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Look back at notable ACL Fests where headline act was Mother Nature


The people who book the acts at what’s now two weekends of the Austin City Limits Music Festival put a great deal of thought into who’s hitting the stages, yet it seems that whether it’s heat, dust, mud or flood, the weather steals — and occasionally stops — the show with some regularity.

After a near-perfect first weekend, so it could be again. The National Weather Service’s Cory Van Pelt says it’s more likely than not to be dry at least Saturday and Sunday. Forecasters are tracking an upper-level disturbance they initially thought had a chance of bringing a little bit of rain Thursday into Friday, but the computer models have been backing off on that.

If you’re mulling first or second weekend next year, keep in mind that after a normally dry summer, things tend to get wetter the deeper into October we get. Meanwhile, here’s a look back at some memorable ACL weather:

That Sunday it hit 107 degrees: On festival Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005, just before Rilo Kiley’s set, it was broiling. ACL producer Terry Lickona came out on stage ahead of the band and announced we had broken a record. He was, of course, trying to put a positive spin on things. Mmm, yeah, no.

That year it was muddy and smelled like a stockyard: Crews in 2009 had fortified the soil at Zilker Park with Dillo Dirt —compost made from lawn trimmings and treated sewage sludge — ahead of the festival, which got moved from September to Oct. 2-4, just in time for heavy rains to turn the park into a stinky, sloppy brown bog. Some made the best of it and slid through the mess for fun. Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam even said he wanted to join the crowd in the muck. Trust us, Ed: No, you didn’t.

The dust bowl year(s): Let’s go back to 2005 — yes, the same one with the record heat. Everybody was watching the radar to see if we might get some moisture out of the remnants of Hurricane Rita, but all weekend it was nothing but sun and dust. It was arguably worse in 2008, with more heaving clouds of choking dust. Everyone wore a bandana, and the whole park looked like a desert scene from “Lawrence of Arabia.” It was around 100 degrees the first two days before the record-breaking Sunday in 2005. Oh, yeah, Arcade Fire played in suits or at least full regalia. The temperatures were only in the 90s for the 2008 festival, but all the dust was ghastly.

That year they canceled the last day of the second weekend: We got a ton of rain overnight — 4.22 inches on Oct. 13, 2013 — causing flooding and forcing organizers to cancel the day’s festivities. It was almost the same story on the second Saturday last year, when almost an inch and a half of rain fell over the area into the early morning. That forced organizers to push back opening the gates by an hour to give workers time to make the grounds a little less soggy. It also meant that all six acts scheduled to play before 12:30 p.m. had to cancel their sets.


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