The Ten Best Bands at ACL 2013

Categories: Festivals

Photos by Jim Bricker (except noted)
If you want to catch an act in the one and only tented stage at ACL, it's recommended to do it early in the day or towards the end of the weekend. It always seems to get pretty packed on Saturday when people realize they can escape the sun and hear some pretty good jams while doing so. One of the only times Rocks Off made it into the tent was for an early afternoon set from the ever-so-soulful stylings of the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Consisting of a quartet of aged soul singers who happen to be both blind and from Alabama, the group led the crowd through a set of sing-a-longs that included reworked takes on Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky" and a fitting cover of Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia." Just a few songs into their set, if they didn't already have everyone in the audience captive, they were joined by their latest album's producer, Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver. While Vernon didn't lend his vocal talents (like there wasn't enough of that going on with the Blind Boys), he added his skillful guitar work on a few songs. It was a great way to spend an hour. JIM BRICKER

I still can't say that I love Depeche Mode after this set, but I chose them as one of my favorites because they put on such a damn good performance. I wasn't expecting to be so into it, and I think that was a common theme throughout the crowd at the beginning of the set. By the end of the set, every single person in the audience were enthralled by each sultry move that lead singer and sex machine Dave Gahan made. If he waved his arm, the audience immediately followed suit. If he told the crowd to jump off a bridge, they would have found the nearest one.

The biggest dance party of the weekend came along with "Just Can't Get Enough," and "Personal Jesus" was some bucket -list shit. "Enjoy the Silence" was probably the most fun to be had the whole weekend. All five guys onstage knew exactly what they were doing from front to finish, which I guess explained their top billing. It was just a really solid showing from a group of veteran performers. Just makes me wish I caught that Houston show a few weeks ago. JIM BRICKER

Electric Guest win the award for the youngest, yet most seasoned group, of performers at the festival. In what was probably a never-ending couple of years they toured relentlessly, honing their craft along the way. A group that Danger Mouse once took under his ever-expanding wing with production of their first LP, they've taken what he gave them and made it their own. I understand why Danger Mouse decided to produce their first record, because they sound like a perfect mix of anything he's ever done.

Take a huge handful of Portugal. The Man, mix in some Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells and add a funky little touch of their own, and that's what you get with Electric Guest. Their set, which grew as much in size as it did with energy, really proved that their one of those exciting bands to watch. I just really wish they changed their name when they had the chance. JIM BRICKER

List continues on the next page.

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