One of the best parts of any festival is discovering new (or new to you) artists--instead of just hearing a song or seeing a video online, you can experience a their full personality, their sound, look and feel, and immediately answer that vital and ever-lingering question: "Well, are they any good live?"
Like its hometown counterpart SXSW, Austin City Limits (see live pics!) has a bounty of lesser-known artists in the fine-print on the bill. I checked out the buzziest and discovered a pair of awesome bands I'd never seen or heard of before, and now they both have a home on my iTunes playlists. Meet Moon Duo and the Devil Makes Three below!
This San Francisco-born duo, formed by Sanae Yamada and Wooden Shjips guitarist Erik "Ripley" Johnson, play sinister and psychedelic noise-pop that's darkly attractive, even on a blazing 90-degree day at 1:00 PM (it'd be much more at home in a dim club). Imagine the hard-pounding garage rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club paired with the punk fury and duo dynamic of the Kills--Yamada, in her skin-tight jeans, boots, jet-black hair and Ray-Bans, loose white tee and long necklace, even looks like a dead-ringer for Alison Mosshart. Their latest album, Circles, conceived and demoed at their new Colorado base, recorded in SF and mixed in Berlin, is a gem of fuzz-toned pop bliss. Simple, catchy melodies shine under a heap of feedback; bright, pulsing keyboards play rhythm along with laptop beats and deep bass throbs. At ACL, Moon Duo rattled my skull, had my foot tapping and brought the buzzing pop sounds. Get Circles now.Preview a few gems below.
The Devil Makes Three:
Formed in Santa Cruz, CA, by guitarist-singer Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitar and banjo player Cooper McBean, the Devil Makes Three have been around for almost 10 years, but are starting to breakout on the success of their last two albums, 2009's Do Wrong Right and 2011's Stomp and Smash. Both hit the top five on the bluegrass charts and it's easy to see why: The trio play a rambunctious concoction of all old time American music genres, from bluegrass to ragtime, folk, country, rockabilly and even punk. Their lyrics are fun and sometimes hilarious; Bernhard, the main vocalist who has also released a handful of solo albums, hollers like an auctioneer about falling down drunk and all sorts of sins against the church. He sprinkles in contemporary references, too, for good measure; on "All Hail" he sings about Albert Einstein, Jesse James and crack cocaine, all in one song. The Devil Makes Three have a cult following--the crowd was small but thrilled at ACL--and I suggest you join 'em; the Devil Makes Three make for one helluva good time.