Austin City Limits, Day 2: Pete Yorn, LCD Soundsystem, Muse


On Saturday afternoon at Austin City Limits, Pete Yorn opened with three tracks from the self-titled album he released late last month, which was produced by Frank Black.  Yorn confirmed backstage afterwards that this year things had been “pretty smooth”—compared with ACL 2007, that is, when a fire broke out during his set and melted a row of Porta Potties.

Lucero’s grown-up cowpunk struck a local chord; it wasn’t clear whether U.K. dance rockers Two Door Cinema Club did the same.  The Dough Rollers might have hit the most bracingly authentic note of the afternoon—something you wouldn’t necessarily expect from two sons of Hollywood who specialize in faithful re-enactments of old-time folk and blues, all the way down to sweat-through suits and old guitars. But Malcom Ford (whose dad is Harrison) and Jack Byrne (whose dad is Gabriel, and whose mom is Ellen Barkin) are a seriously devoted pair, and it’s extremely plausible that their famous parents have little or nothing to do with the fact that they’ve been touring with Bob Dylan. (Since we interviewed them in April, fiddler Julia Tepper has left the group.) Ford’s forceful singing needs to be seen live to be believed—his voice cracks when he roars, and sounds during his most strained moments like a chainsaw striking against cement. It’s kind of scary: he’ll cut his way down to American music’s roots, even if it means ruining his vocal chords.

Based on the cheer that went up at its opening, the song everyone had been waiting all afternoon for was “The High Road,” the title track from Danger Mouse and Shins frontman James Mercer’s Broken Bells collaboration. The appealingly slouchy groove was there; played live, though, the song loses some of the nuances of Danger Mouse’s fine-tuned production.

Silversun Pickups and The xx played simultaneous time slots, but anyone who wanted an assured front-and-center spot for LCD Soundsystem was obligated to skip out early.  James Murphy strolled onstage sipping water and with one hand in his pocket; on the cool scale, he’s right up there with The Dude. The setting sun was directly in his face, but he took off his shades as it disappeared bellow the horizon and the set hit full dancing stride with “Tribulations,” then built to a deafening, zip-tight climax with “Yeah.”  “Jaaames!” the hipsters yelled. They would have stayed another hour or two, easily.

LCD Soundsystem’s “Yeah” oozes urgency. The chorus of Matt and Kim’s “Yea Yeah,” by contrast, suggests the dubious elation of an insane person being carted off to the asylum. The Brooklyn duo perform with the wide-eyed singalong friendliness of children’s entertainers; Kim Schifino grinned and popped up and down at her drum set in such a way that you can’t help but smile, and Matt Johnson did her one better, scrambling up the scaffolding, à propos of nothing. Perhaps in acknowledgement of the deep house beats making their way across the park, they did their cover of the dance-club classic “Better Off Alone.”

Deadmau5, the source of that distant thumping, was spinning at the center of what seemed like the most spectacular light show of the weekend—for a few minutes, at least. Muse’s arena-rock extravaganza came next, and it was the sort of sound-and-light spectacle you could have enjoyed a county away—from Oklahoma, maybe. To borrow a term from their raging second track of the evening, it was “supermassive,” with Muse’s tiny frontman, Matt Bellamy, looking like a human disco ball in his sequined suit. Even if, like me, you didn’t stick around for day three of ACL, he glimmered and thrashed more than enough to serve as a grand finale.