UPDATED: Is ACL Festival Ignoring Houston? Does It Even Matter?

acl_sunset-0508-MT.jpg
Photo by Marco Torres
ACL at sunset, 2010
UPDATED (Thursday, 2:50 p.m.) to reflect the Houston-area roots of a few ACL performers this year, as pointed out by reader comments. We stand by our original point, though.

As most of our readers no doubt know by now, the Austin City Limits Music Festival announced its 2013 lineup at the stroke of midnight Tuesday. This fall will mark ACL's twelfth edition in Zilker Park on the shores of Town Lake, and its first expanding to two identical weekends: October 4-6 and 11-13.

Rewind:

Depeche Mode, The Cure, Kings of Leon, Phoenix, Lionel Richie Head 2013 ACL Fest Lineup


Looking over this year's lineup, what leaps out first about the headliners is that, perhaps for the first time, the festival seems to consider thirty- and fortysomethings as the absolute upper range of its audience. This year's "heritage acts," what few there really are, all arrived on the scene in the late '70s or early '80s -- Depeche Mode, The Cure, Lionel Richie -- compared to the baby-boomer icons of ACLs past: Al Green, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan.

The other thing that stood out is that, once again, the lineup is utterly lacking in any representation by artists from a most active if not outright thriving music scene barely 150 miles to ACL's east, aka us.

Throughout the festival's 2013 lineup (both weekends), all the way down to the gospel choirs and children's-stage performers, there is not one artist who is either a native Houstonian, a current resident, or -- to the best of Rocks Off's knowledge, and we ought to know -- has ever lived here for a significant period of time.

This is hardly a new phenomenon, either. This may shock you, but not us: since its first year in 2002, not one prominent Houston-based artist or band has performed at ACL. The only ones who have even been based remotely in the area at the time of their performance were gospel groups the Jones Family Singers (of Bay City), who appear almost annually, and the Mighty Sincere Voices of Navasota.

Admittedly, most of the city's best-known, still-living musical "graduates" -- Rodney Crowell, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Jack Ingram, Blue October, Hayes Carll -- have played the festival at least once, but with the exception of Blue October and Carll, all with several years' distance between those artists' Houston years and Zilker Park. By contrast, here are the North Texas acts who have played ACL, most of them still living in either Denton or the Metroplex at the time: Toadies, Midlake, Old 97's, Ben Kweller, Centro-Matic, Brave Combo, Erykah Badu, Sara Hickman, Sarah Jaffe and Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights.

So that's a dozen years now, well north of 1,000 ACL performers in all -- at a rate of roughly 100 acts each year -- and only a handful of artists even with ties to the fourth-largest city in the nation, one that gets bigger every day. That's nobody who lives here (or lived here), and outside maybe Blue October, nobody who could be considered an "emerging" artist.

At face value, that seems to add up to a slight so big it has to be intentional, but that may not necessarily be the case.


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28 comments
doctorjd
doctorjd

You-all need to look toward your next-door-neighbor and come check out VoodooFest (www.worshipthemusic.com) November 1st-3rd. Headliners this year included the Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and  Pearl Jam.

Just so you know, Bobby Jealousy has H-Town roots and will be playing ACL this year. Interestingly, they have a full-frontal assault style of music which I now know is a signature of your city's music.

I hope to be in Houston on September 18th to see Depeche Mode.

brisktea
brisktea

Houston only seems to be lacking a core, centralized location for at least one designated music scene, but same goes for San Antonio as well!

jd_key
jd_key

Who cares what ACL does? It's AUSTIN City Limits - there's no obligation to book any bands from Houston or elsewhere. The post already says it best - "Perhaps a better question is why those promoters didn't explore putting on their own festival somewhere around here . . ." They haven't, but as it also mentions, FPSF HAS and have done it right and it gets better every year. They're obviously booking bands that Houstonians want to see and even getting large contingents of attendees from other parts of TX and beyond.

Let ACL do what they want - as Heavy D (I know he's not from Htown) said MANY years ago, "We got our own thang".

Iris26
Iris26

My question is, how did local act The Tontons get a 7:15 pm slot at the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Al?  This is the last slot before the headliner.  I hope the crowd is large for them as they are up against Slightly Stoopid and Bassnectar.  

bbturbo
bbturbo

I'll be that guy.

"there is not one artist who is either a native Houstonian, a current resident, or -- to the best of Rocks Off's knowledge, and we ought to know -- has ever lived here for a significant period of time."

Alex Maas, frontman for The Black Angels grew up in Houston.

source: http://www.qromag.com/interviews/alex-maas-of-the-black-angels/

Penny Sather
Penny Sather

Lionel Richie. He's one of the headliners.

Pete Klein
Pete Klein

FWIW, I won't be seeing Lionel fucking Richie either.

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

Last thing...we can't fully blame the media for lack of coverage. What have these bands done to promote themselves? I have gotten a request from every band in Los Angeles and the UK to LIKE their pages or download a free single, but nothing from your local talent here. The world of social media is infinite...and FREE.

Jorge R. Carrillo-Rosa
Jorge R. Carrillo-Rosa

1-The Houston scene is too spread out for any band/artist to REALLY develop a HUGE following. 2-For such a HUGE city, the musical offering is limited to metal, blues, so-called americana, hipstery indie, and hard alternative. You'd think there would be more variety (mod revival, retro 60s, power pop, post punk...) but NO. One reason I quit music was because I wanted to start something that no one in Houston seemingly wanted to do.

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

I haven't heard of the bands on your list or on the wiki link. There's absolutely no promotion that I'm aware of. It's sad because the radio stations where I lived took time to showcase their local talent and I don't see that here at all.

Summer Joy Davis
Summer Joy Davis

Check it out. I know in the afternoons usually they play a lot of local/TX bands.

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

My point is this...regardless of indie or local, there's no coverage of decent music. I'm taking my kids to see Taylor Swift next week. That's on every station, who cares? One of my biggest fears of moving to Houston was the music factor. I was not wrong about that fear. I love being able to pick up a new band just by listening to the radio, but I can't do that here. If I knew of where to find this local talent, I would be the first in line to support and promote them.

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

love BRMC. No I've never heard of that station.

Andrew Schmidt
Andrew Schmidt

Blast Dad, Mannequin Mishap, Josiah Gabriel, Limb, Saya, Moths, PLXTX, Sunrise And Ammunition, GWO, ComeXClean, Darwin's Finches, Monorose, as far as Houston bands go. There's a ton of kids working hard who won't get attention because they aren't derivative indie bands. I don't blame ACL for ignoring most of the Houston applicants as I'd imagine they're bands that would fit a bill like that. Run of the mill bands that Austin already has enough of to go around. We won't make a statement by covering music that belongs to another city's scene. Plus who gives a shit about ACL, anyways. I'm pretty certain national acts outnumber Houston acts at Summer Fest this year, where's the piece on that? Thank you, Pamela, for your honesty. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston_noise

Summer Joy Davis
Summer Joy Davis

Pamela, Houston radio has been crap for a long time thanks to Clear Channel. I gave up on it a long time ago. Have you checked out 90.1? They play a good amount of local talent on there. And I agree with Melia that it doesn't get the coverage. I didn't even see a review of BRMC when they were here a couple of weeks ago and that was a stellar show. :)

H_e_x
H_e_x

Eh, festivals get the same acts over and over again. There isn't that much diversity in lineups. 

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

Thanks for the old school pic of Shirley by the way :D

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

Since I've moved to Houston, we've been to see The Joy Formidable, Bad Religion, Fiona Apple, Rise Against, McCartney, Garbage, Metric, Down, Drop Kick Murphy's and maybe a few more. Out of those, I think I heard a couple of Rise Against songs on air. That's just a start.

Melia Hughes
Melia Hughes

I don't think music is lacking in Houston. It just doesn't get the attention that it gets elsewhere.

Pamela Dalton
Pamela Dalton

Maybe I'm new here, but from my 10 months stay in Houston, I've got to say that the attention to music talent, whether from Houston or not, is severely ignored in the Houston media. There's a long list of bands that I love, but have yet to hear on Houston area radio or read about on blogs. Not to mention that by the time the blogs are posted, most of the news is old to me. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that I can get tickets to basically any show I want on the same night of the show, but I really think it's sad how musically lacking Houston is.

chris.gray
chris.gray moderator editor

@bbturbo Thanks. I actually know Alex, and totally spaced on that. Should be updated soon.

It's still uncanny, though.

jenkinshouse55
jenkinshouse55

@bbturbo Yes, and a couple of Midlake guys grew up in Houston/Klein as well. I think of this because Midlake was mentioned in the article...

jenkinshouse55
jenkinshouse55

@Pamela Dalton Welcome to Houston!  The Houston Press does a good job covering Houston bands, but you really need to check out http://www.spacecityrock.com to get more in tune with what Houston bands are out there.  There's even a playlist on the site so you can listen right there on the site.  And most bands have bandcamp accounts.  I can play bandcamp music from my phone.  Houston is what you make of it.  Once in awhile we Houston bands will get to open for national bands (my band played with The Whigs in January), but pretty much we're on our own to try to get exposure.  You're right when you say we don't do enough to promote.  Houston bands could and should do more, despite the fact that it's discouraging when Houston Rock doesn't get as much national attention as it should.  There are "Houston Music Heroes" like Mark C. Austin and Sarah Gregory (as well as Jeremy Hart and the crew at Space City Rock) who  are trying to correct this by managing, promoting, and writing about Houston Rock...  And of course there's the HP crew who put on the HPMAs each year to recognize musicians efforts.  Even with all of that, sometimes it feels like we're in a town and not a city.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Pamela Dalton It's not so much that Houston lacks talent, it's that some people want that talent brought to them. We are a big city, you have to explore a bit, talk to people (in person, not just the internet) and you will find just about any type of music you can think of. The fact that you are unable to find them is not a reflection of the local music scene, it's a sign that you have't tried.

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