CMT News

Austin Music Festival Takes It to the Limits
More than 40,000 music fans braved the heat for the first Austin City Limits Music Festival on Saturday (Sept. 28) in Austin, Texas. A vast majority of those listeners -- from toddlers to grandparents -- returned for another strong musical lineup on Sunday.

Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel rolled through for the first dose of country music at 1 p.m. Saturday with an impressive number of other roots-based musicians filling out the afternoon and evening. Concert promoters chose the musicians based on how their musical style fit the image of Austin City Limits, the long-running music series on PBS. Many of the festival's acts have already appeared on the highly respected show.

Caroline Herring, a rising folk singer who once lived in Austin, returned with her rural-influenced music. With her endearing alto set to an upright bass and a Dobro, Herring may well be the next big thing to emerge from the city known as the Live Music Capital of the World.

Across the massive Zilker Park, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings drew thousands to the stage. Even far in the back of the audience, the folk duo's guitars and vocals sounded crisp and inviting. Following their stirring rendition of the gospel standard "I'll Fly Away," the slight breeze captured the dance club beats and rhythms of the New Deal from a nearby stage.

Throughout the two days, the audience embraced the diversity and rarely chattered over the music. The festival's arrangement also allowed listeners to pass several of the six stages on the way to a buy a bottle of water or a T-shirt. A 10-minute walk divided the two main stages, although some listeners remained at one stage for a stable of acclaimed artists.

For example, after Welch and Rawlings, Austin favorite Patty Griffin (whose video for "Chief" is now airing on CMT) shared her revealing music for an hour, followed by young bluegrass trio Nickel Creek and Texas favorite Pat Green.

Across the way, Los Lobos, Wilco and String Cheese Incident performed for those more interested in the roots-rock side of Austin City Limits. Other Saturday artists include the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Derailers, the Jayhawks, Bob Schneider, Caitlin Cary and Joe Bonamassa.

The Gospel Stars blessed the festival with their heavenly harmonies on Sunday morning before the eager crowds dispersed for the versatile vocalist Allison Moorer, Texas roadhouse rocker Jack Ingram or Austin performer Kelly Willis.

When those musicians ended their sets, many in the crowd wandered into the music merchandise tent or checked out the court of local artisans in the middle of the park.

Some planted themselves in the lunch line. As a sample of the city's favorite restaurants, Austin residents would recognize the names on all the food tents. In turn, out-of-towners got a taste of Austin without leaving the grounds. At peak times, food lines lasted upwards of an hour, sometimes up to two hours.

However, the waiting time at the drink tent and the portable toilets moved very quickly. Those attending the concert were also allowed to bring their own water, a smart but rare gesture at summer music festivals.

Pop star Shawn Colvin ("Sunny Came Home"), who lives in Austin, packed the yard during her hour-long set. She also surprised the crowd with a duet with Robert Earl Keen, who stuck around for a few songs of his own. Other Sunday performers included Tift Merritt, the Gourds, Eric Johnson, Robert Randolph and James McMurtry.

The country side made way for rock for a while on Sunday evening, with G. Love & Special Sauce, Austin's own Vallejo and Jimmy Vaughan bringing down the house on separate stages. After their sets, listeners could choose between alt-country poster boy Ryan Adams and one of his musical heroes, Emmylou Harris.

Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong, who lives in Austin, introduced the festival's final act, the Arc Angels. Comprised of Doyle Bramhall II, Charlie Sexton and members of Stevie Ray Vaughan's band Double Trouble, the Arc Angels rarely play live and provided satisfied concertgoers a chance to reflect on the city's musical history, both on stage and in the studio of Austin City Limits.
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