ACL Festival 2011
Festival Fever

ACL in review: Iron and Wine offer a rainy jazz odyssey

ACL in review: Iron and Wine offer a rainy jazz odyssey

Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_3
Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_keyboard
Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_2
Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_4
Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_3
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_keyboard
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_2
Austin Photo set: ACL 2011_Iron and wine_September 2011_4

Maybe it was the rain—sorely needed, of course, but hilariously ill-timed to coincide with the festival after so many dry months—or maybe it was the 11 musicians on the stage, each of whom seemed to belong to a slightly different band. Whatever it was, something felt off about Iron and Wine's set on Saturday afternoon.

Opening strong with "Rabbit Will Run" from this year's Kiss Each Other Clean, the band took to that album's material nicely, filling in bandleader Sam Beam's songs with horns, keys, a flute, a pair of dedicated female backup singers and more. 

That band got awfully weird, though, as the set progressed. During an extended take on "The Shepherd's Dog," the flautist swapped his instrument for one I couldn't identify, or recall seeing before, but which evoked the Windham Hill Records collection at an orthodontist's office. This new age freakout continued for way too long for the steadily-thinning crowd. They were already sick of being rained on, they'd opted out of the more traditional folkiness of Allison Krauss, and they were choosing this over the Longhorns game on a big screen TV in a covered tent nearby. 

Of course, Iron and Wine isn't a trad-folky act anymore. Our Endless Numbered Days was a long time ago, so it's not really fair to expect that from the band. But when they played some of Kiss Each Other Clean's stronger, poppier material—especially the set-closing one-two punch of "Tree By The River" and "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough"—the performance was a hell of a lot more fun than when the band was in jazz odyssey mode. 

It's probably for the best, then, that the band ended on that note, just as the rain ended. It was a weird set, for sure, but by the time everyone dried off, there wasn't too much to complain about.