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It's a beautiful life if you let it be: Heartless Bastards play a big sunny set at ACL Fest

It's going to be a hot second weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park. But, hey, at least there's a festival at all. As Erika Wennerstrom reminded us during Heartless Bastards' set on the big stage Friday afternoon, it's a beautiful life if you let it be.

The sun shone brightly on the band and festgoers during a 45-minute set that began at 2:30 p.m. with "How Low," one of the most melodically appealing songs from the group's new album "A Beautiful Life." Joined by guitarist Jonas Wilson, bassist Sam Pankey, drummer Gregory Clifford, backing singer Beth Harris and multi-instrumentalist Andy Bianculli, Wennerstrom focused on songs from the new album in a set that was well-received by around 1,000 early-arrivers who gathered up front or sought out shady spots around the perimeter.

Erika Wennerstrom of Austin band Heartless Bastards performs on the Lady Bird Stage of ACL Fest on Friday, Oct 8, 2021.

Heartless Bastards has played ACL Fest before, but not in quite awhile. (Wennerstrom said in an interview a couple of weeks ago that she had vivid memories of one appearance a decade or so ago that turned into a mudfest.) "A Beautiful Life" may well be the band's best record to date, and standouts such as "The River," the title track and the anthemic "Revolution" sounded great on the big stage.

MORE:Our interview with Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards

About the only hiccup came at the end of the set. Wennerstrom had led the band through a powerful rendition of "Parted Ways" from the 2012 album "Arrow," pausing midway to introduce her bandmates. "Thank you so much for being here and coming early today," she told the crowd just before they thundered to what should have been a glorious finale — except the P.A. system cut out about 20 seconds before the end.

Undaunted, the band jammed on, finishing in style even as the volume disappeared. Speaker stacks or not, they were here to rock, and they delivered.

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