SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story

A Song For You

A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story
(Directed by Keith Maitland, USA, 2016, 91 minutes)

Festival screenings:
Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 PM – SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
Saturday, June 4 at 3:00 PM – SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
[Director Keith Maitland and Producer Sarah Wilson scheduled to attend both screenings]

In 1975, the very first episode of Austin City Limits was filmed in Studio 6A on the University of Texas campus, with Willie Nelson on stage surrounded by fans having a groovy time. ACL is the longest-running music show (13 episodes per year) in television history on PBS. As producer Terry Lickona explains, Austin City Limits (ACL) originally started as a showcase of local country music acts, but soon added blues and rock, and eventually indie music. Lickona moved from NY to Austin in ’70s with $400 in his pockets and never stopped looking to the future, always searching for what’s next. Now, after 40 seasons of ACL produced with highly a motivated production team, he is looking into the possibility of producing more than 13 episodes a year.

All of this and more is portrayed in the documentary A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story, which plays out like a gorgeous tapas banquet of historical live music footage. So many music icons are featured – like Ray Charles, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Leonard Cohen, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, Wilco and many others. Even more, it’s topped with humorous backstage stories and exclusive interviews with artists including Beck, The Pixies, and Alabama Shakes.

The appeal of ACL is that it presents artists in most simple way – Here is the band, this is what they sound like, this is what they look like. There is no fooling their audience. It’s a testament to the show that the original format is simple and unchanged, that the artists are given a solid hour set for each episode and complete freedom to perform, like when Radiohead decided to play “All the weird shit we never play live!”. There is nothing better than watching amazing concert footage of artists playing without any compromise and for enthusiastic audiences. And that’s what you’ll see and more in A Song For You, as director Keith Maitland extracts the best of best from ACL’s 40 years of history into a 91-minute tour de force of country, blues, rock and indie live performances.

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