Photos by Nathan Edge
Words by Ryan Jones
The 14th edition of Austin City Limits Music Festival, in its first of two weekends, set into motion the annual tradition of music lovers descending upon Zilker Park by the thousands. It’s safe to say C3 let the good times roll with finesse and great organization. As always, there’s something for everyone– rock, folk, soul, rap, and electronic acts filled downtown with sound. Festivalgoers got a chance to take in a wonderful, natural space beloved by the city, framed by the burgeoning skyline. It featured performers from all over, with sample menus from some notable local restaurants. Some of the best things never change– like Asleep At The Wheel, local western swing greats, who have played at every iteration of this festival. Other local favorites like Calliope Musicals and Ume won over fans with their energetic acts. A$AP Rocky presented an unforgettable stage layout and celebrated his 27th birthday with a mind-blowing set. Billy Idol gave the energetic youngster Chance, The Rapper a run for the most hype frontman. It’s almost unfair to drop names, as so much was truly worth experiencing. So, we did the legwork and literally ran around the grounds to capture some of the best moments the festival had to offer. Enjoy!
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Prior to the release of his latest record, A$AP Rocky said he was taking influences from classic and glam rock. So, he performed on a throwback stage with the look of a diner, envisioned thru a psychedelic, neon lens. The setup was the most exciting, creative design of the festival. It was stylish, a bit twisted, and suggestive of hedonistic escapism, just like his tunes.
Chance the Rapper
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If this is the level of intensity The Social Experiment will bring to every stop on their upcoming tour, we’d better watch out. They’re going nowhere but up, and in a thrillingly rapid way. Flipping seamlessly between his goofy and reflective sides, Chance had the rapt passion of the crowd at his command.
This big synthy dance duo tore up the Tito’s tent Sunday afternoon. In that completely packed space, jams from the Hanging Gardens LP and other singles took flight, sweeping up the feels of everyone listening.
Everyone ever was packed in by this stage to catch the boy; I confess, I put the camera down to bounce.
Father John Misty
Father John Misty’s grandiose rock unfurled magnificently in the midday sun. He may be known to let the media, or the very notion of ‘rockstar spectacle’, take the piss. This does not at all detract from the arresting power he and his band expressed.
What’s it gonna be like when we all have to turn up in a dystopian wasteland of the future? Flosstradamus are glad you asked.
It’s great how you can easily tell how long Dave Grohl has been a hilarious human being. We should all be thankful he can do stuff like realize his design for a guitar throne. There’s a moment here where he and Gary Clark Jr are in perfect unison from their faces down; the rock gods are very pleased with it.
Sure, they had to play the infernal 3PM hour of the sun-facing Miller stage. That didn’t stop this duo from throwing down their slippery, modern electro grooves with dance moves to boot.
Years and Years
The stage struggled to hold up under the weight of this trio’s emotionally hefty set. Cut from a similar cloth as CHVRCHES, their insistent, precise synths and taut-structured songs dared you to do anything but stand or shake something at attention.
Kurt Vile and the Violators
I am pretty sure Kurt stared right through my camera and cast some sort of spell on my eyeball. Good thing his music was eight parts bad vibe remover and three parts groovy. B’lieve I’m goin’ to be fine.
My wife and I stared at a woman using a glowstick hula-hoop the whole time deadmau6 was on. Now, my wife is super interested in getting her own hoop just like it. If you are the hula-hoop raver lady, get in touch. I have neon fantasies to fulfill now.
This is what true, rootsy goodness looks like. Their music is bathed in the golden hour.
He’s summoning those massive sounds from his sarcophagus of gear that doubles as a mind-bending visualization platform. Best long hair in the biz award.
Asleep at the Wheel
So Asleep at the Wheel has played every edition of this festival, and specifically as its opening act each year since 2005. They’re always a blast to see, so here’s to keeping this tradition alive. I want Ray Benson in my crew.
From what I can tell, Billy Idol was the only one to employ the catwalk element of the stage all weekend, and sprint down it he did. He kept it intense. Dude has obviously still got it.
Having no prior introduction to Borns’ music, I was pleasantly shocked at his vocal register. Through him, we obviously we have a very unique talent to watch. He also gave us a great hippie vibe with the peace sign shot. Were there any other female drummers this weekend? Extra bonus points there too.
A cutesy twee time was had by all in attendance for this. The singer is a regular cynosure, from her leaps on top of her soapbox platform to her radiant style. The band unified to project an aural smileyface. Undoubtedly, this local group left an indelible impression.
Presenting a strong case for the legitimacy of her rising star status, Kehlani put out the double threat of vigorous dancing and fierce singing. Awesome tattoo set as well. And if you weren’t woke, now you’re woke.
Just like they say if it’s not broke don’t fix it — If you can nail the classic Motown style, you’ll never go wrong. Leon’s definitely got it dialed in.
I always think of how there’s this local radio DJ going on about how she thinks Lord Huron’s singer is so attractive. They’ve definitely got a good looking guitarsenal. Witnessing their sophisticated songs take flight from the Samsung stage was handsome indeed.
This duo really stomped through some heavy bangers.They’re a forceful example of the less is more paradigm. Some bands never sound this chunky, even with more instruments at their disposal.
Here’s the current radio crown prince of yearning, excess, and party songs shaking down the Honda stage as night 3 comes to a close. From the tectonic blasts of opener “High for This” onward, he belted his unique vocals as if there’s a fight for his newfound worldwide fame. It was an electrifying catharsis to bookend the festival lineup.
TV on The Radio
Shrouded in the metallic lights of their stage, this veteran act ran through their impressively diverse oeuvre with frenetic intensity. Still one of the truly original sounds in rock many years later.
I couldn’t help but think the spirit of Kim Gordon had possessed the lead singer during this uproarious rock’n’roll session. To see this band meet on stage and nod in unison as their respective instruments roiled between peaks and valleys was a sight to behold. Without a doubt, this is a local band to monitor.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
I sense this band has a reputation for being offbeat and quirky. The reason for that, I suspect, is it’s an assembly of really rad looking people laying down a pastiche of different, seemingly unrelated styles with polished panache. I guess it’s just really unlikely to be as good as these guys are. A masterfully executed, austere set from this group.