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ACL Fest: Benjamin Booker brings the blistering blues

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Based on the thick crowd packed around the Austin Ventures stage for Benjamin Booker’s 1 p.m. set at ACL Fest, the secret is out. With an aesthetic that’s equal parts punk rock and gut-bucket blues the young New Orleans upstart is one of the most exciting musical voices to emerge in 2014.

His 30 minute set was marked by his willingness to explore different musical avenues. His distinctive gravelly voice was the through line in the set. Beyond that, he moved easily between vigorous guitar driven numbers rooted in down home blues that would could easily accommodate a mosh pit and quieter moments. At one point, performing with just a violin and drums behind him, it felt like an alternative vision of an early 20th century hoedown.

His sensitivity to sound found him exploring and incorporating ample feedback and distortion into the set. By the time he hit the radio single “Violent Shiver” the crowd was 300 percent on board and when he closed the set out a few minutes later, 35 minutes in, there was a disappointed groan. A young artist just starting his ascent, Booker has a great big exciting future ahead of him.