Austin, Texas in the 1970’s was not a lot unlike what we’re experiencing here today. Musicians and songwriters were fleeing the corporate music interests of Nashville to come to a city known for fostering a creative culture, yet struggling with rapid growth.
So it’s fitting that Austin City Limits wrapped up its 39th season by welcoming an up and coming country artist, Kacey Musgraves, and local favorite Dale Watson, who has made a career by staying true to his old school country roots. The night was a perfect blend of honky tonk country music you can dance to, along with the more contemporary, moody songs from Texas native Kacey Musgraves.
Live at Austin City Limits
As most music fans in Austin know, ACL offers free passes to live studio tapings of the performances it later airs on PBS stations around the country. Because most of Austin already knows this, it can be notoriously difficult to win tickets via their lottery system. Austinot Eric provided a great breakdown that covers everything you need to know to try and win passes. If you don’t win and you’re dedicated enough, you can stand in line next to the Willie Nelson statue, hoping there are enough no-shows to get you through the door.
The first arctic blast of the season was just greeting Austin the night of the taping. Yet despite temperatures in the 30’s with strong winds, there were at least 20 people braving the cold for a no-show pass. I didn’t stick around long enough to see how many were able to get in, but I did witness a very Austin-like gesture. As I was walking in, I saw a guy walk up to the line and ask, “Is anyone in this line solo?” He walked down the line until he noticed someone near the back jumping up and down with her hands in the air. He promptly plucked her from the line and handed her an extra ticket.
Dale Watson and His Lonestars
Dale Watson has been a local favorite since the debut of his critically acclaimed first album Cheatin’ Heart Attack in 1995. His vintage-sounding country western vocals are a natural fit for Austin, where he can be regularly seen playing some of the best honky tonks in town.
His love for Austin and the community came across as the Austin City Limits studio was transformed into a re-creation of Ginny’s Little Longhorn saloon, the iconic honky tonk off Burnet Road. As Dale delivered Ginny’s tribute, “Honkiest Beer Joint in Town,” he managed to work in a shout-out to Ginny herself, who was sitting in the studio audience.
If you go see a Dale Watson show, you better be ready to two-step. I watched with envy from the upper balcony as folks who scored a floor pass had their own section designated for dancing. If you were two-steppin’ in front of Dale that night, there’s a good chance you’ll come out on TV when the taping airs on KLRU.
The Lonestars, Dale’s accompanying band, played a lively set that kept people moving. It was hard to stay sitting for a set like this, with a few of the more inebriated in the balcony section making their own dance floor off to the side.
It was my first time seeing Dale Watson live, and hopefully the only time I catch him at a seated venue. I’ll have to make it a point to catch his next set at Ginny’s.
The CMA Awards Top New Artist came into town and earned the distinction of playing at Austin City Limits after releasing only one studio album, Same Trailer Different Park.
Kacey’s set was noticeably more subdued than her predecessor’s, but that was to be expected. Her tunes have as much of a folksy pop sound as they do country western. Her insightful ballads came across well from the ACL stage. It was obvious she appreciated the opportunity and understood its significance. Her biggest hit so far, “Merry Go Round,” sounded even better live than on the radio. Kacey closed out her set with “Follow Your Arrow,” a fitting anthem for the finale of a show that has been doing so since 1974.
You can catch the ACL broadcast on KLRU sometime early next year, and get ready for the 40th season in 2014. I’ve heard it’s going to be a doozy.
What was your favorite taping of the year?