ACL '09: Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights Turn On Their Charm--And Draw Impressively At ACL Debut

All photos by Patrick Michels
Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights had a lot of things working against it as its 4:40 p.m. timeslot neared. The rain was coming down at its hardest, the crowds were starting to tire, and, at this point, it was more than clear that there was no hope of sunshine on the horizon. It certainly didn't help that the band' BMI stage was a little off the beaten path, without too many big-drawing acts performing there.

On the other hand, though, JT and crew had something to offer that few of Saturday's acts could. On this folk and indie-heavy day, the Dallas-based Southern rockers were able to provide audiences with a rousing brand of rock--the type of thing that encourages people to have a good time in the rain, as opposed to music that makes people feel worse about their situations. (I'm looking at you, Bon Iver.)

And, in a turn that visibly surprised and humbled Tyler and his cohorts, crowds showed up in impressive numbers for their set.

​Capitalizing on that audience, the band made sure it did something Neon Indian had forgotten to do: consistently remind people of its name and promote its upcoming record. It got a little annoying at points, if I'm being completely honest, but it accomplished its goal; audiences previously unfamiliar with the band's output were excitedly repeating the band's name to one another in their conversations between songs.

But, make no mistake, there were plenty of familiar fans for JT and Co. at this show, singing along with the band's songs and jumping and cheering and dancing--and thusly encouraging the rest of the audience to do the same. Ploy or not, it worked. And when the band's set came to its close five minutes before it had to, the crowd--all of it--wasn't ready for it to end. And, in response to the audience's cries, Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights returned to the stage, performing the first encore of ACL '09--at least, as far as I'm aware.


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