By Steve Scheibal
Kaleo is an Icelandic band with a Hawaiian name that moved to Austin to play souped up country songs. But if they felt like fish out of water at their ACL Festival set early Sunday afternoon, it was only because everything had evaporated.
Neither the band nor its audience was deterred by summer’s Kathy-Bates-in-Misery last stand. If anything, the heat energized songs that were tailored for stifling bars and August barbecues. Besides, there are worse ways for four guys from Iceland to prove their bonafides to their new neighbors than by powering through the heat of the day without even acknowledging it.
Kaleo (a Hawaiian word meaning “the sound”) moved to Austin this past winter, making this their first ACL Fest as locals. While their music has recognizable radio echoes — a whistling song intro that’s reminiscent of “Stairway to Heaven,” or lead singer Jökull Júlíusson’s Eddie Vedder tremolo — their jagged, rocking country songs are cut from a cloth that Austin music fans know well. It was easy to imagine Jon Dee Graham punching any one of them out on a mid-week night at the Continental Club.
(On a side note, it’s shocking that it took an Icelandic band to come up with the first line of their song “No Good,” “Can’t fight the temptation when you feel the vibration”; get cracking, Austin.)
If the city made a good landing spot for the band, the Austin Ventures stage — which once again proved to be the festival’s most intimate setting — was the perfect venue Sunday. The audience was enthusiastic and respectful, allowing the band to explore the depths of its quietest interludes. Between the songs, fans were rightly boisterous. During one break, a late-comer yelled out asking the band to identify itself one more time.
“Kaleo!” Júlíusson replied, a little startled.
But it was a good reminder for the audience, most of whom walked off ready for their next Kaleo show.