Bravo, Austin City Limits. For the second time in as many years, you have left me no choice but to cancel my road-trip to Dallas for the Texas/OU game in favor of a repeat Zilker Park visit for Weekend 2.
It comes with the territory of an all-star lineup. You're forced to make incredibly strenuous decisions over the course of each day:
- "Which show do I choose out of the pack during the same time-slot?"
- "Which acts are worth sitting through to preserve prime real estate for later performances?"
- "How do I sneak in a bot-"...you get the picture.
So what do you do if you can't find the perfect answer for each of these questions? Well, I canceled my trip to Dallas to come back for Weekend 2. Now that I have another year until I must (fortunately) face these dilemmas again, I'm here to give you my top 10 favorite sets of ACL 2017.
10. Benjamin Booker: The 28-year old's second album, Witness, allows Booker to exhibit riffs of blues, modern grunge, and soul all in one show.
- Tracks to Start With: "Witness", "Happy Homes", "The Slow Drag Under"
9. Band of Heathens: The only locals to make the list (less than 6% of the entire line-up originates from the Live Music Capital of the World), these guys are as southwestern Americana as you can get - clean electric guitar, strong pipes, and impressive keys.
- Tracks to Start With: "You're Gonna Miss Me", "Sugar Queen", "Should Have Known"
8. Chance the Rapper: No need to give you an overview of arguably the hip-hop's biggest riser this year. This past weekend was proof that he's as much of a performer as he is an artist with his energy, background fireworks, and heartfelt salute to the victims in the Las Vegas tragedy.
- Tracks to Start With: "How Great", "Same Drugs", "Prom Night"
7. The Head and the Heart: These folk rockers boast vocal talent at every instrument, ensuring each song - whether it be a kick-drum sing-a-long or a slower acoustic track - is harmonious in its own right.
- Tracks to Start With: "Shake", "I Don't Mind", "Lost in My Mind"
6. Ice Cube: "Are y'all ready to take this thing back to 1998?" This show sure did feel like it was more of an N.W.A. tribute than anything else...which was alright, alright, alright with me.
- Tracks to Start With: "No Vaseline", "Express Yourself", "Check Yo Self"
5. The Revivalists: Led by talented front-man David Shaw, these guys creatively introduce you to modern New Orleans funk and soul in a variety of different ways, including pedal steel and multiple horns. Those in attendance during Weekend One's set were also rewarded with Tom Petty covers Wildflowers and Refugee.
- Tracks to Start With: "Keep Going", "It Was a Sin", "When I'm Able"
4. Jay-Z: At 47 years-young, Hova proved to still be one of the greatest MC's of all time with his complete control of the crowd from start to finish. Being that the adoption of his new album, 4:44, has been somewhat suppressed due its exclusion from Spotify, the Roc Nation founder made sure to load his set-list with plenty of throwbacks and a special tribute to late Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington.
- Tracks to Start With: "Public Service Announcement", "Heart of the City", "Hard Knock Life"
3. Rainbow Kitten Surprise: Those that were able to catch this Boone, NC group during SXSW earlier this year were rewarded with an encore performance on a much bigger stage. These alternative up-and-comers have an incredible sense of rhythm. Vocalist Sam Melo delivers powerful lyrics over percussion and acoustic guitar-heavy beats that resemble an original blend of Kings of Leon and Matisyahu.
- Tracks to Start With: "Goodnight Chicago", "Seven", "All That and More (Sailboat)"
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Who said the 90's are dead? While some may rank RHCP as high due to a shortened performance, their still-elite musicianship, energy, and unique nostalgia vault them firmly into the top 2. Similar to Jay-Z, RHCP sacrificed the majority of their newest album, The Getaway, for a healthy serving of classics - including "Californication", "The Zephyr Song", and "Aeroplane" - that echoed throughout the park. Prefacing the band's rendition of Funkadelic's "What is Soul?" and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer's solo cover of Petty's "A Face in the Crowd", Anthony Kiedis dedicated the former song to the late rock legend: "Tom Petty, if you’re looking down, this one’s for you, brother. You did not die in vain."
1. Vulfpeck: Despite the fact that this bunch more closely resembles the unchosen few in a pickup dodgeball game than a funk/R&B collaboration - don't be fooled. Make sure you go past the cover, because this band's "it" factor is undeniable. Their group-wide balance provides each instrument a moment of spotlight throughout the set - including top-to-bottom bass sets, belting horns, and jazz keyboards. Most impressively, the LA-based gang's vocal talent and funky swagger across the board are never in question. Their commitment to having a good time is a guaran-funkin'-tee.