Tag Archives: Billboard

Billboard @ Bonnaroo 2009: 10 Must-See Bands Itinerary


Billboard — Thanks to a deep love of live music, being outdoors, the symptoms of heatstroke, sweaty insomnia, flimsy sandals and people who are baked out of their minds and dancing where I would like to be walking, I’ll be covering Bonnaroo this weekend (with the extremely talented and personable Troy Carpener) for the good folks at Billboard.com, making us one of a very select few people to be covering this festival for The Internet.

We’ll be doing daily recaps, blogs, video interviews, etc. etc. social media multimedia one-man mobile uplink unit-ing all weekend long at Billboard’s Bonnaroo Page.

And of course we’ll be tweeting Bonnaroo, one of those sentences I cannot explain to my Dad no matter how long I talk, so point your personal World Wide Internet reading machine device to twitter.com/billboarddotcom and laugh laugh laugh when the effects of the heat render us almost entirely incomprehensible.

First up, our brief and ragingly incomplete 10 Must-See Bands Itinerary can be found here.

Interview: Gnarls Barkley are aware of their own oddness and uniqueness. Can you dig it?

Billboard — The title of Gnarls Barkley’s sophomore record is the first, and probably last, funny thing about it.

If the band’s 2006 debut, “St. Elsewhere,” seemed to sail in from some neighboring planet — a pop disc that smeared itself with psychedelic weirdness, a vague sense of the creepy and a knockout Violent Femmes cover — the follow-up is a much trickier trip to the dark side. (“I’m not doing so good,” a serious-sounding Cee-Lo Green intones on the otherwise effervescent opening track, “Charity Case.”)

But where there’s darkness there’s light, Green says. And as Gnarls Barkley — Green’s musical partnership with Danger Mouse — prepares for the April 8 release of its highly anticipated sophomore set for Downtown/Atlantic, “The Odd Couple,” he’s making sure to keep focused on both.


Click here for the print edition.

Continue reading

Billboard’s 25 Best Rock Posters Of All Time

Billboard — Like vinyl records, hair metal and Ricky Martin, the world of rock art – album covers, posters and the like — just doesn’t score as much attention as it once did. These days, the few non-video visuals that remain part of the music experience usually get shrunk down to fit on an iPod screen, if they show up at all. One holdout that’s not only still alive, but thriving, however, is the custom designed concert poster. So many shows, so little time? Here’s a look at the 25 coolest posters in rock history. And yes, it’s undeniable: San Francisco figures prominently.

Check out the collection here.

Billy Joel hosts “Christmas in Fallujah”

billy-joel.jpgNEW YORK (Billboard) — Billy Joel has broken his self-imposed retirement from pop for the second time in a year, but he’d almost rather you didn’t know that.

The second new Joel-penned single since his last pop album, 1993’s “River of Dreams,” is called “Christmas in Fallujah” and hits iTunes December 4.

There are two major differences between it and the classics that have made him one of the best-selling artists of all time. First, there’s no piano on it, and second, there’s barely any Billy Joel on it, either. Read the Billboard story here.

Billboard: Bad Brains to rock the “Nation” with Beastie Boy Adam Yauch

Billboard — As standard bearers of the East Coast hardcore scene in the early 1980s, Bad Brains were partly responsible for helping the Beastie Boys first get into the recording studio. As previously reported, one of the Boys is returning the favor, as a long-awaited Bad Brains record produced by the Beasties’ Adam Yauch will see the light of day this summer

“Build a Nation,” recorded with the classic Bad Brains lineup of enigmatic singer H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson, is slated for a late May/early June release on Megaforce Records, Billboard can exclusively reveal.

For Yauch, producing the record was a labor of love. Bad Brains were one of the groups, he says, that shaped the Beastie Boys’ early hardcore years. “Those guys are really of a different caliber in terms of their songwriting and musicianship. We always used to throw songs together and play a little bit, but they were really intense musicians,” he tells Billboard.

With that in mind, Yauch went into “Build a Nation” with a plan. “I kind of felt like I knew the way they should sound, because I grew up listening to them, going to see them when they first came up to New York from [Washington] D.C. and were playing CBGB and Max’s [Kansas City],” he says. “My feeling was that the ROIR tape [Bad Brains’ self-titled debut record, released on cassette only] really sounded right-a lot of the stuff after felt to me like people were trying to clean them up and make them sound more palatable for radio. So I guess I sat around thinking, ‘Man, if I could just get in there.'”

Jenifer agreed, and when he and Dr. Know got together to lay down early riffs in his Woodstock, N.Y., studio, they aimed “to show fans who we are. Bad Brains has always experimented, forging ahead in terms of riffs and searching for unique ways to approach rock music, but we said this time we’re going to take it back to the way we used to kick it,” he says.

The two camps nearly worked together a decade ago. According to Yauch, Bad Brains were in negotiations to release a record on the Beastie Boys’ now-defunct Grand Royal label, but Madonna’s label Maverick Records stepped up “and offered them a whole bunch of money, and I understood they had to go that route.” (That record, 1995’s “God of Love,” was more reggae-oriented than its predecessors.)

But in 2002, Yauch found himself talking again with Jenifer, who mentioned that the band had been mulling new material. Yauch offered use of his studio, and the reunion was born. “For some reason or another it kept circling above the airport [since then],” Yauch says. But with vocals and overdubs now complete, it’s finally ready to go.

Beastie Boys and Bad Brains will appear at the Sasquatch Festival, to be held May 26-27 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash.

Bad Brains will play some live dates this summer too, but “we’re not looking for 30-date tours,” Jenifer says. “We’re looking at dates in New York and San Francisco, to ease our way into doing this. There’s no mystery in our dysfunction, but we’re not a band. We’re like troubadours out there to give peace and love, and we’re very serious about wanting people to feel it.”

Interview: Snoop Dogg rolls out the ‘Blue Carpet’


Billboard / Reuters — “You’re about to witness the eighth wonder of the world,” Snoop Dogg intones about “Tha Blue Carpet Treatment,” his eighth record and one focused squarely on the street-level gangsterism that fueled his rise from the hoods of Long Beach, Calif., to the top of the game.

“It’s not about what I’m doing or where I want to go,” he says. “I put all that aside for this one. I just wanted to make a record that feels good for the hood.”

In prescribing his “Treatment,” which Geffen released November 21, Snoop faced an editor’s nightmare: whittling a rumored 300 recorded tracks down to 21, which he did by adhering to those gangsta criteria.

There are quite a few VIPs walking down the carpet with him: R. Kelly provides a gooey-caramel hook on “That’s That”; the Game contributes a call for gangland unity on “Gangbangin’ 101”; B-Real adds Latin flavor on the Pharrell-produced call for black/brown unity on “Vato”; and Stevie Wonder lends vocals and harp to the redemptive “Conversations,” a sort-of remake of Wonder’s “Have a Talk With God.”

But the set’s most eyebrow-raising appointments come from the family doctor: Dr. Dre, with whom Snoop had not collaborated in five years. The most potent of their three co-headlining tracks is “Imagine.” Over a vintage-Dre beat of minimalist bang and twinkling piano, the pair envisions hip-hop both in an alternate universe (“Imagine Biggie with his son/Imagine ‘Pac being called ‘Pop’ by one”), and never having been born (“Imagine Russell still struggling/no Def Jam, just another n—a hustlin”‘).


Asked what persuaded him to ask the Dr. for a house call, Snoop says simply, “Overdue. We waited long enough. My last two records were good without him. But it’s better when I work with him.”

But soliciting Dre’s involvement is a tricky proposition, because, as Snoop says, fans are looking for them to “make magic every time. When we started, wasn’t nobody expecting nothing. Now people expect some brilliant s–t from us. And 90% of what we do is magic. The rest, you’ll never hear it,” he says with a laugh.

Snoop admits to loving the work that comes with dropping an album and reclaiming his place. “I’m like an overseer,” he says. “You can say I come at the game from the perspective of a giant or a boss, but at the same time, I still play with these youngsters out there.”

How, you might ask, does he pull that off? “I do me,” he says, with a ready laugh. “When I do other stuff, the s–t doesn’t work. All I gotta do is be Snoop Dogg.”
True to form, “Blue Carpet” kicks off a Snoop-centric media blitz that will last for several months. He’s co-authored a book with David E. Talbert, “Love Don’t Live Here No More: Book One of Doggy Tales,” part one of a purported series centering on an aspiring rapper growing up in Long Beach. And next spring, he’ll star in “A Woman’s Touch,” a feature film he says will have the following effect: “Every black woman in America will love me,” he says, laughing, then breaks into a little Jennifer Holliday: “You’re gonna lo-ove me.”

“I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s something I’ve never done before,” Snoop says of his lead role. “I’m coming straight at the women with this. It’s not gangsta, not hood. It’s strictly for the ladies.”

A look, maybe, at the sensitive side of Snoop? “Nah, not sensitive,” he says with a laugh, “but an awareness that they are who they are. You know, in my songs it’s usually ‘bitches and hoes.’ But I wanted to make something specifically for them.”

Weird Al Yankovic: Best. Sales. Ever.

From the wires: Al hits the big-time! (Story by me, despite the occasional lack of a byline, which my lawyers are investigating).

Check it out here.
Or here.
Or here.

And here’s a guy who stole my quotes and research! I love you, Internet.

Interview: Jurassic 5 boxes the mirror with ‘Feedback’

jurassic5b1Billboard.com — Hip-hop artists generally spend an inordinate amount of their time dividing themselves into two broad camps: the Commercial, or the Underground, each of which has a virtual and often strict constitution of rules, rosters and prices of admission. But on their new Interscope album, “Feedback,” the L.A. collective Jurassic 5 once again splits the difference straight down the middle.

“The truth is, we’re kinda both,” said Nu-Mark, the group’s resident DJ, from his L.A. home and studio. “J5 is a group that gets asked, ‘Are you guys commercial or underground?’ But in the creative process you’re really just boxing in a mirror, trying to outdo your last record.”

Chali 2na, one of the group’s four operating MCs — and a hotly pursued collaborator whose rumbling, Darth Vader-worthy baritone is one of the most recognizable tones in hip-hop — concurs. “So many different types of people listen to our music — young, old, all races and creeds,” he says. “On MySpace I got hit up by a cat in Palestine — ‘Yo, we love you out here!’ That’s crazy to me.”

Jurassic 5 gets back in the ring this week with “Feedback,” its fourth major-label CD and first since 2002’s “Power in Numbers” (a two-month tour with the reconstituted X-Clan will follow). Though the group’s signature vocal style — speed-passing verses around like hot potatoes — is on full display, “Feedback” marks its first effort without longtime DJ Cut Chemist, who left before recording to pursue a solo career (his solo debut, “The Audience’s Listening,” was released in June).

It’s also the first to employ outside producers, as about half the record was supplied by names like Scott Storch, Salaam Remi and Exile. “I really liked Cut’s perspective on who we were,” said Nu-Mark, now the group’s sole ranking DJ. “But you have to think of ways to reinvent yourself. Keep it steady, but thinking quickly.”

Nu-Mark admits that with “Feedback,” the group is looking for a breakout. “We grew up listening to Run-D.M.C., P.E., Tribe, everybody you can think of on the radio, and we want to be on the radio,” he said. “We never dissed it. That’s kinda like the stamp of approval we’re looking for; it’d be the last piece of the puzzle for J5.”

To that end, the group’s pulling out all the stops. It must be noted that J5’s appeal has rarely been limited to traditional hip-hop quarters; the group has played Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and the Warped Tour, and has found itself on bills alongside Fiona Apple and the Dave Matthews Band. But it was a recent stint on the latter’s tour that led to the new album’s first single, “Work It Out,” a swooning, melancholy tale of troubled love that features a silky vocal hook by Matthews.

“We found out that a lot of his fans are our fans and vice versa,” said Chali 2na. “He was a very cool individual, and it was really natural.” The track with Matthews, Nu-Mark says, reflected his M.O. for “Feedback”: Throw it all out there.

“In the ‘EP’ and ‘Quality Control’ days, I used to say, ‘That doesn’t sound right for J5’ and not even play tracks for them,” he said. “It sparked a lot of arguments, actually. The guys would say, ‘We need more beats,’ and I’d argue that the other beats weren’t right, and they’d say, ‘Well, how do you know?’ And they were absolutely right. I had to check myself. Snoop Dogg, LL, guys like that are still here today and are relevant because they moved with the times. I wasn’t giving the guys a chance to hear different styles.”

Part of that expansion included bringing in outside producers, which was always part of the plan, even before Cut Chemist announced he was leaving. “We’d had three releases, so it was the stage of our career where we wanted to get a new sound into our songs. And I felt like since all these people were coming in with different styles, they’d be the different branches of the tress, and I could be the tree trunk,” said Nu-Mark.

Hence, the Salaam Remi-produced summer jam “Radio,” whose twinkling triangle riffs serve as a eyebrow-raising off-ramp for the group, and the Storch-produced “Brown Girl,” a Miami-flavored club jam with the geographically appropriate Latin twist. But there’s plenty of the group’s auto-grooving organics as well; opener “Back 4 You” employs a piano riff that calls to mind the group’s “Concrete Schoolyard,” while acclaimed funk mob the Dap Kings provide the backing on the banging “Red Hot,” a cousin of the “Quality Control” track “The Influence.” And Nu-Mark himself takes a left turn on the closer “Canto De Ossanha,” a chilled-out globe-hopping track that sews international influence onto’s J5’s audio territory.

For his part, 2na, who hopes to release solo record, “Fish Out of Water,” by the end of the year, said the group strives to avoid being boxed in, but that it’s an easier task than you might think. “If you look at our group, we’ve got all different kinds of cats,” he said. “People just write about what they can relate to.”

Nu-Mark agreed, but added a little more of a proactive approach. “Right around ‘Quality,’ we got into this thing of — well, I can’t speak for the whole group, but I think we kinda got to a point where we weren’t bored with touring, but we’d kind of done it all,” he said.

Hence, the band huddled to figure out what was next. “And we challenged ourselves — ‘Let’s see if we can play in front of a Green Day audience, see if we can rock them,'” he said. “I remember we got on the Warped Tour, and at some shows, cats were really upset that we were up there. But by the end of the show everybody was really feeling it. It’d be super loud, I-couldn’t-even-hear-my-damn-monitors loud. Then we’d bounce off that and do Smokin’ Grooves with the Roots, Lauryn and OutKast. So it’s like this back-and-forth thing, hopefully to prove that we really are relevant to the community, not just the urban community or the rock community, but the community of people that listen to music.”

Interview: Atmosphere’s Slug steps outside himself

Billboard — Six albums into a career that has mobilized and polarized the indie rap underground, the Minneapolis rapper Slug, one-half of acclaimed Rhymesayers duo Atmosphere, is finally stepping outside himself.

Something of a superstar in that indie-hip-hop galaxy and possibly the least likely teen-girl idol currently producing popular music, the 33-year-old Slug (Sean Daley, to his parents) has spent years airing out his journal entries on wax, rhyming at length about what sounded like a couple hundred therapy sessions’ worth of lady-friend problems and harvesting a large female fan base in the process.

But Atmosphere’s sixth and most accomplished record, “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having,” includes a few choice couplets that seem designed to make some longtime fans do a double-take and punch the back button on the iPod. Like this one: “I’m returning this bleeding hearts club membership card,” Slug raps in “Say Hey There,” “because I want no motherf***ing part of it.”

It’s not that Slug has reached some sort of sun-splashed plane with the ol’ personal life — “she’s drama, I’m drama, we’re drama” the newly mohawked rapper admits from a Detroit tour stop, with the sighing-but-not-unpleased resignation of someone who’s cool operating under that definition for the time being. It’s just that everything isn’t necessarily filtered through the holes in a broken heart anymore.

“And I don’t know why that is,” Slug admits. “In the past, I wrote so much about myself because I didn’t want to project. I wanted it to be: If you’re gonna hate the story, then hate me. But I’m learning it’s OK to project as long as I’m offering at least a closure, or an opportunity for [listeners] to dialogue with friends. With where my life has gone, I’m able to tell these stories without putting them through the relationship factory. And I’m happy about that.”

In a speed-talking interview that manages to reference Billy Joel and folk songwriter Shawn Phillips, Slug is, as his hip-hop persona would indicate, wide-open and stream-of-consciousness chatty. But he’s writing now with the grounding of someone who’s got some miles behind him, and nuggets of aged-sounding wisdom and self-awareness creep into his monologues.

“It never was about ‘Look at me and my self-centered world,'” he said, “But I found a path of writing where I was able to personify any problem I saw as a relationship problem. So what happened was I was making all these songs about dysfunctional co-dependent relationships, when the song was about George W., or how I feel about the gentrification of [Chicago’s] Wicker Park, for Chrissakes.”

Slug attributes that externalizing to two factors: the severe reduction of his “self-medicating in general” and his adoption of a slightly more distanced role in his writing. “I’ve always been sitting in the watchtower observing,” he said, “But now I’ve totally climbed into the observer mode, as ‘This is my job.’ I watch people, and form ideas and bulls*** opinions about people, but I never wanted to come off as that guy on the soapbox preaching to the choir, because for so long, the kids that come to my shows are the choir.”

Between Slug’s lyrical stretches and Ant’s melodic, big-beat production, “You Can’t Imagine” represents Atmosphere’s best shot at breaking out of that underground to date. Not that it’s anywhere within shooting distance of mainstream — tracks like “Little Man,” a generation-jumping look at father-son relationships, are still more likely to pop up on NPR or a blog than radio. But “Watch Out” bangs like old LL Cool J (who gets a glancing lyrical half-shout) and “Get Fly” cribs a joyous gospel sample to underwrite its cautiously sunny worldview: “I can’t fight your war until I’m finished with mine.”

“I do think this is probably our darkest release, but, you know, it goes hand in hand with these being probably the darkest two years of my life,” Slug said. “I’d have to say that Ant, even probably more, had duress on his shoulders over the last two years than normal as well.”

But, he added, they never set out to make a dark-soul-of-the-night kind of record, or anything more than their usual “concept” of “following this guy Sean around.”

“[Ant and I] get together on Sunday and Saturday and have a great time making new songs about having a bad time,” he said. “It’s a really odd situation. And we sit around and laugh and try to make each other react to what we’re doing and when we’re finished we look at it and go, ‘It was a lot more fun to make that record than it is to listen to it.'”

“Panic Attack” bears that out — it’s a shuffling, fuzzy beat about America’s desperate overrealiance on medication. “Say Hey There” has a sing-song-y hook and verses in which Slug tries to step out of the image he’s created for himself. But the album’s best evidence of that is “That Night,” which opens sounding like a club banger and turns into a thanklessly tragic tale about the 2003 murder of a teenage fan after an Atmosphere concert in Albuquerque, N.M.

“When [Ant] sent me that beat, I said, ‘What do you want me to rap about? This is a dance song. I can’t come in here and be all aggressive.’ And he literally told me go and write a song that you’re not supposed to write, and that was the one song I’ve been afraid to write for two years now. I didn’t know I’d be able to write a journal about it, much less a song.”

It came together quick. “I went home that night, wrote it, took it back and said, ‘Here’s what I got.’ It’s the first time in my life that a song was only alive for under 24 hours and still made the record.”

Still, Slug, true to his hip-hop persona, is quick to launch praise for helping structure the record, from its old-school-tinted beats to its unmistakable sense of trying to find a balance.

“His deal was to be careful to always make sure to throw some lightness on, especially on some of the darkest songs,” Slug said. “Instead of being on some like ‘The world’s gonna end and we’re all gonna die’ s***, he’ll bring a pop sensibility to the music. That he thinks like this is amazing to me. To me it’s like, ‘There’s the beat, dog. Rap.'”

But Slug’s also got the unmistakably shifting priorities of a guy who’s getting older. “My son’s 11,” he says, “and last night in Chicago, there were kids that couldn’t have been old enough to have a learners’ permit. And now I think I’m growing in my position and I want to do the right thing with it. Maybe in a room full of 1,000 kids, I might just be able to divert two of them from becoming future frat-boy date rapists. And I think that’s why a lot of my writing has naturally refined itself. That’s kind of where I wanted to be all along — I just never knew it.”

Live review: Austin City Limits 2005 — A Texas barbecue

Billboard — The story at the fourth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival ended up being not the spectacular headlining set by Coldplay, the debut of some frenzied new Franz Ferdinand material or the reputation-cementing set by the Arcade Fire.

It was, as anyone who attended the fest will attest, the hot. The insane hot. The crazy hot. The baking-under-a-Texas-sky-with-nary-a-cloud-in-sight hot. Spectators sprinted from the gates directly to the shade of Zilker Park’s precious few giving trees, and sat massed there like they were protecting valuable treasure, which, of course, they were.

As the days wore on, the dust rose up — the park, at the end of each afternoon, was coated in a mist made of Texas’ finest dirt. Friday and Saturday hovered around a temperate 100 degrees; day three topped out at a record-shattering 108, making Sunday officially The Hot Day. Around 4 p.m. on that final day, Jason Mraz remarked that his band hadn’t seen that many naked people in years; the Arcade Fire performed in full black dress regalia and made the massive crowd wonder why they weren’t nearly as dedicated to their own jobs.

Prior to the weekend, ACL organizers and fans worried with good reason about the looming march of Hurricane Rita, but by the time the fest opened on Friday, all the rain icons in the weather forecasts had been replaced by giant sun globes. This was, of course, a welcome development, not just as the bruises from Katrina were still plenty evident but given that Austin was playing host to thousands of Rita evacuees from Houston and Texas’ gulf coast, who were shoehorned into a town that had been booked solid months before.

But the effort that went into it was welcoming and well orchestrated. Aside from the usual traffic jumbles here and there, Austin didn’t break a sweat in accommodating the two groups (that said, about a dozen acts, including Bettye LaVette and Mindy Smith, were forced to cancel their appearances due to Rita’s effects on travel).

ACL Fest doesn’t have the persistent-but-diminished name recognition of Lollapalooza nor the potential for pure discovery of its citymate South by Southwest. But it does have impeccable organization and maintenance, and a reliably strong and varied (though not quite enough) lineup of alt-leaning bands, super-heavy on British and new-wave revivalists (the Kaiser Chiefs, the Bravery, Kasabian, Bloc Party, the Walkmen, Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand, to name seven of them) and bands that sound a whole lot like headliner Coldplay (the Doves, Keane).

Gospel, blues and country were to be found on the smaller corners only, and were often blown down by the rock sounds from the big stages. If anything, ACL could have used more sets like the Thievery Corporation’s, whose transglobal dance stew of reggae, funk, Indian music and hip-hop injected its giant, dried-out crowd masses with a dose of much-needed get-down.

Thievery was one of Friday’s highlights, but hardly the only one. The day opened with a strong and plenty humid set from Jacksonville, Fla.’s Mofro, whose gravel-driveway voiced singer, JJ Grey, unspoiled tales of swampland living over a groovy rhythm section.

The ultra-dependable Lucinda Williams tried out a number of seriously countrified new tracks on her Friday audience; Austin’s own Spoon unfurled their set to the rapturous hometown crowd. And for some pre-evening goodness, the peerless John Prine delivered the perfect sundown set, which drew liberally from his exquisite new “Fair and Square.” Prine dialed up a wistful “Glory of True Love,” the sweetly brushing “Taking a Walk” and “Some Humans Ain’t Human,” which includes a crack at George Bush that sneaks right up on you.

This was the opposite of the tack taken by Steve Earle, who, like a good number of acts, took shots at same, airing out the reggae gag “Condi Condi” and beckoning fans to the next day’s anti-war rally in D.C. “if that hurricane comes.” To close out Friday, the reconstituted Black Crowes rocked one end of the dust bowl; home-stater Lyle Lovett brought out Robert Earl Keen on the other.

Saturday brought a bit of lineup shuffling; Tracy Bonham stepped in to open the day on the AMD stage, recruiting members of Aqualung for her violin-addled confessionals and a ragged cover of “Black Dog” whose slapdashness was completely ingratiating, somehow. Sadly, Built To Spill was a disappointing snore and a half. Doug Martsch’s shoegazing comes off OK in clubs, but during a sweltering afternoon it’s just boring. Surprisingly effective to that end was Martin Sexton, who did his Jack Johnson-with-a-smirking-groove thing to a large and receptive crowd.

Fests like ACL bring up great little juxtapositions like this: On one side of the field, Death Cab For Cutie was dialing up “O.C.”-ready indie rock, while Robert Randolph on the other was firing away 60 minutes of nonstop, bass-driven funk, kicked off by a reverent and rolling cover of “Billie Jean” and capped by a potent riff on Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Randolph would later materialize during one of Widespread Panic’s somewhat head-scratching two sets.

Saturday closed with a typically workmanlike and inspired performance from the Drive-By Truckers, whose Patterson Hood drove the band nonstop through newer tracks like the once-again-timely “Puttin’ People on the Moon” and time-tested rockers like the Dixie-rock history lesson “Ronnie and Neil.” These guys are just headliners in waiting.

Headlining on the other side of the slope was Oasis, who largely phoned in its oddly ragged set, though things picked up during a rubbery “Lyla” and a soaring “Live Forever,” dedicated by Liam Gallagher to New Orleans. As could be expected, a number of acts did the same for the Crescent City and the Gulf Coast: Earle rocked through “Home to Houston” and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band amassed such a massive throng on the smaller Capital Metro stage that they were often invisible.

Day three of the festival proved a record setting one. Not because of the music, but the mercury — afternoon temperatures hit a sandal-frying 108 degrees. Appealing girl group Eisley opened the day by thanking the healthy crowd that stuck around for its pretty, dreamy pop; Coldplay’s Chris Martin closed it by thanking the 60,000 who caught the Brits’ headlining set in song — a smart move that was theatrical enough to make one wonder if it was Gwyneth’s idea.

Rachael Yamagata’s dark and musty voice snuggled nicely into her rocked-up arrangements, particularly on theatrically tinged tracks like “Happenstance,” where she came off as a more muscular Fiona Apple. Doves and Rilo Kiley drew slots playing under the right-overhead sun, but the latter especially drove through on goodwill anyway. The Kaiser Chiefs rewarded its fans with an instantly bounding taken on the unstoppable “I Predict A Riot.” And Jason Mraz and his cheeky pop-rap, somewhere between Young MC and a voice that can be not too far off Broadway, got the ladies squealing on lightweight but sticky tracks like “Geek in the Pink” and a version of “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” that featured a little cameo from “Wonderwall.”

From there, the day belonged to the critical darlings, starting with Montreal’s Arcade Fire, whose all-black attire and massive array of instrumentation (five core members, a half-dozen guests, a French horn, two violins, an accordionist and a guy who beat on helmets like Fred Flintstone) gave them the day’s biggest E for effort. Undaunted by the giant crowd amassed before them, the Fire lived up to every last syllable of their press barrage, presenting a unified wall of sound that managed to be moody and melancholy one minute and wildly inspirational the next. “More people should listen to the Arcade Fire,” Coldplay’s Martin sang midway through his band’s set. At the very least, more people in Austin probably are.

The draw of fests like these is the ability to see loads of bands at the same time; the drawback is that sometimes Wilco and Franz Ferdinand are playing at the same time a half-mile away from each other. Jeff Tweedy and his band opened with a raucous “Kingpin” that found the unusually high-spirited frontman baiting the crowd into whooing like a well, heavy metal drummer. But the band was equally effective pulling back into a shimmering “Handshake Drugs” and a duly hammering “I am Trying To Break Your Heart.”

Franz Ferdinand debuted a number of tracks from the new album “You Could Have It So Much Better,” alongside its reheated new-wave material like smash single “Take Me Out” and set-closer “This Fire,” proving once again that you don’t have to do necessarily anything new to get a rock-thirsty crowd jumping.

Which is, of course, the approach taken by headliners Coldplay, but the erstwhile Brits did the rarest thing: a 90-minute hit-laden tour de force that justified its astounding hype. In fact, the band’s only misstep was its black wardrobe, leading Martin to wish his band was more like Velvet Revolver, where “shirts are optional.”

Martin opened an amended “Politik” for the occasion — “Give us Franz Ferdinand, the Arcade Fire, Coldplay / Thanks for waiting in the heat all day” — which was cheesy as all get-out but worked spectacularly, as did his propensity for cathartic and soaring sing-alongs and his trip to the makeshift soundbooth, where he sang a few verses deep within the thick crowd.

Even a tribute to Johnny Cash, which climaxed in a well-intentioned crowd singalong to “Ring of Fire” came off well. Coldplay’s records, for all their costly megaproduction, tend to come off chilly, but Martin, who was born to stand in front of audiences like this, was equal parts deferential and messianic, a near-perfect end to a heated weekend.

%d bloggers like this: