In cooking they say everything is better with bacon. I don't dig on swine but I've watched enough Top Chef to know it's true. Similarly, there's a simply rule when it comes to Austin music: everything is better at an Austin City Limits taping.
Thursday night Okkervil River performed at the famed Austin City Limits studio. It was incredible but not because the band was particularly extraordinary. The show was a bit of a roller coaster ride: lots of highs and lows. The over emotive and melodramatic songs seemed interminable but their upbeat and bombastic tunes were pure joy.
Okkervil is a love/hate band for me. Hate is probably too strong a word. Love/Annoyed By is more like it. They have great songs but the 8 minute long tunes like "So Come Back, I Am Waiting" make me want to wander into heavy traffic. They played that on Thursday night and I thought it would never end. On the flip side, "Unless It's Kicks" (kudos to the maracas player on this one) and "A Hand To Take Hold of The Scene" were fantastic. The crowd was up, clapping, and 100% into the show. Basically, I like the band as a whole but find Will Sheff's spotlight songs overbearing. Will: We get it. You're deep, you dress like a college professor, and you feel pain. Can you play an upbeat song now? Thank you!
For the performance the band busted out a grand piano, horn section, string section, etc. It reminded me of the "November Rain" video by Guns N' Roses. Did they really need 13 people on stage? Probably not. The horns were a perfect addition but I could've done without the rest. I bet they used over two dozens different instruments. Sometimes it's best to keep it simple.
If Okkervil River alternated between brilliant and annoying, why did I have such an incredible time? An Austin City Limits taping is unlike regular concerts. There's an energy and excitement, not to mention the free beer. All the staff and volunteers are funny and friendly. It almost doesn't matter who's playing. Tickets are difficult to come by and I see why. Once you're in the studio and spot the trademark skyline you can't help but be in a good mood. Everyone I know that has been there is determined to go back. It's like Austin's version of the island on "Lost". You know, just with more music and less smoke monsters.