The Anti-Walking ACL Guide
Austin already had a lineup at the ready, but now the Austin City Limits Festival schedule is live and the real planning can begin. With a few tough-to-pick slots revealed, here are CultureMap's first impressions. The biggest priority: picking a side of the park and sticking with it.
This year there are tons of artists that will only play one weekend (either October 6-8, or 13-15), which used to be a rarity. For instance, of the 38 Friday artists across the entire festival, only 16 — less than half — will perform both weekends.
Some that might be worth basing a decision on are: the funky-but-indie Half Alive, electro-funk duo Chromeo, and super dramatic rock group The Mars Volta during Weekend 1; and R&B family band We Don't Ride Llamas, iconic indie pop duo Tegan and Sara, violinist Sudan Archives, and French electronic savants M83 during Weekend two. Tennesee rapper GloRilla plays different days each weekend, but will still be here for both.
One very notable exception are Shania Twain (Weekend 1) and The 1975 (Weekend 2), which sure sound like a generational divide. We don't anticipate seeing too many broken hearts about having to make this choice, discussed below.
Headlining decisions should be pretty easy for most attendees, especially because there is sort of a small headliner and a big headliner each night — the latter playing slightly later. If you're okay with missing parts of the later show, it's a very common move to migrate over a little late.
Between Kendrick Lamar and the Lumineers, in 2023, it feels like a pretty obvious choice. The Lumineers have some good tunes, but Kendrick Lamar is one of the greatest innovators in hip-hop, at least, if not the whole industry. But it'll all come down to mood: how do you want to feel at the end of the first day: inspired to make a difference in the world or held in a folksy hammock of harmonies?
It might be more important to look at who's coming first, and the festival did a good job dividing the physical space by genre. On Weekend 1, The Mars Volta might override everything, and they're much closer to the Lumineers, so it'd at least be worth a drive-by viewing on the way to Kendrick, who will much better match the energy of the earlier band.
For both weekends, fans of Maggie Rogers — who Jane Fonda just praised as the next big thing — and Portugal the Man will be in just the right place to keep the mellower vibes going with the Lumineers. But people who want to catch Lil Yachty will also be able to stick around for Kali Uchis — who has been increasingly recognized as an extremely charismatic performer — while hoping to be towards the front for Lamar.
In those earlier slots when the sun is blazing, consider checking out folk group Bailen. This grounded group will be great to listen to while transitioning into festival mode, and are sure to give a versatile performance (that sometimes dips into Fleetwood Mac territory with stacked vocals and strong bass lines).
This is when festival-goers give it their all; They've got a day off from work, youthful optimism, and only a one-night hangover. Shania Twain and Foo Fighters headline on Weekend 1, and The 1975 and Foo Fighters will headline Weekend 2. And there's nothing wrong with seeing Foo Fighters twice, especially after the new album, But Here We Are. It's also the first opportunity for many to experience the band with their new drummer, Josh Freese.
Between Shania and The 1975, it looks like the older girls are going country and the younger girls are...kissing Matty Healy? Not to cancel the English singer — since fans did ask — but Miss Twain is going to be feeling like a woman, and probably not feeling women.
The bands slotted before are similarly well-matched (compared to Friday), except for the insane decision to put famed country singer Tanya Tucker before the Foos and not Twain. But given the strength of the lineup on the Foo's side of the festival — starting with the young and cool Declan McKenna, moving through Mt. Joy, Alanis Morissette, and the meteorically successful Noah Kahan — it feels like a no brainer to spend the day over there.
If you do feel like changing locations, Dripping Springs-based artist Ben Kweller will be a great starting point, followed immediately by rising queer icon Rina Sawayama, whose fashion and stage presence can't be missed for avid pop fans.
An underrated day at ACL; Folks are satisfied enough with what they've already achieved for the weekend, but still have a little fire left in them. Sorry to tell you this, but there is someone worth getting there for before 1 pm. Madison Cunningham, a versatile and semi-jazzy singer-songwriter is critically acclaimed for being smart and surprising, but still strongly listenable. This restraint will do wonders kicking off a relatively relaxed day, without trigging that here-in-the-sun-again exhaustion.
Sunday's headliners are pretty solidly in opposition: Americana, courtesy of Mumford and Sons, and EDM via Odesza (stylized ODESZA). The latter, despite a more niche level of name recognition, will probably put on a more broadly appealing show. Not everyone is into the banjo (although they should give it a strong chance), but Odesza is known for having an incredible live act. It'll be a lot more danceable, too, for shaking off that long, hot weekend.
This writer feels agnostic about which side of the park to stick around. On one hand, the aforementioned M83 should put on a really fun show on Weekend 2, which will lead nicely into a high-energy festival favorite, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Next up would be Cigarettes After Sex — formed in El Paso, but based in Brooklyn — but the energy might not hold up through the dream pop set. Death Grips, though, the experimental rap group, should fit right between those two more energetically demanding sets if you want to make the trek all the way over to the Barton Springs stage.
On the other hand — more literally, on the other side of the park — Niall Horan (formerly of One Direction) and Hozier are forming a little Irish alliance that sounds perfect for a relaxing Sunday cool-down.
Whatever choices a festival-goer makes on paper, the beauty of ACL is that it'll all fall apart the moment you hear something weird going on at the Tito's Stage. Stay tuned for recommendations more along those lines — once we've had a chance to take a good, long listen.
Ticketing alerts straight from the official announcement:
"Most 3-Day Tickets to ACL Fest are now On Waitlist. Limited Friday and Sunday 1-Day GA, GA+, VIP and Platinum Tickets remain… while supplies last!
Heads up: 1-Day GA Tickets for Friday, October 6 will be sold out soon!"
See the full schedule at aclfestival.com.