Walking up to the gates of Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), you quickly feel as though you are part of history. Being in the Live Music Capital of The World, and walking into the 16th annual ACL Music Festival during Zilker Park’s 100th year anniversary seemed almost unreal. You instantly become surrounded by the music and history along with those ‘weird’ Austin vibes.
This Weekend, Austin’s community of music fans definitely lived up to the phrase, “Texas Proud,” with multiple Texas flags flying high; local artist representing their city in the most beautiful way, and charitable events happening everywhere you looked, including raising money for the Hurricane Harvey relief fund. Without a doubt, love was definitely in the air.
It didn’t take long to figure out that this weekend was not just a weekend for music, but also an opportunity for these artist to use their platforms to speak out and spread their messages across Zilker Park. Artists at every stage had something to say about the recent tragic Las Vegas shooting, in addition to the battle on racism, and of course paying their respects to rock legend Tom Petty. One of the most beautiful moments out of the entire weekend was ACL’s tribute to Tom Petty. Music stopped on every stage, except the Honda Stage, which played Petty’s “Free Fallin.” While his most timeless classic played in the background, everyone’s attention was averted to the sky where 3 skydivers, swirled to the ground with sparks flying behind them. It really was a beautiful moment to witness.
ACL amazingly housed seven stages for their music festival this year. Two large stages at opposite ends of the venue. The Honda Stage, which housed artists like Crystal Castles, DRAM, Chance The Rapper and The Gorillaz. Then there was the American Express Stage (main). It had artist like, Jay- Z, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Ice Cube,and The Killers perform.
My favorite stage was the newest addition to ACL. It was set up across the street, away from all of the other six – the Barton Springs Stage. At this one I was able to see, Tove Lo, Louis The Child and Zhu!
The last four stages, also the smallest, were not to be overlooked by any means! The Tito’s Vodka Stage, accompanied with a tent, had the badass Alison Wonderland. She gave me and my fellow bass heads our much-needed high energy, heavy bass-dance music. However, if I am being honest, Alison Wonderland’s fan base is way to large to have everyone crammed under that tent. She brought the largest crowd out to this stage for the whole weekend. Many people were forced to leave due to minimal space and heat mixture. But that wasn’t going to keep me from rockin’ out! The Home Away Stage, was in the perfect location and certainly went hard the first night when Martin Garrix performed with electro sounds. He had the audience dancing the night away and screaming lyrics at the top of their lungs!!
ACL Music Fest, definitely kept up to their reputation of bringing out legendary artist and mixing them with those up-and-coming for a weekend of pure musical bliss. Some of the best artist of the weekend were:
The Gorillaz – They were nothing short of perfection playing everything from “Feel Good Inc.” (2005) to “On Melancholy Hill” (2010). Dawn Albarn, creator of the fictional Gorillaz characters and brains behind all the music, started off with a slow, yet beautiful start. The first half of the show the entire audience gazed upon the stage, almost as if they were in a trance. No one could keep their eyes away, or turn their ears off to the melodic sounds coming back at them. I would highly recommend everyone to see The Gorillaz.
Louis The Child – They are my newest musical addictions. Something about their range between deep emotions and crowd bangers really kept me craving more. A perfect example of their sound came through over the weekend when they dropped their new hit “Love Is Alive” (ft. Elohims), then turned things around and got the crowd going crazy when they dropped some Cardi B! Never a dull moment with this young duo.
Chance The Rapper – What I loved most about Chance is his ability to bring an audience from different walks in life together, and then take them to church without even being noticed. In a generation where most Hip-hop is about booty and drugs, Chance redefines what it means to be a true Hip-hop artist – I’m digging it!
Zhu– By far the best act of the entire weekend. Producer/DJ/Vocalist came out with a live set, accompanied by a saxophone player to his left and a bass player to his right with himself lifted in the center of the stage wearing a Zorro inspired outfit. The combination of an extremely talented saxophone player, the equally talented bass player along with the pitch perfect vocals of Zhu; you get the hands down best set for weekend one of ACL.
Tove Lo – This was an interesting performance to say the least. Tove Lo for sure has the vocals to achieve anything she sets her mind to. After over-coming some technical delays early on in her set, she came back stating, “I’m going to try and make it up to you guys.” Then progressed to singing her hit. “Talking Body,” in which she did just that. She began dancing freely, and rubbing her body throughout song. Then she gave the crowd the surprise of the weekend when she flashed us! I was so shocked I had to remind myself to close my jaw.
What We Should See Next Year
After 16 years of putting this festival together, there are not a whole lot of things I noticed I would do differently. I believe the two biggest call outs would be:
Going into the festival: Lines going into this festival were some of the worst I’ve ever experienced. Each entrance only had one “no bag” line which obviously moved slower than the rest of the lines. ACL really should consider expanding the lines, and add more “no bag” lines.
Sound at main stage: Though I do know that ACL has faced issues with sound bleeding between the stages in the past. It makes sense when having to cater seven different stages. Nonetheless, It was really unfortunate when the sound for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers turned down so low that the people towards the end of the crowd couldn’t hardly tell what song was being played. I could literally hear Chance The Rappers music louder than The Chilli Peppers, and I was standing in the crowd for them.
With all that being said, what a weekend! I am truly honored to have experienced a weekend of vast history, art and so many iconic musical moments, like The Gorillaz bringing out almost every single artist they’ve ever featured, including DRAM who also played at ACL over the weekend. This weekend will be a one for the books.
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