Photo: James Armstrong
It’s hard to believe that Radiohead has never played at Austin City Music Festival, but better late than never. The genre-bending English rockers made their ACL Fest debut on the Samsung stage Friday night and showed why they’re one of the most critically heralded and beloved bands of their generation.
The epic, two-hour long set started with an ominous recording of Nina Simone’s famous quote: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: No fear.” Then, Frontman Thom Yorke and his longtime mates (Colin and Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway, and touring second drummer Clive Deamer of Portishead) dug deep into their vast catalogue. After opening with “Burn the Witch” from their latest album, they dusted off old classics like “Airbag,” “Everything In Its Right Place” and “Paranoid Android” before closing with sing-along favorite “Karma Police.”
Photo: James Armstrong
The band not only still “has it,” but seems to be having fun as a man bun sporting Yorke danced and pranced around the stage like a wood elf and shook off his mic going out while the band shifted seamlessly from fuzzy guitars to ambient electronica in a show that was well worth the decade-plus wait for ACL fans.
The music gods were smiling down on ACL on Friday as the low 80 degree Austin weather made for a perfect setting to kick off the three-day fest. Banks & Steelz popped things off literally with an afternoon set on the Samsung stage that had RZA circling the stage while taking swigs of a Grey Goose vodka bottle and hyping up the crowd. The dream team mash-up of the Wu-Tang rapper/producer and Interpol’s frontman Paul Banks is exactly what it sounds like — dark and melodic rap/rock that doesn’t bring back nightmares of Korn, but isn’t quite as innovative as one would hope for.
Australian production duo Flight Facilities put on a sun-kissed electro-disco set with stunning vocalist Michaela Baranov channeling her inner Olivia Newton John on dance happy songs like “Crave You” and “Clair De Lune.”
Foals seems like a band on the verge of breaking out. They have a certified rockstar in frontman Yannis Philippakis who thrilled the crowd by leading the Oxford quintet in a spirited classic to modern rock set that surely garnered some new fans.
Hometown girl Gina Chavez delighted the local crowd with her bilingual blend of world, fold and garage rock that was both comforting and inviting.