Brayden Boren, The Paisano
“What’s up, ACL! It’s hot as f—!”
The words of Amealia Meath, lead singer of the electronic group Sylvan Esso, rang out to a crowd of thousands that were all too aware of Austin’s latent heat this past Sunday afternoon.
Fans eager to see big names like Chance the Rapper or The Weeknd at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival had to bare long spells of sun rays, body heat and marijuana smoke to see their favorite acts. For first-timers and onlookers, the festival sounds like a suicide mission, but for fans and festival veterans, it’s just another year on the grounds.
Even with the rising prices of tickets up to $300 from last year’s price point of $250, three-day passes sold out in record time for both weekends. Looking across the entirety of Austin’s Zilker Park from the festival entrance the sea of people, and the festival, showed no signs of getting smaller with vast amounts of stages to see both national and local artists, as well as local vendors for food and apparel occupying the grounds.
One sign the festival did show this year: it’s willingness to give the younger crowd a chance. With the Strokes and Foo Fighters being the only headlining performers that put out an album before 2005, the other four headliners steered younger and newer.
Electronic duo Disclosure and party DJ deadmau5 brought their separate strobe-lit blitzkriegs to the Honda headliners’ stage, with Disclosure’s tropical, four-on-the-floor beats a comfortable juxtaposition between the precision bass build-and-drop brought by deadmau5.
Smaller acts throughout the day kept thoughts of heat exhaustion away from festival goers’ minds during the weekend. On Friday afternoon, Leon Bridges and his band from Fort Worth brought the sound of swing and blues, which split the audience between swaying to the groove and finding splendor in the grass.
The one-two punch of folk songwriter turned shaman Father John Misty and country outsider Sturgill Simpson on Saturday made sure that audiences weren’t treated to the same old song-and-dance number—FJM’s intensive psychedelic ballads a perfect counterpoint to Simpson’s world-weary troubadour act.
Darkness being his natural habitat, The Weeknd — Drake protégé turned pop star — closed out the festival on Sunday night. The Toronto singer brought his seedy and powerful radio hits “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” to a flock of people both new to the artist and old fans who have followed him through his trilogy of mixtapes and his major label debut, “Kissland.”
Even before Drake himself came out to the biggest crowd of the festival at Saturday’s headlining slot at the Samsung stage, expletive-riddled chants had started amongst the crowd against Meek Mill, the Philadelphia rapper who called out the Six God for allegedly using ghostwriters on the single “R.I.C.O.” that they collaborated on for Mill’s newest album.
“Oh, I hear you loud and clear, Austin,” Drake called out to a sea of fans. “But we gon’ get to that.”
What followed was a barrage of the Toronto rapper’s greatest hits, from as early as 2010’s “Find Your Love” to newer cuts like Billboard #1 hit “Hotline Bling.”
The audience chants against Meek Mill were answered when Drake barreled out a performance of diss track “Back to Back,” and this was before the rapper brought out Atlanta rapper and collaborator Future to perform hits from the ATLien’s 2015 album “Dirty Sprite 2” and from the joint album “What a Time to Be Alive,” which the two released this past September. The thunderous applause was only deafened out by the sound of two rappers on the top of their food chain.
Culminating in a sultry performance of “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” album opener “Legend,” complete with background piano and fireworks, Drake only asked the audience to do one thing for him. “All I ever ask is keep it eight more than 92 with me/100.”
Way ahead of you, Drake.