ACL Fest: a path of picks
By Patrick Caldwell
11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Givers. Young and hungry, this Louisiana quintet take a page from the Vampire Weekend playbook in their frothy mix of indie pop and Afrobeat — except Givers are even bouncier, sunnier and more frolicsome. A perfect way to kick off a long festival weekend. Honda stage.
2:30-3 p.m.: Chief. This NYU-by-way-of-Los Angeles quartet's debut album "Modern Rituals," is a perfect summer records, loaded with gorgeous harmonies and sleepily sunny riffs. The kids will like that they evoke Local Natives; the grown-ups will like that they evoke the Band. Everybody's happy. Austin Ventures.
3-4 p.m. Miike Snow. As anybody who caught Miike Snow's fog-drenched set at Antone's in June can attest, the band's moody electropop cocktail gets audiences moving. By this point of the day on Friday, you'll be just about ready to start dancing. Honda.
4-5 p.m. The Black Keys. The Akron, Ohio, rock duo have attained pop culture ubiquity this year on the back of career-best record "Brothers." Expect a massive crowd for this one — think MGMT-in-2008 numbers. You'd be a fool to miss out on Dan Auerbach's throaty howl and Patrick Carney's explosive drumming. AMD.
5-6 p.m. Beach House. Third album "Teen Dream" finds duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally triangulating their voice — it maintains the billowy vocals and atmospheric instrumentation that earned Beach House its "dream pop" label, but packs more diversity and a more welcoming sound. Honda.
7-8 p.m. Vampire Weekend. The indie darlings put on a good show in 2008, still riding high on the success of their eponymous breakout. Now they're older, wiser, and, if that Stubb's show in April was any indication, much better live. Budweiser.
8-9:30 p.m. The Strokes. In Chicago, the choice was between these guys and Lady Gaga. Here, it's versus Phish. The reviews of the Strokes' Lollapalooza shows have been nothing but glowing. So for the many, many people who loved "Is This It?" and its underrated sequels, it should be a good show. AMD.
11:20 a.m.-noon. Balmorhea. Austin's deeply affecting instrumental ensemble should be listed along with a hot shower and plenty of water as one of the best hangover cures around. A great way to ease into Saturday. Austin Ventures.
12:15-1 p.m. First Aid Kit. Hailing from Stockholm, Johanna and Klara Söderberg have the perfect harmonies you can find only with sisters, and a stunning, soft, acoustic approach to songwriting that recalls ACL Fest veterans the Fleet Foxes. Honda.
1:30-2:30 p.m. Bear In Heaven. Something in the cupcakes in Brooklyn must be encouraging trendy indie bands. Bear in Heaven are mildly electronica, mildly psychedelic, mild in general, but their multitextured experimental pop songs have a way of growing on you. Zync Card.
2:20-3 p.m. Two Door Cinema Club. An imminently catchy electropop trio out of Northern Ireland. Debut "Tourist History" is all about short, sweet pop music. Austin Ventures.
3:30-4:15 p.m. Mayer Hawthorne. Hawthorne can't quite work a crowd as well as last year's soul MVP, Raphael Saadiq, but he's a fine showman. We hope he'll play his signature cover of Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" under the blazing sun. Austin Ventures.
4:40-5:20 p.m. Dan Black. Former front man for U.K. alt-rock band the Servant, Black expanded his ouvre with his solo work, a bubbly cauldron of bombastic dance pop. BMI.
5:30-6:30 p.m. The Temper Trap. This Melbourne quartet's wistful pop-rock creates the gently endearing radio-friendly anthems too few bands are making these days. Their music is a favorite for bad shows on the CW. Please don't hold that against them. Honda.
6-8 p.m., Austin Ventures and Budweiser stages. In maybe the festival's cruelest act of scheduling, Gogol Bordello, Monsters of Folk, David Bazan, Ozomatli and LCD Soundsystem are all piled on top of each other. Here's what you do: catch a chill half hour of Oberst et. al at the Austin Ventures stage, rush over to the insanely fun dance punk live show of LCD Soundsystem from 6:30 to 7:30, and then run back for the last half hour of Monsters of Folk. It's not perfect. Few things in life are.
8:30-10 p.m. Muse. Crazy lights, crazy riffs, a likely-to-be crazy crowd, crazy fun, etc. This band deserves to be the first group to headline ACL Fest in two separate years. Good for them. Budweiser.
11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Shearwater. Jonathan Meiburg's been grabbing more ink and blog attention lately for his side project with Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, but his main project remains one of Austin's smartest, most sweeping, most adventurous bands. Honda.
12:30-1:45 p.m. White Rabbits. Caustic, propulsive indie rock so thumping they need two drummers. The band's rapid-fire "Percussion Gun" may have been the best rock song of 2009. AMD.
2:20-3 p.m. Dawes. A folk rock foursome hailing from Los Angeles, Dawes channels the romanticism and thoughtful songwriting of the '60s Laurel Canyon sound. Austin Ventures.
3-4 p.m. The Morning Benders. One of SXSW's breakout acts this year, and you don't even have to listen to excellent sophomore album "Big Echo" to become a fan. Just do yourself a favor and find their cover of "I Wan'na Be Like You" online. You'll be a convert in no time. Honda.
5-6 p.m. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Like the Polyphonic Spree before them, Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are high-concept, theatrical, a bit cultish, and there's an awful lot of them. They're also astonishing live — you couldn't ask for a better festival band than this joyous powerpop orchestra. Zync Card.
6-7 p.m. The Flaming Lips. It's a little sad the Flaming Lips aren't doing the "Dark Side of the Moon" reprise they did at Bonnaroo, but it's hard to be too disappointed when the consolation prize is sure to be a confetti-strewn blast. AMD.
7-8 p.m. The National. There is no better way to usher in the dark night than Matt Berninger's trademark baritone, especially when it's singing songs off "High Violet," the National's third masterpiece in a row. Honda.
8-10 p.m. The Eagles. Well, it's either the Eagles or going home, and really, you're already there and spent the money. You might as well see one of the most successful rock (?) bands of all time. Admit it: at least some small part of you wants to chill in the grass and "Take It Easy." Budweiser.
By Michael Corcoran
Noon. JJ Grey and Mofro. Let's get the party started with this outstanding North Florida swamp rocker and his tight musical collective. The band's new album "Georgia Warhorse" is getting tons of press, as this band is breaking out after 10 years on the road. Budweiser.
1:20 p.m. Those Darlins. The charming girl group (with boy drummer) from Tennessee has taken SXSW by storm the past two years and they're more than ready for the bigger stage. Their stage chatter can get a tad inane, but when they kick in with their country garage rock it's magic. Austin Ventures.
2 p.m. Carolyn Wonderland. Let's give it up for the home team. Ms. Wonderland sings like Janis, plays guitar like Fogerty. Put me down for some of that. Clear 4 G.
3:15 p.m. Kings Go Forth. Anybody can tap into P-Funk, but it's the rare band that knows their way around a Curtis Mayfield vibe. This 10-piece from Milwaukee should brew up quite a party in the field. Clear 4 G.
4:40 p.m. The Ettes. Though they live in Nashville, this pop-heavy garage band is from a different time and place. I hear Blondie '79 and the Go-Gos '83, but there's also chunks of Blue Cheer and Iron Butterfly. Plus, the BMI stage is the most intimate of the fest.
6 p.m. Spoon. No matter where they all live now, this will always be an Austin band. The best Austin band. AMD.
7:15 p.m. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses. Yeah, there's that somber singer-songwriter side of this former Austinite who's now the toast of Laurel Canyon. But when he and his band unleash the twin slides on "Bread and Water" nobody's going to wish they were seeing Robert Randolph instead. Great on record, Bingham and the Horses are better live. Austin Ventures.
8 p.m. The Strokes. This band's previous show here, at the Austin Music Hall in March 2005, was one of the worst I've ever been to. These guys needed a break from each other and they took a long one. But that first album has never gotten old and the chance to hear those songs again is too much to miss. AMD.
12:15 p.m. Lissie. To detractors, this Illinois native might sound like Marianne Faithful on karaoke night doing Stevie Nicks, but her Fat Possum LP "Catching a Tiger" is one of the year's most satisfying. Director David Lynch is nuts about her, too. (Lady Gaga cover alert!) Zync Card.
1 p.m. Jones Family Singers. Simply the best live gospel act out there, this group from Bay City is a perennial ACL Fest fave. Clear 4 G.
2:30 p.m. Gaslight Anthem. These Jersey boys rock the terrain between the Misfits and the man who would be Boss. Bruce Springsteen himself is a fan, even joining the band on "The '59 Sound" in concert. Budweiser.
3:30 p.m. Mayer Hawthorne and the County. The Smokey Robinson acolyte from Ann Arbor, Mich., had quite a thrill when he shared the stage with his idol at SXSW in March. Now it's time for Andrew Cohen (Mayer is his middle name and Hawthorne is the street he grew up on) to go from the Fan to the Man. Austin Ventures.
4:45 p.m. Local Natives. This five-piece harmonic rock band from L.A.'s Silver Lake (Brooklyn with palm trees) crafts its rich music to the point that comparisons to Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire are quite lazy. Austin Ventures.
5:30 p.m. The XX. Hypnotic art rockers who work hard to leave everything out except the essence, this British band recently won the prestigious Mercury Prize for the best album of the year. Zync Card.
6:30 p.m. Gogol Bordello. Their records are nothing special, but this band of gypsy rockers is reputed to be one of the best live bands on planet Earth. We'll see. AMD.
7:30 p.m. Deadmau5. The Canadian beatmeister with the U.S. attitude should tear it up here. His sound is highly aggressive while remaining intensely danceable. Zync Card.
8:30 p.m. Muse. Their set at Stubb's in March was a delightful tease. A great light show elevates the prog rock sound and ups the ante on a rare level of extravagance. Budweiser.
11:45 a.m. Warpaint. Is a cover of Bowie's "Ashes To Ashes" too much to hope for? Considering that this soothing art rock quartet is opening for Sonic Youth at La Zona Rosa the night before, you have to wonder how rested they'll be at this morning slot. Luckily their music is made for hangovers. Zync Card.
12:30 p.m. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Really good punk rock clears the cobwebs. Budweiser.
1 p.m. Ashley Cleveland & Kenny Greenberg. The former John Hiatt backup singer is on a vintage gospel tear and her hubby Greenberg is an axesmith to marvel. Cleveland's crack band includes bassist Michael Rhodes and drummer Brannen Temple. Clear 4 G.
2 p.m. Portugal. The Man. Sarah Palin's not the only famous one from Wasilla, Alaska. This band (now based in Portland, Ore.) squeezes juice from classic rock to flavor an otherwise indescribable sound. Budweiser.
3 p.m. Morning Benders. From Berkley to Brooklyn (ho-hum), this ork-pop quartet sounds like big Beach Boys fans. No wonder they've played often with Grizzly Bear. Honda.
4 p.m. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. So "Treme" wasn't quite "The Wire" with good food, but Shorty got his name out there on the HBO show. His funky rock sound should destroy in the former "gospel tent." Clear 4G.
6 p.m. Band of Horses. "The Funeral" might be this Seattle/ South Carolina band's most soaring moment, but the most recent album "Infinite Arms" is full of great moments. Has KGSR ever sounded better than when it's playing "Laredo"? Budweiser.
7 p.m. The National (first 20 minutes) and Richard Thompson (the rest). The Nats can be spellbinding at times, but how can I stand in the same park where Richard Thompson is playing and not stand as close to the stage as possible? The new LP "Dream Attic" is a winner. AMD.
8 p.m. The Eagles. This is probably the worst booking in Charles Attal's life, turning this into Fuddy Duddy Fest, but there's something to be said for musical familiarity. The idea of "Desperado" floating above the crowd is mighty appealing. But let's see how I am after three days of music and crowds and the elements. Budweiser.
By Deborah Sengupta Stith
1:30 p.m. The Verve Pipe. My money says the band will be rocking tracks from their family record to more than just the 3-foot and under set. Kiddie Limits.
2 p.m. The Mountain Goats. With razor-sharp vocals slicing jagged cuts into blithely meandering guitar strums, this Durham band's "No Children" is a wicked-spirited anti-love song that might just make you laugh out loud. Budweiser.
3:15 p.m. Kings Go Forth. Blazing with the bombastic funk of a new school Earth, Wind and Fire, these Milwaukee groovemeisters bring out the big guns to make you boogie. Clear 4G.
4:30 p.m. Qbeta. The big crowds will no doubt be flocking to the AMD stage for The Black Keys, but I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of an undiscovered Sicilian sensation. Clear 4G.
5:45 p.m. Nortec Collective. Take a trip south of the border where laptop jockeys and drum machine maestros go head to head with the meanest accordion you'll ever meet. Clear 4G.
7 p.m. Vampire Weekend. I've tried to hate on these Columbia U kids playing indie rock Afro-pop with nary a conga, but with each catchy chorus I find myself ever more charmed. Zync Card.
12:30 p.m. The Very Best. The collaboration of Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit producers Johan Karlberg and Etienne Tron takes an exuberant journey into "The Warm Heart of Africa." Budweiser.
2:30 p.m. The Gaslight Anthem. Unadulterated rebellious American rock 'n' roll, the perfect soundtrack for knocking back (overpriced) cheap beers in the afternoon. Budweiser.
3:30 p.m. Mayer Hawthorne and the Country. Sure, he's no Raphael Saadiq, but this quick-witted white boy from Ann Arbor is no slouch when it comes to "Instant Vintage" Motown grooves. Austin Ventures.
4:40 p.m. Dan Black. I get so swept up in the melancholy cinematic reach of his first U.S. single "Symphonies," that I'm willing to totally forgive the British electropop craftsman for his lilting mashup of Biggie's "Hypnotize." BMI.
5:30 p.m. The XX. Despite dreary reviews of their SXSW performances, this British trio's hazy pop could provide excellent dinnertime ambience. Zync Card.
7:30 p.m. LCD Soundsystem. It's it worth fighting a mob of hipsters flailing inexplicably despite the constrictions of their skinny jeans just to take in James Murphy's falsetto croon over some of the fest's catchiest synthpop? Yes.
8:30 p.m. M.I.A. She's flamboyant, dramatic and more than a little bit mad. A solid coda to Saturday's fest. AMD. Budweiser.
I struggled to find artists to get truly excited about, but here are a few highlights:
2:30 p.m. The Relatives. With a gritty backstory of a meandering road to salvation, reverend Gean West's gospel veers unexpectedly from raw funky soul to strange psychedelia and retro rock. Clear 4G.
4 p.m. Yeasayer. Triumphant indie pop, an afternoon highlight. AMD.
6 p.m. The Flaming Lips. Will frontman Wayne Coyne perform as an exploding Easter Bunny? Is it worth seeing? Maybe. AMD.
7 p.m. Norah Jones. Now is the time to shell out for one of those $20 carafes of wine, stretch out and cold chill. Norah can help. Zync Card.
By Joe Gross
Noon. JJ Grey and Mofro. A little twang, a little swamp, a touch of jammming, it gets no more ACL than these guys. Budweiser.
1 p.m. The Soft Pack. Anthemic, California indie rock, perfect for jumping up and down before it gets too hot (or too wet). Zync Card.
2 p.m. The Mountain Goats. Singer John Darnielle is one of the best lyricists of our age. The end. Budweiser.
3:15 p.m. Kings Go Forth. Until now, Friday has not been funky enough. This Wisconsin crew will change that; prepare to get down. Clear 4 G.
4 p.m. The Black Keys. "Brothers" is one of the year's best received. How will their increasingly electronic blues rock translate live? AMD.
5 p.m. The Sword. Thunderous heavy metal is always a nice palette cleanser at ACL. Zync Card.
6 p.m. Spoon. This year's "Transference" is one of their smartest and most challenging records. A no-brainer. AMD.
7 p.m. Sonic Youth. Over the years, these indie godfathers turned into total festival pros. Expect hits and a few tracks from last year's "The Eternal." Honda.
8 p.m. The Strokes. This or Phish? Oy. Um, this, I suppose. AMD.
12:30 p.m. The Very Best. Fascinatingly mutant African music, being a blend of Malawian singing and British beat science. Budweiser.
1 p.m. Jones Family Singers. Absolutely killer live gospel act. You will believe! Clear 4G.
2:30 p.m. Gaslight Anthem. Apparently, every generation gets the Springsteen tribute act it deserves. I got the Hold Steady, those slightly younger get these epic Jersey boys. Budweiser.
3:30 p.m. The Black Lips. A garage band capable of staggering greatness, recalling '60s R&B, '70s punk and the frantic birth of psychedelia. Zync Card.
4:45 p.m. Local Natives. Civilized folk rock with flickering Afro-pop guitars and skilled harmonies, the buzz on these guys gets louder by the minute. Austin Ventures.
5:30 p.m. The XX. Too young to remember the Cure, Young Marble Giants or any of the other bands of which they remind thirty-somethings, this wonderful trio are a genuine phenomenon in their native England. Zync Card.
6:30 p.m. LCD Soundsystem. A festival favorite, these dace rockers are one of the best live acts around. Budweiser.
7:30 p.m. Deadmau5. Keep the dancing going with this increasingly popular house DJ; you might have seen him rocking this year's MTV Video Music Awards. Zync Card.
8:30 p.m. M.I.A. I have yet to see this Sri Lankan singer/MC/media savant have a bad show at a festival. AMD.
11:20 a.m. TV Torso. The new band from former Sound Team frontman Matt Oliver trades in stripped down guitar rock, small, flickering notes and lots of forward motion. Austin Ventures.
12:30 p.m. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. This band's 2007 set at Fun Fun Fun Fest was one of the best I have ever seen. A must-see. Budweiser.
1:15 p.m. Foals. Sometimes frantic, sometimes lyrical British rock. A different type of catharsis than Ted Leo, but a good follow-up. Honda.
3 p.m. Gayngs. Modernist soft rock, a little bit electronic, a little bit woozy. You will chill out, whether you want to or not. Zync Card.
4 p.m. Yeasayer. And we're back to raising your heart rate with this Talking Heads-influenced indie rock phenomenon. AMD.
4:45 p.m. Midlake. Denton superstars keep making album after album of epic psychedelic rock with harmonies straight out of 1967. Austin Ventures .
6 p.m. Band of Horses. Speaking of rock 'n' roll harmonies (and chilling out, for that matter), these classic rockers have some of the crazi--um, most devout fans this side of Phish. Consider yourself warned. Budweiser.
7 p.m. Richard Thompson. You can stay for the Eagles afterwards if you like, but this folk-rock vet's bracing guitar fireworks, dark lyrics and wise melodies make for the perfect festival capper. Clear 4G.