On Friday morning, masses of brightly-colored individuals took over Zilker Park to mark the start of Austin City Limits Music Festival. However, unlike previous festivals, ACL 2017 held a deeper meaning of fearlessness, resilience and unity.
It is impossible to talk about ACL 2017 without bringing up the heartbreaking events that occurred just days before. In fact, many artists throughout the weekend addressed the Las Vegas shooting. Earlier in the week, festival organizers announced that they would give full refunds to anyone who did not feel safe or comfortable coming to the festival. However, fear did not shake festival attendees, and the crowds at the six stages were as large as usual.
Many artists also addressed the recent passing of rock-legend, Tom Petty. Performances throughout the weekend included covers of Tom Petty songs and shout-outs to the Florida native. The most extreme tribute was when the Red Bull Air Force Skydiving team leapt out of a plane while the PA system and stage screens played Petty’s 2006 ACL performance of “Free Fallin.”
Although the week’s earlier events undoubtedly impacted the festival, the overall vibe was as upbeat as it has been for the past 16 years. We laughed, we cried, we danced and we sang until our throats hurt. ACL always showcases the best of Austin, so here are some of the best things we saw this weekend.
The Best at Crowd Engagement — Vulfpeck
At the beginning of the show, each band member was introduced as if they were athletes. This comedic, feel-good tone continued throughout Vulfpeck’s mid-afternoon set. The band’s infectious funk jams had the whole audience grooving. While their music alone was enough to make for a great set, the band went above and beyond with fun antics that set them apart from other sets at the festival. Some highlights include the guitarist parading through the crowd on the shoulders of security, an impromptu “Ted Talk” and a crowd singalong to Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” Vulfpeck definitely earned some new fans this weekend.
The Best Encore — Jay-Z
Encores by closing artists was a trend this year. And, while each band’s encore was great, no one could touch Jay-Z. At first, many people thought the rap-legend’s show ended early. But, after a few moments, Jay-Z returned. He instructed parents in the audience to cover their children’s ears, then he launched his famous banger, “99 Problems.” Upon hearing those iconic opening lyrics, the crowd went crazy.
The Best Proof of Music’s Universality — La Femme
La Femme oozes cool. This French rock’n’roll band captivated the audience. It did not take long for La Femme to have the whole crowd dancing and cheering to songs that most of them could not understand. La Femme proved that good music can be enjoyed by all, despite language and culture barriers.
Best Mosh Pit — Alison Wonderland
The air was thick and sweaty at the Tito’s stage on Saturday evening. People began packing into the tent hours in advance to catch one of the rising names in EDM. Once Alison Wonderland took to the stage, the crowd forgot about the heat, and the tent became a nonstop party. During “I Want U,” the crowd was so loud you almost could not hear the actual song. And, when Alison Wonderland’s remix of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” dropped, the crowd opened up a rowdy mosh pit. Everyone left the set with sweat-soaked clothes and smiles on their faces.
Best Bassist — Flea
Flea is one of the most entertaining bassists to watch. On Saturday night, the talented bassist bopped out onto the American Express stage in the greatest pair of flow-y, multicolored, patchwork pants. From the moment he stepped onstage, Flea never stopped moving. In many bands, the lead singer is often the star of the show. However, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, there really is not a single star. Instead, it is the band’s cohesiveness and chemistry that makes watching the Chili Peppers so much fun.
Best Place to Watch the UT Game — Barton Springs Beer Hall
After the closing sets on Saturday night, Longhorn fans rushed over to the Barton Springs Beer Hall to catch the end of a very intense University of Texas football game. The areas near the giant screens were flooded with burnt orange. Once fans realized UT won in double-overtime, cheers could be heard from across the festival grounds. The Barton Springs Beer Hall was the spot to grab a beer and catch a football game throughout the weekend.
Best Way to Lose Your Voice — “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
“Mr. Brightside” is just one of those words you know all the words to, and that was very apparent at The Killer’s show on Sunday night. Upon hearing those acclaimed opening guitar notes, the crowd went crazy. The audience sang every lyric and the top of their lungs.
Best Day to Try One of the Frozen Food Vendors — Sunday
Sunday was easily the hottest day of the weekend. With almost no clouds in the sky, the sun beat down on festival goers. Sunscreen was a necessity, and so was water. While the Hydration Stations, complete with misting fans, provided solace for sweaty attendees, the best way to cool off was with a cold treat. Vendors like Amy’s Ice Cream, Bananarchy, Good Pop and Sno-Beach were popular stops on such a hot, sunny day.
Best Shade — Barton Springs Stage
One of the big changes this year was expanding the festival to allow for more open room. Now, the Barton Springs stage is located on the South side of Barton Springs Road. This stage hosted some of the most exciting artists at the festival, including Zhu, Tove Lo, Solange and Louis the Child. The stage was conveniently situated in a way that blocked the sun and created a shady area for attendees. This area was complete with food and drinks, too.
Now that we’ve seen the best of Weekend One, we’re stoked to see what’s in store for Weekend Two!