Austin 101 Magazine

Review: Highlights of Another ACL Festival in the Books

ACL Festival Weekend Two Review

Austin, TX,

Edging ever closer towards to 2 full decades at Zilker Park, this year’s Austin City Limits brought 2 weekends full of local and international music (up-and-comers and big headliners), great eats, and lots of great times.

ACL 2019 proc-1 Hippie SabotageWeekend 2 was certainly a dramatic weather shift from the hot and muggy weather from ACL weekend 1. Both weekends broke weather records. The first was one of the hottest, the second the coldest. The first day of weekend 1 had temps in the 40’s and 50’s- people wearing hats, coats, and scarves and each day the temps got slightly better in the 60’s and 70’s but was mostly cloudy. We felt we won the weather lottery.

ACL 2019 proc-2As festival fever sweeps the nation this time of year, thousands of fun-loving people gathered at Zilker Park in Austin to listen to an electric lineup of musicians from a lot of genres, styles and generations. Don’t think that ACL is just another festival to check off the list, Promoter, C3 did a great job bringing a great mixture of up-and-coming artists, viral sensations and musical legends. ACL truly did a great job bringing something for everyone. Come with us as we recap some of the bands that we felt were highlights, some of them you may have heard of and some you may not and will quickly add to your playlists.

ACL 2019 Friday proc-12 El Band Camino(the Band Camino)

Friday

The Band Camino, Houses, Savannah Conley and Madison Beer, Cherry Glazerr, Jai Wolf, King Princess, K.Flay, Lil Uzi, The Raconteurs, Tame Impala and Guns n’ Roses

We started our ACL experience checking out some awesome lesser known artists during the coldest hours on Friday.

The Band Camino was on the early part of the first day lineup. This band is dominating the indie rock scene and with good reason. Their musical magnetism is undeniable and even if you don’t know the song they’re playing, you often feel like you should. The band showcased powerful vocals, vibrant guitar solos and heart pounding drums. Their energy was undeniable and they proved what makes them one of the hottest up-and-coming indie rock bands.

The band Houses from Chicago brought their indie pop tunes to ACL. The band’s huge acoustic drum beats and slow burning guitar tones support the dreamy music box samples and the lush vocals. I enjoyed the dreamy and almost hypnotic rock and their explorative sounds.

Savannah Conley dazzled us with a rich set of singer-songwriter organic pop songs. Her quirky lyrics, moody instrumentation, and sarcastic lines make her music engaging. As you listen to her music, you can hear the abundance of her Nashville roots along with the rock undertones. I loved her crisp and vulnerable vocals.

Madison Beer started posting videos of popular songs early in her musical career. After she gained the attention of Justin Bieber, she became a musical sensation. Her positive lyrics and presence could be felt throughout her set. Her music was fun, melodic and upbeat.

ACL 2019 Friday proc-57 Cherry Glzr(Cherry Glazerr)

The Los Angeles trio Cherry Glazerr burned up the VRBO stage with their hi-energy noise pop tunes. I covered the band during their ACL Late night showcase and was looking forward to seeing them again. Clementine Creevy’s scrappy idealism, punk lyrics, and her grungy guitar riffs were felt through the speakers as the weather turned from brisk to nippy. I have followed this band for a few years now and am impressed at how they have stayed true to their alternative rock roots. I loved how they oscillated from fragile to ironclad and back to fragile.

To mix things up, I was ready for a little electronic music. Jai Wolf has taken the world of electronic music by storm with tracks that awaken the internal euphoria we all have inside. From the beginning of the set, Jai had the cloud dancing, jumping, and pushing against each other. He brought his hi energy synth-pop electronic sounds from a semicircle of pads in front of him. The awesome neon landscapes and the occasional videos only added to the need to dance. For anyone that thinks electronic music is past its prime, I highly recommend checking out Jai.

final-1297(King Princess)

Brooklyn’s King Princess was the next must see of the day and she did not disappoint. Her style is as close to perfect as pop music can be. Think sparse drums, bubbly guitar riffs and memorable choruses and you have King Princess. The lead singer Mikaela Straus leaned on her wicked sense of humor and her whip-smart comments to keep us all smiling and wondering what she would say next. Her set was full of joyful harmonics and vulnerable lyrics. Straus has been vocal about politics and queer identity and wants to help the next generation of queer youth. This year brought a lot of ‘out’ artists and they were embraced.

ACL 2019 Friday proc-86 KFlayIt’s surprising that K.Flay is not the next megastar yet. It might not be long until this happens. I would call her style a sophisticated blend of indie rock, electro and pop rock blended with her signature raspy voice. Her devoted following was in full force and enjoyed the set. Her set was entertaining and powerful. I loved how passionate and honest the band’s lyrics were.

final-1816(Lil Uzi Vert)

Lil Uzi Vert cancelled his weekend one performance so he was on my must see list for Friday. I started to get worried when he was not on stage after 15 minutes but he eventually showed and dropped a solid set. It was the chest-shaking bass and the half-sung, half-rapped vocals that everyone was all there to see and he brought all that and more as he flew back and forth across the stage. The rapper commented how effortless it is for him to perform. Indeed, his well known energy and vocal skills did make it look so effortless. In the end, it was a great set and most definitely worth the wait.

THE RACONTEURS by Chad Wadsworth for ACL Fest W2 2019 DSC05015.jpg(photo Chad Wadsworth)

The Raconteurs- One of the biggest sets we planned to cover this year- Jack White doesn’t tour much so this was a huge deal. From the guitar-laden “Bored and Razed” which rattled the soul of the crowd with deep pounding chords. “Don’t Bother Me” and “Only Child” followed from “Help Us Stranger”, the first release from The Raconteurs in over a decade. Jack White and Brendan Benson traded off on vocals, guitar riffs, and songwriting contributions. Bassist “Little Jack” Lawrence, drummer Patrick Keeler, and touring member keyboardist / back-up guitarist Dean Fertita (QOTSA) also shared their master musicianship. Their communal spirit awed in “Shine The Light on Me”, one of the songs that motivated The Raconteur’s to return to the studio.

final-2388(Tame Impala)

Tame Impala had the very tough job of co-headlining the day with the legendary Guns n Roses. I love both bands so I had to make it to both of their sets.The Australian band fused their psychedelic pop melodies and modern electronic production to delight the tens of thousands that were in attendance. I love the blend of visuals, the synthesizers and tight drum programming that the band puts together to create dope dance floor melodies. I would have loved to catch all 90 minutes of their set but I couldn’t. The pull for GNR was too strong and I headed toward the American Express stage on the other side of the festival in Zilker Park.

Guns' N Roses by Katarina Benzova at ACL Fest W2 20199 29 20 AM.jpg(GNR by Katarina Benzova)

There are bands that take you back to a place, whether that place is good or bad, the music has the power to take you there. GNR (Guns n Roses) is one of those bands for me. As I sat on the lawn listening to Axl and Slash rock the stage I remised about my youth and whatever it was that I was doing in the 90s. The band sounded as good as I remember when I saw them many years ago. Axl’s legendary powerful vocals and Slash’s unmatched guitar skills (often considered one of the best guitarists) were in full display as the festival closed its first day. The band played hits like “Sweet Child of Mine”, “November Rain”, “Live and Let Die” and “Welcome to the Jungle” and many more songs in the crazy-long 2 ½ hr set.

See all our photos from the festival at Austin 101.

Late Night Shows: There were tons of great official ACL Late shows this year at venues all around downtown Austin. The highlights were Pink Sweat$, Banks, Cherry Glazerr, Jenny Lewis.

Austin 101 Pink Sweats proc-13

ACL Late night Jenny-7

Photo Oct 07, 20 51 51

ACL Late night Cherry Glzr-13

Saturday

After a few much needed hours of sleep, it was time to get back into the groove. The artists today were separated in mostly two categories: love them and can’t wait to see them again or love them and have wanted to see them for a long time.

Diamante Electrico was a band that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. The Colombian Spanish-rock band took the stage and they meant business. The trio played a great set filled with smooth Spanish rock with great vocal hooks and catchy riffs. The band’s sound has evolved during the past several years incorporating funky guitars and garage-rock tracks. Whether you speak Spanish or not, you can feel the musical influences from the Stones, Led Zeppelin and a bit of Muse. If you already love Spanish rock this is a band to check out.

final-2589Shifting gears and musical genres, Florida rapper Denzel Curry came to ACL prepared to do his thing. Curry’s gained a lot of recognition and has broken into the mainstream largely because of his fresh take on the rap. Curry leans on the confusion of youth, chaos and troubles of our current society to create beats with a high level of emotional resonance and insightfulness. The set was super high energy with big jumps and cruising from one end of the stage to the other. The crowd loved the beats and the distinctive blend of dynamic hip hop. In the end, the lyrics pulled us closer to the stage and offered us a chance to listen in to the message behind the rhymes.

Hippie Sabotage by Roger Ho for ACL Fest W2 Fest 2019 RH106834.jpgACL was the first stop of 17 scheduled performances for California duo Hippie Sabotage. The fans packed in at the Miller Lite stage to dance to the hi-energy psychedelic electronic inspired tracks. The crowd went completely wild, starting mosh pits and crowd surfing while the brothers joined in and mixed their unique blend of EDM and hip hop. Sitting down was not an option as we heard the Saurer brothers mix, remix and blend electronic vibes.

Dayglow by Sydney Gawlik for ACL Fest W2 2019 SG101018.jpg(photo Sydney Gawlik)

The local artist Dayglow made his debut at the BMI stage during the ACL festival. With a massive 9 million plus plays on Spotify, the Texas native knows something about putting together catchy tunes. The synth ripples and the smooth reverb shuffles ran wild through the 60 minute set. I particularly enjoyed the refreshing mix and the vocal echoes of the song “Can I Call You Tonight”. Sloan Strumble’s climb to the top of the music world may just be getting started; we’ll hear a lot more from this bright star.

final-3240I was looking forward to hearing Pink Sweat$ for the second time this week. I got to hear his ACL Fest Late show at Antone’s earlier in the week and was blown away by the soothing vocals and the subtle percussion. The Philadelphia singer’s version of R&B is undoubtedly fresh and unlike other artists being heard now in the genre. The set was tranquil and harmonic, filled with acoustic instruments, infused with drums and augmented by intentionally unassuming lyrics. As David Bowden performed the hit song “Honesty”, his remarkable talent was in full display and the crowd could not help but sing along. The rest of the set was unique and personable, with a lot of stunning melodies and memorable lyrics. Now we know why this guy has been blowing up since his 2019 SXSW appearance.

Christian singer Lauren Daigle would fill the spot on our hit list with her chart-topping pop music. Daigle’s been blowing up since 2018 topping the Billboard 200 and racking up fans worldwide. She’s been called the Christian Adele and has pushed Christian rock songs into the secular mainstream. Her set was emotional, dispensing smoky powerhouse vocals and memorable arrangements. Daigle’s soft pop united the fans in the crowd; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, secular, conservative, liberal, young and old. Isn’t that what music is made to do?

final-9208You may have heard a small band called the Foo Fighters before. Chris Shiflett is their amazing guitarist and a must see on our list. He’s recently branched out with a side hustle and gaining some buzz. Although his music doesn’t exactly resemble that of his “other” gig, his solo work embraces his twangier side. He brought the look too, with his attire and boots. His rock and country guitar skills, as well as the top notch group of musicians that comprise his band added depth and emotion to his performance. Undoubtedly, both fans and newcomers in the audience loved listening to his well forged songwriting and his killer riffs (and seeing a Foo band member).

Billie Eilish by Greg Noire for ACL Fest W2 2019 GN_00127(photo by Greg Noire)

The time came for one of the most anticipated set of the festival. She was also the youngest performer to ever play at ACL. What can I say about that hasn’t already been said about the 17 yr old megastar pop idol Billie Eilish? Fresh off her SNL appearance, she’s becoming a household name-certainly among younger fans. She’s one of the fastest rising stars to emerge in the past years and she is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s a global sensation and has sold out every stop of her “When We All Fall Asleep World Tour”. Her music is broadly appealing and catchy. She uses pulsating beats and soft melodies mixed with spooky industrial sounds and hushed whispers on her unique songs. Eilish stepped on the stage in her traditional baggy clothing with colorful hair and just killed it. Her set was one of the most popular of the fest. She was relatable, likeable and fun.

final-3508
Gary Clark Jr.

Headlining for the first time at ACL Fest, local Austin hero and Grammy winner Gary Clark Jr. had his minute in the spotlight. Unlike past years, this time he was at the massive AMEX main stage. He came out in his cool fashion, all black, leather jacket, silver chains, the pimp’n hat, the sunglasses, the boots, the guitar. He was backed by his killer band and group of singers-13 piece band including horns and two drummers for a rich sound. Playing hits like “This Land” and “Bright Lights Big City” Clark shined in his unique blend of blues and rock and seemed to be truly having a good time. Clark now shares the stage and seems to be grooming young musicians. Highlights included bringing out they bluesy Peterson Brothers, and his Blackillac group (Zeale and Phranchyze), rapper Trae The Truth, playing his Flying V, and the seeing the sun setting during his set was truly spectacular. He’s come a long way since first playing the fest as a teenager.

final-3076Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) had a killer set. With a full band and back-up singers, Howard proved why she can have her own solo gig. At times she sang and others she played guitar and sang as well.  The depth and power of her voice are inspiring and her energy dancing around the stage was infectious.

Metric by Sydney Gawlik for ACL Fest W2 2019 _G__5938.jpg(by Sydney Gawlik)

The Canadian alt band Metric would be the next stop before the 2 massive headliners. Most have heard them before as they’ve been touring awhile, and are familiar with their synth-heavy, moody music. The gritty vocals, the killer electric riffs and the hard hitting bass make for a really enjoyable live music experience. Judging from the size of the packed crowd, fans agreed. Overall, the set was high energy, offering us dance-floor ready tracks, pop rock raucous melodies and blistering rock tracks. Simply all that you need and nothing that you don’t.

Childish Gambino by Charles Reagan Hackleman for ACL Fest W2 2019 DSC_3003(photo Ryan Hackleman)

Actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) made his presence felt during his headlining performance on Saturday night. As fans packed in to watch the artist the air was full of joyful anticipation. It was one of the biggest crowds of the fest. Early in the set, Glover announced that this would be his last show, and end to his Childish Gambino persona and therefore it would need to be the craziest, wildest show ever. Glover had already sung, rapped, jumped and danced so much that it was hard to conceive how it could get any wilder or crazier. Glover turned it up another notch as hordes of screaming fans sang and danced along with him. Glovers set had all the crowd favorite tunes like “This is America”, “Awaken, My Love!” and “Redbone”. Fans said it was the best set of Childish they’d ever seen. We love that he engages with the audience a lot and in the beginning said “keep your phones down… this is an experience”.

final-4169The legendary British post-punk band The Cure was headlining at the other end of the festival and  sounded great. These rockers aren’t young anymore so I were impressed. I’ve seen The Cure many times and they always blow me away with their well known songs that almost make time stand still. As I sat on the grass on a brisk Saturday night, surrounded by 60,000 of my closest friends, it felt like no time had passed since I first heard songs like “Pictures of You”, “Just Like Heaven” and “Friday I’m in Love”. Robert Smith stays true to his goth look persona wearing black, crazy red lipstick, and hair that looks like he’s been electrocuted. He made a slow, moody entrance to the mic, pausing just to stare at the crowd in awe. The Cure’s performance was simply timeless, delighting fans with their distinctive vocals, the clean guitars and rich drums. Even though their music was conceived many decades ago, it’s clear to see why their music is able to transcend time and touch people so many years later. It was a fitting ending to a full day of amazing music.

Sunday

After an outstanding day of musical performances on Saturday, Day 3 had indeed a lot to prove. The weather was outstanding and it was time to close out the festival’s second week strong. The day had a lot of memorable performances and great vibes. The day also had Lizzo-one of the most anticipated sets of the fest this year. Her performance was so tremendous on Weekend 1 that the organizers had to make special changes so more fans could enjoy her music. The day was filled with so many must see performers and the fandom was ready to go.

Caroline Rose By Roger Ho for ACL Fest W2 Fest 2019 RH108123.jpg(by Roger Ho)

The funky, edgy and irreverent musical force Caroline Rose made her appearance at ACL. The punchy pop artist brought her playful style and tunes from her 2018 album Loner to get the last day of the festival started. Rose delivered a blended cocktail of pop, folk, rock along with a fun list of catchy pop melodies. As the crowd warmed up to Rose’s bright melodies, synths, organs and her funny sense of humor it was impossible not to nod your head and hum along.

As the day warmed up, the L.A. rapper Duckwrth jumped onstage at the T-Mobile stage with his bouncy beats and warped electronic production. The rapper had enough energy to provide power to a small factory as he delivered catchy hooks, dope rhymes and smooth beats.

The UK punk rockers IDLES wasted no time setting the stage for an intense head banging, heart pounding, highly danceable tempo that would carry them through the 60 minute performance. The band is well known for their furious punk rock with post punk angularity. What exactly does that mean you ask? Well, this is something that is better to experience than explain, but in short, the band delivers powerful songs that also carry a brilliant (and just as powerful) message. The band touched on hot topics like immigration, love, toxic masculinity and so many other, less discussed areas, all in a memorable punk style. Like I mentioned earlier, this is best to be experienced (go check them out!)

final-4521Exotic Flamenco pop star Rosalia lit up the Honda Stage later in the day. To say that she is quite talented is a complete understatement. She is actually a force to be reckoned with. The Latin artist walked onstage featuring an eye popping outfit, long nails and 5 dancers dressed in white ensembles. The thousands of fans excitedly witnessed a 60-minute spectacle full of emotional Spanish songs, great choreographed dancing, amazing Andalusian guitar rhythms and powerful clapping (there was a lot of clapping). Rosalia even performed a heart stopping acapella song that left us all completely awe-struck. Ole!

One of the performances I was most excited to see was the California iconic screamer band Third Eye Blind. The rockers have been around since the 90s and have delivered a large number of hits over their career. Some artists sprinkle a few hits during a set and mainly showcase their new material. While Stephan Jenkins and the band did play a lot of new material, they delivered all the hits that we were excited to hear. They just slayed with classics like “Graduate”, “How’s It Going To be” and “Semi-Charmed Life”. The band did not slow down and kept the hi level of energy throughout the set.

final-5380(Kacey Muscgraves)

Texan and Grammy-award winner Kacey Musgraves has been making waves on Billboard charts for quite some time. Backed by a full band, The country queen brought good vibes, irreverent banter, yee hawing and crowd favorite songs from her Grammy winning album, “Golden Hour” to the ACL stage. She was gorgeous, doll-like, in her matching dress and boots and made sure to walk out on the cat walk to get closer to her fans. She alternated between playing her acoustic guitar and singing. Her sweet simple country voice and her two stepping magic delivered an entertaining show to thousands of fans that resisted the urge to leave early to grab a close spot for Queen Lizzo.

final-5675Houston’s singer/rapper Lizzo performed for one of the biggest ACL Fest crowds. If you saw weekend 1 or had friends there, you heard how huge the crowd was. Massive is a better description and it was impossible to get close to the set if you weren’t there early. She was likely booked for the fest before her recent hits and the crowd was displeased at the smaller stage she was on. To counter that, the fest had her set on the screens at nearby Honda stage. The meteoric rise of this young star was on full display by the huge numbers of screaming fans that sang, danced and hi fived each other during the set. Of course, Austinites have been lucky to see her many time over the last few years and loved her before her huge blow up this year with “Juice” and “Boys” (the video has over 24 million views). She even brought her famous flute out later in the set. Her positive message of self love and acceptance (against body shamers and bullies) reverbed through her words, her music and even her entourage. Of course she performed crowd favorites like “Boys”, “Truth Hurts”, “Good as Hell” and “Juice”. I read somewhere that it’s now Lizzo’s world and we are just living in it. I tend to agree.

MUMFORD & SONS by Chad Wadsworth for ACL Fest W2 2019  DSC06792.jpg(by Chad Wadsworth)

The very popular British band Mumford and Sons headlined the final day of ACL 2019 for the second time. The excitement was palpable and we all knew that the folk-rocker band had several surprises for us. The band has became well known over the years because of their unique blend of authentic lyrics, banjo hammering rhythms and sharp guitars in a format that takes the shape of modern rock. Marcus Mumford and his band set the tempo early by opening the show with the hit “Guiding Light”. They would then go on to play a number of hits and new material from behind the beams of light that illuminated the state. Mumford and his band had also rehearsed earlier with the Austin High band and had invited the teens to play with them onstage Sunday night. About halfway through the show, the students piled in the stage to play one of the band’s hit song “The Cave” . The crowd erupted in cheers and we all enjoyed the unique take on the song. After the encore, the band closed an outstanding ACL weekend 2 festival with hits like “I Will Wait for You” and Delta”.

We can’t wait to see the line up for next year even though we’re still recovering from the festival. Check out all our festival photos and more at Austin 101.

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