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20 Years:

Austin City Limits Festival Showed
No Sign of Slowing Down

Many things were missed during 2020: friends, food and—most importantly—live music. For the first time, live music was paused across the globe, and virtual shows became the norm. It was crazy to think that we may never see live music again until the world was healed. But here we are, in fall of 2021, and Austin City Limits has made its grand return.


Nothing has made me feel normalcy again, besides being on the grounds of Zilker Park. After showing your vaccine card (or negative Covid test) you were allowed to enter the grounds and feel that sense of pure excitement for live music, good food and even greater people. You were told to wear a mask on certain parts of the grounds that were considered indoors, like the merch shop and some bathrooms, but other than that you were out in the warm Austin sun, soaking up everything the great state of Texas has to offer.


Pictured: Maggie Rose, Durand Jones and the Indications, Machine Gun Kelly, Megan Thee Stallion and Erykah Badu

There is no feeling like being at ACL in a normal year, let alone a year like 2021. The open field, the unique outfits, good music echoing from every direction, even just sitting down in a grassy patch and making friends through the shared love of music, there truly is no experience like it that can fill your heart with the warmth of appreciation.

ACL kicked off its return with a stellar lineup, with headliners like Miley Cyrus; Billie Eilish; George Straight; Tyler, the Creator; Duran Duran and even Rufus Du Sol. The great thing about this festival is that the eclecticism is always present. Everyone can find something to be enjoyed, from blues-infused indie rock by up-and-coming artist Zach Person to classic rock and roll from Greta Van Fleet and even TikTok-trending music from Doja Cat. There is everything from hyper local to out of the country.

Looking back on the days spent there, each one was filled with just that, an eclectic group of music to bounce among the eight stages on the festival grounds.

Reflecting on Day 1, we kicked off the day with Maggie Rose, a Nashville-based singer with a set of pipes you have to be in person to appreciate.


The day was followed with Heartless Bastards, Bleachers (a personal favorite), Machine Gun Kelly, Finneas, Megan Thee Stallion, George Straight and a childhood dream, Miley Cyrus. This day alone covered everything from country to rap to indie pop to even Hannah Montana. This kickoff to Weekend 2 was perfectly sunny, unlike Weekend 1, and really delivered on rediscovering festival life. Megan Thee Stallion shook her ass for thousands, George Straight got to sing “All My Exes Live in Texas” in Texas, Finneas teased his sister’s performance for the next day, and Machine Gun Kelly climbed the stage and sung upside down—if that’s not commitment to the crowd, then I do not know what is.


Seeing Miley Cyrus live is always a treat as well, she has a great stage presence and was able to connect everyone with newer songs like “Plastic Hearts” to “7 Things I Hate About You.” She even threw in some covers from Blondie, Janis Joplin and Cher, showing her direction of classic rock is not just a phase.

Day 2 was my personal favorite. The feeling of knowing that yesterday wasn’t just a fever dream made the hype real for everything that was about to unfold in front of me. The day started off with Holly Humberstone and her first show ever in the United States, which we were blessed enough to catch. Frances Forever played a great set, including her signature song “Space Girl” that went viral on TikTok.


Another favorite for me was Surfaces, the duo taking over the Honda Stage and magically transporting me to the beach with their good vibes. Some other favorites throughout the day included Gracie Abrams, Future Islands, Modest Mouse, Doja Cat, Jack Harlow, Dayglow, Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Eilish and Rufus Du Sol. One theme that occurred among the acts were artists who seemed to be going over their times with both Frances Forever and Phoebe Bridgers being cut off, leading an agitated Phoebe Bridgers to tweet out “fuck ACL.” Besides the downside of hearing some of your admired artists go silent on stage, the day was filled with a lot of hullabaloo. With classics like “Float On” playing to “Say So” there was always a unique vibe being presented through each act. The finale of the evening with Billie Eilish was a sight to see, having seen her in 2019 at the last ACL to here in 2021, you could see the growth of her music, stage production and even her stage presence.


Pictured: Holly Humberstone, Gracie Abrams, Surfaces, White Reaper, Future Islands, MISSIO, Doja Cat, Alison Wonderland and Rufus du Sol


Pictured: Zach Person, Mattiel, Kennyhoopla, Cautious Clay, Band of Horses, David Ramirez, Greta Van Fleet, Jon Batiste and Tyler, The Creator


Click the image above to view even more images from ACL 2021

Day 3 closed out the season with Zach Person, Cautious Clay, David Ramirez, Tate McRae, Greta Van Fleet, Tyler, the Creator, Band of Horses, Kennyhoopla and of course the classic Duran Duran. The final day was taking its toll on my feet, as I was running around everywhere to make sure I could see everyone possible before the night fell and we were forced to wait another year for the magic that is ACL to grace us again. One downside to the day was that Stevie Nicks was in the original lineup but had to bow out, so Duran Duran stepped in to fill the hole and bring true ‘80s rock to the festival.


Also bringing the rock vibes was Greta Van Fleet. Tate McRae put on a fun set, showcasing her dance moves that brought her to fame, while Kennyhoopla brought all of his energy and craziness to the stage. Throughout the day itself, it was filled with much anticipation from the crowd for Tyler, The Creator. He even had his own merch stand for his brand GOLF and the hype gang was real. His set was filled with animated gestures, a whole boat and a full crowd. My favorite part of his set was the crowd chanting “Tyler, Tyler, Tyler” after he first arrived on stage and after taking it in for a second he looked at the crowd and without hesitation said, “Bitch, I know my name.” He was a great performer to close out the festival, leaving the crowd begging for ACL to return for next year already.


Music is a big part of Austin City Limits, but what really sets this festival apart from others is the sense of community and pride Austin beams from it. For instance, the festival showcases foodie faves like Tortchy’s Tacos, Juiceland, The Mighty Cone and, my personal favorite, Burro Cheese Kitchen; talked about human rights at the Bonus Track Stage and the current abortion ban; you could see crowds of people gathered under the Beer Hall tent enjoying local brews, while yelling at the UT Austin vs. Oklahoma game, which was sometimes even louder than some of the bands playing.


You feel like you are a part of the community no matter if you are from right down the street or even from a different part of the globe. They put together a festival that really pulls people together no matter what is happening in the world. That is what makes Austin City Limits so magical, and really why you should plan on securing your ticket for next year as soon as they go on sale. ACL always has a killer lineup, impeccable food, awesome people and the best atmosphere that can only be equated to the happiest place on earth (sorry, Disneyworld). We hope to catch you down there next year. Until 2022, see you soon ACL.

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