Sunday, September 25, 2011
2011 Austin City Limits Music Festival | Day Three Recap + Interviews with Ruby Jane, The Greencards, and WAX
On the last day of any music festival, night arrives before you know it. You struggle to hold on to what you've experienced, what's still left, and you maybe start to think if you'll be able to do it all again next year. Of course, there are no guarantees -- you might not ever pass this way again. It had been seven years since I had been to Zilker Park, so I tried to hold on to the time I had left as long as I could. You feel each minute pass as if time is slowly bringing you back to what your real life holds -- a life without live music around every corner and smiling faces everywhere you turn. Living in the moment is all too overwhelming when it's all about to end.
I spent my early morning listening to 16-year-old Ruby Jane, an already accomplished fiddle player who now lives in Austin. She played with a full band to a packed and rowdy Austin Ventures stage, and I had the chance to speak with Ruby the day before her set.
On her previous sets at ACL:
This is my fourth year, the first year I played here with Asleep at the Wheel, three years ago with Bob Schneider and the Scabs, last year with my band, and I also sat in with Blues Traveler and The Local Natives, and then this year with my band.
On preparing for ACL:
I'm one of those people who likes to be overprepared. We played a gig Thursday night, and we've been rehearsing all week, and everyone felt prepared, but I was like, "let's just run through the set one more time!" We feel really good now. But when you feel really good, you've got to go over it one more time! You've got to time each song individually, and figure out how many songs you can do and all of that stuff. We have at least a weekly practice all the time anyway.
On if playing festivals are overwhelming:
I don't think so -- I've been performing live since I was eight. The bigger the crowd, the better for me. We did a whole tour around Lollapalooza, and it was incredible. I wasn't sure how the crowd was going to be in Chicago, but it was an amazing crowd. And that night, I got to see Coldplay, which I was pretty excited about. We were just in and out, but it was pretty fun.
On what ACL means to her:
I love this festival. To me, it's one of the highlights of my year because it's in my hometown. I live just right down the street from here, this is like in my backyard, basically. I know the people who are here, working here. It's a great experience to meet new musicians, and you can see so many bands -- it's like you've hit the jackpot! It's my favorite thing in Austin, and Zilker Park is a perfect location.
On balancing school and music:
You have to find a good balance. I've been home schooled my whole life. It's pretty routine for me -- this is my senior year in high school -- I go to an online high school. I have to be on a computer from like 8:30 to 2:30 Monday through Thursday, and I have seven classes and homework and all that stuff. It's not easy -- I don't have a lot of time to do almost anything else. Almost all day everyday is school and music.
On what's going through her mind the day before her ACL performance:
Well, obviously all this week, I've been getting prepared. I wanted to get everything sorted out, so that yesterday and today I wouldn't be stressed out. So now I'm just here to enjoy it! I know that I'm prepared, as prepared as I can possibly be, so as long as I feel like that, I know it's out of my control, and I can have a good time.
In 2003, I was introduced to The Greencards at Gruene Hall, Texas' oldest dance hall. I instantly became a fan of the acoustic band, and their set at ACL was sort of a blast from the past for me, as I hadn't seen Kym Warner and Carol Young perform in quite some time. Their new songs, highlighted by the standout "Make It Out West," were a thrill for me to hear live, as was speaking to Warner the day before The Greencards' set.
Kym Warner, on his ACL memories:
I think this might be number four for us. This will be our second time at the Austin Ventures Stage. We've lots of fond memories of Austin -- the band formed here, so anytime we get to come back here, it's just really fond memories. But one of my great memories of the festival is -- I'm a huge Tom Petty fan -- so when the Heartbreakers played here, it might have been '04 or '05, but there was a huge storm that year, and they came on for about forty minutes, and it just bucketed down for about a half an hour, so I think, "they're not going to come back on." So, I go, and of course, I get miles out of town and my friends told me the next day, "Oh, they came back on and played another hour!" (laughs)
I've seen some great stuff here -- Them Crooked Vultures were here last time we played, so that was awesome to see John Paul Jones, and to see Dave Grohl playing drums again. I have a fond memory of that particular year -- we watched their set, and then we went back to the dressing room to get some stuff and have a beer, and as we walked out, we realized we were in the backstage party for Them Crooked Vultures! I am sure we weren't meant to be there, but we just shut up and kept drinking! (laughing)
On the audiences at ACL:
I think a lot of people who come to this festival, they've grown up more with rock 'n' roll or pop, so they're not as familiar with the acoustic style of music we play. We do find that, one of the best things about playing a festival like this, it's a huge opportunity to win over some people who maybe haven't heard you. So, that's what we love about it. It's great for us, too, because we get to see Randy Newman and Steve Wonder and Alison Krauss.
On playing ACL:
It's the biggest show you play, but you have the least amount of preparation time -- you get thrown on. When you play a club gig, you get to set up all nice and relax before the show, and here it's like, "bam, you're on!" Thirty minutes or so, you rock, and you're done. It's funny how that works.
On the state of the band:
Next year will be our tenth year as a band. It's kind of crazy, time has flown. But we're still able to do it, and we're very fortunate for that. The band's really firing right now, it couldn't have come at a better time.We just released The Brick record, so the setlist will be tailored (toward that release).
As you probably know by now, ACL welcomes all genres, including rap and hip-hop. And WAX, a hip-hop artist from L.A., certainly brought it to the Honda Stage on Sunday morning. We chatted it up in the rain the day before his set on Saturday.
On his previous festival performances:
I've done a couple, I've done the Bamboozle festival in New Jersey, and I was on the Warped Tour, that's like a traveling festival. Those were a lot more kid-based. This is more a mature festival, if you know what I mean.
On his previous history in Austin:
Dude, I came here yesterday and I did the show at Emo's and this is the first time I've been to Austin! I've been all through Texas, but never to Austin. It's a music town, but it's very non-uppity. You wouldn't have to put on a collared shirt to get in to any bar here. Last night there were DJs, there was hip-hop music, and look at the ACL lineup -- it's crazy!
On what he's feeling the day before his performance:
I'm feeling good. Even tonight, I'm going to work out a few kinks, it's going to be interesting. It's going to be a sea of people who don't really know who the hell I am! If I got booed off the stage, got tomatoes thrown at me, if that's the worst thing that can happen, that's not even that bad. If I don't enjoy it, what's the point?
On the style of his music:
It's mostly hip-hop, and I like to mix in some elements of live instrumentation. It's kind of a whirlwind of a lot of different stuff, kind of hard to explain. You just have to check it out. I got my boy DJ Zoe with me, and I'll do some solo-acoustic stuff by myself, which I think will be okay since it's early in the morning. It'll be interesting.
When Courtney Jaye sings, you must listen; you really have no choice. The beautiful songwriter from Nashville graced the BMI stage with an hour-long set featuring songs from her forthcoming album due in 2012. To my complete surprise, she dedicated a new song, "Summer Rain," to yours truly, a generous gesture on her part that was not needed but much appreciated. I'll always remember that as one of my favorite ACL memories, so thank you, CJ!
Jaye and her band sounded stellar under the afternoon sun, rolling through songs about boxed wine and flirtatious love. She smiled, drank a little Jack Daniels, and made us all feel alive again on the last day of ACL. It's afternoon sets like Jaye's that remind you why you came to Austin.
I took a rather long break after Jaye's set so I could recharge for three final acts: Fleet Foxes, Hayes Carll, and the ACL-closer, Arcade Fire. It's not often when you get to finish your day with that kind of 1-2-3 punch, so I wanted to make sure I was energized and up to the task.
I made my way through thousands of fans at the Bud Light stage (hint: the easiest way to work a festival crowd is to move up along the wings of the crowd), and I found a nice spot near the stage for the first few songs. You might think that Fleet Foxes aren't built for a festival, but their current sound is exactly perfect for an early evening set. "Winter White Hymnal" was especially beautiful on this night, as was "Helplessness Blues."
From there, it was time for some good ol' Texas country/folk/rock with Hayes Carll, one of my favorite songwriters I really started to listen to earlier this year. I had heard his songs years ago, but his new album, KMAG YOYO, hit the spot for me, and he when he played the title track, it was a party.I kept waiting for his cover of Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," and yeah, he delivered an epic version -- I sang loudly. That's seriously one of my favorite songs ever; I actually prefer Carll's version if I had to choose.
Finally, or, regretfully, the end was near. Arcade Fire, playing unopposed, and rocking from the beginning with, you guessed it, "Ready To Start." It was my third time seeing Arcade Fire perform, and it's always a joy, especially when they kick it up a notch for "Wake Up."
But, who am I kidding? It was a little sad to see it all end. Sad to see the other stages just sitting there, the life sucked out of them. Sad to see people heading for the gates. Sad that three straight days of a false, crazy long weekend was coming to an end. I'm sure I'll get over it in a few weeks, but for now, my heart is still in Austin. Somewhere under that beautiful tree.
Until next year, ACL!
Click here for Day Two coverage.
Click here for Day One coverage.
Click here for Courtney Jaye's 10 to Spin ACL preview.