Recorded a couple episodes of the public television live music series Austin City Limits recently, and thus got to listen to some new rock, and some older blues.
I had kind of forgotten about ACL, in part because I don’t watch much Gummint TV anymore, and don’t get down to that end of the cable TV guide very often. But by the end of the second episode I DVRed, I was reminded why I don’t just do a series recording.
The first episode led with a half-hour by Arctic Monkeys, a band that I had heard on SiriusXM’s Spectrum channel, usually when Jeanne and I were motoring somewhere and that was our alternative (to SoulTown) compromise listening. That British band didn’t make much of an impression on me in those rare instances.
But often live performances will show an act’s abilities more in depth. (Sometimes performing live exposes a band’s weaknesses, too.) And watching the Monkeys perform live gave me an improved appreciation of them.
Their songs are both lyrically and musically interesting, and their stage presence is pretty good. Researching them online, I was surprised that their influences did not include Television, the late 1970s New Wave band from New York, which also used a lot of darker, minor-chord guitar work. Also surprised that they been in existence for more than a decade.
Alex Turner, the band’s lead singer as well as guitarist and keyboard player, puts on a pretty good show. He has a commanding stage presence, an ominous vocal style and interesting approach to his guitar and electronic piano work.
I’m not sure I’m going to run right out and buy an AM album — OK, buy a download, or whatever. But I did burn that episode to a DVD, and will watch it again. And — per my earlier blog post about new music — I’m glad to see that there are still bands out there doing interesting rock.
I will also watch the DVD again for the second act in that episode, Wild Child, an Austin, Texas-based indie folk/rock ensemble. Their music was also intriguing, more upbeat and sunnier than the Monkeys, but also lyrically interesting.
Female lead vocalist Kelsey Wilson puts on a fun show, kind of sultry and plush, facially and physically very expressive as she sings barefoot; her voice reminds me a bit of Rickie Lee Jones, both in timbre and a kind of jazzy styling. The other lead vocalist, Alex Beggins, plays a ukulele — you don’t see those a lot in rock or pop — and isn’t heard as much, but sings well.
The two met while singing backing vocals for another group, and bonded over songwriting. The songs I heard on ACL were lyrically charming: “I just want to hold you close, you’re acting like I want to hold you down,” “Your heart is here, your head’s away.” The band’s instrumentation includes cello (acoustic and electric), trumpet and trombone, in addition to the basic drums and bass, and the arrangements are swingish and mostly upbeat.
It’s fun stuff, but it would be interesting to hear what else they have in their quiver, besides what they showcased on ACL. Most of that may have come from their more recent album, last year’s Expectations.
The second ACL show I recorded opened with Buddy Guy, the Chicago blues guitarist who played for the legendary Muddy Waters and influenced the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Guy can definitely pick it, and puts on a great show — especially when you take into consideration that the dude is going on 83!
The second half of that show, was some rap artist I had never heard of — not that I’ve heard of that many acts in that genre, or that familiarity wouldn’t breed contempt anyway. I watched a minute or two of dudes fiddling with turntables on stage and others miming bad poetry, and hit the stop button.
Three out of four wasn’t bad, though, so I looked at the website for future episodes. Didn’t look very promising, which I guess is why I haven’t become a regular viewer — they don’t consistently air acts and music that I want to hear.
Seeing those ACL episodes, though, did inspire me to look for other live music offerings on Gummint TV, and I did find one, Infinity Hall, that was interesting. That episode consisted of a variety of acts, most of whom I was not familiar with, doing cover versions of others’ songs.
It was mostly good stuff. Guitarist Jackie Green covered the Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias,” and did some amazing guitar work. So did Tommy Emmanuel, who did a solo acoustic guitar medley of Beatle songs; still can’t quite how he made that big six-string sound like a couple guitars.
I had heard of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, mostly because the Trucks in the name is Derek, the nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Truck and a former member of that band. Watching them live, I hope to hear more of them.
Another of the performers on that show I had heard of, and seen, but not heard — at least in the context of performing rock music. Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael and their band, the Bacon Brothers, did a bang-up job on a Delbert McClintock song. (It also inspired me to do another Seven Degrees of Separation blog post at some point — starting with you-know-who, perhaps.)
Anyway, looking at the website and the acts that have or will appear on Infinity Hall, I will definitely be watching more episodes of the show. Maybe set a series recording, like I did for Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, the PBS documentary series about the production of music. The episode I recorded was about the MTV and music the music video revolution; probably not every episode will feature as much performance as this one did, but the other episode that was teased sounded interesting.