Our Austin City Limits Music Festival team is getting ready for three days of music at Zilker Park. Here, they share their top bands to see each day.
First Aid Kit. 1:15 p.m. Honda Stage. Swedish sisters with an affinity for American country and folk and the voices to make the music worth a listen.
The War on Drugs. 2:30 p.m. Bud Light Stage. Fans of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen will find much to love about these Philadelphia rockers, who incorporate elements of that classic rock sound into their own hazier explorations.
Alabama Shakes. 5:30 p.m., Barton Springs Stage. This Southern garage soul group rolled into South by Southwest this year with a freight train full of media hype, played a bunch of well-received shows, recorded an episode of “Austin City Limits” and went on their way. A while later they released their debut full-length, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard independent album chart and is still hanging around. The Alabama Shakes are a perfect festival band; in March, lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard gave a lesson in how to sing, cranking tension to earth-shaking heights before releasing her sweet and raspy wail. Expect more of the same in October.
Black Lips. 6:15 p.m., Austin Ventures Stage. Atlanta garage rock band Black Lips will play the festival at the same time as Weezer, Patterson Hood and Florence and the Machine, a scheduling move that will probably divide the festival pretty evenly into four crowds. Black Lips write funny songs, play music rooted in late ’60s garage psych with plenty of interesting keyboards, saxophones and guitar work, and put on entertainingly foul live performances.
M. Ward. 7:30 p.m. Austin Ventures. Like many other acts on the lineup, Ward tours through Austin quite a bit — including a big free show at Auditorium Shores this year at SXSW, so a lot of people already have seen him perform (both solo and with his supergroup side project, Monsters of Folk). If you haven’t, he does a fine job of bringing his songs — which, with his gravelly voice and old-timey troubadour style, are something like musical comfort food — to a live stage.
First Aid Kit. 1:15 p.m. Honda. Swedish siblings providing tightly knit harmonies.
The War on Drugs. 2:30 p.m. Bud Light. Psychedelic rock is never unwelcome at ACL Fest.
Jovanotti. 3:45 p.m. Austin Ventures. There have not been many Italian pop sensations at ACL before and I don’t imagine many more.
The Afghan Whigs. 4:15 p.m. AMD. I will be one of many middle-aged men and women howling along to every song.
The Black Keys. 8:30 p.m. Bud Light. Popular-not-hip blues-rock duo-exchange that is both antiquated and state of the art.
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH
Esperanza Spalding. 3:30 p.m. Barton Springs. The ludicrously talented 27-year-old bassist has already established herself as a modern jazz savant. Her latest album, “Radio Music Society,” veers a little further into adult contemporary than I would prefer, but if she conducts her ACL Fest performance with half the graceful humility and laid-back charm she exuded in her “Austin City Limits’ television appearance, she’ll be a festival hit.
Alabama Shakes. 5:30 p.m. Barton Springs. Apart from making solid recession-era blues rock as well as anyone else working today, vocalist Brittany Howard is a force of nature. She sings like her heart would absolutely break if she didn’t, and you feel it in the depths of your soul.
Florence + the Machine. 6:30 p.m. Bud Light. Is she a darker, more goth Adele? Kate Bush refashioned for the steam punk era? Does it matter? Florence Welch’s unique brand of well-chilled Northern soul adorned by lushly orchestrated swells of indie rock has that special something, the power to move masses, and in a festival setting, no doubt she will.
Thievery Corporation. 7:15 p.m. Honda. The D.C.-based duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have been mixing up an eclectic stew of danceable global grooves, reggae rhythms and intoxicating acid jazz for 15 years. Their live performances flesh out electronic productions with a full band and a host of excellent cameos from vocalists and dancers. Two previous ACL Fest performances have won all sorts of new fans from far-flung corners of the Zilker field, and there’s no reason to believe 2012 will be different.
M83. 7:30 p.m. Barton Springs. Or for something completely different you could stop by the Springs stage for the intriguing electropop ruminations of French artist Anthony Gonzalez. On the 2011 release “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” Gonzalez and crew navigated lush and dreamy soundscapes that seamlessly traversed a wide terrain from the borders of angsty shoegaze to sweeping pop and delightful whimsy.
Delta Spirit. 2:15 p.m. AMD. Accomplished, breezy pop rockers from San Diego whose “California” is one of the year’s catchiest singles.
Afghan Whigs. 4:15 p.m. AMD. One of the year’s most well-received reunions, singer Greg Dulli’s lyrics still manage to lacerate himself and anyone listening.
Patterson Hood. 6:30 p.m., BMI. Pillar of Drive-by Truckers goes solo, but keeps singing about castoffs and underdogs who deserve love too.
M83. 7:30 p.m. Barton Springs. Blend of orchestral indie rock and synth soundscapes that will fit perfectly with festival lighting and production values.
Black Keys. 8:30 p.m. Bud Light. A garage-blues duo that fills every stage they play on. Get ready for riffs and hooks of the extra-large variety.
Asleep at the Wheel. 12:30 p.m. AMD. If you haven’t seen these ACL veterans and all-around country kings, they’re a great way to kick off the fest, which they’ve done every year.
Esperanza Spalding. 3:30 p.m. Barton Springs. Jazz darling continues to mesmerize more than just jazz fans with her multi-instrumental skills.
Alabama Shakes. 5:30 p.m. Barton Springs. No other Alabama Shakes performance has impressed me more than when they played “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this summer backed by the Antibalas horn section. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an ACL collaboration.
The Soul Rebels. 6 p.m. Zilker. Everyone needs a little funk in their lives, and this brass band definitely brings it with their fusion of hip-hop and contemporary sounds with New Orleans jazz.
Thievery Corporation. 7:15 p.m. Their fusion of global beats crosses borders. Let’s hope the DJ duo’s frequent collaborations mean we’ll see some guest appearances, too.
Jovanotti. 3:45 p.m. Austin Ventures. A superstar in his native Italy, Lorenzo Cherubini, aka Jovanotti, released his first U.S. album on Verve two years ago and made a huge splash at Bonnaroo in 2011 with his engaging, socially conscious mix of hip-hop, pop, funk and world music. His long résumé includes collaborations with the likes of Michael Franti, Ben Harper, the Beastie Boys, Sergio Mendes and Bono.
The Kenny Vaughan Trio. 4:30 p.m. BMI. One of Nashville’s best pickers, Vaughan grew up in Denver, where he studied guitar with Bill Frisell. His high-profile sideman gigs have included a three-year stint with Lucinda Williams, and since 2001 he’s been a member of Rodney Crowell and the Fabulous Superlatives, who backed him on his recent Sugar Hill solo debut.
The Soul Rebels. 6 p.m. Zilker. This prominent New Orleans brass band doesn’t have a frontman with the charisma of a Trombone Shorty, but the group brings the funk with just as much force. An offshoot of the venerable Dejean’s Young Olympia Brass Band, the Soul Rebels are equally likely to play traditional favorites, hip hop-and R&B-flavored originals, or left-field covers of alternative oldies such as the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
Florence + the Machine. 6:30 PM Bud Light. Flame-haired art-rock diva Florence Welch may struggle sometimes to keep her powerful voice from swerving off-pitch, but it’s got such an interesting, dusky tone, and her performances never lack for drama.
Thievery Corporation. 7:15 p.m. Honda. They may be studio rats and chill-out maestros, but Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza and Eric Hilton really know how to pull together a great band and put on a show, as evidenced by their popularity on the festival circuit. Their guest list should be interesting as always, especially because the record label they run, ESL, includes such luminaries as Austin’s own Ocote Soul Sounds.
ERIC S. PULSIFER
The Wombats. 11:45 a.m. Honda. Getting a crowd going before noon is no easy task, but the Wombats may be just the band for the job. The English new wave trio’s cheerful combo of toe-tapping tempos and harmonies — think a more playful take on Arctic Monkeys — has just the right upbeat energy to start the fest.
Los Campesinos! 12:30 p.m. Bud Light. Rarely is an exclamation point in a band’s name been so appropriate. The hyperactive Welsh export’s gleeful indie rock and candy-coated punk has resulted in a stable of cutesy tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place in an iPod commercial circa 2008.
First Aid Kit. 1:15 p.m. Honda. Two sisters sweetly harmonize through songs of country-soaked folk that feel like they’re more from Appalachia than Sweden. These music blog darlings’ most recent release, “The Lion’s Roar,” was produced by Saddle Creek Records co-founder/Monster of Folk member Mike Mogis.
Black Lips. 6:15 p.m. Austin Ventures. In a post-Internet era it’s harder and harder to be shocking, but Black Lips often find a way. Perhaps unfairly most known for wild onstage antics (nudity, urination), the Atlanta four-piece is also a mighty fine psych/garage rock band.
Thievery Corporation. 7:15 p.m. Honda. Cooling down with a set from Thievery Corporation should come as a welcome reprieve as ACL day one begins to draw to a close. The duo’s sampling of sounds and styles from around the world mixed together into a chill cocktail of electronica should prove a perfect soundtrack to the setting sun.