By S. Pulse
When the ACL schedule is first released, focus is on the big-name headliners and evening acts. These are acts that typically enjoy heavy radio airplay, millions of streams, a huge fanbase, and generate festival ticket sales. Most people know enough about these evening acts to make an informed, albeit sometimes hard, decision on who they want to see. However, it is often the artists earlier in the schedule, those unexpected gems that are new to you, that can provide a real thrill. You will likely recognize some of these artists, but we challenge you to attend a set of someone you have never heard of before. Give them a taste, just a “no thank you bite,” and see if you don’t discover a savory new treat. You can tell your friends in a few years, “I saw so-and-so, before they became a mega star.” Here are our picks for your 2022 sample platter from the ACL Day Sets (pre-6:00 pm sets).
ZACH BRYAN (W1 ONLY – Friday 4:00-5:00 at the American Express Stage)
The New York Times recently dubbed Zach Bryan “music’s most reluctant new star.” He rarely gives interviews and refuses to participate in traditional promotional antics, but partly because he is so busy making music. His last album “American Heartbreak” contained a whopping 34 tracks! Even more amazing is that Bryan launched his career while he was still an active member of the US Navy. In fact, while still in the Navy, he made his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. He was able to accomplish this not only because he is a driven young man, but also because of his talent. His songs “Heading South,” “Something in the Orange,” and “God Speed” stir the soul. Mark our words, his next appearance at ACL will be as a headliner.
GABRIELS (W1 ONLY – Friday 3:15 – 4:00 at the Barton Springs Stage)
Lead singer Jacob Lusk has a voice that is often compared to Marvin Gaye. While his voice does have Gaye’s smoothness and warmth, it is also slightly broken, incredibly unique, and has an impossible range that stretches from a ravishing falsetto down to a spiritual growl. Sir Elton John has deemed his band Gabriels EP “Angels and Queens-Par 1” one of the most seminal records I have heard in the last 10 years”. Don’t dis Elton. Show up for Gabriels set.
WET LEG (W2 ONLY – Friday 2:30-3:15 at the Honda Stage)
When Wet Leg visited Austin back in March for SXSW, they generated a tidal wave of excitement; an astonishing feat considering they had not yet released their first album. Excuse me? What? A lot of that buzz was created by their single “Chaise Lounge,” but since then their album has been released and the best friend duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are expertly riding the wave of hype, proving that their brand of punk inspired indie is more than a one-hit blip. And like any good punk-rooted band, their live shows are a high energy party. Watch for them to perform an amped up version of their single “Convincing.” Despite their early set time, these young ladies will draw a crowd. Arrive early.
TAI VERDES (W2 ONLY – Saturday 2:15-3:15 at the Honda Stage)
In 2020, he may have been hocking phones at a Verizon store in California, but he was also singing and creating music and now he is playing major festivals with an avid fanbase. His meteoric rise was propelled by TIKTOK, but do not hold that against him. Instead, be thankful that it enabled his music to reach us so quickly. You may recognize his optimistic, reaffirming hit “A-O-K,” but his talent goes much deeper. Check out his song “3 Outfits” or his brass infused “Last dAy oN EarTh”, both off of his latest album. We also like his extremely catchy “DRUGS” and “SHEESH!” It is crazy that this young man has created so many songs we love in such a short time span. Do not resist, join the wave, and see Verdes set at ACL.
DANIELLE PONDER (Friday 11:45-12:30 at the T-Mobile Stage)
She has a voice that is so powerful and beautiful that it will make you forget to breathe. Yes, we really mean that! It is crazy to contemplate that she was previously a public defender. Both professions suited her because she is a person that wants to improve the world, but now, instead of in the courtroom, she is an agent for improving lives through music. Her song “Holding Me Down” is a moving plea for change while her song “So Long” with the chorus “you’ll never shake me” is an uplifting anthem for independence.
KEVIN MORBY (W1 ONLY – Friday 2:30 – 3:15 at the Honda Stage)
An accomplished lyricist, this singer-songwriter is generating an electric buzz with comparisons to Bob Dylan. During the pandemic, he made a pilgrimage to Memphis to create music. The result of that trip is his latest album “This Is A Photograph,” an introspective look at different snippets of life. Our favorite tracks are “Bittersweet, TN” and the title track “This Is A Photograph.”
NOAH CYRUS (Friday 2:30-3:15 at the American Express Stage)
Sure, she is related to a pop superstar and a country legend, but Noah Cyrus, has been diligently working away forging her own musical path and it is paved with her own brand of delicate vocals, harmonies, and perceptive songwriting. Her haunting song “July” about staying in a loveless relationship garnered a lot of air play, as did her collaborative album with PJ Harding and its break-out single “August. We expect her ACL set will largely showcase her recently released album “The Hardest Part,” an honest, raw, and beautiful ode to introspection and vulnerability. Two of our favorite tracks are “Noah (Just Stand Still”) and “Every Beginning Ends.” The latter is a duet with Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard. It would be pretty cool if Gibbard (whose band plays on Weekend Two) joined her set.
OLIVER TREE (Sunday 4:00-5:00 at the American Express Stage)
A musician, producer, and a crafty marketing genius, Tree has had global success with his songs “Life Goes On” and “Alien Boy”, but Tree is more than his music. His persona is part of his art. On his latest album “Cowboy’s Don’t Cry”, we find Tree trading in his bowl cut hair and wide leg jeans for a platinum blonde mullet and a cowboy inspired look. The new album contains the infectious “Swing and a Miss” and the maudlin “Cowboys Don’t Cry.” Seeing him live is just another extension of his art. Get the full Olive Tree experience and see his set live.
JAZMINE SULLIVAN (Friday 4:00-5:00 at the Honda Stage)
“I can take a lot of shit, but I won’t take that,” is a lyric from Sullivan’s hit song “Insecure” and we think it also describes her attitude towards her career. She creates music her own way, regardless of trends and influences. Her brand of R&B stays anchored in unrushed sultry rhythms but is reinvented with her own unique sense of sass. Be sure and check out this Grammy-award winning Philadelphian and be prepared to “Pick up your Feelings” (and check out her track by the same name.)
MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA (W1 ONLY – Saturday 5:15-6:15 at the T-Mobile Stage)
This Atlanta-based Indie group has always had an avid fan base, but recent activity has broadened their appeal including the attention brought by a re-release of their song “The Gold” featuring Phoebe Bridges as well as a collaboration with Michigander. This band continually reinvents itself as it pursues new directions. Catch their set at the T-Mobile Stage.
JAPANESE BREAKFAST (Sunday 5:00-6:00 at the T-Mobile Stage)
Current Indie-darlings Japanese Breakfast will draw a large crowd. Led by dynamic lead singer Michelle Zauner, they deliver an electrifying performance that legitimizes the hype surrounding this break-out ban. While their music is alternative-leaning, the band refers to itself as “experimental pop,” but we just call it “good music.” Their percussion-driven hit “Be Sweet” featuring Zauner’s melodic voice will likely be stuck in your head for weeks, and that is a good thing.
SOFI TUKKER (Saturday 5:15-6:15 at the Miller Lite Stage)
Do you want to dance and experience something unique? Then head over to the Miller Lite stage and get to know Sofi Tukker. This electric/dance duo will blow your mind. More than DJs, this duo does not just spin the beats, they also create the music and are instrumentalists and vocalists. Sophie Hawley-Weld shreds on the guitar and Tucker Halpern adds keyboards and percussions. Their live show is a visual journey akin to Alice in Wonderland on LSD that is punctuated with dub laden beats. A fun fact, while Tucker Halpern may appear a Mad Hatter, he was a division one basketball player at Brown University where he once hung 29 points on Harvard. Life has many chapters. Maybe their set will inspire you to turn the page in your book of life.
CENTRAL TEXAS ARTISTS
Austin residents take pride in the fact that many musicians choose to make Austin their home. Be sure and show some love to these daytime artists with ties to the Austin area. Of course, check out staples Asleep at the Wheel-they are always on our hit list and they open the Fest on Friday each year.
SARAH AND THE SUNDAYS: (W One only- Friday 5:00-6:00 at the BMI Stage)
Following the release of their sophomore album “The Living End”, this Austin-based alternative band is finding commercial success. They give us uplifting Fitz and the Tantrums vibes. Check out their hits ‘Vices’ and ‘I’m so bored’.
SPOON: (Friday 4:00-5:00 at the Honda Stage)
Lead singer Britt Daniel grew up in Temple (just north of Austin) and, after years on the West Coast, has returned Austin. The band even recorded the bulk of their latest album “Lucifer On the Sofa” in the ATX. We are guessing, depending on your musical tastes, that Spoon already has a lot of real estate on your playlists, so you are already planning to attend their 4:00 pm set. Excellent choice!
ADRIAN QUESADA’S BOLEROS PSICODELICOS (W1 ONLY – Saturday 2:15-3:15 at the Honda Stage)
A member of the Black Pumas and Grupo Fantasma, Quesada is always pursuing new projects and growing musically. His latest project, the Boleros Psicodelicos album, focuses on romantic bolero music. Warning: This is music that can make you dance one moment and weep the next.
ERIC TESSMER: (Sunday 5:00-6:00 at the BMI Stage)
If you play guitar or appreciate guitar talent, you must go out of your way to see local Austinite Eric Tessmer wield his axe. His concert goers can often be seen frozen in space with jaws dropped open. He recently recorded a guitar driven makeover of Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth” with Nancy Wilson, a guitar god herself, who openly worships at Tessmer’s alter. Come and see this musician’s musician at the BMI stage.
THEBROSFRESH (W1 ONLY – Friday 1:30-2:15 at the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage)
Current Austin residents and Louisiana natives Thurman and Torrence Thomas deliver smooth and groovy R&B. They have been playing gigs around Texas, including at the Continental Club and are ready to take their act to the next level with their ACL performance.
What will your day set plans include? Check out the ACL Fest schedule and create your schedule!
Check out all of our past ACL photos on Austin 101.