The Austin City Limits Music Festival has been in existence since 2002, with continued growth every year it has expanded into 2 weekends of almost mirrored acts in the early weekends of October. This year the line-ups for weekend 1 and weekend 2 were slightly different, per usual, by replacing the soulful Alabama Shakes with Modest Mouse and The Strokes with Florence + the Machine. The festival had a strong mix of up and coming artists like Halsey and G-Eazy to classic acts such as Billy Idol and Dwight Yoakam and of course bringing in the major mainstream headliners like Drake and Foo Fighters. In the past few years there have been mixed reviews about the festival, with its overcrowding and ill received artist lineup. This year it seems that ACL has started to get back on track with a strong mix of artists from all different decades and genres so that festival goers can go in wanting to see a few of their favorite artists and leave having 3 new ones, if they can survive the crowds that is.
Excited about the weather forecast for the weekend (sunshine and in the 80’s) and bracing myself for the crowds I entered Zilker Park for ACL, weekend 1. I started the day with Albert Hammond Jr., a side project by the lead guitarist of The Strokes. Hammond did not cover any of The Strokes songs and stuck purely to his solo songs bringing about a fluctuating crowd of people freshly arriving to the festival. Heading over to Royal Blood at the end of Hammond’s set the festival seemed to have a lot more people in attendance early on than in previous years, especially with it being the first day. Royal Blood rocked out with the crowd, including some indulgent crowd surfing by drummer, Ben Thatcher, to finish off the set. Billy Idol and Brand New both had large audiences with Brand New rarely touring there was a lot of excitement in the crowd, including from me, to listen to their nostalgic melancholy songs for the first time in a long time. When the sun went down and it was time to make the decision of what headliner to see I went with Disclosure, sorry Foo Fighters. The young brothers have been flooding the electronic music scene the past few years and I had to see what they were all about. The set list consisted of their previous hits such as, “Latch” and “Help Me Lose My Mind” with songs off of their new album, Caracal. Overall the first day went smoothly and I danced out of Disclosure straight to my hotel to rest up for the next two days.
I walked up on day 2 and not to my surprise there was a long line. The lines moved quickly even with only one entrance point into Zilker Park (all hail whoever split ACL into 2 weekends). Once inside I went to check out Glass Animals with their funky indie sound and hit song “Gooey” finishing off the set, it was a good start to the day. Next venturing over to the eccentric Father John Misty, (Joshua Tillman) former drummer of Fleet Foxes. His ideas about American society, satiric at best, come across in his most recent work and people seem to like it, gathering a crowd of at least a few thousand early in the day. Twenty One Pilots, the young high energy duo combines rap, reggae, piano, ukulele, drum solos etc., etc., etc. (normally all in one song) to create their signature sound and attract one of the most interactive crowds of the festival. The set ended with vocalist Tyler Joseph climbing to the top of the stage, holding the Texas flag for support, and singing with the crowd one of their fan loved songs, “Car Radio”. Other acts that grabbed a moderate amount of attention were rapper G-Eazy, TV on the Radio and Walk the Moon. Now insert a drum roll for the band that stole the show day 2 and brought largest most diverse audience of the day: Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard, the vocalist for the band, put on a great performance that made you feel like you were at an Alabama Shakes show, not at a park in Austin at a music festival. Closing out the night with Drake, I was not too impressed. He brought out Future mid performance which helped a little bit. Although his crowd was technically bigger than Alabama Shakes, they should have had the other’s time slot. Day 2 ended on a flat note with Drake, but overall a success.
Day 3, the day that is the most crowded, you are the most tired and that ACL makes sure to put on some of the crowd favorite performances so you will power through. Here we go. The day started off with a lot of strong female vocalists such as Kehlani, Elena Tonra from Daughter and Halsey, with the release of her much anticipated album, Badlands, bringing in a large young audience chanting her lyrics back to her. Hozier, who had to cancel his performance at ACL in the previous year, got a second chance and made it count. “Take Me to Church” was a minor part in the strong performance by the 23 year old, with “Sedated” and “To be Alone” making it seem as if he has been performing for hundreds of years (slight exaggeration but he was that good & has a man bun). Now to discuss one of my all-time favorite bands, The Strokes. Julian Casablancas was his normal effortlessly cool self and put on a great show. The crowd was not as big as The Weeknd, the other headliner that night, but it was full of loyal fans. The Strokes provided a set including songs as far back as their debut album, Is This It, in 2001. Julian Casablancas ended the show with a few words and left everyone already missing The Strokes and their spotty but unforgettable visits to the stage.
Overall ACL 2015 was one of the best that I had been to in years. Besides the somewhat lessened crowds and great weather the music is what really stood out. There were consistently good performances from all different genres of music. Of course the country flare of artists like Dwight Yoakam is great for remembering ACL’s country and folk roots but with newer soulful artists like Alabama Shakes stealing the festival I think that ACL will be able to hold onto it’s ‘soul’ for a while longer and continue to sell out without being a sellout.
Written by FestPop Staff Writer Kadie Murphy
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