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Claud talks about connection to Daniel Johnston and Austin at ACL Fest

Eric Webb
Austin 360

Bedroom dreamers wilting in the sun, let Claud transport you back under the covers. The mononymous singer-songwriter stood alone on the cavernous Vrbo Stage at Austin City Limits Music Festival on Friday, but the space never swallowed them or their emotive pop confessions.

Wearing a Texas Stars jersey with an apple-green guitar by their side, Claud brought synthy sounds to a crowd ready to escape the barely-afternoon heat. "Can you spell it out for me?/ 'Cause your lips are hard to read/ Are you in or in-between?" they sang with the kind of squint in their eyes that looks like someone's trying to squeeze their deepest feelings out of their face.

Bedroom pop singer-songwriter Claud performs on the VRBO stage on the first day of the second week at the Austin City Limits Festival on Friday Oct. 8, 2021.

The songs on Claud's album "Super Monster" are movie montage music sans the movie. (Except the one in your mind.) "I haven’t seen you since the summer/ We’re getting further from each other/ I guess there’s something in the water/ And it’s only getting harder," they sing on "Guard Down." Can you tell Claud is signed to fellow ACL Fest artist Phoebe Bridgers' Saddest Factory label?

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"Does anybody know the artist Daniel Johnston?" Claud asked midway through the set. After the audience helpfully clarified where the "Hi how are you?" mural is located, Claud said their first trip to Austin was four years ago, and it turned them into a fan of the late artist and musician.

Later, Lee Foster of Electric Lady Studios showed Claud a Johnston drawing called "Claud and the Super Monster." It seemed like kismet, and the album got its name.

"Without Austin, there'd be no 'Super Monster,'" Claud said.

The singer said they spent the week on Lake Travis, so the connection to the city is still going strong.

Claud closed with the songs "Wish You Were Gay" and "Soft Spot," both the tender reveries that they're good at. But "That's Mr. Bitch to You" stood out as the most fun moment of the set. There were jumps — lots of jumps, a recurring theme of Claud's show — and a lot of tender, cheeky, nonbinary defiance.

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"I turned my back, I'm stronger than you thought/ Bet you didn't know/ I won't let a straight man throw me off," they sang, bopping in the empty space.

They didn't need a band, but imagine what they could do with a wall of sound the next time they come to ACL.