Austin City Limits: The Premier Music Festival Did Not Disappoint
By Madisyn Siebert
One park, two weekends, eight stages, 125 acts.
This is the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
ACL takes over the quirky town of Austin, Texas, during the first two weekends of October each year, helping the city preserve its reputation as the home of live music. Austin goes into pure chaos mode as the festival nears—but it’s a good chaos. The city plays host of hosts, welcoming scores of visitors who flood local businesses while Austin residents show off their city loud and proud. Inside Zilker Park, however, the true experience awaits.
This year ACL boasted headliners such as Childish Gambino, Guns N’ Roses, Tame Impala, The Cure, Robyn, Cardi B, and Mumford and Sons. The headliners were not the only acts who brought the hype, though. Some of the second-tier headliners were the ones fans showed up for, including Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Kacey Musgraves.
We attended the second weekend, which was a memorable experience that offered so much to take in.
The festival offers much more than music. A stroll around the park showcases the food options, numerous places to relax with friends (such as the Barton Springs Beer Hall where the important sports games of the day were always on and beer was constantly flowing), artists painting live drawings, a kid zone, an area dedicated to wine, a merch shop and other exclusive stops, depending on what level of admission was purchased.
Friday’s impressive lineup included Madison Beer, who announced at her show that she was partnering with the Trevor Project and donating $10,000 in honor of Mental Health Awareness Day. Cherry Glazerr rocked out in their typical soft grunge fashion. Jai Wolf gathered a crowd for a mid-afternoon EDM concert, where children were dancing and people were moshing in the middle. K. Flay also brought her energetic dance moves to the stage, bracing the cold and pulling in a good-sized crowd for her performance. The Raconteurs drew in a swath of fans ready for their 60-minute set that was the prelude to the rock-filled evening that was to come.
But the ones to watch on Friday were King Princess and Tame Impala. King Princess brought her sass and skill to the stage, managing quick quips while dancing, singing, playing the piano and jamming out on guitar. Tame Impala played top hits such as “Let It Happen,” “Borderline,” “Elephant,” “The Less I Know the Better” and “Eventually,” emitting futuristic aesthetics, that made their show even more visually appealing than ever.
The crowd was packed in close together, seemingly making friends and bonding with one another throughout the set, sharing moments with the band, who was playing their last show of the year. Everyone was seemingly oblivious that the legendary Guns N’ Roses were playing just across the field, even though the band admitted on stage it had made them nervous.
Austin was experiencing colder-than-normal temperatures for October, sinking down to the mid-50s. But the clouds and cool temps didn’t keep the festival goers away—they still came out in full force and full outfits, ready to test out all that ACL had to offer.
The crowd’s spirits were higher on the second day, and festival goers had a newfound love in the slightly warmer temps—even if drizzle and clouds were present. People were making friends right out of the gate. It’s amazing to see so many strangers come together in true fashion over their love of music. To me, it’s always a heartwarming sight, seeing people breaking age, gender and race barriers to talk about an artist and how their music connects with them. I also saw a correlation—the better the weather, the more these random friendships sparked.
No surprise, Day 2 was also filled with a great lineup, with Orville Peck drawing in a crowd and the masked singer’s bellowing voice echoing through Zilker Park. The Norwegian singer and songwriter Sigrid—a personal favorite—bounced and smiled on stage with her happy, carefree, contagious energy. There was a brief second among the clouds and on-and-off drizzle of rain where the sun peeked out and you could hear everyone at the festival yell and clap with joy before the sun was hidden again. It was a special moment to savor as a collective group.
Other highlights of the day included Judah and the Lion rocking out to a dancing crowd and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes showing her vocal range on stage. Billie Eilish drew in a massive crowd that was hard to even comprehend. The young singer made headlines later by claiming that someone stole her ring in the festival crowd while the crowd chanted, “Give it back.” To end the crazy day was the classic ‘80s/’90s rock of The Cure, who played at the same time as the artist some people would call a modern renaissance man, Childish Gambino. Both sets had their own flair and crowds, ending Saturday on a high note.
Even though ACL is an experience, it doesn’t mean everything will always go according to plan. For example, Megan thee Stallion never showed up for her set on Saturday, with no previous announcement that she would not be there, leaving the crowd waiting and disappointed. But overall for a three-day music festival the organizers of ACL did everything they could within their power to keep the festival running smooth.
Third time’s a charm, and for ACL this rang true. The final day of the festival had perfect weather in the 70s. There were so many people dressed in their full-out festival outfits taking classic pictures in front of the signature flagpoles, as well as many more festival goers laying out and enjoying the sunshine on their faces.
There was a handful of amazing acts, such as Kat Dahlia, who brought her Spanish flair with her to the stage. The sisters Joseph also took to a warm crowd and displayed their various talents as a girl group. Bea Miller kept her audience engaged with stories and upbeat songs about female empowerment.
The evening is what drew the crowds in for the chances of seeing Lizzo, Kacey Musgraves, Third Eye Blind, Lany, Robyn and Mumford and Sons. It was one filled with upbeat energy and a feeling of joy as the crowds enjoyed seeing some of today’s top-loved performers.
Recounting the nonstop flow of ACL shows just how much there truly is to take in and experience from a top-tier festival like this one. Yes, the focus is on the music, but there is much more to a festival. There are opportunities to make new friends, to try new foods, to enjoy new experiences in your life that you didn’t know you needed. ACL is the perfect festival for anyone to get a taste of what a true festival experience is like while not breaking the bank.
If you ever get the chance to take part in something as magical as Austin City Limits, you should take it because although Austin may be known for keeping it weird, it will also be known as the place you fell in love with festivals.