Austin City Limits diary

Alan McKendree amck at
Tue Sep 30 00:52:43 CDT 2008

What I Did at the Circus:

An easy warmup day...the only act I saw was The Mars Volta.   
Eeeyikes.  Blazing high energy jazz/rock.  Not a letdown in the whole  
show.  The opening number lasted 25 minutes.  While I'm far from  
being a jazz fan, they kept it just on the interesting side of self- 
indulgence...not being familiar with their music I couldn't tell what  
was improv and what wasn't, but after a while I was mentally playing  
along with what seemed to be a fast 8-8-8-9-count riff.  Seems  
unlikely, but that's the best I could make of it.  Awesome  
musicianship, a drummer who (along with Aronow) ought to be confined  
and hooked into the national power grid, hypnotic trance riffs and  
odd time signatures that show Rush how it should be done.  Might be  
of interest to Who fans if you want to see a stage full of ace  
musicians going pedal-to-the-metal for an entire show and very much  
enjoying interacting with each other in the process.


First show today was Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings  
(  Good show, lots of energy, she and the  
audience both wanted it to be longer.  Think female James Brown.

Then local act Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears.  Black Joe Lewis  
is indeed black, and all the Honey Bears are not.  White shirts and  
skinny black ties, except for Joe who gets to dress the way he  
wants.  He's kind of a blues/rock/Hendrix act, says he wants to be  
the next James Brown (anyone see a pattern here?).  Good solid act,  
but doesn't bowl me over yet.

Listened to some of Robert Earl Keen's show, he of "The Road Goes On  
Forever" fame.  A good songwriter and a great storyteller.  Need to  
check him out some more.

Then John Fogerty.  I was about the 3rd layer of humans back from the  
barricade, about 10 feet house right of the center aisle.  Good  
show.  I was pleased that he didn't do his solo song "Centerfield"  
which I thought got way overplayed on radio, and I was thrilled that  
he threw "Fortunate Son" in, which is one of my top CCR faves.   
"Green River" was excellent.  Oh, and Kenny Aranoff was drumming for  
him.  I actually know the name, now I just need to find out where  
I've seen him before.  And, I saw famous Who fan John Davisson  
photographing in the pit.

I had dreamed of walking over to another stage to catch The Black  
Keys between him and Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, but I knew there was  
no way I could do that and reclaim my excellent spot.  My feet,  
knees, etc. were hurting by the time they came on, but I refused to  
look at my watch when Alison's solo numbers came around.  In general,  
this act is definitely worth seeing.  Big thumbs up.  The only time  
it dragged was Alison's solo numbers (when it dived into deep  
country) but OTOH she did "Down to the River to Pray" from "O  
Brother, Where Art Thou" that was just beautiful, with Robert & a  
couple others on backing vocals.  And that was the worst part.  For  
the rest, whenever our man Bob's on stage, he takes command.  Wow, is  
he still the sexy beast. Much of the show just smoldered with slow,  
even stalking sensuality on both new songs and reworked versions of  
about half a dozen Led Zep songs (e.g., "Black Dog").  The show  
finished with an epic "The Battle of Evermore" (Alison wailing on the  
high parts Bob recorded) and the Everly Bros "Gone, Gone, Gone".  T- 
Bone Burnett was onstage playing...first time I'd seen him since  
'75.  Looking good in a pinstripe duster coat and purple vest,  
looking like an 1800's preacher.  But back to the music: all I could  
add was it was a joy to watch and hear Robert and Alison's interplay  
and vocals on these, and there were even times when he let that  
primal Led Zep wail rip for a second or two, which never failed to  
electrify the crowd.


Another couple of Plant/Krauss songs from the setlist came to me  
yesterday (Sunday) morning..."Kashmir", believe it or not...imagine  
it starting off at about half speed, on a solo *banjo*!!  If you  
can't imagine it, don't worry, T-Bone did it for you.  He's  
apparently a master of early Americana music and has reworked a lot  
of Plant's repertoire into that style.  But fear not, it works up  
into the rock nonetheless (not just  Kashmir, but the whole  
show) ...the drummer was going nuts at times and broke a timpani  
stick on his kit during "Battle of Evermore".  Also present in the  
setlist (Who connection!!) "Fortune Teller".

Yesterday I saw a bit of Neko Case -- bleh -- and heard about half  
the Heartless Bastards' show, and almost all The Raconteurs.  The  
Heartless Bastards are a power trio, rock-n-blues, with a female lead  
guitarist/lead vocalist.  Male rhythm section.  The feminine rockin'  
element added some nice color to the sound.  Recommended.

The Raconteurs started out with irresistible beats for the first few  
songs.  An interesting touch was that the side projection-screen  
stage video was in black-and-white.  I liked that.  The bass player,  
while good, was wearing big black-rimmed glasses that looked like  
they were designed to make it impossible for his long, limp hair to  
hang in front of his face.  Gaffe.  Jack mentioned that he was having  
serious problems with a disc out of place in his neck, but that he'd  
do his best, and asked us not to be disappointed.  I would never have  
known anything was wrong if he hadn't mentioned it; his playing and  
movements were energetic.  About the 4th or 5th song, he slowed  
things down on a song where he played piano, enthusiastically but not  
particularly difficult stuff...way below the level of his guitar  
work.  At one point he stopped again to talk about the disc, and  
ended by saying the next song was for all the guys who'd ever waked  
up with their disc in the wrong place <rimshot>.  The audience loved  
the show, especially down front...I was well back, behind the mixing  
board (but could hear fine).  However, when they uncorked a song  
called, I would think, "Your Blue Veins", I decided that Jack is  
suffering from more pain than I care to hear about.  It was about a 7- 
minute howling crescendo.  I just couldn't go there with them.

Festival favorite:  Plant/Krauss

Alan McKendree
"the average Texan...carries not just a gun but a SHOTGUN."  --Pete  
Townshend, 1967

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