Hearkening Back to a Nonexistent Past: Is ACL Too Lazy With Its Booking? Or Are We Too Cynical?

by Dylan Garsee

Photography by Nathan Edge and Josh Kamnetz


The most fun I had at Austin City Limits Fest this year was during Skrillex’s Saturday night closing set. In the middle of a medley of his remixes of current pop hits he dropped ILoveMakonnen’s “Club Going Up on a Tuesday.” As soon as it started, my boyfriend and I lost our shit and started dancing and singing along at the top of our lungs. After that stopped and turned back into a Skrillex set, we turned back to bobbing our heads and occasionally clapping when commanded. At that point I realized that ACL is just not for me.

I hate saying that because any gathering of music fans blah blah blah is great blah blah and I should just enjoy the atmosphere blah blah. But honestly besides St. Vincent and maybe Major Lazer (if it were 2011 Major Lazer) every act that played was hearkening back to a nonexistent past that jerked everyone off right in the nostalgia feels.

Blackberry Smoke ACL 2014

Photo of Blackberry Smoke and infinite nostalgia by Nathan Edge

Whether you were nostalgic for the 90’s (Pearl Jam, Eminem, Outkast), the aughts (Jenny Lewis, Interpol, The Gaslight Anthem), or some weird amalgamation of a misremembered and unlived ’80s (Chromeo, Phantogram, and as much as it pains me to say CHVRCHES) there was something for you. I know I sound salty, but the whole festival just felt lazy.

The performances I liked were few and far between. Outkast put on an incredible show that definitely had all of the Coachella kinks worked out. Though the setlist remains the same and the guests scrubbed (Bun B, I know you aren’t doing anything right now, just drive to Austin) their energy filled the stage and flowed through to the entire full crowd.

On a side note, three rappers and an R&B singer only make the lack of diversity of ACL a trillion times more obvious. And toss in the fact that there was only one queer person on the line up, boring ass Sam Smith, is both embarrassing for ACL and the LGBTQ. ACL, get more gays. Gays, make music that isn’t bathhouse-core. (Please don’t email me)

Sam Smith ACL 2014

Photo of Sam Smith and a sea of white people by Josh Kamnetz

Living think piece Lana Del Rey drew the biggest crowd of the whole weekend by far. We were elbow to elbow, dick to asshole from 30 minutes on through her set, and every time she spoke of sang or breathed, a Beatles-on-Sullivan-esque shriek filled Zilker. While she didn’t perform my favorite song, “Old Money” from this year’s shockingly good Ultraviolence, she managed to transfix the crowd. She may not make that interesting of music, but Lana Del Rey has this undeniable magnetism that shouldn’t be overlooked.

I was looking forward to Skrillex’s set the most, partly because he was performing against Eminem and partly because I think he’s actually super underrated as an artist. And after watching footage of his live shows, I knew shit would be weird. But what makes an EDM set great is the crowd, and everyone, I mean EVERYONE was at Eminem. There were less people at Skrillex’s show than there were at the famously under attended Atoms for Peace show last fest. While he put on a typical Skrillex show, it was an hour and a half, and after the twentieth drop, your back starts to hurt.

Speaking of my back starting to hurt, The Replacements played their much ballyhooed reunion show which honestly I thought they got back together like four years ago. I was happy to see such legends perform, and the had a great energy on stage, all wearing suits of varying levels of ridiculousness. Everyone bobbed their head, few sang along.

The Replacements ACL 2014

Photo of The Replacements and their questionable attire by Nathan Edge

Zedd’s set may have actually been my favorite, mostly because of one song: “Rude” by Magic! While playing his remix of the surprise song of the summer, it hit me that if I’m going to listen to nostalgic garbage, I’m going to listen to the most nostalgia’d garbage song of all time– the dub step remix of “Rude.”

Zedd ACL 2014

Photo of Zedd emerging from his light cocoon by Josh Kamnetz

Want more ACL coverage? You can check out Nathan’s complete SXSW photos here. And Josh’s complete SXSW photos are here with a more sympathetic take on the festival.

Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is a member of the Loser City collective and used to avoid reading comics while writing for Comics Bulletin. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can’t afford, crying. You can follow him on Twitter, where he horrifies celebrities as @garseed.