Death Grips: The Band of the Decade

Words by / Ben Cardillo

Image Courtesy of Ben Cardillo.

Image Courtesy of Ben Cardillo.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Death Grips is the greatest band of this decade. Their live performance absolutely reflects their greatness. I have now seen them live twice - once in Paris and once here in Austin on March 26th. While Paris was a superior concert in terms of crowd energy (maybe because of the French obsession with strong espresso), their set at Mohawk still lived up to the hype around their legendary performances.

Now to call a band the greatest of a decade may be a prematurely given accolade, but their discography is not only flawless but entirely forward thinking. In a now deleted interview with Pitchfork Stefan Burnett, or MC Ride, explained, “we’re not into lateral movement . . . we want to move forward, make things better.” They have fulfilled this promise, releasing four albums since the time of the interview which completely differ from each other in instrumentation, themes, and lyrical content. You may be saying to yourself “okay, they’re a great band, but there is a lot of great bands to come out of this decade,” but another aspect that makes Death Grips enthralling is the way they have perfectly captured this unique period in human history. They capture themes of paranoia (“I’ve Seen Footage"), over saturation of information (“Culture Shock”), isolation (“Fuck Me Out” and “Inanimate Sensation”), suicide and mental illness ("On GP” and “World of Dogs”), sex and drug use to escape (“I Want it I Need it”), and anger at just about everything (all of their songs). They have also used (or not used) the internet to their advantage better than just about every current band. After the release of The Money Store they went against their labels wishes and released their next album No Love Deep Web through their website, thirdworlds.net. They then screamed “freelance mother fucker” on their next album Government Plates. About three times a year Death Grips will tweet “Death Grips is Online,” which spurs their fan base into tweeting the phrase and pictures of the group repeatedly until the next album drops. Pictures of MC Ride smiling are more valuable than Bitcoin. Their Instagram and Twitter are both cryptic and unverified, adding to the mystery surrounding the band. Only two interviews with Death Grips can be found, and the one with Pitchfork, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqVDVVrJBSE, is one of my favorite artist interviews to date.

Death Grips played at Mohawk this past Tuesday, March 26th. Overall the concert was mostly what one would expect from listening to their music: mosh pits and sweaty concert goers. I got about a years worth of cardio from spending half the concert in the pit, mostly getting thrown around by people bigger than me. In the Pitchfork interview, the band talks about how they want their crowds to be volatile and for people to stop thinking. They succeeded at their task as everyone was throwing elbows and venturing into the pit at some point in the concert. Everyone from 30ish year old ex-hardcore scene looking dudes to five foot teenagers were trying their luck with what looked to be a six and a half foot sweaty, shirtless man who was throwing people around like stuffed animals. He threw me across the pit three or four times. I love a good mosh pit. It is a place to get your anger out at people who are asking you to run into them as hard as you can. But at a Death Grips show, the mosh pit is soundtracked by none other than Death Grips, music designed for throwing your body at people.

Death Grips opened with “Lost Boys” and did not stop once to rest or talk to the crowd until they closed with “The Fever (Aye Aye).” The group wore matching boxing shorts, and Andy Morin was the only member wearing a shirt, but he was not wearing shoes. The set list was very similar to their Paris show, but it did not detract from the experience because the set list consisted of some of their best tracks. They performed fan favorites like “I’ve Seen Footage,” “Guillotine,” and “No Love.” “No Love” apparently really energized the crowd because somebody punched me in the face during it. The group also played most of their highly energetic tracks like “I Break Mirrors with My Face in the United States,” System Blower,” and “Anne Bonny.” Near the end, the band played “Takyon (Death Yon)” which was a pleasant surprise as I had not heard it live before.

I was able to get my sweaty self out of the venue before most of the crowd, and I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for a ride when I heard “Pick a side guys!” Security was escorting the group out of the venue so I was able to get a look at a tired MC Ride, Zach Hill, and Andy Morin from five feet away before they disappeared around the corner. As I stood there stunned everyone began to exit the venue sweaty, bruised, and in absolute awe.

John Maus in Concert

Words by / Ben Cardillo

John Maus’s brother, Joseph Maus, died suddenly while on tour July 28th of last year. He was Maus’s touring bassist, and the pair were in Cesia, Latvia when Joseph passed. I never had the pleasure of seeing Joseph perform with John on stage, but fans say he was an incredible bassist. Since Josephs’s death, John’s live act has consisted solely of him and a microphone. However, the bare stage does not detract from Maus’s set as his raw emotion fills the void of backing instruments and musicians. I had the privilege to see John Maus in all his synth-rock glory on Friday, February 22nd, and it was one of the greatest concerts I have been to.

I began listening to John Maus around the time his brother passed, and instantly fell in love. One of my favorite memories listening to John Maus was on an overnight bus traveling from Amsterdam to France. The whole bus was asleep while I listened to “And the Rain...” and “Keep Pushing On” on repeat, staring off into the dark Belgian countryside. A midnight bus is one of the best settings to listen to John Maus which probably describes his music better than any bullshit sub-genre labeling. No other contemporary artist is able to blend absurdist lyrics about killing cops, giving rights to gay people, and time travel into to synthy lo-fi bliss, save maybe his label mate Ariel Pink. While I am not too sympathetic towards America’s current police force, John Maus is the only musician outside of 80’s political punk to make me sing along to lyrics about murdering them.

Maus has release five albums: Songs (2006), Love is Real (2007), We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (2011), Screen Memories (2017), and Addendum (2018). He also released a compilation album titled A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material (2012) which is composed of unreleased material reaching as far back as 1999. It also includes the fan-favorite “Bennington.” If you are looking to start listening to John Maus, We Must Become... is probably the best place to start as it is his most polished and accessible record.

As invisible as it is, John Maus’s influence on 2000’s indie scene is undeniable. Maus has toured and collaborated with bands including Animal Collective, one of the most progressive and influential pop-oriented bands of the decade. Ariel Pink, a bedroom-pop pioneer, is also a repeat collaborator with Maus. The pair’s styles can easily be seen in each other’s work.

Sailor Poon, a local Austin feminist punk band, opened for John Maus. Sailor Poon played loud and fast with their lead singer screaming about everything from female body hair to the insecurity of white males. The act’s lyrical and musical content can be directly compared to bands like Bratmobile and Bikini Kill. They truly upheld the feminist punk tradition with a killer (and very very loud) live set. I regret not bringing some earplugs because my ears were ringing the whole next day.

After a brief intermission, John Maus emerged from backstage with no introduction from the venue or from himself. He knelt and began the backing instrumental for “My Whole World’s Coming Apart” which instantly energized the crowd. I was not expecting the the crowd to be as lively as it was, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was situated only a few people back from the stage, and I was instantly crushed between those in front of and behind me. But it was okay because I was able to see every expression on Maus’s face.

A few songs after “My Whole World’s Coming Apart,” Maus played “Rights for Gays.” The song is essentially a repetition of the phrase “Right now, rights for gays, oh yeah” but its comical simplicity makes it one of Maus’s best and another fan favorite. Maus spared no time between each song, never speaking directly to the crowd. The unrelenting assault of songs kept the energy of the crowd going for the duration of his set. “Cop Killer” had about 500 twenty-somethings shouting about how they were going to kill ALL of the cops that night, and the empowering lyrics of “Keep Pushing On” still resonate with me after hearing it live. Maus’s performance of “Believer,” the closing track on We Must Become... and the closing track of the concert, was the highlight. This was mainly because I was able to see over the crowd as I surfed on it, but Maus screaming into the microphone about how Hulk Hogan and Jackie Chan were “flashing all across the world” was surreal.

The concert was as cathartic for me as it was for John Maus. Throughout the concert he pounded his chest with the microphone, looking like he was going to cry. He hit himself in the face as his blue button-up shirt slowly became increasingly sweaty. It was truly one of the most emotional

performances I have witnessed. After “Believer,” Maus left without saying a word while everyone in the crowd processed the concert.

Goat Fest Lineup: Indoor Creature (2:15 PM)

Words by / Sebastian De La Cruz

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Indoor Creature are an Austin, TX native band, formed by the ever-so talented members Travis, Caleb, Marcus, and Terrence. Their sound is reminiscent of a brighter Neon Indian, perhaps a little bit of Passion Pit. Though all in all they seem to be a mix of Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” with a little bit of Mac Demarco’s “This Old Dog.” Indoor Creature is here to impress and that they will, playing local shows day in and day out. Their album “Windows” released in 2017 and is available for streaming on all major services. The album features highlights such as Over My Head, In Memory of Don Bell, and Really Can’t Stay. Since the release of “Windows” Indoor Creature has gone on to release four new singles all containing their unique sound and passion for music in every tone. Their moodier track “Hot AF” is a dreamier and warmer encapsulation of their style while their latest single “Selfish Liars” features a beautiful woodwind opening leading into an emotional and captivating song. Their lyricism is fun and does not have an oud of pretentiousness about it, while at the same time letting off a feeling of romanticism. Their song “Ode to Boone” is a delightful taste of their musical signature, reminiscent of the feeling of watching the people around you age, just as Boone does. Catch Indoor Creature at Goatfest on March, 15th at the Highball.

Goat Fest Lineup: Suave (12:30pm)

Words by / Ben Cardillo

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I first saw Suave the Performer perform outside of Dujarie Hall my freshman year of college. He was able to get the small crowd hyped up by actively engaging them and having a commanding stage presence. Suave consistently puts on a great show for his crowds, bringing a great energy to every show he plays. Even when I talked to him about contacting Topper Radio to perform at Goat Fest he said he was excited to “get everyone lit.”

Suave specializes in creating gloomy and intense trap music. He has released a lot of music in this style, and some of the highlights are “Sauced Up”, “Losing Control”, and “Higher Ground.” “Sauced Up”’s slow lyrical flow is backed by a Southern Florida style trap beat with heavy 808’s and an eerie piano sample. “Losing Control” has a definitive punk energy to it, taking influence from artists like Smokepurp and Ski Mask the Slump God. The blown out bass and vocals make it one of his hardest hitting tracks. “Higher Ground” has a break-neck flow and brag rap lyrics backed by another trap influenced beat.

Although Suave has been more focused on darker, heavier music, he is still able to create great music with a lighter mood. Recently, Sauve released a remix of Tyler the Creator’s collaboration track with A$AP Rocky “Potato Salad.” Suave’s deep voice meshes perfectly with the old school playful beat. He raps about positivity and his ambitions as a rapper, a common theme in much of lighter his work. Fans of his less heavy work should check out tracks like Dreaming of Paradise and Colorful World. His feature on Donnie Chocolate’s “Friday Night” also has a playful energy

Suave has also been producing recently, dropping an album of instrumentals titled “Sounds for the Odyssey” on Soundcloud. The instrumentals are space-like and other worldly. Synth samples float over trap-influenced hi-hats, kicks, and snares. The whole album has a sort of cloud rap feel to it.

Suave the Performer has his music on Soundcloud, Apple Music, and Spotify. Just search “Suave the Performer” and listen to a couple tracks to get ready for his performance at Goat Fest. His energetic stage presence makes him a must see at Goat Fest IV.

Goat Fest Lineup: Corinne Bates (12pm)

Words by / Hank Holmes

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From the stylings of classic songwriting and Americana folk, Corinne Bates constructs a modern take on the genre from a sonic architecture built by those before her.  With her newest EP Too Sad to Fall Asleep, she acutely portrayed her personal, emotional, and hauntingly beautiful sound.

Music came somewhat naturally to Corinne, having come in and out of almost her entire life.  “When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I played the talent shows, and thought - this is really cool” she told me on a calm day in Austin, Texas, while continuing to detail her early interest in music saying that “The second I found out that people do music, I knew that was something I wanted to do”.  It seems that this early start of music has rifted through Corinne’s career. Having picked up a guitar and adjacent lessons around the age of 11, expressing herself was never a question. She quickly began going outside of the recommendations of her teacher and learning her favorite assortments of music from pop-punk to oldies.  It was this array of genres and interests that seems to have translated in her modern songwriting, as Corinne takes the classic candor of artists like Carole King and the looming melodies and depth of modern artists like Phoebe Bridgers. “As I got older, I circled back.” Corinne tells me, continuing to describe her newfound appreciation for artists like Elliot Smith, and how the act of retroactively finding interest in this kind of music has framed her own songwriting.  It is almost in an embracement of blique nostalgia how Corinne Bates appreciates, references, and pushes the music that once defined a generation.

As for the recent past, Corinne has devoted her time to writing songs to express something deep inside herself - an ethos that resonates throughout her music.  Too Sad to Fall Asleep does this almost hauntingly, where a story that one may not know any details to, immediately is understood by the end of a three minute song.  When writing the EP, Corinne says that “these were the songs that I felt like I needed to write” and that they were “just happening”, coming out of her heart and voice in her individualistic tone.  

Corinne’s happenings translate wonderfully live as well, where as she stands on stage naturally securing attention from the crowd.  She prefers to start quiet and gradually fill the room with her unique vocal tambor, keeping an already interested audience entrenched in her performance.  Her personality and individuality come out on stage. Corinne may tell brief one-liners about the upcoming song, but really lets the story be told through the music.  With a song like “Transgressions”, the odd guitar line is accented by a vocal melody sitting on top of it, and will bring the listener on the intended journey Corinne constructed when writing and practicing for the moment.  

While Corinne writes for herself and herself only, the community has responded.  Her imperfections relate to all of us who have similar if not the same ones, and gives the listener a sense of understanding - even when a subject is concerning the personal.  Corinne does this nicely, capturing the listener with her personality, and having them devoted throughout her music and story. Corinne tells me she is excited to expand her sonic horizons, and with new music coming in the ever-eminent future, friends, fans, and the world awaits for Corinne Bates’ next release.

Listen to her EP here.

Goat Fest Lineup: TC Superstar (4:30pm)

Words by / Kristen Chambers

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TC Superstar is the most fun show I’ve seen in Austin. Every time, hands down. A couple members of the band serve the purpose of being a dancer, no instruments involved. This unique set-up for a local band, having dancers contribute equally to the performance and concept, reflects in the audience’s energy. People DANCE at TC shows. They get down. There’s something encouraging and welcoming about watching the members of the band dance with so much unapologetic passion. I grew up dancing, so I might be biased, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not. TC is just that fun. The crowd becomes immersed in TC’s 80s-reminiscent synth-pop full-fledged performance, and can’t help but join in on the dancing. Their very simplistic costumes, usually teal, white, or black cotton athleisure, make the band look like an American Apparel ad, but in the best way that could possibly mean. (I’m not supporting American Apparel, I am just trying to say they look really cool and minimalist. They have a brand. That’s all. Moving on.) Their simple outfits allow you to focus on everything else that’s actually important- the music, the dancing, and the energy that forces the band towards success.

To be honest, I did fall in love with the band’s performance before I fell head-over-heels for their music. The performance caught me in the TC trap of awesome, quirky synth-pop. I love 80s bops, so TC quickly became a staple on my 2018 summer playlist. The music is also unapologetic, touching on fragile subjects like masculinity (hint: their first album is literally named Masc) and fully committing to the almost-cheesy but so frickin’ good 80s synth-pop sound.

TC Superstar is a one-of-a-kind performance that is sure to be fun, with band members that are not afraid to step outside the box and create an environment that inspires people to dance and be themselves. They’ll be at Goat Fest this Friday as our headliner, so be sure to get down with Topper Radio and TC Superstar at the Highball!


Goat Fest Lineup: Vonne (1:35pm)

Words by / Henry Anthony-DuScheid

What I like the most of Vonne’s Foreign Affairs EP is the emotional caliber of the relationships she’s had and continues to want, searching out who it is through the 7 songs. What I like about her the most is the way she unapologetically bets on herself—with a humble aspiration to earn what she feels she deserves.

The songs range from upbeat electronic pop to down tempo ambient love songs that pull heartstrings. There is something down to earth and practical to her lyrics. The song Da Ooh, has a lot of uplifting sing-along moments with plenty of ahs and ohs to get caught in your eardrums….and stuff like, “I bet your lips taste like summer, kiss me out of this blizzard.” If this cold weather got me thinking about anything it is definitely summer warmth and cool kisses. Feels like having a heart to hear with Vonne talking about these intimacies and uncertainty of a past relationship and how it’s making her reflect about where she is at now.

On her single, Doctor (B-sides), Vonne is “checking up with you” because she’s been feeling you close in her bones. Minimal vocals enthrall heartfelt long time lovers that find themselves separated from that feeling that gave them a different perspective in the first place. The beat is lush with space for thoughtful string picks, warm ambient synths with ghostly vocal swells, and unsettling patterns of loose drums that construct a complicated relationship of time between disconnected people. If there’s a way to sing about how you once thought and cared about a person that you we’re close to, Doctor is a tonic for those moments of ruminations.

She will be performing her new song “Anew,” with a music video directed by David Edem to be released later this year. Vonne has traditionally used her Ukulele and has been practicing guitar to play new songs.

Topper Radio couldn’t be more excited to have Vonne perform for y’all at Goat Fest this year! She’s playing early in the day, around 1:30 so come through and vibe at Highball on South Lamar (it’s the Alamo drafthouse btw). Free all day!!

Goat Fest Lineup: Expanding (1pm)

Words by / Corinne Bates

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Expanding is the joint project of Hank Holmes and Justin Berger-Davis. The two met back in Pasadena while they were both in band during High School. They soon began playing music together jumping from one genre to the next and evolving their music tastes as a pair.The final iteration being Expanding, a psych-rock project that came to fruition when they both returned to Pasadena after their first year at college. Holmes attends St. Edward’s University while Berger-Davis attends Belmont University in Nashville. “It was one of those things where we worked on it a lot while we were both in school. Then finally sat down and were like ‘what are we?’ You know? We had the relationship talk. We DTRed if you will” joked Holmes. The culmination of that year of back and forth was the band’s self titled EP, which they released via bandcamp in September 2017.

The band is definitely a joint effort. Both Berger-Davis and Holmes play guitar, sing, and write on all of the tracks. “The songwriting process is really collaborative. So one of us will have an idea for a song and we will share it with the other and it will naturally morph over time into the final song. There is a lot of good back and forth,” said Berger-Davis. The collaboration seems to be what drives the two musicians. Their voices almost giddy as they talk about sending guitar riffs and song ideas to each other. You can tell that they make music together because it is truly just an enjoyable experience for both parties and is a fundamental part of their friendship.

As you listen to the music is is hard to tell where one person’s contribution ends and the other begins. Even their voices meld together in ambiguity throughout the two albums. “We have been playing together for so long that at this point we know what the other person can bring to an idea. So if I bring something to Justin, I’ll leave holes in it mentally for him to fill in” explained Holmes. This seamless blend is in part due to the intersection of their musical taste. The two cite the bands Spiritualized, Spaceman 3, and The Jesus and Mary Chain as some of their inspirations. Berger-Davis describes their sound as an “intersection of drone music and rock” and explains that the band name comes from their love of big and “expansive” music. It is also a nod to Glenn Branca’s Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere.) While they don’t resemble each other much sonically, it is more that they want to emulate a similar feeling in their music.

They released their latest album Benediction in January, but this time on all streaming services. “We just felt like this album was a complete musical statement. To me it feels like the first record. We finally tapped into the thing we really enjoy about the music and it’s all there,” said Berger-Davis about their decision to do a wider release. The process for the record took around a year and a half of writing and perfecting the songs, a couple months of demos and practicing, and finally two weeks of recording everyday.

Now that they have two records out, they are looking to play more live shows. Since their recordings are so intricate and created by just Holme’s and Berger-Davis, live shows are a bit of a different beast. “The challenge, which is fun, is figuring out how to turn those songs into a format that you can play with just three or four people. There is also a variable of ways you can see us perform since the permanent structure of the band is just Hank and I. So we have to find other people to fill in the positions we can’t fill live” said Berger-Davis.

There doesn’t seem to be a near future where Expanding doesn’t exist. The two have managed to write and record two projects while living in different states subsisting through summer’s at home and extensive online communication. They are a product of the digital age as much as they are of their sonic influences. When asked what’s next for the band, Holmes chimes in with a simple statement that explains the ethos of their band perfectly, “We just like making music.”

You can listen to the band’s EP on Bandcamp and their album Benediction on all streaming services.

Goat Fest Lineup: Plastic Picnic (3pm)

Words by / Corinne Bates

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I first met Brooklyn based indie-pop band, Plastic Picnic at a dive bar on the Tuesday of SXSW 2018. I was hooked the second they played a Police cover, and lead singer, Emile Panerio, left the stage to give the audience fist bumps. They had a contagious sort of joy that was hard not to give into, and my friends and I found ourselves dancing along to songs we had never heard before, but somehow felt we already knew. By the end of the week, I had seen Plastic Picnic four times and still wasn’t sick of them.

The quartet is comprised of two sets of best friends: Emile Panerio (vocals, guitar, synth), and Lincoln Lute (guitar, synth), and Marshall Hunt (bass and synth) and Gordon Taylor (drums), who all moved from Washington to New York around the same time. Though they all played in bands in Washington, they didn’t meet until they moved to the East coast. They were introduced by a friend who knew both duos were looking to start a band in their new home. A quick jam session revealed their compatibility and thus the band was formed.


Plastic Picnic write songs you could hear in a movie soundtrack, bridging the gap between listenability and meaning seamlessly. They like to describe their music as “sad songs you can dance to” and honestly, it works. They have a sort of modernized 80s nostalgia that they played up with a cover of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” during their last SXSW run.

Their chemistry is evident onstage as is their love of music. Their shows are just a big dance party and sometimes they even invite their friends to join them onstage for their last song. Their entertainment factor doesn’t disappear when they get offstage though. Plastic Picnic had a surprising bout of internet notoriety during SXSW 2018 when a video of Simon of Balthazar, Lute’s alter-ego, doing tricks with a plastic sword Barton Springs went viral. It even made it to the front page of Reddit.

Since last year they have released two new singles, “Doubt” and “Well Wasted,” which both play up their dream-pop sound. The new songs prove that their self-titled EP wasn’t just a fluke, and that the band has the capability to continue releasing impressive material.

So come to Goatfest and stick around for Plastic Picnic’s set of sad songs you can dance to.


Pitchfork Music Festival Paris Recap

Word by / Amantha Dikin

Photo by Alban Gendrot

Photo by Alban Gendrot

When stepping foot in Pitchfork Music Festival Paris, one can’t help but feel the excitement in the air. On the first chilly weekend of Fall in Paris, thousands of music lovers gathered to listen to the likes of Indie powerhouses such as Blood Orange and Bon Iver, as well as up and comers like Snail Mail and Boy Pablo. Since 2011 the festival has made the Grande Halle de la Villette its home, right in the heart of Paris’ 19th Arrondissement. The festival offers a collection of designers and curators showcased in the warehouse alongside the live music. Included are over 40 different vendors offering live screen printing, art of all kinds, and an opportunity to book flash tattoo sessions with some of Paris’ favorite artists.

Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan. Photo by Matt Lief Anderson.

Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan. Photo by Matt Lief Anderson.

The fierce and painfully sincere Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail did not disappoint on Friday, November 3rd. She was accompanied by touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass at the opening set for the last day of the Pitchfork Paris.

In many ways, Lindsey Jordan’s set was similar to her unofficial SXSW show earlier this year at Cheer up Charlie’s. Her signature crystalline guitar pop was in full force as she dominated the stage and intertwined everyone in the crowd. With hella attitude and the personification of a middle finger, I’m excited to see where Lindsey Jordan goes from here.

Photo by Maria Louceiro.

Photo by Maria Louceiro.

Folk icon Bon Iver closed out the weekend in typical Justin Vernon fashion with his haunting vocals and piercing, confessional lyrics. His electro-folk sound filled the entire warehouse, leaving all listening in awe. As Vernon played guitar, piano and other various instruments, the crowd stood in almost complete silence, slowly swaying along. One of my personal favorites was his lengthy rendition of Woods. It started with a lone spotlight on Vernon as he sang softly. It slowly built up to a full solo production with multiple pedal loops and stark, bright spotlights darting around Vernon. Always touching, and always sincere, Justin Vernon performed for nearly an hour and a half, somehow leaving the crowd wanting more.

Bon Iver- November 3, 2018 Setlist

  1. 666 ʇ

  2. 10 d E A T h b R E a s T

  3. 715 - CREEKS

  4. Heavenly Father

  5. 29 #Strafford APTS

  6. Beach Baby

  7. Wash.

  8. Perth

  9. Minnesota, WI

  10. Michicant

  11. 8 (circle)

  12. 33 “GOD”

  13. Blood Bank

  14. ____45____

  15. Creature Fear

  16. Calgary

  17. Woods

  18. 22 (OVER S∞∞N)

Photo by James Drew Turner.

Photo by James Drew Turner.

The Revival of Austin City Limits

Words by / Jennifer Irving

While growing up, seeing bands I liked once or twice a month and attending festivals seemed like an essential part of life. Sure that was feasible at 16 when I had nothing else to do with babysitting money, but attending that many shows and festivals becomes increasingly hard as I widen and diversify my music taste and take on more financial responsibility. As a college student, it’s often hard to decide if attending festivals is really worth the next month of penny-pinching.

However, I think Austin City Limits this year is totally worth it.

Although I’ve had fun at the festival in the past two years I’ve attended, the festival the few years before that still often felt like it was trying to live up to a reputation it had built for itself in the early years of a festival with a unique lineup and relaxed atmosphere. The lineups usually had one or two headliners with big festival-sized performances, and a few smaller names that really caught the interest of regular festival goers.

This worked well for a few years, but as ACL grew so did the prices, and with lineups consisting of bands who frequently toured Austin, it was often easier to see the smaller bands on their solo tours than to drop the money for a festival ticket. In a staunch contrast to the past few years of lineups that were homogenous with most other major festivals, ACL this year felt fresh, performance-driven, and overall, felt like the revival of an Austin music tradition that had almost diminished.

Father John Misty, Friday October 5th, 2018.

Father John Misty, Friday October 5th, 2018.

This year's early October festivities held a special place in my heart because the artists on the lineup felt unique, some of them with only a few American tour dates. Some of my favorites included the Talking Heads' David Byrne, who delivered a killer choreographed and politically motivated performance, the always intense Father John Misty, and a riveting, two and a half hour performance by the incredible and unmatched Paul McCartney on Friday. My Saturday favorites were Blood Orange, who swept the crowd with impassioned saxophone solos, and St. Vincent, whose outfits and graphics create a big-show atmosphere, even for people who may not be familiar with her songs. Justice, a phenomenal French electronic band (with only two American tour dates!), closed out the night with their brand of rock-disco and a sensational light show. Sunday rounded off the weekend with stunning performances from Janelle Monáe, Phoenix (who unfortunately only played weekend one), and Arctic Monkeys, always a festival standout.

Other than a few scheduling complaints, (two of my favorites, Father John Misty and Brockhampton, were on at the exact same time), ACL managed to cater to a wide variety of tastes with acts that really created audience-involved performances. The first weekend felt like a return to an appreciation of the power of music on the masses rather than forced performances designed to satisfy a music festival “experience.” Hopefully weekend two will keep with weekend one’s momentum and provide another three days of fresh performances worth the large crowd typical of the festival.