Historic Austin gospel group Bells of Joy got the rawest deal from Saturday's weather delay at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, losing part of their scheduled 11:45 a.m. set after gates didn't open until 11:49 a.m. (from a planned 11 a.m. opening). The show went on, though, and gradually the crowd grew as festgoers made their way into and across the grounds to the Tito's tent.
Formed in the 1940s, the band still features original member A.D. Watson, 88, who performed seated in a wheelchair at stage left. Singers Julia Cruz Magness (who lives in Memphis) and James Robinson flanked center-stage guitarist/singer Brian Lott, whose voice soared on a couple of spotlight numbers. His other band, the Gospel Stars, will perform on Friday of weekend two at ACL Fest on the same stage.
As with most who caught part of the set, we arrived a little late as a result of the delay. As we walked up, Bells of Joy was singing Sam Cooke's 1960s classic "A Change Is Gonna Come," a fitting song amid a weekend of sociopolitical turmoil. Cruz Magness, who'd flown in from Memphis early on Friday to catch Paul McCartney, told us last week that "the Beatles and some of the other British bands such as the Rolling Stones really helped to bring awareness to American black music and the struggles African-Americans were having." (Indeed, McCartney cited those struggles as the inspiration for the Beatles song "Blackbird" before he played it Friday night at ACL Fest.)
"The world is not rid of racism and even in 2018 we have a lot of problems, but music always brings people together," Cruz Magness told us last week. Their all-too-brief but inspiring set on Saturday was a perfect case in point.