7 Standout Sets at Austin City Limits 2014

Nikki Lane, the Avett Brothers and A Thousand Horses do country music proud at the rock-heavy fest

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Best Up-and-Comer: A Thousand Horses
A Thousand Horses Suzi Pratt/FilmMagic6/7

Best Up-and-Comer: A Thousand Horses

When 4:00 p.m. rolled around Sunday, that was most certainly the time to cool down in the shade of the large pecan trees clustered in front of the tiny BMI stage, where A Thousand Horses played to hundreds of weary travelers. The Republic Nashville five-piece surrendered their country renegade disposition briefly with an easy cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," reminiscent of the way Rod Stewart approached "Maggie May." Then things took a polarizing turn with a fiddle freakout, signaling the start of a series of booze-fueled Southern rock anthems like "Drunk Dial," whose singalong chorus prepped the crowd for greasy crowd-pleaser "Trailer Trashed." The unmistakable "We Will Rock You" drum intro would have typically been the cue to get the hell out of there and ideally catch Jamestown Revival performing "California (Cast Iron Soul)," but when the phasered gritty guitars kicked in with a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd, things cranked up one more notch and it was pretty clear A Thousand Horses was the standout up-and-comer of the weekend. The freshmen five had an undeniable energy and stage presence to their live performance, as well as the three boho-chic backup singers whose head-turning gospel-style vocals added so much righteous padding to frontman Michael Hobby's gritty voice, it felt like a roaring drunk revival of roots rock on Sunday morning in the Mother Church. Set closer "First Time" was a high-energy hybrid of classic rock and bluesy country with enough soul flavor to resurrect the sound of American greats like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Texas roots music aficionado Delbert McClinton, or outlaw country contemporaries the Cadillac Three.

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