ACL Review: Parker Millsap

Oklahoman singer-songwriter exorcises his inner punk

Was an unseasonably hot Saturday afternoon at Zilker Park compounded by thousands descending on the verdant grounds and expelling carbon dioxide? Certainly, it felt a lot more like August than October. Factor in a shit-hot set at the Tito’s tent by Americana wunderkind Parker Millsap, and it felt like the Fourth of July.

Photo by Jana Birchum

In a weekend where the hardest rocking acts proved to be Americana outfits, Parker Millsap damn near came off like a punk rocker. On Friday, high-billed roots acts such as Ryan Adams and Lukas Nelson ceded twang to a cranked overdrive once onstage. Millsap was no exception, except in attack.

True, hunching wild-eyed over his antique hollowbody electric, flailing before his drummer, bassist, and fiddle player, he resembled a young Leonardo DiCaprio in bad need of an exorcism. He leaned into his mic, bit down on his Southern gothic lyrics, and invested tender laments with dirty power chords and whirling dervish energy. Live, the Oklahoman comes off as the spiritual child of the Cramps or Flat Duo Jets rather than Jimmie Rodgers.

Millsap plays so hard, he snapped three guitar strings across his set. When the second broke on his backup guitar, his band vamped a cool samba as he attempted to tune a fresh replacement string.

“Oh, no!” he cried, suddenly racing offstage.

He returned with another vintage archtop around his neck.

“Sorry,” he grinned sheepishly. “I broke that string, too!”

Once finished retuned, he teased, “But that gave you a nice little rest, there. Let’s try this again.”

No one complained as he launched into the locomotive opener from recent LP The Very Last Day, “Hades Pleads,” which shattered his band’s improvised lounge groove. Faster, rawer, and with ragged precision, he killed the studio track dead. Then he and the band unplugged and walked off, the audience wishing they’d played 10 more.

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Parker Millsap, ACL Fest 2017, Ryan Adams, Lukas Nelson, Jimmie Rodgers, Cramps, Flat Duo Jets

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