It’s that time of year – when the music obsessed from near and far come together to burn and sweat under the Texas heat, to push and shove to catch a glimpse of the most famous and talented, and to leave feeling accomplished for enduring all of it for three whole days.
Since 2002, tens of thousands of people have been flocking to Zilker Park for the Austin City Limits Music Festival to watch more than 130 adored-over bands in the rock, country, folk, indie, Americana, hip-hop, reggae, and bluegrass scenes.
It’s astonishing because in the early days, ACL was just a popular PBS show that brought in Texas singer/songwriters, country and folk performers, and instrument specialists to a small studio on the UT campus. Now the program has grown to showcase artists from every genre, and the festival has certainly gotten up there in popularity with the most premiere music festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella.
It only seems appropriate though, right, … with Austin being the “live music capital of the world” and everything.
My ultimate ACL experience was in 2005, around the same time when the entire Texas coast fled to the inner cities, like Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, to escape Hurricane Rita. At the same time, ACL-goers were escaping the madness that was Austin at the time.
The “ultimate” part of the equation was The Arcade Fire. The Canadian band made up of nearly a dozen or more multi-instrumentalists rocked one of the main stages in the bleak afternoon, sweating in their vintage suits and funnel neck dresses. Their music was bright, loud, dark, and made the entire crowd want to sing along to every song from the commercial debut album, Funerals.
And, honestly, I haven’t been back since. I left ACL that year feeling accomplished as ever: I managed to endure the heat, I heard fantastic music from bands that I haven’t seen since then, and I spent the next five days blowing dust-covered goo out of my nose.
I commend all those who have the stamina and endurance to attend ACL year after year, or any popular multiday music festival around. I hope you enjoy and make fond memories watching the School of Seven Bells, Andrew Bird, and Kings of Leon on Day 1, that Deer Tick and Grizzly Bear bring you so much joy on Day 2, and that the Toadies and Pearl Jam fill your most musical fantasies on Day 3.
View the complete ACL Fest schedule.
If you can’t make it to the festival this year, you can still catch most of the bands at before or after shows at the popular venues around town. Check out the ultimate guide for the Austin show-goer, Showlist Austin, for details.