ACL Music Fest Friday Picks

The blurbing of ACL 2009


11:15am, BMI stage

Though Nelo moved to Athens, Ga., to establish its sound, the quintet returned to Texas in 2007 as finalists in ACL's inaugural Sound and the Jury competition, then released its eponymous debut the next year on Justice Records. The locals' polished brand of pop-rock receives an easier, more acoustic touch on new EP Two Years Ago. – Doug Freeman

Prescott Curlywolf

11:45am, Xbox 360 stage

Though they claim "our Fenders are loaned out to other bands younger and more capable than we," venerable Austin 1990s bar quartet Prescott Curlywolf are back. The Curlys specialized in rawbone rock not unrelated to the Gourds, which makes sense, as Rob and Gourdsman Claude Bernard are blood brothers. – Margaret Moser

Asleep at the Wheel

12:30pm, AMD stage

There's no reinventing the Wheel, but with material originally selected by Atlantic Records titan Jerry Wexler, the long-awaited collaboration between Ray Benson's Austin institution and Willie Nelson yielded a timeless collection of Western swing that led to a historic Austin City Limits taping earlier this year. The Wheel recently received the Lifetime Achievement for Performance award from the Americana Music Association. – Austin Powell

School of Seven Bells

School of Seven Bells
School of Seven Bells

12:30pm, LiveStrong stage

Their lineup could be some Italian porno from the 1980s: two sultry identical twins – Alejandra and Claudia Deheza – plus Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines, on guitar. Fortunately, this NYC threesome provides the soundtrack for synth ecstasy, as heard on glacially paced 2008 debut Alpinisms (Ghostly International). Think Blonde Redhead, reversed. – Audra Schroeder

Sara Watkins

1:20pm, Austin Ventures stage

After nearly 20 years as fiddler and vocalist for Nickel Creek, Watkins released her eponymous solo debut earlier this year. She's joined by an all-star cast that begins with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones – who also produced the disc – and extends to former bandmates Chris Thile and Sean Watkins, as well as Gillian Welch, and her take on folk, pop, and gospel is versatile and mature. – Jim Caligiuri

The Knux

1:30pm, Xbox 360 stage

With last year's Remind Me in 3 Days ... (Interscope), these L.A.-by-way-of-NOLA brothers proved you can still put hip-hop on a major-label rap debut. Better yet, Kentrell "Krispy Kream" and Alvin "Rah Almillio" Lindsey took full songwriting credits on all but one track. When it's good, it's the closest there's been to Stankonia since Idlewild. – Chase Hoffberger

Blitzen Trapper

1:30pm, Dell stage

While 2007's Wild Mountain Nation served as Blitzen Trapper's national breakout, last year's Sub Pop debut, Furr, placed the Portland, Ore., sextet at the helm of the Northwest alt-folk revival. New EP Black River Killer continues to ransack the garage in service of winding narratives, pitting Neil Young and Crazy Horse against Dylan and the Band. – Doug Freeman


2pm, Wildflower Center stage

Born in Bermuda and raised at sea on a 40-foot sailboat, Mishka oozes island, from sun-bleached dreadlocks to acoustic guitar. His unplugged reggae caught the ear of Matthew McConaughey, who inked Mishka as the first and only artist on his J.K. Livin' label. While Mishka's clearly a Marley disciple, 2008's Above the Bones is all Kaya and no Confrontation. – Thomas Fawcett

Medeski, Martin & Wood

2:30pm, LiveStrong stage

These masters of the groove don't let being a jazz trio prevent them from sculpting exciting new sounds. With the final installment of their wonderfully adventurous Radiolarians trilogy now on the streets, keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood have set the pace for all comers. – Jay Trachtenberg

Avett Brothers

2:30pm, AMD stage

Initially stomping hellfire out of North Carolina, the Avett Brothers have since given deference to equally raw and emotional ballads. With Rick Rubin producing their sixth studio offering and major-label debut, I and Love and You, brothers Seth and Scott, along with bassist Bob Crawford, continue to unravel Americana with poignancy and power. – Doug Freeman

The Walkmen

3:30pm, Xbox 360 stage

Shaking off the hangover from its 2006 Harry Nilsson redux, Pussy Cats, the Walkmen returned last year with You & Me, a glorious din of bruised melodies and classic songwriting. While not as immediate as the New York outfit's early work, there's a subdued tension that complements the hazy visions of vocalist Hamilton Leithauser, whose vindictive sneer remains second to none. – Austin Powell

Walter 'Wolfman' Washington

4:30pm, Wildflower Center stage

A 50-year veteran of the New Orleans R&B scene, Walter "Wolfman" Washington cut his fangs on rhythm guitar behind the likes of Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, and Johnny Adams. The deep soul of his early 1980s solo LPs defy their release dates, and 2008's Doin' the Funky Thing howls a pack of blues, funk, and soul that will have you clapping for the Wolfman. – Thomas Fawcett

The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers
The Wood Brothers

4:40pm, BMI stage

When Chris Wood (bassist for Medeski, Martin & Wood) and his brother Oliver (the guitarist for Atlanta's King Johnson) aren't laboring at their day jobs, they team up on blues, folk, country, and rock. Their new eight-song release, Up Above My Head, is a collection of covers from the likes of Beck, Steve Earle, Allen Toussaint, and the Beatles. – Jay Trachtenberg

Thievery Corporation

6:30pm, LiveStrong stage

Remedy to the relative paucity of world music artists at ACL, D.C. ringleaders Rob Garza and Eric Hilton commandeer the beats, presiding over a cavalcade of international sounds that take us to Kingston, São Paulo, Lagos, Algiers, Mumbai, and beyond. Add a heady layer of social and political relevance, which permeates last year's Radio Retaliation. – Jay Trachtenberg

John Legend

6:30pm, AMD stage

Bass Concert Hall shook like the Apollo Theatre in January when Legend laid his ladies' night smackdown on a full house. Expect Kanye West-endorsed piano and wife-beater-T-shirt soul from 2008's Evolver, plus Grammy winners from 2004's Get Lifted. Mix in OutKast and maybe Marley, and get out tha way of the ladies. – Raoul Hernandez

The Greencards

6:40pm, BMI stage

Once from Austin and now based in Nashville, Tenn., the Greencards ply American bluegrass with worldly influences. That's no surprise, since the trio consists of two Australians and an Englishman who are as dedicated to traditional roots and folk as leaving their own mark on the music. When you run to the Waterloo tent for their CDs afterward, Weather and Water is recommended. – Margaret Moser

Los Amigos Invisibles

7:15pm, Wildflower Center stage

Venezuela probably doesn't hold a grunge against David Byrne for stealing Los Amigos Invisibles. Caracas' former darlings have exported their Latin American version of the Thievery Corporation out of Manhattan since 2001, and rather than the Talking Heads' Luaka Bop label, these head musicos drop latest Comercial for heavyweight champ of all things Spanish, Nacional Records. – Raoul Hernandez

Andrew Bird

7:30pm, Dell stage

Whistling's Harry Potter returns to the scene of his 2007 star-making set. From the Electric Lounge with the Squirrel Nut Zippers to South by Southwest at the Hole in the Wall and the Paramount earlier this year, the Birdman's serenaded Austin for a decade now with science times songcraft, and January's Noble Beast put Chicago's musical wizard on the NPR crowd's radar. – Raoul Hernandez

Them Crooked Vultures

7:30pm, Xbox 360 stage

What do you get when you combine a Queen of the Stone Age (singer/guitarist Josh Homme), a Foo Fighter (drummer Dave Grohl), and Led Zeppelin (bassist John Paul Jones)? Since Them Crooked Vultures haven't released any studio material and only played one U.S. show, no one's quite sure yet, but obviously expectations are high. – Austin Powell

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

8:30pm, AMD stage

Latest LP It's Blitz! may have indulged the 1980s a bit too much (anyone else notice the video for "Zero" looks like Jane Child's "Don't Wanna Fall In Love"?), but the NYC-bred trio's Bowery pedigree remains intact. Singer Karen O still rocks fingerless gloves while rattling the cage of punk rock's past. – Audra Schroeder

Kings of Leon

8:30pm, LiveStrong stage

At KoL's first ACL appearance in 2003, the festival's second year, the Followill clan played to an intimate crowd at high noon Sunday morning, looking like the Runaways. Fast foward to last year's single "Sex on Fire," which thumped like the Foxes soundtrack, except LP Only by the Night went U2. And here we hoped they'd become the next Who. "We're more influenced by the gospel music we grew up on, folk music," said Caleb in '03. – Raoul Hernandez

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More ACL 2009
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Austin Powell, Oct. 9, 2009

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