Any given weekend in Austin is already a good time to catch live music, but the weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival (or, weekends, going forward) is one of the best times. For those of us who can’t afford the triple-digit cost of a three-day pass, ACL hosts plenty of official after-shows that pair bands from the festival lineup on a bill in a smaller, more intimate venue than the vast Zilker Park. In the case of ACL weekend-one, Emo’s hosted two headline-worthy bands, each of whom brought their devoted fans.
Welsh alt-rock trio The Joy Formidable kicked things off with their thunderous sound that alternated between sheepishly shoegazey to brazenly heavy. The band’s high energy and charisma, lead by frontwoman Ritzy Bryan on guitar and vocals, left current Joy-t-shirt-clad fans beyond stoked and earned the group new fans from the crowd there to see the headliners. Seeing Rhydian Dafydd hurl himself about the stage, his bass guitar flailing wildly, was a highlight of the night. Surpassing the bassist’s antics was drummer Matthew James Thomas who at set’s end hastily tried to dive over the front end of his drum kit to snatch Dafydd’s bass guitar, in the process knocking over cymbals and toms.
The Black Angels opened their set with newer songs from the band’s most recent LP, this year’s Indigo Meadow, which made use of lead singer Alex Maas’ gargantuan Farfisa organ. The songs that got the best response were those from the band’s now-classic debut LP, 2006’s Passover. Fans cheered wildly upon hearing the opening licks of both “Young Men Dead” and “Black Grease”. The trippy visuals, controlled live by a projection artist headquartered at the soundboard, were a nice mood-expanding touch. Fresh off an Austin City Limits television taping, The Black Angels showed they’re still a band to watch, seven years after single-handedly reviving psychedelic rock in the city that birthed it five decades ago.
The Black Angels and The Joy Formidable played at Emo’s in Austin on Saturday, Oct. 5.