On Friday, October 5th, Austin’s crown jewel Zilker Metropolitan Park was yet again transformed for two weeks to host the 17th annual Austin City Limits Festival. This year’s offering was tilted to more seasoned music fans with the fest’s biggest headliner to date, Paul McCartney, sharing the top slot on the American Express stage with Metallica on Friday and Saturday night respectively. Younger fans had to contend with the fact that the highly anticipated Sunday headliner Childish Gambino was out after he broke his foot attempting the splits on stage in Dallas in September, replaced by Houston hip-hop artist Travis Scott who was flown in from New York after his Saturday Night Live performance to close out the last night.
As Day Three of ACL approached, it was clear that the festival had peaked and fans struggled to make their way to the gates before late afternoon. Even though Saturday suffered a late start due to the threat of bad weather, Zilker Park was in the storm’s bulls eye on Sunday. Monitors that flanked the stages showed ominous radar with red storm cells making their way towards the park with dark heavy clouds threatening to evacuate the festival around 2:30 pm.
In the pecan grove of the Barton Springs Stage, Brooklyn post-punk rockers (by way of Denton, Texas) Parquet Courts did what they could to keep the impending storms away. Kicking off their set with “Total Football” the lead track on this year’s Wide Awake as a light sprinkle showered the crowd, the band provided a nice punctuation of intelligent rock to the weekend’s offerings. Texas is currently in the crosshairs as a bitter senate race between Beto O’Rourke and incumbent Ted Cruz heats up. Parquet Courts frontman A. Savage underscored the tension when at one point in their set he stopped and quipped that Austin has done what Portland hasn’t, except elect a Democratic senator.
The surprise of the day came at the feet of a rising star that performed as if she were the headliner on Sunday. Janelle Monae’s performances have been notable for years, but she suffered from a Mickey Mouse Club goody two-shoes aesthetic. That was until Prince came along to collaborate with her on Dirty Computer before the Purple One passed away in 2016. That collaboration helped thrust the artist into more mature and provocative territory. Complete with sexy stage dancers and a series of wardrobe changes ranging from disco ball suit to pants that evoked a female body part, Janelle Monae stunned the late afternoon crowd with her impressive performance.
As darkness fell over the park, Sylvan Esso lit up the crowd with their vocally rich and emotionally charged pop songs such as “Hey Mami” and “Die Young” complete with fuzzy, heartwarming beats. The North Carolina dance electro-duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn appealed to the ready-to-party Sunday evening crowd. Since being Grammy-nominated in 2017, the duo has been performing at various festivals throughout the world. With recent single “PARAD(w/m)E”, it looks like 2019 holds tons of promise for Sylvan Esso, who had fans dancing way into the night.
As Sylvan Esso wrapped up on the Home Away Stage, the Arctic Monkeys kept the thinning crowd on the west side of the park entertained with a set of over 20 songs including bangers “Do I Wanna Know?” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”. The balance of Sunday night’s audience made their way over to Travis Scott. The Houston native, who stepped into the headliner spot after Childish Gambino had to cancel his ACL Festival appearance, seemed right at home in the spotlight, also standing alone as the only hip-hop headliner of the weekend. With this year’s release of ASTROWORLD, Scott paid homage to his hometown with tracks such as “Astrothunder” and “R.I.P. Screw.”
While the pyrotechnics and fog machines that pumped up the Travis Scott didn’t keep a flagging crowd from dispersing, his die-hard fans committed until the end. As part of the “Astroworld: Wish You Were Here” tour, Scott will be headlining shows throughout the U.S. through the end of this year and into 2019. If you didn’t get a chance to catch him at Weekend One, don’t sleep on seeing this 26-year old rising star as he sharpens his stage presence this weekend or on a tour date near you.