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.
October Saturdays in Austin are dedicated to University of Texas football games and this year was no exception, as the Longhorns beat their rival the Oklahoma Sooners to improve to 5-1 on the season. So, when the announcement came from festival organizers that due to the threat of inclement weather, that the gates wouldn’t open until noon, many Austinites gave out a sigh of relief and finished drinking their beers and watching the early game before making their way through the gates on Day Two of ACL Fest.
While one of the most famous musicians from Liverpool, England captivated the audience the previous evening, indie rock group The Wombats from the Capital of North Wales drew many fans to the American Express Stage early in the day. Kicking off with “Cheetah Tongue” from this year’s Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (QRO review), The Wombats’ short set with cheeky lyrics helped hype up the afternoon crowd.
Powerful female artists dominated Day Two at ACL, including Kim Deal, who gained prominence as the bassist and co-vocalist of ‘80s and ‘90s alt-rock phenoms the Pixies before founding The Breeders. Joined by original line-up of sister Kelley Deal, bassist Josephine Wiggs, and drummer Jim Macpherson, Zilker Park rocked out to iconic songs from Kim Deal’s notable career including “Divine Hammer”, “Gigantic”, and “Cannonball”. On the adjacent BMI Stage Austin’s own Sabrina Ellis showed why her and her band Sweet Spirit deserved a coveted slot at ACL Fest. Shimmying her way across stage with the charisma of a Broadway actress, Ellis energized a crowd with her presence, especially during the rocking tune “Take Me To A Party” from 2015 album Cokomo.
After Sweet Spirit finished their set, 2017 Grammy-nominated Sofi Tukker, as part of their Treehouse World Tour, dazzled a full house at the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Tent. Fresh off having their songs “Best Friend” and “That’s It (I’m Crazy)” featured in Apple iPhone commercials in this year & last, it’s clear the duo’s crowd follow commercials and the hip sounds that accompany them. Who can blame them when their infectious high-energy dance songs are matched by the duo’s dance moves and drumming? Similarly, Scottish synth-pop group CHVRCHES had the crowd moving along to Lauren Mayberry’s flower dress accentuated moves as she conjured a Black Swan ballerina.
British musician, Devonte Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange, has been busy continuously producing other musicians such as A$AP Rocky, FKA Twigs and even Blondie. With a late afternoon time slot on the massive Miller Lite Stage, a relatively packed crowd filled right into the front of the stage. Hynes most recent album release, Negro Swan, having been written to “…[explore] in my own and many types of black depression…” was thoughtfully shared with a large production of projection screens sharing scenes of various urban neighborhoods in the United States.
St. Vincent, having recently been in Austin to record an episode for the 44th Anniversary kickoff of Austin City Limits (the television series), returned to ACL Festival with a production setup matched perfectly to last year’s MASSEDUCATION (QRO review), including title hit “Masseducation”, “Pills”, and closed out with crowd-pleaser “New York” that had an Austin twist. With a recent announcement that MASSEDUCATION will be released as a stripped-down version album called MassEducation, it’s great to see Clark still bring all the enthusiasm of her hits for the audience in a near-headliner time slot for two-weekends in a row now.
Deciding which headliner to see at ACL Fest can be a downright pain, which is one reason why festival organizers have moved to a two-weekend format. On Saturday night, it came down to whether you wanted to head-bang or boogie. It was clear from the line-up that the metal contingent of the fest would camp at the American Express stage for the one-two punch of Deftones, who suffered horrible sound problems, and metal gods Metallica, who more than made up for it with a performance that still have fans buzzing about. On the opposite side of the park, Justice electrified the shufflers and hip swingers in the crowd with their foggy, strobe-intensified dirty beats. With bopping tunes such as “D.A.N.C.E” and grandiose anthems such as the “Genesis”, both from the their 2007 self-titled album, the duo appeased their mob of dancing revelers.