Jerry Jeff Walker recovering from throat cancer

Jerry Jeff Walker performing at ACL in 2015. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Austin progressive-country legend Jerry Jeff Walker is recovering from throat cancer, according to a report attributed to “Jerry Jeff’s camp” in a post Friday on Facebook by the Lost Gonzo Band, his former backing band.

The full text, taken from an email newsletter that went out to fans on Thursday, reads as follows:

“Jerry Jeff was diagnosed this summer with throat cancer. The prognosis was good (as good as it can be considering….isolated and treatable). It was his wish to get through the treatment before sharing the news. The good news is that the treatment is now over. The bad news is that in the middle of his 6th week of the 7 week treatment, he developed not only pneumonia but a blood infection as well. It is an understatement to call this a set-back, but he has fought it off and now is well into recovery. Because of this he will now be in rehab for a few weeks to get his strength back. His voice is strong and he is issuing orders to us all, so we know the Scamp is back!!

There will have to be shows in November either cancelled or re-scheduled. We are sorry for this, but just know that he will be back sharing his stories with you all in the future!!

Thanks for understanding his wish to get through this without too much attention. I know many of you have dealt with similar issues either yourself or with loved ones. It is tough, but does hone ones perspective on what is important.”

Walker, a native of upstate New York, wrote the late-1960s classic “Mr. Bojangles,” which was subsequently recorded by dozens of artists including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sammy Davis Jr., John Denver, Neil Diamond and Nina Simone. He moved to Austin in the early 1970s and was instrumental in launching the city’s renowned progressive country scene, amid the ascendance of Willie Nelson and the heyday of Armadillo World Headquarters.

Earlier this month, the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos announced that Walker is donating his archive to the university’s Texas Music Collection. The materials will include master tapes, photographs, handwritten lyrics and other items.


Levitation 2018 will take over Austin clubs; Ty Segall, Parquet Courts show announced

Earlier this month, festival organizers teased a return of Levitation to Austin on April 26-28, 2018.

Today, with the announcement of a triple power-bill club show featuring Ty Segall, Parquet Courts and a Giant Dog at Stubb’s BBQ on April 26, they revealed the the cult favorite event, formerly known as Austin Psych Fest, is moving to Downtown Austin.

Jay Janner/American-Statesman – Austin Brown of the Brooklyn band Parquet Courts performs at the Pitchfork Party during SXSW 2013

The psychedelic music festival founded by members of the Black Angels and their friends, was quietly growing into one of the best boutique festivals in the country, when a 2016 spring storm washed out the Austin edition of the festival at Carson Creek Ranch before the gates even opened.

The festival’s problems were compounded when refunds to ticket-holders took much longer to process than expected and two companies who worked on the 2016 event, a Fort Worth-based food service company and local production partner Transmission Entertainment, filed suit against festival organizers.

Looks like fest organizers are mitigating the possibility of future flooding by taking the fest into the Red River Music District’s convenient cluster of established venues.

Presumably more club shows will be added, possibly with a wristband option, but for now early bird tickets to the April 26 show are available for $32.50.

Austin360 On The Record: Otis the Destroyer, Jackie Venson, Monk Parker

Jackie Venson will play a release show for her just-released EP “Transcends” on Nov. 5 at Antone’s. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Otis the Destroyer, “Keep Bashing.” After a couple of EPs, the hard-rocking, punk-fueled indie band led by songwriter-guitarist Taylor Wilkins worked with noted local producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith on its first full-length release. Backing Wilkins are guitarist Anthony Rucci, drummer Clellan Hyatt and bassists Kyle Robarge and Andrew Dalton. Wilkins  is just back from Europe, where he played solo shows as part of the this year’s Project ATX6 collective, in time for the band’s record-release show Friday (Sept. 29) at Hotel Vegas. Here’s the title track:

Jackie Venson, “Transcends” EP. Elements of rock, soul, blues, pop and more wind through the danceable grooves of this five-song release from the fast-rising local singer-songwriter and guitarist. She’s inclined toward socially conscious lyrics, as on “Fight,” in which she vows to “open my eyes and fight the good fight.” It’s been a big year for Venson, who spent quite a bit of time on the road opening for Gary Clark Jr. She’ll follow two more Clark shows this weekend with tour dates in the Northeast and South before returning for a record-release show Nov. 5 at Antone’s. Here’s the video for the track “Flying”:


Monk Parker, “Crown of Sparrows.” With six long-ish songs that clock in at just over 30 minutes total, this falls somewhere between an EP and a full-length album. Parker writes hauntingly elusive, deeply moody material and draws upon some of the city’s most creative musicians to help him realize his vision here, including multi-instrumentalist Kellen Fuchs, Mother Falcon string players Nick Gregg and Diana Burgess, steel players Bob Hoffnar and Adam Torres, and backing vocalist Dana Falconberry. Release show Sept. 29 at Mohawk. Here’s the title track:


  • OCT. 6: Bill Carter, self-titled, pre-release show Sept. 27 at Antone’s.
  • OCT. 6: Whitney Rose, “Rule 62” (Six Shooter).
  • OCT. 20: Willie, Lukas & Micah Nelson, “Willie and the Boys: Willie’s Stash, Vol. 2” (Legacy).
  • OCT. 20: Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, “Don’t Go Baby, It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You” (Cornelius Chapel), release show Oct. 21 at Stay Gold.
  • OCT. 20: Tommy Howard, “Storybook” (Destiny), release show Oct. 22 at Elephant Room.
  • NOV. 1: Brian Pounds, “Southern Writer,” release show Nov. 16 at Cactus Cafe.
  • NOV. 3: Drew Kennedy, “At Home in the Big Lonesome,” playing Dec. 12 at Gruene Hall.
  • NOV. 17: Reveleros, self-titled, release show Nov. 17 at Good Shepherd on the Hill.

ACL Fest: Practical fashion pro-tips from experienced fest-goers

[cmg_anvato video=”4186762″]

We all dream of Instagramming like a top-shelf Coachella cutie, but looking fresh while standing in a field all day isn’t easy. For this month’s Sound Style feature, we hit up three native Austinites who are playing Austin City Limits Festival for fashion inspiration. The artists, sultry R&B singer, Mélat, dreamy pop artist Taylor Baker from the Wild Now and rapper Zeale, who will be performing with Missio, each showed us a look, based on an Austin City Limits Festival muse.

(photos by Laura Skelding for American-Statesman)

Read more about how they made their style choices and developed their looks. 

A few important ACL Fest guidelines might affect how you plan your look and pack your bag next week. For security reasons, many local venues have started restricting bag sizes for large music events over the past year, and ACL Fest is following suit. The official ACL Fest do’s and don’ts list says your bag should be roughly 1,000 cubic inches or 10 by 10 by 10 inches. They say drawstring bags work well. Also, Team Austin360’s favorite accessory of yesteryear, the umbrella — useful for staying dry and blocking sun — has been banned, so consider investing in a lightweight rain poncho and heavy-duty sunscreen for your face. This year, there also will be a full body pat-down and a metal detector at security, worth considering when you accessorize.

PHOTOS: ACL Fest fashion pro-tips

We also hit up an assortment of experienced fest-goers for style pro-tips to help you rock that Austin City Limits look right.

Courtesy of Stephanie Bergara

Stephanie Bergara (audience development/music tourism program coordinator at the city of Austin Music Office and lead singer of Bidi Bidi Banda):

• Think long and hard about your choice of shoes. If it’s uncomfortable five minutes after leaving the house, it’s definitely going to be uncomfortable five hours later.

• Fall festival season calls for a long flowy scarf, either for protecting your airways from dust or keeping you warm with that evening chill. Either way, keep it light and stylish.

• Don’t over-accessorize! The more you bring with you, the more you lug home at the end of the night. (And bag size is restricted anyway.)

• Check the weather. You don’t want to be the guy who has to walk home barefoot after losing a flip flop in the mud, or the girl who is cute but freezing in that romper she bought over the summer.

• Looking for a fun and easy way for your friends to find you at the fest? Bust out those bright colors, wear your oversized sunglasses, your bright lipstick, belly chain — yes! Flower crown — yes! It’s festival season, baby. Time to show off your best and brightest.

Courtesy of Amanda Garcia Davenport.

Amanda Garcia Davenport (lifelong Austin music patron, Giant Noise PR): For me, comfort is key. Sneakers or boots are a must because I hate the feeling of dirty toes, along with shades and/or hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, and I always always bring my own little folding fan. They are easy to tuck away in a pocket or bag, help keep you cool in a crowd and, since we’re talking about fashion, are the perfect accessory. I bought some at dollar stores and had friends gift them (to me) after their travels. (Honestly I try to keep two on me at all times even outside of festivals because TEXAS, and I feel bad fanning myself while whoever I’m with sweats.)

Courtesy of Yadira Brown

Yadira Brown (singer in Keeper, who open for ACL Fest artist Muna at their official ACL Late Night Show Oct. 12 at the Parish): I’m a sweater, so keeping my hair up is vital, as is wearing comfortable, breathable fabrics. In my bag: a handkerchief for blotting sweat and protecting from dust, personal water bottle to refill and stay hydrated with all day, and some cash for Juiceland when the energy levels get low.

Courtesy of Georgia Bramhall

Georgia Bramhall (owner, Honeycomb Hair Boutique): Oil blotting papers (are good to have), although I just blot with paper towels or something. If you wear makeup, use a primer first and then long-wear makeup. MAC Pro Longwear is kind of my go-to. Doing some kind of hairstyle like partly pinned up or braids or some kind of combo of the two is better because you don’t have to fuss with your hair and the constant fight to get it out of your face. Hats are always great, too!

Courtesy of Laurel Kinney

Laurel Kinney (style consultant, Laurel Kinney Personal Styling): I’m overly practical when it comes to dressing for festivals. I always recommend some kind of cool bandanna (or bandanna-sized scarf) because it can serve many purposes, be worn in multiple ways and is never out of style. Keep all of your accessories practical! Sunglasses, hats, bandanna, and you won’t ever feel too costume-y at the end of the night, even in your craziest festival outfit. And bring a (small) backpack!

Indie rockers Arcade Fire sound at home in the arena for Erwin Center show

Arcade Fire at the Erwin Center on September 27, 2017. Scott Moore for American-Statesman

Because they’re often positioned as an alternative to pop superstars, indie bands generally flourish in the nightclub realm, perhaps graduating to small theaters or midsize concert halls as their careers progress. Arena shows tend to be out of reach, and not a good fit aesthetically anyway.

Grammy-winning Montreal band the Arcade Fire is an exception, the rare indie act that seems to be specifically designed for nothing smaller than the arena environment. A six-piece core outfit that tours with three additional musicians, they’re all about pushing every element of live performance to the limit, from theatrical stage presence to a dazzling light show to bombastic bursts of sound.

READ MORE: Our 2014 interview with Arcade Fire bassist Tim Kingsbury

And so, even though the Erwin Center was nowhere near capacity for the group’s Wednesday night concert — the upper level went unsold and was blocked off — this was still the right room for their current “Infinite Content” tour. The key was booking a space that allowed them to set the stage in the middle of the room so that they could be surrounded by the audience, rather than projecting in a single direction.

Such in-the-round concerts happen every once in a while at the Erwin Center — George Strait used that format for his sold-out farewell tour in 2014 — but the Arcade Fire’s stage setup was rather ingenious. Built as a giant square with ropes on all four sides, it was basically a boxing ring, with band members performing around the edges and the drums rotating on a round riser in the middle.

Win Butler of Arcade Fire at the Erwin Center at the Erwin Center on September 27, 2017. Scott Moore for American-Statesman

Co-leader Win Butler had the most freedom to roam the ring, frequently perching himself atop small platforms placed around the ring as he played guitar or bass and occasionally taking a seat to play piano. But nearly everyone made full use of the space, moving peripatetically from edge to edge in a manner that couldn’t be described in typical stage left/right fashion: There’s co-leader Regine Chassagne slinging a keytar at the 3 o’clock position, there’s Will Butler (Win’s younger brother) wailing on keyboards at 7 o’clock, there’s gold-jacketed Richard Reed Parry strumming a guitar at 10 o’clock, here comes touring member Stuart Bogie thrusting a saxophone over his head at 5 0’clock.

Many of them changed instruments as often as they changed positions, with violinist Sarah Neufeld a rare member who stuck to a single strength. Her contributions were important to a band that often puts forth a gorgeously melodic wall of sound, though at times they veered deep into more rhythm-centered tunes, especially when Chassagne took a lead vocal with a headset mic that allowed for ease of mobility.

Butler occasionally conversed with the crowd, cajoling them to sing along on the “whoa-oh-oh”-type chants that appear in many of the band’s songs. Though they played the Austin360 Amphitheater on their last visit to Austin in 2014, Butler made reference to the group’s very first gig in Austin, at Emo’s in 2005. Raised in the Woodlands near Houston, Butler also gave a shout-out of solidarity with hurricane victims both there and in the Caribbean, as Chassagne’s parents are natives of Haiti.

The one downside to the band’s impressive, all-out sensory assault is that the senses inevitably get dulled a bit to it as the show wears on. As they got into the second half of their two-hour show, the songs that stood out were more often quieter moments where the spectacle element was scaled back a bit, including the title track to 2007’s “Neon Bible” and the encore-opening “We Don’t Deserve Love” from this summer’s “Everything Now” (the band’s fifth studio album).

Even without the upper deck in use, the Erwin Center felt plenty crowded, in large part because floor space was sold as general-admission standing room, allowing fans who wanted to be up close to surround the stage on all four sides. That also allowed for some occasional crowd interaction, such as when one member carrying a handheld drum bounced himself repeatedly against the ringside rungs, playing rope-a-dope until he finally broke through and went for a short stroll among the fans. And when the show was over, the band descended down a staircase and walked through the crowd back to the south-end exit point to the backstage area.

Fellow Montreal indie-rockers Wolf Parade opened the show, playing stationary toward the north end of the crowd (before the stage was configured in the boxing-ring setup). Recently reunited after a five-year hiatus, the group mixed songs from its previous three albums as well as previewing a few from “Cry Cry Cry,” due out next week on Sub Pop Records. Songs sung by keyboardist Spencer Krug generally fared better than those with guitarist Dan Boeckner out front, but the crowd responded favorably throughout the quartet’s 45-minute set, which would’ve sounded quite at home alongside the music of Austin indie kingpins Spoon. (Indeed, Boeckner and Spoon’s Britt Daniel played together in the side-project group Divine Fits a few years ago.)

Set list:
1. Everything Now
2. Signs of Life
3. Rebellion (Lies)
4. Here Comes the Night Time
5. Haiti
6. Keep the Car Running
7. No Cars Go
8. Electric Blue
9. Put Your Money on Me
10. Neon Bible
11. My Body Is a Cage
12. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
13. The Suburbs
14. The Suburbs (Continued)
15. Ready to Start
16. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
17. Reflektor
18. Afterlife
19. Creature Comford
20. We Don’t Deserve Love
21. Everything Now (Continued)
22. Wake Up


ACL Fest links verified resale tickets for weekend one 3-day passes

UPDATE: Austin City Limits Fest organizers have moved the link to verified ACL tickets from the ticket page of their website to the frequently asked questions section. On Monday afternoon there were numerous verified secondary market 3-day passes for weekend one available below face value.


Austin City Limits Festival 2017 kicks off a week from Friday on October 6 at Zilker Park and the event is not sold out. Three-day passes for weekend two (Oct. 13-15, $255) and $100 single-day tickets to Friday and Sunday of both weekends are still available.

Dax Robol, 2, stares up at the sunset sky from atop his father Ryan’s shoulders at the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Park on Oct. 1, 2016. Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman

But if you missed out on buying a weekend one pass or a Saturday single-day ticket, you’re in luck. ACL Fest has added links to an “official, verified ticket exchange” on the ticket page of their website.  On Wednesday morning, there were several three-day passes available below the $255 face value. A lot of 15 tickets offered at the startling price of $174 moved quickly, but around 11:15 a.m. reasonably-priced options were still available.

A screenshot of verified resale tickets for weekend one of ACL Fest at 11 a.m. on Weds., 9.27.


Presumably, the supply of tickets on the official exchange will wax and wane in the days leading up to the festival.

And bargain single-day tickets for either of the Saturdays are not currently in the mix. The cheapest Saturday ticket available on Wednesday morning was $135.


Exclusive premiere: Watch Willie Nelson’s new video with sons Lukas and Micah

Willie Nelson with Lukas Nelson, center, and Micah Nelson, left, at Pedernales Studio in Spicewood. Contributed/Greg Giannukos

Most of “Willie and the Boys,” the new album teaming Willie Nelson with his sons Lukas and Micah, revisits classic tunes from country greats named Hank: Williams, Snow, Cochran, Locklin. But “Healing Hands of Time” is one of Willie’s own, dating back to his early days as a songwriter struggling to make a name for himself in the early 1960s.

The tune appeared on his 1965 album “Country Willie,” and in the 1990s he recorded a lushly orchestrated rendition on an album that bears the same title as the song. The version on “Willie and the Boys,” due out Oct. 20 on Legacy Recordings, was recorded in 2011 with producer Buddy Cannon at Willie’s Pedernales Studio in the hill country just outside of Austin.

READ MORE: Willie Nelson teams with sons Lukas and Micah on new album

For this down-home video, Willie and his sons bring “Healing Hands of Time” back to its simple roots. They strum acoustic guitars, trade lead verses and sing harmony, prefacing the performance with a minute or two of casual father-sons chatter about picking and golfing together. “It’s as good as it gets, being up here with you kids,” Willie says to Lukas and Micah. Here’s the full result, straight outta Spicewood:

Catch Lukas with his band Promise of the Real at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, and at Antone’s for an ACL Fest official late-night show on Oct. 11. And on Dec. 29-31, Lukas and his band will open all three nightsof Willie’s annual year-end stand at ACL Live. Tickets for those shows go on sale Friday, Sept. 29, at 10 a.m. via the ACL Live website.

Weekend music picks: Lauryn Hill and Nas, War on Drugs, Wilco


Lauryn Hill performs in concert at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q on May 2, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Saturday: Lauryn Hill, Nas at Austin360 Amphitheater. Here’s a solid bet for fans of lyrically fierce ’90s hip-hop. Over the past decade Hill’s performances have been notoriously inconsistent and frequently tardy. The last time we caught her, in the final moments of the final Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2015, she was brilliant, transcendent. Her set had a hard curfew of 10 p.m. and she actually started a couple minutes early. The last time she played Austin, when her “Diaspora Calling” tour hit ACL Live last fall, she was reportedly good, but late to hit the stage. Fans who caught recent performances from Hill in Atlanta and in Pittsburgh fared worse. Nas, who headlined Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2014, is, and has always been, “half-man, half amazing.” Chronixx opens. $31.50-$131.50. 7 p.m. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. — D.S.S.

Saturday: Paul Kelly, Jess Cornelius at 3Ten. Arguably Australia’s most respected and accomplished singer-songwriter since the 1980s, Kelly released a new record over the summer titled “Life Is Fine” that, against all odds, became his first-ever album to top the Australian charts. He’s generally flown a bit more under-the-radar in the States, but those who find their way to his music tend to end up followers for life. $20-$25. 8:30 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. — P.B.

Saturday-Sunday: War on Drugs at Stubb’s outdoor (first night sold out). It’s a tough call as to whether Adam Granduciel’s band War on Drugs has done better than alumnus Kurt Vile (who has a sold-out show in November at ACL Live with Courtney Barnett). Both have continued to make fascinating rock music, with War on Drugs pushing toward the epic emotionalism of the Waterboys and Springsteen on their fourth album, “A Deeper Understanding.” Land of Talk opens. $36-$38. 7 p.m. doors. 801 Red River St. — P.B.

READ MORE: Review of the War on Drugs’ 2015 “Austin City Limits” taping

Sunday: Wilco at Bass Concert Hall. Exactly what kind of mojo landed Wilco, the Flaming Lips and the War on Drugs in town on the same night a week before ACL Fest is a mystery, but for die-hard indie-rockers, it’s a sensory overload. Jeff Tweedy’s band, once notorious for frequent lineup changes, has found stability over the past decade thanks to a crew that backs up his ever-changing musical interests with sympathetic yet dynamic instrumentalism. Bob Schneider opens. $42.50-$79.50. 7:30 p.m. 2350 Robert Dedman Drive. — P.B.



Matchbox Twenty, Matt Nathanson at HEB Center

Dwight Yoakam at Nutty Brown Amphitheater

Black Pistol Fire, Possessed By Paul James, Migrant Kids at Emo’s

Big Thief, My Golden Calf at Mohawk outdoor

Monk Parker album release, Adam Torres, Thor & Friends at Mohawk indoor

Pinegrove, Florist, Lomelda at Barracuda (sold out)

Lonnie Smith Trio, Ike Stubblefield Trio at Antone’s

Darden Smith at 3Ten

Branches, Lunice at Vulcan Gas Company

Dada, Brian Whelan at Sidewinder

Griffin House at Cactus Cafe

Whitey Johnson, Blues Specialists at Continental Club

Joe King Carrasco at Threadgill’s South

Bubble Puppy at El Mercado Backstage

Otis the Destroyer EP release, Slomo Drags, Honeyrude, Dr. Joe at Hotel Vegas

Royal Knaves EP release at Come and Take It Live

Sour Bridges, Watters, Denny Freeman at Saxon Pub

Harvest Thieves, Paul Nipper at ABGB

Carson McHone, Devin Jake at White Horse

Leo Rondeau, Altamesa at Sam’s Town Point

Kelley Mickwee at Geraldine’s

Wendy Colonna, Leeann Atherton at One-2-One Bar

Adrian Ruiz Quintet, TripTrio with Lissa Hattersley at Elephant Room

Cowboys & Indians at Lake Hills Community Park


Kaleo, ZZ Ward, Wilder at ACL Live (night one sold out)

Friday and Monday

Father John Misty, Weyes Blood at Bass Concert Hall (night one sold out)

RELATED: Review of Father John Misty’s “Austin City Limits” taping in August


Pvris, Lights, Party Nails at Emo’s

A.J. Croce at Stateside at the Paramount

Cribs, Paws at Antone’s

Trippy Turtle at Empire

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Sailor Poon at Mohawk outdoor

Josh T. Pearson, Jonathan Terrell at Cactus Cafe

Beat Root Revival, W.C. Clark at Saxon Pub

Max Frost at Belmont

The Dig at Barracuda

Whitney Rose, Aaron McDonnell at White Horse

Jason Roberts at Broken Spoke

Jubal Fest at Giddy Up’s

Latin at Heart, Alex Ruiz at Threadgill’s South

Broken Things, Lance Keltner at El Mercado Backstage

Pleasant Grove, American Werewolf Academy at ABGB

Lost Counts, Michael Fracasso at Continental Gallery

Cornell Hurd Band at Driskill Bar


Flaming Lips, Mac DeMarco at ACL Live (sold out)

SZA, Smino, Ravyn Lenae at Emo’s (sold out)

BoDeans acoustic at Texas Union Theater

Early November, Movielife, Heart Attack Man at Mohawk outdoor

Soul of a Musician series with Jaimee Harris, Bonnie Whitmore at Iron Cactus North

Hilary York, Aimee Bobruk, Mike Stinson at C-Boy’s

Kevin Lovejoy Trio at Lamberts

Lavelle White, Ulrich Ellison at Antone’s

Roger McGuinn guides Austin audience through a six-decade musical journey

By Wes Eichenwald, special to the American-Statesman

In recent years, there probably haven’t been too many reviews of Roger McGuinn’s solo concerts that fail to mention either his age – currently 75 – or the enduring clarity and versatility of his tenor voice, which helped define 1960s commercial folk rock via the Byrds, the group he co-founded in 1964 with Gene Clark and David Crosby.

Roger McGuinn. Photo contributed by John Chiasson

Dressed largely in black and gray, with a rakishly tilted hat, McGuinn spoke and sung his way through a nearly two-hour account of his six decades in the music world on Saturday at the Paramount Theatre.

Alternately standing and playing, and sitting in a chair amid potted plants, three guitars and a banjo – the instruments seeming as organic in this setting as the plants – McGuinn, in a self-directed interview of sorts, conversed easily about his early life in Chicago, becoming inspired to perform from hearing Elvis on the radio (upon which he sang a few bars of “Heartbreak Hotel”), and spun tales of his eventful life, from his early days with folk groups the Chad Mitchell Trio and the Limeliters and pop singer Bobby Darin to later encounters with Bob Dylan and the Beatles. McGuinn spun a hypnotic mood in his stories-behind-the-songs tour de force, weaving a connecting thread between the likes of “Rock Island Line” and old sea shanties and gospel hymns, through to the Byrds hits “Mr. Spaceman,” “Eight Miles High,” and “Chestnut Mare.”

Roger McGuinn’s simple stage design for his solo concert tour. Contributed by Wes Eichenwald

With the precision of the folk-music archivist he’s been for over 20 years, McGuinn noted that he’d last played the Paramount in May 1991 and said some kind words about the efforts to preserve and maintain beautiful old theaters. McGuinn knows something about historical preservation, archiving a large number of traditional folk songs on the “Folk Den” section of his website and recording a four-CD set from the archive.

If McGuinn was at the right places at the right time to ride the waves from the cresting folk scene at the dawn of the ‘60s through his glory days with the Byrds, he also made clear he was willing to throw twists and turns into his musical career – as when, refusing to have the Byrds be pigeonholed as either folk rock or psychedelic, he related how they went to Nashville in 1968 to record the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album, helping to pioneer country rock in the process.

McGuinn showcased his vocal versatility on “Mr. Tambourine Man,” singing it first much as Dylan did in the original version, then as McGuinn reimagined it with an ear to radio airplay, with the help of Bach and his inner Beatle filter (from the first time he heard the Beatles, McGuinn recognized folk chord changes in the songs and realized the potential of “Beatleizing” songs with folk bones).

The audience of mainly graying baby-boomers ate up McGuinn’s clinic, rising easily for more than one standing ovation. Yet it wasn’t just a nostalgic exercise, it was a compelling journey to the still-beating heart of ‘60s folk, rock, and assorted creative exercises from the mind, throat, and hands of a master musician.


Review: Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas at the Erwin Center

Tribute: Remembering Charles Bradley, who died Sept. 23

Review:  A tour de force from Tedeschi Trucks Band at ACL Live


Tedeschi Trucks Band’s soulful tour de force rages at sold-out ACL Live

The Tedeschi Trucks band at ACL Live on Saturday, September 23, 2017. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

From the sold-out, revved-up crowd, to a cameo appearance by Jimmie Vaughan, to a finale that wove in the Carter Family’s classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Saturday night at ACL Live with the Tedeschi Trucks Band had some amusing similarities to Friday’s big “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” hurricane relief benefit at the Erwin Center.

Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and their bandmates drew that connection even tighter with an early-September announcement: “The band has pledged to support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. A portion of proceeds from each of its upcoming Texas performances will be donated to help victims of the storm.”

“The Storm” also happened to be the name of the song, from their 2013 album “Made Up Mind,” that marked the close of a nearly two-hour main set. On this night, they used it as a bridge into the Allman Brothers classic “Whipping Post,” paying tribute to the late Gregg Allman and acknowledging Trucks’ formative years with that group.

When Trucks subsequently formed his own band, and then teamed up with Tedeschi for the first Tedeschi Trucks Band album in 2011, it marked the arrival of a new major force in American music. The group’s December 2015 taping of “Austin City Limits” gave the long-running television show one of its best episodes in years.

READ MORE: Tedeschi Trucks Band closes ACL’s 41st season with a bang

That taping happened just before the January 2016 release of “Let Me Get By,” the band’s third studio album. Four of the 15 songs they played on Saturday came from that record, supplemented by three from previous albums, two as-yet-unrecorded new numbers, and a handful of choice covers from the likes of Allen Toussaint and Bobby Blue Bland.

A dozen strong, the Tedeschi Trucks Band backs up its namesake powerhouse vocal and guitar duo with unassailable musicianship across the board. Backup singer and songwriting contributor Mike Mattison, who often moves to the front for lead vocal turns, stands out, but his companions on the back riser, Alecia Chakour and Mark Rivers, were similarly compelling when the spotlight turned their way.

A couple of Austinites star in the horn and rhythm sections. Trumpeter Ephraim Owens joins saxophonist Kebbi Williams and trombone player Elizabeth Lea, while J.J. Johnson teams with Tyler Greenwell for a double-drummer attack that ranges from subtle to ferocious. Bassist Tim Lefebvre and keyboardist Carey Frank (subbing for Kofi Burbridge, who’s recovering from heart surgery) round out the lineup.

As a unit, these musicians are masters of dynamics, repeatedly building and unleashing bursts of energy. The effect of that technique wears off a bit after an hour or so, simply because it becomes expected. Breaks such as Tedeschi’s trio performance of the George Jones/Lawton Williams classic “Color of the Blues,” which she sang with John Prine on an album he released last year, help to broaden the band’s palette.

Tedeschi is one of the best singers in contemporary music, reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt (who was part of Friday’s Erwin Center show) in her ability to connect emotionally with tones ranging from a whisper to a scream. But if you’re a fan of the Tedeschi Trucks band, it really comes down to digging the instrumental talent first and foremost. It’s the grooves these folks lay down, stretched out enough to make a 15-song set and encore run well past two hours, that have raised them to godhead level on the jam-band circuit — even as their songcraft has increasingly given them inroads toward a much wider audience.

They’ve clearly outgrown playing a single night at ACL Live, which sold out this show months in advance. Expect multiple nights there in the future, perhaps even a move up to the Erwin Center (they played the Austin360 Amphitheater in 2015, before their “Austin City Limits” taping). They’d clearly be a great addition to ACL Fest as well, though if they haven’t played the festival by now, it may simply indicate the band’s preference to connect with fans in a full-concert environment. Wherever they land the next time through town, expect the crowd to be ever larger.

Opening act the Hard Working Americans joined the headliners for a night-closing rendition of Bobby Blue Bland’s Turn on Your Love Light” (a frequent Grateful Dead live highlight). The two bands share familial bonds, as drummer Duane Trucks is the brother of TTB co-leader Derek Trucks. Musically, though, Hard Working Americans is far less interesting. Though ace country-rock songwriter Todd Snider fronts the group, the material in their 40-minute set was largely bland and unmemorable.

Set list:
1. Don’t Know What It Means
2. Anyday
3. Laugh About It
4. All the World (new)
5. Get Out My Life, Woman
6. Midnight in Harlem
7. I Want More
8. Color of the Blues
9. Right on Time
10. Shame (new)
11. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free
12. I Pity the Fool
13. The Storm/Whipping Post
14. Will the Circle Be Unbroken/Bound for Glory
15. Turn on Your Love Light