ACL Fest Music Recommendations From Close-to-Home

Fresh sounds that emanate from the Lone Star State

Gina Chavez (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Sir Woman

Saturday, 1pm, Tito's stage

Kelsey Wilson's getting bolder. Her velvety voice is a strong front and center for latest project Sir Woman, an R&B/gospel/funk group that's upbeat and downright addictive. Recently sober, Wilson's confident and assertive, telling it like it is if "you've been a bitch" on "Bitch" and riding a strings-brightened, bouncing bassline in "Making Love" like a more crystal-voiced, funky Norah Jones. Already Austin-music famous for her folk artistry alongside Alexander Beggins in relentlessly touring ukulele-imbued indie folkers Wild Child, Wilson was also a key ingredient in Austin power union Glorietta, whose string of talent even included Nathaniel Rateliff. Winners of Best New Act honors at the 2019 Austin Music Awards, Sir Woman's steady stream of singles continue to build greedy anticipation for an LP from the singer who's said she's never made music like this before, but finally found her voice and was ready to share the love through this project. – Christina Garcia


Saturday, 2:20pm, Honda stage

The snappy sound effects of a giggle, gun click, handclap, and whoop granted perfect choreography cues for TikTok success of Surfaces' 2019 "Sunday Best." The breezy, droopy pop amalgamation racking up millions of streams linked back to two dirty blonde guys with a bio mentioning College Station. The duo formed after Baylor grad Forrest Frank discovered the SoundCloud of Texas A&M student Colin Padalecki, and the guitarists/vocalists began recording out of the latter's dorm room. Their breakout track led to Top 40 placement, late-night appearances, and an Elton John feature. Continuing soul-inspired, R&B-ish, maybe jazzy cohesion, new album Pacifico ties up the scene of fellow viral collaborators like Quinn XCII, salem ilese, Benny Sings, and Xavier Omär. Sampling the popular TikTok tone, the album's deluxe edition recently struck gold with "Sheesh!" – employing app starlet Tai Verdes for hooky grandeur and speedy-smooth lines. – Rachel Rascoe

Charley Crockett

Saturday, 4:20pm, VRBO stage

Suave Austin honky-tonker Charley Crockett capped his absurdly prolific run of 10 albums over the past six years with a billboard in Times Square, a triumphant return to the city where he used to busk the subways. Music City USA, which follows his earlier 2021 tribute LP to James Hand, drops a double album that swerves across Crockett's roots repertoire, a mix of blues, soul, and classic country that pulls from every corner of the Lone Star State, from border Tex-Mex to Gulf Coast Cajun rhythms and Deep Ellum picking to West Texas ballads. Crockett proves a unique revivalist, breathing fresh life into a throwback sound whether cracking open deep cut chestnuts or shimmying behind his own highway running originals. The troubadour makes his first ACL Fest return since 2018 after having taped his debut episode of PBS's Austin City Limits show this summer and as he continues to skuff his boots across bigger stages nationwide. – Doug Freeman

Gina Chavez

Saturday, 5:20pm, BMI stage

If a 2020 Latin Grammy nomination didn't signal a career uptick for Austin native Gina Chavez when such recognition for indie acts remains akin to space travel, La Que Manda must have drowned out the bulletin. Rocketing South American folklórica into the next millennium like a cry for the Americas chopped 'n' screwed into twerk-tronica, the singer, educator, ambassador, and 12-time Austin Music Award neo-bogart reinvented her already formidable musical tornado. "Juntos Together," new duet alongside L.A. counterpart Nancy Sanchez, recently became an ad campaign for Target. Overall muse, then? "Opening the sliding glass door while our neighbor's rooster goes off," she wrote me last year. "And I love when the birds start their gossip, while the wind tosses the trees around and the stray cats prowl the weeds. The sounds of our new backyard make me happy and bring me peace." – Raoul Hernandez

Deezie Brown (Photo by John Anderson)

Deezie Brown

Sunday, 12:15pm, Miller Lite stage

Southern-centric artist Deezie Brown stacks a lot of assets. As a rapper, he's got loads of personality and a unique flow. As a singer, he has a way of cutting through with a standout chorus – reminiscent of André 3000. He's also a hands-on producer who both hunts samples and tracks with instrumentalists. Onstage, he's an entertaining performer, contorting his lanky frame to embody every word, note, and beat being played.

Still, his brightest light burns as a conceptual visionary, never putting out a project that doesn't have a carefully constructed world around it. 2020's collaboration with EC Mayne, Candy Blue Like Screw, chronicled Bastrop County's hip-hop heritage, focused around DJ Screw's family history and SLAB car culture. This year's Geto Gala, alongside Jake Lloyd, dreamt up a formal celebration – akin to the Met Gala – that's approachable to his own community. It all orbits around his larger artistic universe that he calls "5th Wheel Fairytale," off which all of his projects branch out. – Kevin Curtin

TC Superstar

Sunday, 2:15pm, Tito's stage

Super-primed for the festival stage, TC Superstar enthused Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlies last month, debuting snappy singles from third LP As Seen on TV. The glitzy integration of Seventies rock and Nineties R&B influences, under the band's trademark synth bounce, proves a perfect soundtrack for combining live instrumentation with a cast of modern dancers onstage. The match made in monochromatic heaven of singer Connor McCampbell and UT-trained choreographers like LB Flett and Emily DiFranco has risen from West Campus parties to sold-out Downtown acclaim in recent years. Pillowy production, always with a danceable beat, doesn't hurt in headphones either. After taking on heady topics like an unrequited love epic and global warming in previous releases, McCampbell told the Chronicle the new record "[examines] the cultural impact of the media I consume, thinking about the claustrophobic nature of capitalistic consumption." Study up with "Waste My Time," a funky pop blast on iPhone addiction. – Rachel Rascoe

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ACL Fest 2021, ACL Fest, Sir Woman, TC Superstar, Deezie Brown, Surfaces, Charley Crockett, Gina Chavez

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