Monday, September 29, 2008

ACL '08 enters dustbin of history

Another Austin City Limits Music Festival is now fodder for the ol’ memory banks. Aside from inhaling copious amounts of souvenir Zilker Park dust (no, I wasn’t partying backstage), this year’s installment was pretty decent. The daytime highs were almost reasonable, the stage sound was markedly improved and there were no major last-minute cancellations.

Because of a work-related trip to Dallas, I didn’t make it out on Friday. I wouldn’t have minded seeing David Byrne and Antibalas, but if I had to skip a day, the Friday line-up was one I could live with missing.

Kate and I started our Saturday with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. As a fan of Stax/Volt-style R&B, I’d been meaning to see them for awhile. Jones and company put on a fine show. I can’t attest to how much was lost in the festival setting, but as a first-timer, I thought they held their own and then some. Then we headed over to the tent sponsored by beleaguered Washington Mutual to see Boston’s Eli “Paperboy” Reed, yet another energetic soul revivalist. My Chron colleague Darcie Stevens found Reed’s Roll with You a bit too color-by-numbers for her taste. I can see where she gets that. After all, Reed was at least a decade from birth when his sound developed. Even so, the young man certainly knows how to work a room (or tent).

With Erykah Badu canceling her ACL TV taping at the last minute due to issues with her band, I wondered if her Saturday set would be up to par. Though I’ve only followed Badu’s music in passing, I thought her set was quite good. She reminds me of Innervisions-era Stevie Wonder, invoking a spirit of activism and adventure while maintaining a fair degree of pop accessibility.

I enjoyed John Fogerty at the Backyard in 2004, but this set was even better. No other act at the fest had this many Top 40 bullets in the war chest. Three generations were dancing in the dead grass to “Down on the Corner” and singing along to other Creedence classics.

After catching the first few songs of Roky Erickson’s set (which roughly mirrored his 2005 ACL performance), Kate and I situated ourselves just to the right of the sound tent for Beck. I thought his hit-laden set was good but not great. As someone who prefers Midnite Vultures to Sea Change, I find it troubling that Beck doesn’t dance like he used to.

The first band we saw on Sunday was the M’s. The Chicago indie quartet had an interesting sound, but their songs failed to seal the deal. They never got more than a polite response. It was hilarious to watch the Kills wilt in the heat later that afternoon. I really like their new album, but the London-based electropop duo was clearly out of their element. If they’d been performing a Sunday slot in 2005 when it was 108 degrees, I’m pretty sure one of them would’ve died onstage. Here’s a million dollar idea – goth clothes that wick.

We spent the next few hours wandering the festival grounds, watching bits and pieces of acts between handfuls of kettle corn. The dust was becoming more irritating and I finally resorted to covering my mouth and nose with a bandanna. Subcomandante Marcos would’ve been proud.

The last full set I saw was from Austin’s own White Denim. Though familiar with their music, this was the first time I’d seen White Denim live. It was something special, too. The trio’s rapid fire post-punk sound is girded by the big-time rock charisma of late Sixties rock titans like the Who and the MC5. It won’t be long before I see them again.

On the way out, I caught the tail end of the Raconteurs' blues-based hard rock explosion. It proved to be a nice belt to end the evening on before going home to file reviews.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hitchin' day

I've been wanting to blog more about getting married to and going on honeymoon with Kate, but catching up at home and work has kept both of us busy over the last several days.

Fortunately, we just received proofs from our ace wedding photographer, Brett Buchanan, so I'll let pictures do the talking.

Kate and I decided to do formal photos before the ceremony, so this was taken right after I saw her in her wedding gown for the first time. I was blown away, folks. Walking up to her made me feel giddy and a bit weak in the knees.

Here's my groomsmen and me doing the obligatory ham jive. From left, Kevin Fullerton, me, Jonathan Toubin and David Wyatt. David served as officiant for the ceremony and did an amazing job.

We were married in Wellesley, Mass. at the home of Kate's extraordinarily gracious Aunt Charlotte. Her backyard proved to be an ideal setting, though the arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna gave us a scare. As it was, the first big, fat raindrops starting hitting the tent just as the ceremony got under way. Since everyone was already inside, the rain helped make things even more romantic.

Once everyone was situated for the reception, Kate and I hit the dance floor for the first time as a married couple to Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love." If it's true that rain on your wedding day is good luck, we're in great shape.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Love and the Turtle Boy

The Tuesday before our wedding, Kate and I went down to Worcester City Hall to apply for our marriage license.

On the way out, we decided to take a candid snapshot of ourselves at the edge of Worcester Common in front of the long-dry Burnside Fountain (ca. 1912), which was originally part of a watering trough for horses.

I knew Massachusetts was liberal, but I had no idea the commonwealth would embrace a public work of art that seems to depict a young boy having his way with a turtle.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weddings, honeymoons and hurricanes

Two weeks after leaving for our wedding in Massachusetts and honeymoon in Vermont and Quebec City, Kate and I landed in Austin last night.

We half-expected to be stranded in Detroit because of Hurricane Ike, but from what I could gather, the storm's direct impact on Austin was nearly nonexistent. That is certainly not the case on the upper Texas coast. My parents' house in Houston near Westheimer and Beltway 8 took in water after a tree branch came through the roof. They were able to get the branch off and cover the hole today, but like most of Houston, they're still without power and could be for some time.

The photos and footage out of Galveston are like nothing I've seen in my lifetime. Hurricane Alicia in 1983 was bad, but not like this. It reminds me of bad childhood dreams I used to have about driving along Seawall Boulevard and getting swept off the road and out to sea. My best wishes are with all the good folks digging out of that mess.

I'll be recounting the wedding and the honeymoon over the next several posts. Let me just start by saying my marriage to Kate was the most joyous occasion of my life. Not only because I was marrying Kate, which would've won the joy prize by itself, but because we were able to share the event with so many friends and family members.

I'm not sure if there's a heaven or if I'll make the guest list, but if there is and if I do, I'm pretty sure it'll feel a lot like I felt when Kate and I were surrounded by our loved ones, dancing like fools to an awesome cover band playing K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight."