It’s the tenth anniversary of Austin’s most famous fall music festival and the lineup seems to become even more impressive with each passing year. With so much music, multiple stages and over 10 hours of music each day for 3 days straight, what should you do? What are some general guidelines? Who should make your list? To help make your decision a little bit easier and give a taste of what’s coming, here are our picks for “must-see” artists, as well as under the radar picks you should check out now, while they’re relatively unheard of. Next year you might have to push past people on the main stage to catch a glimpse.
They’ve Got an App for That – Keeping track of your schedule and other important ACL stats has never been easier. Users of iPhones and Android-based phones can download a free application that lets you create a personalized schedule, view artist info and much more.
Only You Can Prevent – Central Texas is suffering one of the worst droughts in history. A burn ban is in effect statewide, so please be vigilant about cigarettes or other potential fire hazards to ensure the safety of the park as well as all patrons of the festival.
Crazy from the Heat – Since the festival has been moved back to mid-September, temperatures could reach past 100 degrees during the hottest part of the day. This means drink PLENTY of water and be sure to take a break from the sun every now and then, whether under a tree, in the Waterloo Records pop-up store or the many misting/cooling stations around the park.
Go Local – Local restaurants provide all of the food in the festival grounds, which means high quality and if it is like years past, very delicious choices ranging from BBQ sandwiches to falafel cones and fish tacos. In addition to the restaurant-sponsored food booths, Hope Farmers Market provides fresh artisanal eating options, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
But That’s Not All – In addition to massive amounts of great music, the festival has a merchant area where local artists and craftsmen sell their wares to those interested in doing a little shopping or taking a break from elbowing your way to the front. The kids stay in the picture too as Austin Kiddie Limits provides music and activities for the younger festival-goers accompanying mom and dad.
Wish You Were Here – Sitting at home wishing you could enjoy the festival too? Fortunately, there’s a way! For the first time ever, ACL will have a live webcast of select acts from the festival via YouTube. Artists in the webcast include Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Nas & Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, Bright Eyes, Social Distortion, Cut Copy, Pretty Lights, Big Boi, Iron & Wine, Foster The People and many more. You can watch that here.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s take a look at some must-see artists each day:Delta Spirit – Golden State by MMMusic
Cults – 11:45am, Honda Stage
One of the first bands to kick off the festival, Cults blend great electronic beats and basic instrumentation with sugary sweet female vocals. But don’t let that fool you. Their lyrical topics can be very grim and most important of all, the music is catchy and terribly infectious.
The Secret Sisters – 1:30pm, Google+ Stage
First coming to prominence with a single on Jack White’s Third Man Records, The Secret Sisters take age-old traditions of American folk and bluegrass songwriting and sweeten them to fantastic levels with their chilling vocal harmonies. With a full length album executive produced by T Bone Burnett released last year, they are off to a great start. For those that enjoy earnest, heartfelt music in a timeless sound, they are a definite cannot-miss this year.
Delta Spirit – 2:30pm, Bud Light Stage
A band with electrifyingly raw performances, Delta Spirit combines the undeniable vocal hooks of the Beatles with the socially conscious lyrics of peak period Dylan. A bold claim, but this band is the secret weapon, the best new band hardly anyone has heard about. After seeing them live, you’ll see how it all comes together in a powerful way.
Big Boi – 4:30pm, Bud Light Stage
Always an energetic show, Big Boi is an icon in the hip hop world. Delivering a satisfying mix of current songs and Outkast hits, this is one hip hop show that everyone can enjoy. Come see a legend in his prime.
Gary Clark Jr. – 6:30pm, BMI Stage
A local favorite and featured in music documentary Echotone, Gary Clark Jr. is one of the few younger artists that take blues and soul music and deliver it in a way that is vibrant and relevant to the modern age. If you like the Black Keys, you’ll love Gary Clark Jr.
Santigold – 7:10pm, Honda Stage
For a dance party with world beat flavor, look no further than Santigold. This singer/DJ combination can go from a flawless and intriguing Cure cover to room shaking club bangers. If you like to get your dance on, then this is the place to be Friday night.
Kanye West – 8:30pm, Bug Light Stage
While many will choose Coldplay instead, their career has been incredibly hit or miss since X&Y, including the lackluster recent single. Perhaps stay for a few songs, but do not miss out on Mr. West. He’s put out 2 albums worth of material since visiting Austin and his stage shows are always known for being elaborate and include some sort of high concept theatricality to them. He has an unpredictability factor that few truly have. So if you’re a fan of the music then it’s icing on the cake and if not, it’s worth checking out anyway, just so you can join in the conversation when everyone’s inevitably talking about it all the next day.The Antlers “Parentheses” by tom-3
The Antlers – 12:30pm, AMD Stage
Hope you got plenty of rest last night because the fun continues as The Antlers take the stage with a soothing combination of electronic loops and delicate instrumentation to ease into Saturday in the most pleasant way possible. Still relatively unknown, this is the under the radar artists of the day to take note of and make sure not to miss.
Young the Giant – 2:00pm, AMD Stage
If you wander off to catch something else after The Antlers, be sure to return to the AMD stage to catch Young The Giant, a new band with a wide variety of styles and sounds that all blend under a satisfying umbrella of rock that contains elements that appeal to music lovers new and old. Classic pop vocals and skillfully executed instrumentation make this band a fantastic addition to the line-up and a must-see.
Fitz and the Tantrums – 5:00pm, Honda Stage
In a musical landscape littered with one hit plastic pop sensations, it’s nice to see a strong undercurrent of artists returning to the soulful sound and aesthetics of classic R&B, Motown and early rock. Ftiz and the Tantrums take these timeless genres and blend them into a heartfelt and natural sound that’s easily digestible by the modern ear. But it’s not just about sincerity; it’s about booty-shaking groove. No, not in a club way, but in the way generations before us would shimmy and shake till the sun came up. Catch this band to see why.
Skrillex – 5:00pm, Google+ Stage
On the other side of the park, 5pm brings booty shaking the club way. Sometimes to catch all the best music you have to be in two places at once, or at least catch half of one set, and then on to another; which is what you should do this Saturday. Catch the wildly different but equally pleasing Skrillex. It’s electronic music at its most head-bobbing and engaging. Instead of settling for just Drum & Bass, Dubstep or House, Skrillex takes elements of all of them, chopping and layering until reaching 21st century electronic music perfection.
Cee Lo – 6:00pm, Bud Light Stage
If Skrillex got your blood pumping, continue the electronic dance-a-thon over at Cut Copy where thumping beats are blended with keyboards and 80s New Wave. However, if Fitz and the Tantrums put you in the mood for something a little more classic and full of soul, look no further than the one and only Cee Lo Green. First as a member of the Goodie Mob and then as ½ of Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo has had a brilliant solo career that everyone is only just now paying attention to. Whether to hear internet/radio sensation “Fuck You” or “Closet Freak” for the old school Lo fans, he is an amazing performer with undeniable flair and showmanship that can’t be missed.
TV On The Radio – 7:00pm, Google + Stage
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this incredible band? Every album since 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain has been an instant classic and their live shows are legendary. They’re easily one of the best bands since Radiohead and if you don’t catch them now, you’ll be sorry. See modern rock at its dizzying heights of artistry with Brooklyn’s finest.
Stevie Wonder – 8:30pm, Bud Light Stage
Easily the most recognizable name of the festival, Stevie Wonder should be required concert-going for all attending the festival. His mark on modern music is immeasurable. He’s got 32 #1 singles and over 100 million album sales. From some of the best soul songs of all time to sappy songs played over mall speakers you probably never knew was him, his music is ingrained in the very fabric of America. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to see a true living legend work his magic.Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Nothing But Our Love by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – 1:30pm, Honda Stage
The top newcomers to watch out for on Sunday, this band is a pleasant mix of indie pop and bedroom electronics. The vocals are beautiful in a Paul Simon kind of way and the instrumentation is simple yet effective. Their music is mellow and beautiful, so sip that Bloody Mary, listen to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and start your Sunday off right.
AWOLNATION – 3:30pm, Honda Stage
From the ashes of the criminally underrated Under the Influence of Giants comes AWOLNATION, a band that takes the principles of great alternative rock and spices them up with electronica, dance, and soul. Touring like a workhorse since the release of their fantastic debut album Megalithic Symphony, their live performances capture an energy and spontaneity that is a sure-fire way to have a dancing good time. This is a must-see band.
Death From Above 1979 – 5:30pm, Honda Stage
Recently reunited, this underground but universally acclaimed band rattles your skull with garage rock infused with melody and heaviness that works in an amazing accord that is believe it or not, completely danceable. If you missed them the first time around as a band, make sure not to miss them this time, who knows how long this good thing will last.
Elbow – 5:30pm, Google+ Stage
It’s another split decision time. While DFA1979 rock hard and are must-see for their own reasons, the British boys of Elbow are just as must-see, if not more so. Coming off their third Mercury Prize nomination for this year’s stunning Build A Rocket Boys!, Elbow are the seldom seen kids in these parts of the U.S. so catch their soulful and often somber approach to alternative rock Sunday. They might just become your new favorite band.
Social Distortion – 7:30pm, Honda Stage
Originally seen as a passing fad, who knew punk rock would have such longevity? It stuck around long enough to produce veterans of a genre that is typified by its youthful energy. One of the best examples are Orange County’s own Social Distortion. But don’t be fooled by their age, Mike Ness and company still rock with the best of them and sound as relevant as ever, playing stone cold classics from the back catalog as well the more country-tinged songs of their recent efforts. As far as older bands go, this is the must-see band of the final day of ACL Fest. It’s the sort of thing you’ll want to tell your grandkids you saw.
Arcade Fire – 8:30pm, Bud Light Stage
From indie upstarts to modern rock darlings, Arcade Fire are quickly becoming one of the most popular and talked about bands of their generation. With socially conscious lyrics and music that ranges from quiet balladry to outright punk rock fits, this Album of the Year Grammy award winner puts on a phenomenal live show that blends sight and sound seamlessly into an all-out event. If this performance is anything like their performance earlier this year in Austin, the 10th anniversary of the most eclectic music festival in the U.S. will end with a well-deserved and glorious bang.
Written by Jarad Matula