- Staff American-Statesman staff
Our team of veteran fest-goers covered the heck out of Weekend One of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Here, they recommend some acts you should not miss if you’re heading to Zilker Park for Weekend Two. See more coverage at austin360.com/acl.
Solange: Having a rough year? Solange feels you. Everything about her sublime set was a salve to the soul.
Mondo Cozmo: “This is what not giving up looks like,” Joshua Ostrander, the artist a.k.a. Mondo Cozmo, said near the top of his set on Saturday. Then he cranked out an hour of soaring rock anthems that split the difference between Bruce Springsteen and U2.
Tank and the Bangas: The NOLA crew’s jubilant mix of hip-hop, funk and soul is enhanced with confessional storytelling and spoken word. This set will build you up, break you down and start your Sunday right.
Spoon: They won’t quite have the spectacular lead-in on Weekend Two that they did when skydivers jumped from a plane to the tune of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” on Weekend One. But the Austin indie band’s creative spark and infectious energy was the kind of standout performance that made the hometown crowd proud.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: Nelson and his band delivered on Weekend One with an hour of music that was Real indeed: passionate and tuneful, sometimes softly charming and at other times ferociously rocking. Whatever advantages being Willie’s son brought him early on, Nelson is now showing that his band stands out entirely on the strength of its music.
Barton Hills Choir: This has been a great way to start an ACL Fest day for years, and Weekend One’s short set with special guest Charlie Sexton joining in on songs by David Bowie and others was no exception. Weekend Two brings Austin guitar star David Grissom into the fold, and odds are high that the set will include at least one new addition, in tribute to the musician everybody’s been honoring of late.
Lemon Twigs: Winners of the South by Southwest Grulke Prize for Developing U.S. Act earlier this year, this East Coast band led by teenage brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario impressed mightily during Weekend One with songs of melodic sophistication and creativity that reaches well beyond their years. These guys could be major players in American popular music for decades to come.
Midland (Weekend Two only): The upstart country trio that settled in Dripping Springs after getting started in Los Angeles took off recently with the hit single “Drinkin’ Problem.” Recent controversy over their “authenticity” is misguided; the group makes quality tradition-based country that’s better than than the vast expanse of bro-country fare, plain and simple.
Chance the Rapper: Lil Chano from 79th was the undisputed rock star of ACL Fest’s first weekend — signed, sealed, pre-paid postage, delivered. He somehow topped riding onto the stage on a motorcycle with soaring praises to God, electrifying showmanship and happy thoughts. All you need is happy thoughts, like the man says.
Solange: Kinda made you wonder how you can use the word “artist” to describe other acts and keep a straight face. The more I think about her Friday set, the more I realize that the choreography stuck with me as much as the soul-piercing songs did.
Tank and the Bangas: Speaking of things piercing souls, my favorite New Orleans tricksters brought the only tear to my eye of the fest, and we’re talking about a weekend when I saw both “Same Drugs” and “Cranes in the Sky” performed live. Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s spoken word piece told me to wait for the someone who will spare just one of their millions of heartbeats for me. Deal.
Muna: Swagger for days almost made you forget that this Los Angeles pop-rock trio’s set was beset by hellish heat. In 10 years, I won’t remember sweating. I will remember a loving Stevie Nicks cover and a synth-tastic Pride anthem.
Messages of inspiration: Chance let us know we were brave. Brandon Flowers urged us to not ever let anyone scare us from doing what we love. First Aid Kit called out rape culture, Jamie XX reminded us that we deserve to have a good time and Andrew McMahon told us that our differences make us better. Music, baby. Helluva thing.
Gorillaz: Around the music world in 65 minutes, with Damon Albarn as the expert risk-taking conductor.
Run The Jewels: Their status as the current best live hip-hop act out there is pretty much airtight. An hour of microphone fire from Killer Mike and El-P.
Dreamcar: The No Doubt members not named Gwen + horror-punk singer Davey Havok isn’t an equation that should work. But it added up to a bouncy new wave punk-pop delight.
Eagles of Death Metal: The weekend two–only Eagles of Death Metal play short songs jammed pack with danceable rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll sleaze and bluesy boogie, the kind of music perfect for a sunny festival afternoon.
Silent Disco: Not feeling the headliners one night? Stop by the Silent Disco. Three DJs (red, blue and green) battle for the crowd, whose channel-changing light-up headphones show which DJ’s feed they’re following. It’s a bizarre sight to walk by, but in practice, it’s a merry mix of dancing and playful DJ competition — and an all-ages icebreaker for crowds normally too focused on the stage to interact with each other.
The Killers: The band’s tear-jerking covers of Petty’s “American Girl” and “The Waiting” were worth staking an early spot.
Run the Jewels: They played “Thursday in the Danger Room,” which El-P previously vowed to never play live because it’s too emotional.
Andrew McMahon: He rode a giant inflatable rubber duck across his audience.
Also: Live, Mutemath, Danny Brown, Deap Vally and Ice Cube.