In the best possible way, Bobby Jealousy’s lead singer Sabrina Ellis is a living cartoon character, all exaggerated mannerisms and free associative conversations that speed up and slow down like a record on a turntable with a dodgy motor. She’s someone who makes a lasting impression right away.
Still, it was something of a surprise when the band she fronts with bass-playing husband Seth Ellis was tapped to play during the first weekend of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, October 4 - 6. With ACL Fest being a well curated — but pretty predictable — Americana-plus-indie fest (for the most part), the punk- and Broadway-tinged pop of Bobby Jealousy is something the crowds at Zilker have never really seen before.
In late March, the band received an unsolicited invite to play the high-profile festival. “I was with a friend at a coffee shop,” Ellis tells CultureMap. “On that particular day I was flipping through my emails and there’s one from a woman named Kristyn Ciani with C3 [Presents], and I opened it thinking it was some sort of bulk email or something and it said, ‘We’d like to invite you to play Austin City Limits.’”
“ … I thought maybe she means to like to play for the [TV] show opening for somebody or something,’” Ellis continues. “But then I read that it said ‘… Festival in October.’”
Ellis’ initially thought “the universe was sending a massive prank” in her direction for an April Fool’s joke she had just started about the band was breaking up. “I had to email Kristyn with C3 and let her know about the joke we were playing and that we weren’t actually breaking up,” Ellis says, “ … that we weren’t moving away and that yes, we would like to play ACL Fest.”
Fueled by Ellis’ showmanship that was honed while studying theater at NYU, Bobby Jealousy is something of an indie-rock marvel, with two- and three-minute pop songs that practically burst apart with verve and spirit. Formed only a couple of years ago, the band is one of the most junior to play the festival this year or any other. But its sense of youthful exuberance and stage energy was likely one of its biggest selling points for festival bookers.
There’s also no doubt that Bobby Jealousy has benefited from ACL’s expansion to two weeks this year, since organizers picked a different selection of younger Austin bands for the early slots each weekend, effectively doubling the number of local acts that received invites. So while the band waits to hear what day and time it will take the stage in Zilker Park, Ellis says she’ll be ready with a performance she hopes will get the crowds and even other performers talking.
“I hope we’re playing as direct support to Lionel Richie,” Ellis says. “If I were Lionel Richie, I would enjoy the dancing that I do. I just wanna have a showmanship one-off with Lionel Richie.”
Learn more about Bobby Jealousy on the band's website.