Emmylou Harris, featured in the 2002 debut fest, had some No. 1 country hits in the ‘70s, and 2009 act Zac Brown Band was starting to break away from its “jam band” chains, but last weekend Eric Church became the first bona-fide mainstream country artist to perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Mainstream as in a chart-topping country hunk who sings about partying and workin’ on his truck with just enough twang to suggest his denim trucker cap and aviator shades lean more toward NASCAR than Brooklyn Vegan. He’s the kind of country star who should’ve thanked his personal trainer right after his producer when he won album of the year at the most recent CMA Awards for 2012’s “Chief.”
Church stood in the wings of the huge Samsung Galaxy stage last Sunday afternoon with a banjo around his neck, sipping a Jack Daniels on the rocks as his band played the intro to recent hit single “Creepin.’” But when the North Carolina native charged out to center stage, any and all traces of country music were choked in the smoke machines and flashpot residue. Backed by a band closer to ZZ Top and AC/DC than anything with a fiddle or wearing a Nudie suit, Church led such an aural assault that his breakout smash single should’ve been called “Mustaine” instead of “Springsteen.”
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Eric Church at ACL
6 p.m. Sunday on the Samsung Galaxy stage.