood

Back-to-back UK imports recall Brit rock’s glory years

The British are coming. The British are coming! Then again, when it comes to rock & roll, the British were already here.

The Maccabees (Photo by John Anderson)

The first Friday afternoon of ACL Fest 2015 showcased two of our forefathers’ best and brightest back to back. London’s Maccabees took the Miller Lite stage at the sunny hour of 1pm to a modest crowd. The sextet fielded three guitars, plus keys and a rhythm section, in erecting a shimmering scaffold of jangle/crunch that artfully blended Eighties-era Britpop with 21st century modern rock.

Beginning with “Marks to Prove It,” the title track to the band’s fourth and latest LP, the Maccs built in intensity. By the time they closed with shining anthem “Pelican,” the audience had been converted to fans. The band flashed all smiles as if it couldn’t believe its luck.

Royal Blood (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

If the Maccabees seemed surprised and delighted at their ability to grab and hold an American festival crowd, Brighton duo Royal Blood acted as if it was born to it. At the opposite end of Zilker Park, singer Mike Kerr ran his bass through enough effects to sound like a guitarist, while drummer Ben Thatcher bashed away like Keith Moon pistol-whipping John Bonham, filling the air the way the sixpiece before it couldn’t.

“Figure It Out,” "Loose Change,” and “Out of the Black” hammer out all riff all of the time, with sing-along choruses dropped in at just the right moment. Yet the band’s chief weapon is its swagger, which elevates widescreen blues grunge beyond the obvious comparisons and into its own sphere. Royal Blood didn’t lure a big Stateside crowd into its corner as much as it crowd-surfed it – literally, on the back of Ben Thatcher.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

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Maccabees, Royal Blood, ACL Fest 2015, Mike Kerr, Ben Thatcher, Keith Moon, John Bonham

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