Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Austin City Limits 2009 has started off exuberantly. Day 1 was packed with awesome bands who created a melting pot of music. Dr. Dog, Thievery Corporation, Them Crooked Vultures, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon, and John Legend are proof.
Even though I have a three-day pass, I like to take full advantage of every day and get there as early as possible. Friday started out with the peppy, vintage pop sounds of Dr. Dog. They currently have five albums out. Despite this, I for some reason underestimated their following. Tons of people came out early to observe them. They were everything expected: they sounded just like or better than their albums, and they sang as many songs as they could fit into their set. Their sound resembles "the Flaming Lips without all the crazy" as my friend put it, and it fits right into the ACL style.
Daniel Johnston, an Austin staple, performed soon after to a large crowd of old and young alike. His following started in the 80's, and due to his relentless recording of new material his age range keeps getting younger and younger. He should be at ACL every year.
John Legend and Thievery Corporation played simultaneously, so I started at Legend's stage and ended up at Thievery's. Both put on an entertaining show. John Legend charms the crowd with silky vocals and a suave and handsome demeanor. He sang every song so effortlessly, which really impressed me. He opened with Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Very appreciated. Thievery Corporation got every concert goer on their feet, swaying and jumping to the reggae tones. They pull all kinds of shenanigans, including sprinting in circles around the stage and using bongos, saxophones, and belly dancers.
Them Crooked Vultures stole the day, without a doubt. They were on a smaller side stage, which was a huge mistake. Their crowds took over the entire east side of the park, and spilled over into the future Yeah Yeah Yeahs area. They have a dynamic trio made up of Josh Homme (vocalist from Queens of the Stone Age), bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Dave Grohl. Grohl was made to play drums. Even though they have a strong lead singer, their chords and beats can take the show. TCV's sound is so strong, the energy level is instantly kicked into high gear. Their first show as a group was in August, but you would never guess due to the their effortless stage presence.
The common debate was to see either the Kings of Leon or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I chose the YYY's, as did about 1/3 of the crowds in the park. Karen O puts on a show by herself. Her outfit was a one piece jump suit, adorned with a hooded sheet. They opened with Runaway, pretty gutsy considering the slow tempo and somber notes. But she can do no wrong onstage, so it worked. They played mostly from their new album, It's Blitz , with a sprinkle from Show Your Bones. The group had the audience captivated, anticipating Karen's next move. Their biggest hit, "Maps" was later in the set, and performed acoustically and slowly. She ended the set with a physical attack of the microphone, until it could be used no more.
I caught the last few songs of Kings, and they sounded good as usual. They played diversely through their catalog, which I'm sure was appreciated by the longtime fans. "Use Somebody" was the closer, bringing all the couples just a little closer together.
Day 2 soon to come.
*Second photo courtesy of Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN.