Zilker Park in the heart of south Austin is home to 358 acres of rolling grass, a gorgeous swimming hole at Barton Springs and, for two consecutive weekends in October, some of the best and biggest bands on the planet. The first weekend has just wrapped up and while headline sets from the likes of Beck, Eminem and Pearl Jam have dominated most of the headlines, here’s five things we learned from exploring the Texan capital’s biggest outdoor festival:
1. Outkast are having the time of their lives
There was a devil of a clash on Friday night at ACL as Outkast went head to head with Beck, who was playing the slightly bigger of the festival’s two main stages. When both bands came on at just after 8:15 there was a moment where, from centre of the field, you could simultaneously hear Outkast playing ‘B.O.B.’ and Beck playing ‘Devil’s Haircut’ – picking a side was as tough as choosing your favourite child or breakfast food. Outkast won the slightly larger crowd – down in no small part to the fact that they were clearly having the time of their life up on stage. As compared to their initial comeback at Coachella earlier this year, this set was looser, funnier and, well, just more fun.
2. Moats thrived in Texas
New British band Moats won a competition in NME to appear at this year’s festival, and playing a 45-minute afternoon show on the same stage as the likes of St Vincent and Belle & Sebastian could easily have fazed a lesser band. It didn’t seem to trouble the four piece one bit though despite the sizable crowd, and singer Matt did his bit for the current bucket hat revival trend.
3. Mac DeMarco loves the sun
Mac DeMarco’s army of fans are more used to seeing him in darkened venues at the climax of a night of partying – and he brought that spirit to his later show at the Scoot Inn – but at ACL he also proved that he’s a man for all seasons: including the blistering heat of a 1pm show under the Texas sun. He even indulged in a spot of college-rock style ‘Jamming’ with a fan he invited up from the crowd. Next time he comes round you can bet he’ll be playing higher up the bill.
4. The Replacements are still punk in their Fifties
The Replacements are one of those bands who don’t seem to have as much of a reputation in the UK as their brilliant punk back catalogue deserves – unless you ask people in bands, who tend to worship them. Frontman Paul Westerberg is now 54 but this current reformation tour proves there’s still more life in these old dogs than in most of their young pretenders put together. Perhaps as a nod to the glorious sunshine they took a moment off their own canon to cover the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’, with Westerberg saying: “I know it’s not on the list but I want to play it.” It was their own classics which brought the day’s biggest moments – ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’, ‘Left Of The Dial’ and closing Big Star tribute ‘Alex Chilton’. No wonder Eddie Vedder paid effusive praise to them during Pearl Jam’s closing set on the same stage.
5. It’s not over when it’s over
While ACL puts on a hell of a festival, don’t think the fact that the lineup finishes at 10pm means the party’s over. Austin’s reputation as the live music capital of the world is well deserved and official after shows at city venues included Chvrches at Emo’s and Skrillex at Stubb’s, while there were a host more after-shows including gigs by Interpol and Mac DeMarco. Throw in the city’s legendary barbecue food scene and you realise why if you come to ACL, Austin is so much more than just a place to lay your head.