Beth Marshall/The Paisano
Entering the Austin City Limits (ACL) festival grounds is enough to make the definition of location disappear.
Between the diversity of the audience and the range of worldwide musicians performing live, Zilker Park’s large patch of Austin, Texas grass transformed into a meeting place for music lovers.
Gates were scheduled to open daily at 11 a.m. on Oct. 10-12 for the second weekend of ACL; however, a weather delay on Day Two pushed the opening back an hour. A few performances were canceled, but the cooler temperature and shady clouds – surely showing up in anticipation of The Real Slim Shady’s performance that evening – were welcomed with open arms by festival-goers.
The headliners were Beck, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Outkast, Eminem and Pearl Jam. On Day One, Beck and Outkast filled their stage areas with enthusiastic fans. On Day Two, the crowds for Skrillex and Eminem were packed in like sardines as far as the eye could see, and die-hard Calvin Harris and Pearl Jam fans closed the festival on Day Three.
In addition to the ACL headliners, a surplus of talent was apparent all over the eight stages at Zilker Park. From country stars to “Rap Gods,” anyone’s musical appetite could be satisfied.
Day One performer, The Glitch Mob, drew quite a large crowd. Band member Justin Boreta shared that, “(The band) all kind of happened as an experiment. We never really intended to have this whole thing happen – it all just happened organically.” The group is known for producing attention-holding electronic beats and including lyrics sparingly. The trio came together after having separate DJ careers, which explains their refined taste for sounds that blend well.
The Nightowls, a 10-piece soul band founded in Austin, were one of the canceled acts on Day Two, and it was apparent that they were feeling a little blue. But they didn’t let this crush their enthusiastic spirits. With roots planted in states from California to Connecticut, each member plays a necessary role in producing a unique sound and performance experience.
Since The Nightowls are a larger group, it’s easy for audience members to sometimes get too interactive. One of the stranger accounts occurred prior to ACL weekend when a fan got up on stage and crawled under the piano player’s keyboard. “Those kinds of experiences end up being one of the things that we love to talk about and just laugh about – not to encourage it at all,” vocalist Ellie Carroll said jokingly.
Emily Wolfe and her band mates played on Day Three. The Austin-native has a soft yet strong voice accompanied by sounds from the guitar, keys, drums and violin. The group seemed very humbled and honored to play at ACL. “Yesterday, I had this crazy moment when I was looking at the stage (thinking) we are going to play Austin Ventures – finally!” Wolfe said of the stage reserved specifically for Austin-based bands.
Other highlights included a performance from Foster the People. Their electronic sound, paired with Mark Foster’s notably high-pitched lead vocals, couldn’t have been easy to replicate live, but they pulled it off and produced a great outdoor music experience.
Rebelution shared their reggae-gone-rock vibes for a laid-back crowd on Day Two. The band’s interaction with the audience put their already great performance over the top.
However, Lana Del Rey seemed to lack that same interaction. Her beautiful voice and attractive image held her fans’ attention, but she didn’t say much between songs. She did walk off stage to be near some adoring fans, but even then her demeanor seemed rather snobbish.
Right before Lana Del Rey, The Head and the Heart played a great set. As the sun was setting, the Seattle band brought folk music to the festival. They paired violins and guitars with tambourines and other noisemakers, which translated well when played live.
The Day One closers, Outkast, had the audience mostly hooked; when looking at the sea of people, one could see a lot of tired and sweaty expressions.
From the front row of Eminem on Day Two – with no room to even try to turn around – the crowd was an eruption of memorized rap lyrics, waving hands and bobbing heads. The energy was undeniable as The Real Slim Shady played songs from his old and new repertoire.
On Day Three, Pearl Jam fanatics were treated to what Rolling Stone named “The Best of the Fest.” The band’s high-energy set list was a crowd pleaser and ended the music festival on a high note.
The great thing about this festival is that all eight stages had different acts to suit any taste. Even if no performance sounded interesting, enjoying the view of the Austin city skyline perfectly distanced from Zilker Park was always an option.