“I need a pep talk,” Judah and the Lion singer Judah Akers sang with the T-Mobile stage faithful Saturday evening at the Austin City Limits Music festival.
The high-energy frontman got lots of “whoa-ohs” back from the kids. The alternative band, here six strong, loves call-and-response breakdowns, mandolins, banjos, when the beat drops in an EDM song, and childlike glee. The 29-year-old Akers sings with the inflection and angst of emo singers like A Simple Plan’s Pierre Bouvier. They wear customized and colorful band jerseys.
There’s a lot going on here, and you have to applaud the commitment to making them jump and clap. Sometimes, however, it’s obnoxious.
“I ain’t giving my freedom for your money and status,” he sings on “Suit and Jacket.” It’s not about class warfare, but about growing up.
“Thanks for coming to our stage and our set. We do not take that lightly,” he told patrons between bouncy anthems.
The Peter Pan schtick roared on “Reputation,” a song he said was about “grinding in the fifth grade,” complete with “na-na-na” schoolyard taunts. Here, the Nashville band captured the feeling of being a kid in that the song landed like a traumatic childhood performance by animatronic puppets—spastic and boldly excessive.
The band covered Blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” a 20-year-old pop-punk standard that also features lots of “na-nas.” Those “work sucks” pranksters are Judah and the Lion’s forefathers. But if you want to spark ball-pit exuberance, you need some fart jokes—not youth pastor earnestness. (The band began with Christian rock roots.)
And maybe don’t cover Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” for a bunch of teens? Given the disgraced British stars’ underage sex crimes, the short “hey!” jam-out was an abrupt needle scratch.
Elsewhere in the set, “Don’t Mess With My Mama” offered marching band chants and resonance when you realize it’s about an absentee father. Ditto “Why Did You Run?”
That one finished with a crowd-pleasing, masculinity-parodying dance routine in spandex tops by the band.
Akers then put on a Longhorns jersey and professed his life for Texas to close out with the spiritual “Take It All Back.”
We get it dude, you’re happy to be here. Much appreciated.