Annie Clark

St. Vincent performs at the first weekend of the 2014 Austin City Limits Music Festival on Friday.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Clad in Converse tennis shoes, shady hats and countless metallic temporary tattoos, festival-goers welcomed the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival with open arms. With a lineup just as up-to-the-minute as the fashion trends, the weekend was packed with must-see shows. Here is a recap of The Daily Texan’s most memorable ACL
performances: 

Chvrches 

The Scottish synth-pop trio woke up Friday’s drowsy crowds with a lively performance. While their stage presence could have been filled with the typical flashiness of an electronic show, the band opted for a more understated setup, letting front woman Lauren Mayberry’s energetic vocals stand out on hits like “Recover” and “The Mother
We Share.”

St. Vincent

St. Vincent’s live performances define her as an artist: calculated but with room for improvisation. Annie Clark took to the stage Friday evening looking ethereal, delivering a dreamy performance grounded with sharp choreography and heated guitar riffs. “The reason you’re here and the reason we’re here is because we never gave up hope,” Clark said to the cheering, fan-filled audience.

Foster the People

Foster the People sounded better live at the Samsung Galaxy Stage on Friday evening than it does on its albums. Lead vocalist Mark Foster was calm and relaxed while his bandmates brought energy to the performance. Dedicated fans sang the words to every song, helping those who only knew the band’s smash hit, “Pumped Up Kicks,” to stay upbeat throughout the show.

Beck

The majority of Beck’s set came from his upbeat, late ’90s and early 2000s albums. Straying from the expected, the rocker played his most well-known hit, “Loser,” early on in the set. Beck commented on the audience’s lackluster energy and proceeded to slow down the pace by playing music from his 2014 release, Morning Phase

Mac DeMarco

“Hey, I’m Mac. I’m here to play some music,” the Canadian singer-songwriter said as he entered the RetailMeNot stage, a cigarette in hand. DeMarco took to ACL in his typical slacker style, performing a laid-back set from his latest album, Salad Days, punctuated with lewd jokes, conversations with audience members and dreamy guitar melodies.

Iggy Azalea

The Australian rapper’s crowd Saturday afternoon was so huge that it could easily have been a headlining audience. While most of her songs were her originals, Azalea also incorporated feature tracks, such as Ariana Grande’s “Problem.” When she sang her signature “Who dat? Who dat?,” a screaming crowd replied with an enthusiastic “I.G.G.Y.” 

Eminem 

An hour before Eminem was scheduled to appear on stage, the crowd had already started chanting. “Marshall! Marshall!” and “Shady! Shady!” Marshall Mathers did not disappoint, performing songs from each of his albums, such as “The Real Slim Shady” and “Without Me.” After finishing his set list, Eminem returned with an encore of “Lose Yourself” as the crowd jumped along to a spectacular finale to end the night.

Miniature Tigers

Brooklyn-based Miniature Tigers walked the line between teenybopper and electronic ’80s pop with their Sunday performance, showcasing their signature breezy
harmonies. Charlie Brand, lead singer and guitarist, took a break to lead the noticeably younger crowd in a cheer, shouting, “Fuck school. No, I’m just joking. Stay in school.”

AFI

Outfitted in all black despite the afternoon heat, the alternative punk rockers performed a heavy set on the Honda Stage. The unshakable fans defined AFI’s performance, supporting a stage dive from lead singer Davey Havok within the first two songs of the set.

Jenny Lewis 

Just as the sun was beginning to set Sunday evening, Jenny Lewis took the Austin Ventures Stage dressed in her trademark pastel blazer. Opening with Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining,” Lewis paid homage to her former band and followed with tracks from her latest solo album, The Voyager

 

To see more photos from Weekend one of Austin City Limits, check them out here -

A choppy SXSW interview didn't stop St. Vincent from being awesome

Hot off of her newly released, self-titled album St. Vincent, Annie Clark sat down at the Austin Convention Center Wednesday and spoke about the creative process she goes through when songwriting. 

Her latest release has been called her most accessible work, focusing more on aesthetic and groove than she did in previous works. Clark said the key to writing an album this way was finding the perfect balance between accessibility and complexity. 

"In terms of being a songwriter, that's the ultimate goal," Clark said. "To create a world that's singular but leave enough room for a listener to put themselves in it."

Clark spoke about growing up around music and taking lessons from metal heads at GuitarCenter-type stores. She confessed to being a metal-lover herself. 

"I was in a metal cover band as the bass player," Clark said. "I have a soft spot for metal."

Through her career, St. Vincent has evolved from raw, organic instrumentations to a more digital, electronic focus. She said there's no specific formula for figuring out which instruments to use when songwriting, though — that it more depends on what she's going through, physically and emotionally. 

"I look at it all as tools, and everything as a means to an end so I can make anything in my head feel tangible," Clark said. 

The interview itself, though, was far from seamless. The interviewer's questions were self-indulgent. She frequently didn't even ask a question, instead using the interview time to air conclusions she sometimes phrased as quasi-questions.

The interviewer's questions got so dense at a certain point that Clark tried to change the subject. 

"Let's skip this interview and talk about the last episode of True Detective, actually," Clark semi-joked.

The interviewer continued talking in circles, flaunting her knowledge of music and often taking longer to phrase her question than it took for Clark to respond. 

The interviewer also haphazardly attempted to delve into Clark's sexuality with a few questions about her sexual candor in her lyrics. The questions fell flat on their faces and made for some thoroughly awkward moments. 

Odd interviewer aside, the crowd seemed excited to simply be in the room with Clark and listen to her navigate the questions. Clark was good-humored, eloquent and when the question was phrased well enough, she answered thoroughly and skillfully. 

Review

Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, has grown considerably since her first album. Lending her talents to eclectic acts such as The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, Clark has displayed an interesting transformation over the course of her short career. From the poppy Marry Me to the intricate and dark Actor, Clark continues to push the boundaries while finding a suitable middle ground in her latest album, Strange Mercy.

With assistance from producer John Congleton, Strange Mercy channels the pop sensibilities and creative compositions from Clark’s past albums, resulting in arrangements that are filled with searing guitar work and analog keyboards. “Chloe in the Afternoon” opens up with noisy, buzzing guitar, while fuzzy synths provide a base for the many layers of melodies. Clark’s vocals are beautifully haunting: They become one with the many instruments present, adding to the complexity of the song’s arrangement.

“Cheerleader” and its repetitious “I” delivers with conviction Clark’s frustration teetering on an edge of counter-melodies and thumping, mechanical drums. “Surgeon” is a psychedelic-soul hybrid; the riff that Clark plays in the chorus shows how she can make something so unconventional sound hip, and the Brian Eno-sounding synth solo at the end wails with an art-rock bravado.

The title song is beautiful with the strange, eerie atmosphere it creates. It plays like Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” the tension building as Clark sings about revenge to the “policeman” that hurt someone close to her.

St. Vincent is demented, but she cleverly veils that with a bubbly demeanor. Her sweet, seductive voice conveys a message of violence and frustration disguised behind alluring imagery, creating lyrics with a full-force blow. Not all songs are masterpieces though. “Champagne Year” is stagnant, with no real significant changes occurring until the very end and “Hysterical Strength” is all over the place: Unlike the other songs on the album, there is no fluidity and its spontaneous placement of distorted vocals and grungy guitars is overwhelming.

Strange Mercy is an eclectic package. Clark carries herself like Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, her voice soft and vulnerable, but peppered with an array of emotions. The album shows Clark’s evolution as an artist and proves that Clark is an unpredictable character.