The Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) has come to be known in recent years as the alternative to Austin’s other alternative music festival, South by Southwest (SXSW). Now just a few months away, Austin City Limits is releasing the music lineups, tweeting about festival events and drumming up more support for Austin’s “other” big music festival. The festival traditionally has been very low-key compared to its more hipster-friendly counterpart SXSW. It is also a more traditional festival, in the sense that it takes place in a large outdoor venue in Austin rather than in multiple small bars and venues.
ACL is also different from SXSW because it often features many famous, and sometimes not as current, acts right alongside lesser-known or brand new artists. This, coupled with the outdoor park atmosphere, puts ACL in a class with the likes of Coachella and Bonaroo, but it is much less expensive than the former and much less remote than the latter. ACL is technically less remote than Coachella as well, as it takes place in Zilker Park in the heart of downtown Austin. This year’s Austin City Limits festival takes place over two weekends in the month of October and does not shy away from any musical genre, with more than just a few diverse artists. The 2014 lineup is the mixed bag of musicians that has become ACL’s trademark.
Austin City Limits (ACL) is not to be confused with its namesake, PBS’s Austin City Limits television show, which has aired on public television since 1976. The PBS show originally focused solely on Texas country and folk performers, but as it began increasing in popularity, the show began featuring rock, blues, and jazz artists from around the world. The show has taken a cue from the festival in recent years by sponsoring the performances of lesser-known artists, and the two now work together in promoting the acts they agree are worth recognizing.
The 2014 ACL lineup features a number of classic musical heavy hitters such as Eminem, Pearl Jam, Outkast and Beck. There are some new big names as well, such as alt rock’s breakout stars Lorde and Lana Del Rey, controversial rapper Iggy Azalea, and rock anthem machine Foster the People. Some lesser-known, but buzzworthy, artists on the lineup include Major Lazer, Chromeo, Phantogram, Tune-Yards and Imelda May.
Far from just featuring rock bands, ACL features a number of jazz, blues, and gospel artists on top of its massive rock lineup, in keeping with its philosophy to represent as many musical genres as possible. The festival grounds contain a number of other activities as well. The art market features artwork from about a dozen local artists, and the food area, called “Austin Eats”, is a nod to Austin’s huge food truck culture with stalls from local restaurants. Another unusual feature of ACL is that it is family friendly and has another mini festival called Austin Kiddie Limits, which features child-appropriate musical acts, as well as large-scale games and activities.
Just around the corner on October 3-5 and 10-12, this year’s Austin City Limits offers the city of Austin another great music festival with more than a few ways wile away the 11 lonely months before the next SXSW. Though SXSW started as a very underground and small alternative music festival, it has now become more popular than ACL in some ways. ACL, however, does not look as if it is losing steam, with a massive lineup this year and plenty of interesting features to set itself apart from other festivals.
Opinion by Layla Klamt