ACL Review: Tash Sultana

Aussie debuts one-woman show at her first U.S. fest

After the ascension to mass dominance of Ed Sheeran, the novelty of seeing a musician accompany themself with self-generated loops should have worn off by now. On Saturday afternoon in Zilker Park, weekend-two-only performer Tash Sultana proved she isn’t merely beating her guitar, however.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

Besides picking her trusty Telecaster, the 22-year-old Australian tickles the keys of synthesizers, smacks the pads of drum machines, aggressively trills a mandolin, beatboxes on a handheld mic, and even blows a mean trumpet, building in enough delay to make dub fans smile.

Given the cheers every time she switched instruments during her debut American festival performance, that’s what the sizeable audience came to see. It’s safe to assume that most of the audience was seeing her live for the first time, primed by her years of YouTube videos and Spotify/Bandcamp releases. And they were pumped.

Sultana stoked that desire, opening with “Big Smoke,” a nearly 15-minute, multi-part epic that spotlighted her instrumental facility. Afterward, she focused squarely on her compositions, “Murder to the Mind,” “Synergy,” and “Notion.” When the first few notes of the latter emerged, she was greeted with a roar.

Fuzz guitar solos and what seemed to be an improvised synth tribute to Tangerine Dream also earned big cheers, but it was clearly her songs that connected with the crowd. Although nothing Sultana did felt calculated – the big grin that often crossed her face as she played confirmed that – she also understood the theatricality of what she does, and played it up.

That was especially evident at the end of final number, “Jungle,” as she leaped over – not ran around, leaped over – her gear to solo wildly at the lip of the stage like the guitar deity she’s clearly becoming. Sultana engaged in timeless rock & roll interplay with an eager audience, each side feeding off the other in a loop as energized as anything she created with her pedals.

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Tash Sultana, ACL Fest 2017, Ed Sheeran, Tangerine Dream

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