DSS: From the jump, I don’t exactly hate this lineup. After catching him at the Amphitheater (pretending to be hard) last summer I can attest to Drake’s skills as a riveting live performer. I’m sure chilly R&B dude Weeknd will be fine, but man, I’m disappointed to see Kendrick Lamar left off this lineup. “To Pimp a Butterfly” is the hip-hop release of the year and his return to the fest would have been triumphant to say the least. Also, what’s up with D’Angelo? Doesn’t he owe us a do-over from 2013?
PB: From my perspective, the second-tier acts are probably more attractive than the headliners. The Foo Fighters are fine as a top-billing rock band (a la Pearl Jam from last year), but there’s more appeal to me in a hot newer act like Alabama Shakes (fresh with a No. 1-debuting album this week) or country it-guy Sturgill Simpson, who was pretty much a must-have after his recent Stubb’s sellouts. On the indie side, Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men should attract attention (especially if there’s a new record between now and the fest), but I’m also happy to see old-schoolers the Decemberists in the mix.
DSS: I’m also psyched to see Alabama Shakes in the mix, although there must be some big schedule mystery I don’t understand that kept them from playing both weekends. Speaking of which, they’re on the opposite weekend of Florence + the Machine which poses a conundrum for fans of strong female artists. Over the last few years watching hoards of young female fans turn out and represent has been magical. Also having fans choose between the Strokes and Florence (who was positively lovely in her sunset set a few years back) kind of feels like a case of bros vs. lovely young ladies with flower crowns who occasionally use a garden tool.
PB:Billy Idol as the token legacy act feels a little weak, compared to the Replacements last year. It’s possible Idol sold as many records as the Mats in the ’80s, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t still people flying across the country to attend Idol gigs like Replacements fans are. It is nice, though, to have some strong Austin and Texas anchors, with Gary Clark Jr., Shakey Graves and Leon Bridges on both weekends (alongside, of course, Asleep at the Wheel). And good to see single-weekend locals such as Residual Kid and Riders Against the Storm on the undercard.
DSS: Programming Gary, Shakey and Leon on the lineup was a great show of Texas love! Digging into the undercard, I feel like there’s a good roster of mid-level hip-hop acts. Chance the Rapper was excellent at South by Southwest this year, he’s definitely one of the young artists who’s pushing the form in a great direction. A$AP Rocky might be the hardest hip-hop act ACL has ever booked and Run the Jewels are one of the most important acts in the country right now, period. Real talk. We haven’t talked EDM yet. Do we need to talk about EDM?
PB: Only if you go first! I do agree, though, that there’s a really good variety of some quality stuff in the lower rungs of the roster. Pleasantly surprised to see Virginia psych-rock band Avers, one of my SXSW favorites this year, in the mix, as well as North Carolina country-folk duo Mandolin Orange, who’ve been working Austin hard the past two years. And I expect we’re both quite pleased to see SXSW Film Fest heroes Songhoy Blues, from Mali, playing both weekends.
DSS: Fine. I’ll talk about EDM but only after saying Songhoy Blues puts on one of the most amazing, life-affirming shows I’ve ever seen and everyone needs to add them to their must see list. I’ve always said ACL Fest was programmed for people in their 40s and their kids. Over the years the general demographic has shifted younger and even that paradigm’s evolved from folksy artists or older legacy acts into aging alt rockers, some hip-hop or R&B and popular radio fare paired with DJ/dance stuff for the teens. I’m guessing you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone over 25 at the Deadmau5 show. Unless, of course, they program him against the Foo Fighters, in which case I’ll probably be there. The British brothers behind Disclosure are both under 25 themselves, but they have an interesting musicality even the olds can get. I do love seeing artists like Sylvan Esso who are doing super interesting things with electro pop and Cherub who have a soulful melodic electronic sensibility, and I will always be ok with Bassnectar, who’s been a cutting edge electronic innovator for years. Also, I love Børns’ breezy pop songs and I’ve only heard a couple tracks from Fun. singer Nate Ruess, but it seems like he will also carry some of that ebullient, feel-good energy an outdoor fest needs.
PB: You also might be hard-pressed to find anyone under 45 at Dwight Yoakam, but at least his stuff is on the high end of more mainstream country acts (a step up from Eric Church a couple of years ago). There’s also William Clark Green (weekend one only) for the younger Texas-yahoo country crowd. Overall it’s still much more of an indie than Americana lineup, but that’s to be expected. And there are a few acts that cross over a bit, such as Father John Misty, who I saw a couple of times on his recent tour and seemed a sure-fire ACL booking given that the nature of his show seems well-suited even bigger places than the large venues (Stubb’s outdoors and the Granada in Dallas) he played last month.
DSS: Still digging into the lineup fully, but a few final shout outs. Boots, who’s done production work for Beyoncé and collaborated with Run the Jewels on the excellent track “Early” is worth a listen, as is R&B singer Kehlani who is only playing weekend one. NYC duo Lion Babe (both weekends) have a great earthy R&B soul feel, even as they mess around with electronics and Houston’s Suffers, (weekend one only) are a force of nature.
PB: My parting quick nods go to Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of Carolina Chocolate Drops; Kurt Vile & the Violators, who I should have seen by now but haven’t, so glad to have two more chances; and of course the return of the Barton Hills Choir, though the kids will have a hard time topping last year’s cameo by Stewart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian. Oh, and nice to see locals the Nightowls get a make-good after last year’s weather-related early-slot cancellations.