Thoughts from an ACL weekend:
– Best band: My Morning Jacket. As you might expect from a band that relies on reverb for so much of its sound, the slower, more mournful songs didn’t translate as well to the stage. But heavens to Betsy, they can bring the rock! Felt like I was at a Led Zeppelin show in 1971 on a few numbers. Jim James has one of the more lovely voices in the modern Southern rock canon, and his hair — a thick Allman Brothers swirl that at times rendered his face invisible — is clearly Olympic-class. And the best part is that the sonic assault made you forget how ludicrously bad all their lyrics are. (“Run Thru” was absolutely transcendent as long as you didn’t understand what James was saying.)
– Also excellent: Calexico. (They’re so consistently great. My mancrush on lead singer Joey Burns remains strong. And each time I see them, I realize even more what a great drummer John Convertino is.) The Pixies. (The band was solid and efficient, but the truly amazing thing was being packed sardine-style in a 50,000-person crowd, knowing that every last person there was about to pee his/her pants with excitement.) The Old 97s. (How these guys have not blown up is beyond me. They’ve got a very accessible sound, and they also kick ass.)
– Disappointing: Franz Ferdinand. (Not for anything they did — they were fine. But they were stuck on a small stage with a huge crowd, and the amps didn’t have nearly enough power to deliver the frenetic pace to the boonies. So for much of the crowd it ended up feeling like a fun show was going on in the next area code over.) Broken Social Scene. (Not awful, again. But inconsistent. Dragged in places.) Spoon. (Ended well, but the band started off slowly and the keyboards were miked all wrong.) Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. (Just like their records — interesting at first, quickly boring.)
– The bands were almost uniformly anti-Bush. Almost annoyingly so at times, no matter your political opinion. And not just the bands you’d expect, either — Flatlander Butch Hancock couldn’t go more than three minutes without a Bushwhack.
– Bruce Robison (whose name I will someday start pronouncing the proper “RAHB-i-son” instead of “ROHB-i-son”) did end up playing “Rayne, Louisiana,” the greatest song ever written about my hometown.
– Sarah, who was kind enough to host me for the weekend, has a cat named Lionel. Lionel may be the most dog-like cat I’ve met. (I last saw Lionel about a year ago, and I don’t remember him being so dog-like. I mostly remember him as being crazy.)
Lionel is graspy, needy, and overly affectionate — all in classic dog-style. When Sarah gets ready for work in the morning, Lionel’s been known to sprawl out in front of the door to prevent her from leaving. Sometimes he tries to hold the door shut with his paws.
At about 4 a.m. Friday night, as I slept on the futon in the living room, Lionel walked on my face. He was dragging a plastic stick with a feather on the end — one of those toys you use to torment cats. He wanted to play. It being 4 a.m., I didn’t. So I took the featherstick from him and flung it across the living room.
Mistake. I have now triggered the fetch reflex, deep in his cat-dog brain.
He scampered over, grabbed the featherstick and brought it back to me, dropping it on my face. We repeated the process three or four times before my sleep-deprived brain registered what was going on. I ended up sleeping the rest of the night on top of the featherstick — the only place I could think of to keep it out of Lionel’s view.
– If Austin hasn’t yet named “What Would Willie Do” its official theme song, it should get moving.
Thoughts from an ACL weekend: