What a crazy thing to do, right? Buy tickets to the same three-day music festival two weekends in a row in Zilker Park? I thought so, until I attended both weekends (disclosure: I skipped the second Friday because I was still hoarse from Weekend 1!) Aside from the wild weather which included scorching 90 degrees the first three days and 60’s and 70’s the following weekend. Honestly, I felt like I was in two different cities based on the fashion choices and because I saw different acts both weekends. I’ve been to C3’s Austin City Limits Festival a total of 7 years: in college 2005-2009 and now as a working professional (?) 2017-2019, and I have to say it just keeps getting better and better! My friend CeCe and I had an epiphany while we waited for neon-green wearing Billie Eillish to hit the stage, that ACL must be one of the top 5 festivals in America, if not the best! It’s right in the middle of town making travel for outsiders almost too easy, the all-local food options are incredible, the energy is contagious, and there is PLENTY of dancing room to do high-kicks, jumps, or whatever your heart desires.
Before I go head-to-head in the music department, I want to share some of my favorite things from the festival this year. I LOVED the Campo Viejo Wine Lounge. It’s shaded, colorful, and the wine carafes are so practical for sharing and not having to jump back in line. The Frosé saved our lives during the heat wave. In addition, new this year was Bonus Tracks which was a stage here with partnerships by GOOP, Outdoor Voices, and by my once food hero Bon Appetit magazine editor turned pal, Andrew Knowlton. The line-up was incredible and I wonder if people even know that Alison Roman, who wrote Dining In and made “Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies” and “The Stew” go viral on instagram. Other guests included Liz Lambert from Bunkhouse and Brad Leone from Bon Appetit. Wine not!?! (we are in the wine lounge ya know). I also LOVED the walking kiosk and iPad guys selling beer, Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water. Why of course, I’ll buy this off your back as I walk into Gary Clark Jr. Another tip, is Kiddie Limits is actually really adorable and the “rappers” sure can cause a chuckle for adults. They have the nice bathrooms, too. Now onto the music which by the way, I learned that the ones I had high hopes for were my least favorite and the bands I didn’t plan on seeing were my favorite. Gotta kill those expectations, yall!
WEEKEND ONE VS. WEEKEND TWO
Since I already told y’all I skipped Friday of Weekend 2, I’ll just say I liked K. Flay in her ripped white jean shorts and white t-shirt. I can’t tell you her song, but I can tell you she got the crowd into and put her back into which is all that matters for us viewers. Guns N’ Roses sounded wonderful, and I think I lost my voice to Sweet Child O’ Mine. However, not ACL affiliated, the best part of the night was the secret show with Tierra Whack at The LINE Hotel. We had to put our phones in sealed pouches like Aziz Ansari does during his comedy shows. I loved not having my phone and feeling the rhythm and the vibes of this beauty queen. We were in Dean’s One Trick Pony and she jumps right in onto the counter to sing, or rap if you will. She immediately jumped down on our level and we formed a circle around her singing right along in her face and making eye contact. Last year, I was fortunate to get to see the band ARIZONA in a Chipotle on Congress. You just don’t forget these up-close-and-personal memories.
(image courtesy of The LINE)
MisterWives vs. Tierra Whack
I loved the lead singer’s neon orange short suit and her guitarists neon yellow jeans (which my mom and I both have). She jumped and kicked the way I like to dance, and I instantly felt connected. You can’t beat their song Reflections. She also sat down on the stage and sang a little lullaby “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It was so hot at this point and I was wearing a wool hat (unbeknownst to me but known by all my friends). We dipped into the Uber Rewards lounge which was pretty sweet for air, Campo Viejo rosé, water, and a run-in with my old NYC co-worker Rachel Champlin and my friend Alex Robert’s husband Ryan who was bartending.
It’s hard to say who was better since my new friend Tierra Whack and I had just shimmied together in an intimate circle the weekend before and the fact that she encourages the crowd to scream WHACK after her. I kept saying WHACK randomly all day. Try it– it can be fun. She was wearing a Canadian Tuxedo and invited fans up on stage to sing with her and even choose a winner for a sweatshirt. I love when the musicians can connect and be a real person not just a performer.
Kali Uchis vs. Brittany Howard
So, I study music before I go to concerts because I have more fun shaking and jumping than staring back at a singer whose song I can’t repeat. My friend Margaret books the line-up at ACL for C3 (YEAH SHE DOES!) and I asked her who I should pay attention to in advance. She said Kali, so I memorized some tunes and showed up to watch her in a full-on body suit that even covered her face. Now she must have been hot. I like her.
Brittany’s voice is all about the soul. I could feel it in my bones. You can just listen to her belt it out and you aren’t sure what year she is singing in. She got it!
Billie Eillish vs. Gary Clark Jr.
Billie is 17 years-old and had a cast on her ankle she works so hard. I love the song Bad Guy and the beats and all.
Gary Clark Jr. is the most stylish vocalist and guitar player I might have ever seen. I like how he puts on a serious look and even more so how he gives back to the young, Austin mentees, The Peterson Brothers. This show was favorable weekend two because there was SO much room at the AMEX stage. We were free flowing and right up close. I guess everyone was at Billie although someone in the crowd stole her ring!
The Cure vs. Childish Gambino
The Cure was the headliner I was most excited for! I LOVE Boys Don’t Cry and Just Like Heaven. The group’s attitude and presence on stage was awesome. I loved their makeup and rockstar hair. The Honda stage is also my favorite because you can hang out on stage left and still see so much and have space. After an hour, when we didn’t hear Boys Don’t Cry we headed back home because it was a long day.
Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover is the definition of an actor, performer, and the perfect STAR. With no shirt and white jogger pants, he ran that stage back-and-forth all night. Every move was planned, every look into the camera with wide eyes that made my breath stop, every bounce, yell, skip into the crowd, SELFIE with the crowd. I’ve never seen someone love attention and transport their love for the craft into their fans in such a tasteful way. This is the definition of giving the people what they want and working the crowd. I felt like I was an insider in this guy’s planned music video. The screens were unreal and that’s when I learned he was/is in fact an actor and he hit all the right emotions necessary. He wrote for Tina Fey on 30 Rock at age 23, stars in his show Atlanta where he won an Emmy, and is the voice of Simba in the recent The Lion King remake. He’s an entertainment genius and captured us during his last performance ever as Childish Gambino. Oh, I forgot to mention, when the show started he came from up in the air and once on the ground, ran up to the stage. He didn’t stop working all night. Loved him!!
Third Eye Blind vs. Lambas Indian Kitchen (sorry, Kacey Musgraves)
Third Eye Blind: we’ll Never Let You Goooo!! What a surprise! Who knew they were still together, but more importantly they dropped a new album between the first and second weekend. I loved their show because I didn’t know why I was there in the first place, and the drummer is so cute! Finally, a crowd where everyone was 30 and older, too. The eye-liner wearing singer took the stage and gave us what the crowd needed, a place to kick back and sing together.
I didn’t get a chance to see Kacey Musgraves because the hunger kicked in and I went back to Lambas Indian Kitchen which I discovered the first weekend. It’s not something I’d gravitate toward at a festival, but my friend Shelby dove into the Chicken Tikka wrap, and let’s say I thought about it for a whole week. That naan style wrap slayed so much I missed Kacey.
Griz vs. Lizzo
Griz was actually the #1 person I was excited to see. Griz, who? Yeah, I didn’t know him until a month before ACL when my friend Danny told me about his saxophone meets DJ meets light show. I love a good saxy sax mixed in with sounds and colors on the stage. He kind of reminded me of Avicii meets Girl Talk because most of the songs we heard were not his. This I was dissapointed in because he has so many good original songs and only played the brass instrument for about 30 seconds weekend 1. Lizzo, I’m sorry I skipped you.
Seeing Lizzo weekend 2 was a better choice because the crowds were so large at the Miller Lite stage weekend 1, people were stuck and feeling a little queasy with no where to move. They posted her up on the Honda Stage TV’s weekend 2 which I don’t think they’ve ever done. Lizzo’s bright purple leotard, makeup, and power which I’d say is interchangeable with the word confidence lit a fire in every single person that night. She loves to use the word Bitch, and threw out a lot of self-care talking points. She must have a great publicist or just knows exactly what she is doing. She really inspired me and made me feel alive inside. The best part is that it was a group inspiration. She moved the whole crowd together as a community and you could feel it. What I loved most was when she started the group wave and giggled.
Mumford & Sons vs. Robyn
Mumford & Sons was not on my radar as a festival band that would be fun to sway to at the end of a three-day weekend. Cardi B was 30 minutes late to her set weekend one, and I do like Mumford & Sons, so was happy to lean that way with my friends. Maybe it’s because my expectations were so low to see a folk band at this point, or maybe all that matters is who you are with and you can make a party out of anything. My friend (since 7th grade), Shelby, and I danced so hard we had to take breaks to stretch our legs and catch out breath. We brought out our old middle school “foot shake,” dos-i-do’d, did some high-kicks and had a blast with my other best friend Liza who I met in NYC and her childhood best friend Carrie who both live here. The experience is what you make of it and you can have fun and dance to anyone. Not to mention, Mumford brought the heat and jumped into the crowd ( I love watching them do this!!). I really thought about their lyrics as I was shouting them, and they are just great people. Also, weekend two they brought out the Austin High school band. What gems!!! Giving kids opportunities and memories forever.
Robyn is the real reason I even got a ticket to the second weekend. I’ve been listening to her with my Swedish best friend since age 4, Jannika, since the third grade. She had a few outfit changes, played a bunch of songs I didn’t know to start, and got after it at Call Your Girlfriend. I love Robyn! We all love Robyn. The 40-year-old star looked like she was working so hard and it’s just a good reminder these headliners come out here trying their all for 90 minutes to two hours only trying to give us a good time. They work so hard, and it really shows!
BEST FOOD AT ACL EATS
I have to say the last couple years I was gifted a VIP ticket by a friend and have NEVER eaten at ACL Eats food park. WOW! What a line-up, much better than VIP in fact. I tried food from restaurants/food trucks that I hadn’t visited before because it was the perfect time. Here are my favorites:
- Wholly Cow Burgers – Cheeseburger with Fries. This Hawaiian bun sealed the deal for me. The grass-fed burger fit right in my palm and nurtured my soul. I don’t crave burgers regularly, but I attacked this guy! The frito pie was also the best I’ve had. It felt like they perfectly layered each chip, cheese, and meat so that it was all even. You know like the best nachos ever that ARE NOT just thrown on the plate with ingredients everywhere.
- Ranch Hand– The tag line at this healthy yet buff food truck located at Native Hostel is “Stop Eating Shit for Lunch.” I got the Heartbrand plate which included Kale, Avocado, Sweet Potatoes, Chimichurri, Pepitas, and tender Rosemary Chicken. I almost went to their truck on Monday morning because I was craving this bowl of health wealth all day.
- Lambas Indian Kitchen – I already mentioned how it was worth me missing Kacey Musgraves to eat this Chicken Tikka Wrap. You can find their truck on Rainey Street.
- Skull & Cakebones – I love the people behind this vegan bakery in Dripping Springs. After my healthy Ranch Hand bowl, all I wanted was something sweet and thanks to these guys, they were right there waiting for me. The Cookie Dough Brownie Sundae was delicious and the added brownie really sealed the deal.