Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. from CultureMap Austin

Unlike last week’s Artist Discovery pick featuring The Antlers, my next pick for must-see-at-ACL is the effervescent, overtly positive, wittily theatrical Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. And when I say theatrical, lower your brow just a bit; we’re talking an occasional dancing panda, a giant bubble-producing machine, lots of microsynth pedaling and two cheery dudes having a good time. Because who says that in order to do serious work, you have to be so down about it? Not Joshua and Daniel, the frontmen behind the cheeky NASCAR moniker. Just this summer, Joshua told Rolling Stone, “We both believe that you don’t have to be this tortured miserable person to make serious work. We really taking making work seriously, we take the craft seriously, but we don’t take ourselves very seriously…It’s important to both of us to enjoy our lives.” Case in point might be the cover of Steve Winwood‘s “Higher Love” that Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. added to their tour circuit this summer. The band has no plans to record and release this track — it’s merely for the crowd’s surprise and hopeful enjoyment.
But what you’ll find on their full length It’s a Corporate World are fantastic harmonies on “God Only Knows,” grunge guitars on “Morning Thought,” and philosophical talk on “Skeletons.” See? Surprising breadth for a “pop” band out of Detroit (who knew those two things went together).
Though not part of their live show but still noteworthy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. stays knee-deep in other musical projects at all times, including remixing other artists like Junip. So if you want to have a lighthearted time and momentarily forget the woes of the world in its present state, check out the guys who were called one of the “best new bands” of 2010 from the likes of Stereogum, SPIN, Under the Radar, Real Detroit, The Metro Times and others. You’ll smile, you’ll sway, and you’ll appreciate the effort they put into making sure the crowd has a damn good time. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. plays Sunday, September 18th at 1:30PM on the Honda Stage. This week’s ACL Festival 2011 Artist Discovery Series feature comes from Caitlin Ryan of CultureMap Austin.