I love Austin, TX. Having spent four miserable years in Tallahassee, FL, I never thought I’d ever love another city in the South again. But man, there’s nothing like the Texas state capitol, what with their exquisite BBQ, trendy shops, bike-friendly atmosphere, and Torchy’s Tacos. Hell, our own News Editor Chris Coplan moved there prior to South by Southwest, and since then, he’s been much happier. No lie. He even bought a potbelly pig. Keepin’ things weird, right?
Anyways, when it comes to its other namesake festival, Austin City Limits, the city opens its arms once more for tourists looking to get away in the fall. Now, October has always been an odd month to throw a music festival, namely because it’s post-summer and several of the acts already have months behind them. Still, it’s the atmosphere that counts, and the way the terrifying Southern sun melts into a cool autumn breeze… there’s nothin’ like it.
This year’s lineup, like many festivals this year, has fans split. They love the idea of singing along with Eddie Vedder, and fear the prospects of running into a zoned out Skrillex fan. There’s something to love about them nabbing two hip-hop headliners, but also something unsurprising about them being Eminem and OutKast. As with any lineup, there are its highlights and omissions, its surprises and weak spots. Here’s how we cut it up.
Fun fact: Pearl Jam haven’t been in Austin, TX since 2009. Back when they were supporting Backspacer, admittedly a far superior album to last year’s upsetting Lightning Bolt, the Seattle veterans performed two gigs. Now they’re back for two weekends and if you’ve never attended a Pearl Jam show, shame on you. But if you’ve never attended a Pearl Jam festival headlining set (there’s a difference, trust me), then you’re in for a rockin’ treat. Yes, I just used that adjective.
Photo by Ted Maider
It’s the tour that keeps on giving, and seeing as they’re not always on each and every lineup, it’s still a mild surprise to find Paul Westerberg popping up. Whereas those trendy Californians couldn’t care less for Minneapolis’ legendary brethren, I’m willing to bet that Austinites will show them some major love. Considering they’re down there for two weekends, and it’s not exactly Los Angeles in Texas, I’m praying to the gods-that-don’t-exist that ol’ Westie hits a few bars downtown with an acoustic guitar throughout the week. I’ll sell all my Disney blue chip stock (valued at .92 cents a month) to see that happen.
Photo by Heather Kaplan
If you couldn’t tell from our recent discussions over in the Festival Outlook column, we really love St. Vincent. Enough that we’re willing to name festivals that include her some of our favorites of the year. Reason being, there really isn’t anyone like her right now, and though her latest self-titled album isn’t exactly 2011’s Strange Mercy, it’s 10x better on stage, where she channels her inner David Byrne and starts making more sense than we’d like to believe. Admittedly, she was just there during South by Southwest, but a fairly small crowd can fit in Stubb’s. Zilker Park, on the other hand…
Belle & Sebastian
Call me crazy (c’mon, do it), but I almost peed my pants a little when I saw Belle & Sebastian on the lineup. Last year, they headlined Pitchfork Music Festival, and it was hands down the best set of that weekend. Why? Stuart Murdoch isn’t your average frontman, and his on-stage banter and rapport is enough to rival their best material — and it’s pretty, pretty good stuff. While Austin will likely get a smaller set than we did over at Chicago’s Union Park, here’s hoping it’ll be proof that less is more. Whatever. This is the festival’s best booking.
Lorde (Weekend One)
Photo by Ted Maider
Argue all you want, but Lorde will be without a doubt one of the most popular acts of the weekend. Well, weekend two, that is. What happened to the first weekend? We love the idea of injecting a little exclusivity into the second weekend, and trying to get folks out for another helping, but man, did it have to be Lorde? If I didn’t have to marry my fiancee two weeks later, I would probably opt for weekend dos, but alas, priorities, y’all.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
So, he’s touring in the fall. He was the keynote two years back at South by Southwest. Why exactly isn’t he ringing in the masses at Zee Zilker? Goddammit, Bruce. God. Dammit.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Photo by Philip Cosores
New album. Lots of touring. Choice ACL act. What gives, Petty? Are you too good for Austin? Allergic to BBQ? This is one act that would draw exceedingly well — possibly even over Bruce — and yet San Francisco’s got him, instead. #missedopportunities
I’m just gonna make this bold prediction right now: If it isn’t Jazz Fest, Fleetwood Mac have no interest. Why else wouldn’t they be at Bonnaroo, and why else would they pass up on ACL? Fingers crossed they’ll at least do an episode of Austin City Limits.
Two Hip-Hop Headliners
One hip-hop headliner, sure. After all, Kanye West dazzled audiences years ago. But two? Looks like Austin’s rustic festival is all grown up. Which leads me to…
The Mandatory Rise of EDM
Yesterday, Alex Young pointed out this recent comment: “I like parts of the ACL lineup, but the button-pusher invasion is killing me. Two of the top six, four of the top 12. Two rap and one DJ headliner instead of a Springsteen, Petty, or McCartney. The necessity of selling out both weekends is costing ACL it’s identity.” It’s hard to argue with the fella, but really, EDM is this generation’s rock ‘n’ roll, and including the top tier acts in your festival bill isn’t only a way to survive, but to also keep up on the exceedingly popular trend. I do agree it changes the festival’s identity; after all, do we really think Skrillex, Calvin Harris, and Zedd are gonna appear on Austin City Limits? Actually, that could be pretty intriguing.