ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews

Greetings from Austin, circa 2008

ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews

Manu Chao

6:30pm, AMD stage

Last time we spoke, September 2008, Manu Chao sat outside at the Four Seasons Hotel pool, the bright Saturday morning following the previous evening's headlining slot at ACL. His first four days in Austin included taping for Austin City Limits and selling out Stubb's.

"Bueno, we were plenty busy with what we had to," nodded Chao on his way out of town, his rapid-fire Spanish as energetic as his band's folk-punk. "But we got to know parts of the town, the river, swimming holes. Between TV, Stubb's, and the festival, we didn't have much time.

"But we got a supergood feeling from all three. If I had to pick my favorite U.S. cities, it'd be New York, Austin, and San Francisco."

That was appropriate coming from the musical sprite, especially with Chao concluding his Zilker Park set singing Spanish standard "Volver."

"I have not lied," he acknowledged. "I will return."

Gracias a C3, Manu Chao's current nine-date U.S. tour concludes Sunday at ACL. The Paris-born Spaniard's christened this trek "La Ventura," which old-school fans might recall from his explosive band Mano Negra, whose first disc, 1988's Patchanka, peaked with the tune's French helium squeezebox. If Chao's natural pogo ever tires, his crooning can carry concerts.

"That song's so pretty, 'Volver.' And we do standards. Not in our big shows, because there's always time constraints, but when we play bars in Europe, our repertoire has a lot of standards, boleros. You have to know those songs."

So punk rock only for big shows?

"We look for that energy at our shows, the big impact. And really, what we're doing anyway is electrifying more traditional sounds. That's what I've always done, not just with this band, but going back to Mano Negra. What we do isn't that different than what Mano Negra did. It's a question of energy. Or maybe stage fright," Chao laughed.

Does he ever do songs from Patchanka?

"We haven't done 'La Ventura' here in the States, but we play it in France. That's one of those songs that's stayed with me through the years, so we still play it in bars a lot. On our last tour of France, yeah, we did that song."

Mexican standards, his Parisian punk past – any American staples he'd like to sing?

"Something by Hank Williams," he said in his heavy accent. "Oof, so many songs. I'd sing one by Lou Reed, 'Pale Blue Eyes' – or rather the Velvet Underground. I love that song. There's thousands. That question is infinite."

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