Austin City Limits music festival is always, essentially, an iteration of itself. Because of the festival’s (and the city’s) carefully crafted eclecticism, you always can count on ACL to have a few specific features – one each of throwback, rap, and DJ headliners, the best treats from Austin’s food truck scene, and an abundance of children on their parents’ shoulders with giant ACL-branded headphones set daintily atop their gelled mohawks.

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(Photo by Katrina Barber)

This year’s ACL Festival included all of these features. 2016’s Weekend One series had the blessing, though, of sunny skies, low humidity, and a mild temperature, which set this year apart from the rest and set the tone for an incredibly pleasant weekend.

The thing about Austin’s music scene is that it’s a fully engaged soundsystem. You have Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Sasquatch, isolated from their closest cities to foster a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. A true getaway. Austin City Limits, by contrast, is intentionally designed to do just the opposite. It drops the festival right into Austin’s central area, at Zilker Park, and ends the festival at 10 o’clock each night to ensure that the city’s residents can get some rest while the party moves to the streets of downtown. Between the festival’s two weekends, local venues and music stores host small-scale shows and signings. In the weeks leading up to the festival, Austin radio stations start to designate greater coverage to some lesser-known festival performers.

(Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman)
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One such group was Foals, who took to the Samsung stage Friday afternoon to rock a crowd nearly as big as the one in front of the same stage for Radiohead later that night. Their performance was the embodiment of the good vibes radiating around Zilker Park all weekend. National flags and Harambe posters waved throughout the crowd, as strangers and friends converged to laugh about the Australian men dancing in their Speedos and the intermingling of tipsy teens next to lawn-chaired parents.

These were the kinds of bands I gravitated towards throughout the weekend. Flume put on a great show, as did Cage the Elephant, Mumford & Sons, Kendrick Lamar and Kygo, as was to be expected. The structure of ACL, though, does a nice job of incentivizing audiences for some of their less popular and ubiquitous performers, and they are these shows that are often most telling. It’s here that you can really acknowledge the varying demographics and dynamics of the festival goers, and here that you can find the most sincere fans.

This was true also for Catfish and The Bottlemen, the British band reminiscent of Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys who performed midday on Saturday of the festival. The group was largely unknown within the Austin music scene leading up to ACL, and now, their song Soundcheck has become the anthemic local representation of the band. These guys were the first group I saw on Saturday of the festival, and I have to give it to them— I was incredibly impressed by their showmanship. Being placed on the Honda main stage was certainly a daunting assignment, and though their crowd was smaller than that of most artists gracing the same stage, the band truly rocked. We’re talking sweat being flung every which way, and rotating through four guitars throughout the set.

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(Photo by Julian Bajsel)

Overall, this year’s ACL Weekend One was a great success. Good times, great shows, nice weather, tasty food, real fun. A nice little package carrying all that the city of Austin offers its residents, tied up with a festival bow.

For more information on the festival and to stay updated for tickets to next year’s show, check out the ACL Music Festival online. And you can watch a recap of Weekend One, produced by the festival staff, here.

Until next year, ACL.

 

Words: Madison Weigand