Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush


I dragged myself away from (endlessly) hitting refresh on 538 long enough to enjoy last weekend’s ACL Fest. It was a good time. Our Galveston friends came in as usual, though they’d already been here most of the previous week due to Hurricane Ike, so in a way, ACL was kind of the last weekend of a good old fashioned hurricane party.

For once the weather was great. There was dust, though not like the lung-blackening filth permeating the air of 2005. It even got a bit chilly at night! The afternoon highs barely topped 90 making the whole thing so much easier than it has been in years when it gets to 108 and lingers in the upper 90s after dark. Here’s to the festival running a few weeks later in the month.

Offsetting the perfection of the weather was a lineup that was a little less exciting than previous years’.

On Friday we saw The Freddy Jones Band, M. Ward – both at the WaMu tent, though I guess by the time we showed up it had become the JP Morgan Tent if not in name than in fact. Hot Chip was next, an upbeat group that sounded like they’d grown up on New Order. That is high praise.

The highlight of the day, and for me the festival, was David Byrne. I grew up on the Talking Heads and they’re still one of my favorite bands, though I never got to see them except for a performance in 1991 when they played without Byrne – good, but not right. Byrne was amazing. He played some new material, but what really got the crowd excited were his trips back to Fear of Music and Remain in Light. Not just two of my favorite Heads albums, but two favorite albums. They played “Life During Wartime,” “The Great Curve,” “Houses in Motion,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “I Zimbra,” and my favorite, “Crosseyed and Painless.” I couldn’t have asked for a better show. With the sun setting at my back and the cool night settling over Zilker Park, I was in Heaven, amazed by how brilliantly those tunes, that style, hold up after all these years.

After Byrne, we caught Alejandro Escovedo’s set, which made me wonder why on earth I’ve never gone to one of his shows before. We ended with Manu Chao.

Saturday was good. Had I skipped it to watch UT paste Arkansas, though, it wouldn’t have been a loss. For me. It still would have been a loss for Arkansas. We saw The Nachito Herrera All-Stars, who were quite fun. Then John Fogerty for the CCR love, the Black Keys and finally Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, a good set, though I had to be told which songs were the Led Zep ones.

Sunday we enjoyed Gillian Welch, the Silversun Pickups, a taste of Blues Traveler, a band I’ve tried to like many times, but never quite “got:” A little of The Raconteurs and finally Galactic, whose set started late, but was, as usual, very good. We left before the Foo Fighters. I’ve seen them before and as a friend remarked after that show, “Oh, well, whatever, never mind.”

All in all, a good year. It was too light on good jazz and jam bands, and there were no great revelations like Gotan Project, Husky Rescue, Black Angels or Calexico, all bands I had discovered in years past. Still fun, though, and the weather was mercifully cool.

Next year, it’s in October. How cool is that?


  1. “Next year, its in October. How cool is that?”

    Hopefully very, very cool, just like this year or better. Thanks for the writeup for those of us who weren’t there.

  2. David Byrne and M Ward were the two performers I would have wanted most to see of a very good lineup. It sure sounds like you had a perfect time at ACL, James – didn’t know about the October timing for 2009 and wonder how it will fit into the amazingly crowded October calendar!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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