“The Austin experience is something I didn’t expect to happen to me at this point in my life,” Robert Plant said near the end of his set Sunday night at ACL Live. “I really love it.”
The Led Zeppelin front man, making his second appearance in Austin since December, played a nearly two-hour set with his Sensational Space Shifters, a new band equipped for a night mostly consisting of songs from his old band — some faithful to the original forms and others reinvented with traditional African instrumentation or noisy electronica.
After an opening set from Louisiana-based Lil’ Band O’ Gold, Plant and his six-person band, announced via a thick haze of incense from the front of the stage, droned their way into “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” which found Plant in fine vocal shape, rewarded by a deafening round of applause. “In the Mood” followed, with sweet, singing guitar and piano; the foreboding “Tin Pan Valley” again found Plant’s voice shining.
Plant’s two appearances alongside Patty Griffin at the Continental Club in December were more intimate, acoustic affairs (part of the proceeds from those shows went to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians; on Sunday, half went to HAAM and the other half to Teen Cancer America). Sunday was a much different set, with thick rock ’n’ roll giving way to experimental bits. On “Spoonful” it was a pulsing dystopic vision of the blues, with Gambian musician Juldeh Camara joining the band.
Camara split “Black Dog” in half on the kologo (African banjo); elsewhere Plant led a packed theater in a call and response on the song’s stretch of “ah ahhs.” A stripped-down guitar, mandolin and keyboard setup presented “Going to California,” which prompted a wild declaration of “I Love You Robert!” from the balcony.
Before a stretched out “Please Read the Letter,” Plant explained that he usually performed the song with a female vocalist — that would be Griffin, who joined the band for some international shows but is out on tour right now. “Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ To Die)” – a song Plant explained has been “hitting him” since he was 14 – charged forward with a mad guitar solo from Justin Adams. Then, on to “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” and a bubbling, then raging “Whole Lotta Love,” which included a detour into “Who Do You Love?”
The band returned for a two-song encore of gospel-folk tune “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” (a “Sunday song,” Plant said) and a loud, noisy “Rock and Roll,” with a wall of fuzz led by keyboardist John Baggot (who has worked with Massive Attack and Portishead in addition to Plant). It was yet another interpretation of Plant’s music during a night of old and new.
Fun Fun Fun Fest’s first five bands. Ice-T, Judge, the Walkmen, Bonobo and the Julie Ruin (which includes former Bikini Kill members Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox) are among the acts that will play Fun Fun Fun Fest in November, the festival announced Wednesday.
The partial lineup announcement includes an older hip-hop act, a reunited hardcore band, a DJ and and two rock acts — a diverse approach to booking that has helped to set the event apart from the much larger Austin City Limits Music Festival. The full lineup is expected in the beginning of July.
The Black Angels set for “ACL.” Jason Isbell and Austin-based psych rock band the Black Angels will each tape an episode of KLRU’s “Austin City Limits,” the program announced Wednesday.
Isbell, who spent several years as a member of the Drive-By Truckers, recently released a solo album, “Southeastern.” Isbell’s taping will take place Aug. 19.
The Black Angels, who also recently released a new album, tape their episode Aug. 28. Ticket giveaways for the tapings usually happen on the “ACL” website a week before each performance. Recent tapings have included Michael Kiwanuka, Juanes, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and Jesse & Joy.
Earlier than ever. South by Southwest will begin accepting band applications on July 9, the earliest the fest has started the process. The cost to apply is $33 until Sept. 6, when it goes up to $45. SXSW general manager James Minor said that the early date will allow the festival more time to consider bands and give international acts more time to apply for visas and make travel plans.
In brief: Bill Callahan releases a new album, “Dream River,” Sept. 17 on Drag City. From the press release: “Recorded at Cacophony, TX, earlier this year, ‘Dream River’ features eight performances that are easily the most sensual and soulful of Callahan’s career.” … Current Austin residents the Greencards will release a new album, “Sweetheart of the Sun,” Aug. 20. Austin-based Sons of Fathers contribute vocals. … Gary Clark Jr. will close out his fall tour at Stubb’s on Nov. 29.