ACL 2011's best bands feat. Arcade Fire, Skrillex, Kurt Vile - Reverb

These go to 11: The 11 bands we’re looking forward to most at ACL 2011

As you may or may not have seen these past several months, we’ve been tireless in our attempt to bring you the best in music festival coverage from coast to coast since early March. So far, in 2011, we’ve had writers and photographers on the ground at Coachella, Outside Lands, Lollapalooza, SXSW, Telluride Bluegrass and Pitchfork — to name just a few. And we’re not done yet. This morning, I’m returning to hot-as-hell Austin, Tex. to cover the 10th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival. Besides spending every last dime on Lone Star pounders in the near-100 degree heat, here’s a taste of what I’m looking forward to most:

11. Delta Spirit

Part driving indie-rock, part contemplative folk ballads, Delta Spirit offers a dose of everything Americana, and lead singer Matt Vasquez is one of the best front men on the road today.

Delta Spirit – “Bushwick Blues” from DUKE STREET on Vimeo.

10. Kurt Vile

The man behind one of the breakout records of the year? Check. A tight, dynamic backing band with a sweet name (the Violators)? Check. Too much hair? Check. What more do you really need to know? Listen to “Monkey” off of his 2009 album “Childish Prodigy” below.

9. Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band

Not every festival is about the up-and-comers, or the here today, gone tomorrow buzz bands. Some festivals give the vets a proper stage, and if you’re smart enough, you give the skinny jeans and mustaches a rest for an hour to see living legends. The “Letterman” performance says it all.

8. The Cave Singers

Nearly every song on the Cave Singers’ February release, “No Witch,” sounds different from the track that came before. When all is said and done, lead singer Pete Quirk’s unique vocals tie all the loose ends together. Sample “Falls” below.

7. Santigold

Aside from changing the first “o” in her name to an “i,” Santigold has been relatively quiet since touring behind her 2008 self-titled album, and it’ll be a treat to (hopefully) hear some new material on the big stage. “L.E.S. Artistes” still sounds as fresh as ever, though.

6. Skrillex

No stranger to Colorado nor the national festival circuit, Skrillex has a way of creating moments on stage that electrify the audience more than any bass-heavy dubstep DJ can. And it usually involves a calculated stage dive, like in the video below.

5. Twin Shadow

Twin Shadow was one of the most-talked-about acts at this year’s South By Southwest music festival, and one that completely eluded me when I was trolling 6th street back in March. Very excited to see George Lewis Jr. and his full backing band in a live setting.

4. Stevie Wonder

I caught Stevie ever briefly performing on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum way back in July of 2005 … with Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine during Live 8. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing Stevie by himself, in his own element, as one of the last acts on Saturday night.

3. The Walkmen

Hamilton Leithauser goes toe-to-toe with Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez in the “best front man in rock” ring. He strangles the mic, screeches while somehow remaining on key, huge veins pulse from his neck and forehead, and he does it all in a rather boss sport coat. And then there’s the band behind him, making it all sound pretty.

2. Bomba Estereo

Reverb writer Paul Custer introduced me to Bomba Estereo last spring, and I can’t put my finger on what makes them so appealing. The Latin rhythms, earnest female vocals and punchy guitar lines certainly help, though. Listen to “Fuego” below.

1. Arcade Fire

In short, Arcade Fire’s headlining set at this year’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival was one of the greatest live music experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I’d travel far and wide to see them play for the masses again, and to hear anthems like “Wake Up” and “Rebellion” come charging at me and a sea of several thousand others. Watch the now-famous “balloon drop” from the Coachella performance below.

Check back Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for reviews and photo galleries of all things ACL.

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John Hendrickson is the managing editor of Reverb and a multimedia journalist for The Denver Post. Follow his rants on music and more on Twitter.