In the Field with Ben Harper

Why you should attend Austin City Limits (Sept. 26–28)

It's hard to sell music these days without looking like you're selling out. But Austin pulls it off. As a music fan, I'd go to Austin City Limits Music Festival every year. The distance between stages at a festival is key, and they get it right—the sound from one stage doesn't bleed onto the next. You also want to make sure similar artists aren't booked on top of each other so that you have to miss an act you love. Austin has mastered this. And then there's the crowd—as a performer, they'll meet your energy level. I saw Beth Orton play a beautiful, quieter set, and the crowd was with her just as much as they were with Robert Randolph, whose show is high-energy from the first note, with much more volume. Look, any community that has a recognized social campaign called Keep Austin Weird is very hip. Totally unrelated: Go listen to Piers Faccini. He's a singer-songwriter and guitar player, and the attention he pays to lyrical detail is rare. He lives out in a field in Western Europe, in a house he built himself, and he harvests his own food. He's a true outdoorsman. There are different levels of outdoor music. For certain outdoor activities, it has to be Pearl Jam. For others, I highly recommend Piers. His is outdoor music of a different resonance. He has a song called "Each Wave that Breaks," and it's one of the most timeless melodies you'll ever hear.

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