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ACL Fest review: Atoms For Peace

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Eric Pulsifer

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 7, 2013

Watching Thom Yorke and Flea dance together on stage may alone be worth the price of admission for next weekend’s ACL Fest.

Yorke’s other more famous band Radiohead may never play the fest (though we can dream, right?) but the Yorke-fronted supergroup was a super-good consolation to shut down weekend one of ACL Fest 2013. Despite a crowd that could have been less stingy with the applause — judging by the time on my watch, we should have had at least 10 more minutes with Yorke and Co. so I suspect there may have been another encore we were not treated to — the band piled through 17 songs filled with off-beat time signatures, stomach-shaking blasts of bass, a double-barrel dose of experimental world percussion, and that voice, Yorke’s angelic tenor.

One of the best things about seeing Yorke perform around 2011’s “The King of Limbs” has been the dancing. It’s very… Thom Yorke-like (see: the music video for “Lotus Flower”), and any chance to see sassy Thom bust a move should be seized. With a weeks-old graying beard, hair pulled back in a short samurai ponytail, a black leather jacket and red high-tops, Thom did dance, and it was glorious.

Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is darn close to the top of the shortlist of bass players people can actually name, and one could accuse the guy of being a parody of himself at this point, but it’s not often a bass player steals the show — especially when he’s on stage with one of the most revered voices in modern music. With spidery fingers moving at expert typist speeds and an inventory of moves ranging from his signature headbanging while lurching nearly knelled to raging out on a melodica (really), Flea was magnetic on stage. And, at age 50 and after decades of touring and debauchery, he still looked like he might outlive everyone in Zilker Park.

While the others in the band might not be household names, drummer one of two Mauro Refosco’s primitive percussion might have been the most unique element at play in Atoms for Peace’s show. Bringing out everything from a washboard vest to a marching band bass drum to strange metallic noise-making contraptions I could barely begin to understand, his rhythms mixed with Flea’s heavy bass playing to give the entire set a dark, almost tribal air while still keeping things danceable.

It all seemed a hit with the crowd, especially the stronger stuff from Yorke’s solo album, “The Eraser.” It was also a nice treat to see the band cover UNKLE’s “Rabbit In Your Headlights,” a haunting song from the “OK Computer” days that featured Yorke on vocals.

The AMD Stage field was plenty packed near the front, but the audience seemed thinner farther out than I would expect for the final show of the first weekend of ACL Fest. Perhaps like so many of the “side projects” at this weekend’s festival (e.g., The Shouting Matches, Divine Fits, Junip, Aaron Behrens and The Midnight Stroll), audiences would just prefer to see the original item or don’t realize who the members of the bands are.

Setlist

1. Before Your Very Eyes

2. Default

3. The Clock

4. Ingenue

5. Stuck Together Pieces

6. Unless

7. And It Rained All Night

8. Harrowdown Hill

9. Dropped

10. Cymbal Rush

11. Skip Divided

12. Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses

13. Rabbit In Your Headlights (UNKLE cover)

14. Paperbag Writer (Radiohead cover)

15. Amok

16. Atoms For Peace

17. Black Swan