As Milo Greene prepared to take the ACL Festival’s big Honda stage at 12:45 Saturday, it was dawning on everyone how hot the day was about to get. The ever-subtle FIDLAR, wrapping up its blasting garage rock at the neighboring Miller Lite stage, even offered an obscenity-laced weather report – which seemed a little off-putting for Milo Greene’s sizable audience, which wasn’t letting the heat melt its gentle enthusiasm.
The band, a five-piece from Los Angeles, is in the midst of an artistic shift, moving from Lumineers-style folk-pop to a louder, electric, moodier sound without losing its sincerity. They didn’t take the audience’s good will for granted, and there was plenty of it.
The set opened with the sound of birds chirping and synthesizer chord straight out of a David Lynch movie, and their songs – mostly from its most recent album, Control – kept with that spirit. Articles and content about the band, including those the band writes itself, gravitate toward the word "cinematic," and many of their most recent songs are structured the way movies are. Even on the brighter ones, the band holds a tension, trapping swirling melodies, harmonies and guitars inside a crescendo. It takes these elements as seriously as a good screenwriter takes plot and scenes.
It’s easy to imagine the songs as something more minimalist, written by someone alone in a bedroom after a bad week. But the band never stops pushing the songs toward something bigger, bringing some of them right to the edge of anthemic. Segues flow gracefully into one another, even as the members trade vocals in every song and trade instruments between them.
A couple of the songs were danceable with vaguely disco beats, but things never broke loose. And the urge to occasionally rock out was sufficiently overwhelming that, at one point, guitarist Curtis Marrero jumped on top of the bass drum, furiously shaking his jingle bell shaker before chucking it halfway across the stage. But he quickly returned to his station and his harmonies. As the album name makes clear, it’s all about control.
The band brought out an acoustic guitar to close the set with "1957," a crowd-pleaser from its 2012 eponymous debut. Set against everything that came before, it showed how far they’ve come. It also raised the more interesting question of where they’re going.