Austin City Limits 2017: Top 10 local Austin acts

In the wake of the Las Vegas music festival shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, Austin City Limits brought together legendary performers from all generations and proved that people will not be intimidated from coming together to enjoy music because of evil in the world.  Boasting performances from Jay Z, the XX, Solange, Ice Cube, Martin Garrix, The Killers, The Gorillaz, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, and more the festival drew fans from around the world to Zilker Park.  However, this festival also showcased more than a dozen local Austin groups and musicians.  Below I highlight the profiles of 10 local musicians and groups that played for Austin City Limits.

1. Spoon

Spoon is a rock band formed in Austin, Texas back in 1993 by Britt Daniels (vocals, guitar) and Jim Eno (drums).  After releasing their debut studio album Telephono in 1996 and follow up A Series of Sneaks in 1998, they signed with Merge records and began receiving greater commercial and critical acclaim.  Newly signed, Spoon released even more albums such as  Girls Can Tell (2001), Kill the Moonlight (2002), Gimme Fiction (2005), Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), Transference (2010), and They Want My Soul (2014). The band’s ninth album, Hot Thoughts, was released on March 17, 2017, on Matador Records.  The ten songs on Hot Thoughts run the gamut from the kaleidoscopic opening title track (as tone-setting as say, “Dirty Mind” for the album it commences) through the gargantuan stomp of “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and ubiquitous wiry hooks of “Can I Sit Next To You” to the bittersweetness of “I Ain’t The One” and the deadpan swing of “Tear It Down” – less the telling of an apocalyptic vision and more what Daniel describes as a song about “empathy for strangers.”

2. carson mchone

In a city full of transplants, McHone is a rare Austin native, having first hit the barroom stages of her hometown at 16 years old. “People call us unicorns,” she says of her local roots. On her still-untitled follow-up to 2015’s Goodluck Man, though, McHone looks beyond the Lone Star State, taking inspiration from the road – where she plays more than 150 shows a year – as well as the Tennessee capital. Recorded in Nashville with longtime Spoon producer Mike McCarthy, the new album promises to be fuller and fresher-sounding, leaving throwback honky-tonk music to McHone’s contemporaries and, instead, fully embracing the modern.

3. mobley

Although he is from Austin Texas, Mobley grew up all over the world, from the Spanish Mediterranean to the California coast. Perhaps it’s because of this itinerant childhood that he finds it so hard to sit still.

Over the last few years, he’s composed dozens of pieces for stage and television (with placements on HBO, Fox, and NBC), played 200+ national tour dates (with the likes of Phantogram, JUNGLE, Mutemath, Robert Delong, & Wavves and at festivals like SXSW, CMJ, Savannah Stopover and Float Fest), and recorded (then scrapped) two whole albums in pursuit of the songs that would become his forthcoming full-length debut, Fresh Lies. Mobley wrote, produced, and played every instrument on the album. The music — which Mobley calls “post-genre pop” — defies easy classification, drawing liberally (often simultaneously) from an array of musical traditions. He’s equally at home on a playlist next to The Weeknd and TV on the Radio alike, while his electronic, dub-dabbling production style calls to mind the intricate work of artists like James Blake and Thom Yorke.

In 2016, he played over 150 dates as a one-man band, singing and playing keys, guitar, bass, drums, and samplers. His touring spanned the United States and Mexico in support of his latest EP release, Some Other Country, out now on Violent Films. This year, expect more new music and stunned crowds as the singular force that is Mobley eclipses millions of views online and reaches further around the world.

4. CAPYAC

CAPYAC is a surreal dance act made up of one half swamp baby (P. Sugz), one half agave plant (Potion). To question the origins of the band is to ponder the origin of humanity itself. When founding member Potion stumbled upon the name, half-conscious on his bedroom floor at 3 a.m., it was nonsense, much like the primordial soup from which life on this planet emerged. Soon after, he performed his first show at the 2014 closing party of the now-defunct Wardenclyffe Gallery. That summer, P. Sugz joined the band. From that moment it was a flurry of late night sets in dirty apartments, college co-ops, and a rotation of local venues.

The duo began to sculpt a unique sound out of their diverse musical backgrounds. They gained notoriety online after their debut EP Movement Swallows Us in 2015, followed up by releases on Lavish and Crosswalk Records. Their full-length album Headlunge was released June 1st and represents more than a year of collaboration between the two. Reviewed and championed across the world from top HypeMachine blogs in France, Australia, UK, Germany, US and more, the singles “Speedracer”, “Talk About” and “Fascination” have accumulated over 1 million plays across Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube. Although CAPYAC’s polished releases have propelled them forward, the soul of the band will always be rooted in the improvisational nature of their live show.

5. asleep at the wheel

Ray Benson founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia 47 years ago. Based in Austin, Texas, the band holds 10 Grammy awards, over 20 studio albums and over 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. The Grammy Award-winning Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys is the band’s most recent release (2015) features 22 acclaimed collaborations. The all-star line up includes legends such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and George Strait and newcomers like The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show and many other fine talents.

Asleep at the Wheel is bringing a fresh look and sound into 2017. Now traveling as an 8-piece band, recent additions Katie Shore (fiddle, vocals), Dennis Ludiker (fiddle, mandolin) Connor Forsyth (keyboard, vocals) and Josh Hoag (Bass) have instilled a newfound energy and their own unique style within the band. Between those Texas Twin Fiddles and Boogie Piano, you can bet you’ll be dancin’ down the aisles and swingin’ all night long when the Wheel rolls into town!

6. missio

Two bearded Austin, TX musical misfits with an affinity for D.I.Y. electro-trap production, clever lyrical quips, and sticky alternative hooks, MISSIO regularly subvert expectations. Case in point, an upbeat lullaby-esque melody about, “Throwing middle fingers in the air” introduced the duo – Matthew Brue & David Butler – to audiences everywhere with the aptly titled breakout single, “Middle Fingers.” At the beginning of 2017, the track exploded on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation, and the band landed a deal with RCA Records. This signature style stands out as the product of their unique and undeniable union as well as years of dedication. Founded in 2014 as a side project for Matthew, longtime friend David joined him after one studio session.

David transformed the garage into a professional recording studio, ripping down walls by hand, tearing up the floors, constructing a control room, setting up iso booths, and designing a veritable creative hive for the band. He would handle the bulk of the production as Matthew penned lyrics and took on lead vocals. In between their SXSW debut in 2015 and tours with Australia’s SAFIA and K. Flay (for which David built MISSIO’s light rigs), they wrote and recorded countless songs. “I Don’t Even Care About You” landed at #7 on Spotify’s Top 50 Global Viral Chart after popping up on the Fresh Finds Playlist. As buzz grew, their music appeared on MTV’s Scream and Finding Carter, Oxygen’s Bad Girls Club, and in a Victoria’s Secret spot.

Everything encases a powerful message for the guys. In Latin, MISSIO translates to “Mission.” As MISSIO prepare their full-length debut Loner for release, Matthew and David are on a mission to connect with listeners everywhere.

7. black angels

The sultry neo-psychedelic sound of the Black Angels came together in spring 2004, taking their name from a Velvet Underground classic, “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” Hailing from Austin, Texas, the band is comprised of Alex Maas, Christian Bland, Kyle Hunt, Stephanie Bailey and Jake Garcia.

The band’s self-titled debut EP was released in late 2005, finding an international audience through Myspace and music forums, and quickly becoming an underground sensation. The band released their first LP, 2006’s Passover on Light In The Attic, to great acclaim and began to tour the world.

Passover was followed by Direction To See A Ghost in 2008, a year which also marked the first Austin Psych Fest (now Levitation), the annual psychedelic rock- focused festival founded by Maas, Bland and friends. In late 2008, The Black Angels performed as the backing band for former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson on a series of dates across the West Coast of the U.S. Next, in 2010, they recorded a couple of collaborative tracks with Unkle.

Their third album, September 2010’s Phosphene Dream hit the Top 50 of the Billboard chart, and was followed by its companion piece, the Phosgene Nightmare EP, in 2011.

Released in 2013, Indigo Meadow was produced and mixed by Grammy-nominated fellow Texan John Congleton, and that release was soon followed by its own companion EP, April 2014’s Clear Lake Forest.

Indigo Meadow affirms The Black Angels’ spot at the forefront of what is looking like a third psychedelic golden age, as hypnogogic production, mysterious world music jams, and propulsive, primitive pulsebeats come to define the sound of modern rock music, from the always audacious underground all the way to the cultural mainline.

With each new record, The Black Angels have consistently elevated their art, their creative voice becoming clearer and more distinct. Indigo Meadow continues their extraordinary evolution, its monumental melodies and vast vision marking it as testament to the band’s full-throttle commitment to the psychedelic ethos of ritual, community and boundless experimentation.

8. band of heathens

The three original principal songwriters – Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist – shared the bill at Momo’s, an Austin club. Originally, each singer/songwriter performed his own set. However, they eventually started sharing the stage, and collaborating with bassist Seth Whitney. The Wednesday night series was billed as “The Good Time Supper Club”. A misprint in a local paper billed the act as “The Heathens.” Drummer John Chipman joined the band in 2007, and Keyboardist Trevor Nealon, who played in the studio during the recording of both “One Foot in the Ether” and “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son”, joined the touring unit in 2011.

Duende, the title of The Band of Heathens’ fifth studio album (and eighth overall), marks their tenth anniversary as a group, and it certainly applies to its overall theme about the collective search for connection and communion in a technology-fueled world increasingly splintered, distracted and lonely. As band co-founder Ed Jurdi, who first learned of the term, explains, “It’s the essence of the artist,” or as partner Gordy Quist says, “It’s a word we don’t have an equivalent for in English, Artistically, that’s where we tried to set the bar, to do what this band does best.”

Indeed, Duende lives up to those high ideals, a stylistically diverse effort that takes a leap beyond their last, more acoustic, introspective effort, 2013’s Sunday Morning Record, with an eclectic batch of material that shows where The Band of Heathens has been, but more importantly, where they are going.

Armed with almost 40 songs all together, the group recorded in a variety of different locations, the majority in the Texas Treefort, a studio in their own Austin backyard, where they took advantage of the vintage broadcast tube equipment to create the album’s warm, inviting sound. All the tracks were initially laid down live in the studio by the full band, making an effort to keep the music infused with its “analog” elements as well as the communal feel.

Duende is The Band of Heathens playing to their strengths, unapologetically constructed as an old-school 10-track, two-sided vinyl album (which it will be released as, with a second disc encompassing four songs from their Green Grass EP released earlier this year).

For co-founders Jurdi and Quist, the album represents a new beginning.

9. Melat

The Austin-based singer-songwriter Mélat crafts seductive tracks that merge pop sounds with Ethiopian influences. In her release, ‘It Happens So Fast EP’, she sings silkily over hip-hop beats and hazy electronic instrumentals produced by the likes of Jansport J, Robbie Anthem, and frequent collaborator Pha the Phenom.

Born in Austin, Texas, Mélat is the eclectic soul of RnB. Mélat tells a story that is both challenging and inspiring crafted from her very own life experiences. It is a pure and honest reflection of her soul. From love, lust, success, to failure Mélat sings of what it means to be a human being simply longing to “be”.

10. The bishops

The Bishops are an Austin-based trio consisting of vocalist Cara Bishop, producer Troy Bishop, and rapper Luv Bishop. These siblings are bringing a new wavy sound to music, pushing the boundaries of any genre. The Bishops’ unique blend of styles consists of influences from electronic, hip-hop, jazz, RnB and pop music, creating a sound that is bound to bring together a diverse crowd.

Troy started producing music at the age of 12, after older brother Chris downloaded a production software demo and encouraged him to learn how to make music. Little did the two brothers know, their music career was about to drastically change when their little sister Cara revealed that she could sing. The three immediately began working together, creating a catalogue of unreleased music influenced by hip-hop artists such as Kanye West, 9th Wonder and J Dilla and electronic music producers, Flume and Sam Gelliatry.

In late 2014, Troy and Cara released Cara’s debut single, “Voices” that signaled progress in the group’s career. For the last two years, the trio has consistently worked on their art as a family while also working on solo projects, releasing tracks such as Luv’s “My Element” and Troy’s “Glory,” that was later used for one of Cara’s collaborations.

It wasn’t until late 2015 that the siblings decided to premiere their music with the release of their single “Blood Ring,” a track that truly embraces their family dynamic and unique sounds. The Bishops are currently working on their first EP that is to be released later this year.