ACL Festival 2013: Review + Photo Gallery

photo by Dawson White

photo by Dawson White

Was there life before ACL? An Instagram chock-full of throw-back-Thursdays and my stack of elementary school yearbooks is evidence to the contrary, but I’m largely unconvinced. Oh, Austin City Limits, you know not what you do. Your all-star lineup and peppering of Austin-famous shops and restaurants proved unexpected refreshment to the unsavory taste left by previous festival experiences.

I don’t know if everything’s bigger in Texas, but it sure is better.

photo by Dawson White

photo by Dawson White

The star of Austin City Limits was Austin, itself. This made itself evident as soon as I entered the festival’s chrome-y gates; the first fixture that really captured my attention was a tower boasting the weekend’s lineup topped with a near replica of the Texas State Capitol’s dome. Music festival twist: the Goddess of Liberty, the statue that tops the Capitol, was replaced with the Goddess of Rockabilly whose guitar-wielding arm outstretched to bestow a blessing over the hallowed festival grounds. Moving past the fun installation, however, I saw what really solidified ATX (as I heard it referred to) as the King of the festival: the Austin skyline. Behind the main stage, the Frost Building and its skyscraper brethren stood watch as if to guard the festival from any looming threat of the un-cool. A large, wooden frame labeled “ACL” was thoughtfully placed atop the hill for guests to capture their perfect post-ACL profile picture against the downtown backdrop.

With 2013 featuring the first two-weekend ACL, it’s a big year for the Festival, and the lineup reflected the grandeur. Saturday boasted the most star-studded – be it indie or mainstream – lineup with HAIM, Walk the Moon, Silversun Pickups, and Passion Pit drawing seas of people to their sets. The more established Kings of Leon, and legendary The Cure, all played to true masses, while many festival goers ran between stages to catch both of the overlapping sets.

Bobby Jealousy - photo by Dawson White

Bobby Jealousy – photo by Dawson White

Throughout the festival, local Austonian acts reigned supreme. The charisma of indie-poppers Bobby Jealousy dragged in large crowds for their 11:15am set, and Max Frost, White Denim, and the sublime rockers of Courrier proved hometown heroes. As they have been and will be, folk-rockers and singer-songwriters were strong presences. Dawes, The Lone Bellow, Neko Case, Jake Bugg, and Dan Croll were all well-attended. The north eastern pop of Vampire Weekend somehow coaxed its preppy fans into a mosh pit and newcomers Ms Mr had their crowd swaying and swinging to their electric productions. Old favorites The National, Wilco, and Phoenix (my favorite show) became new favorites as they recaptured the hearts of their old fans while the electric-reggae-rock of newcomers Wild Belle drew main stage crowds to their smaller venue.

A festival usually plagued with extreme heat and torrential downpours stayed dry and relatively mild, though misters and large shade trees were always ready to lend a cool helping hand in the heat of the day. Very few technical difficulties interrupted the festivities, though a generator failure delayed Muse’s Friday night set for at least forty minutes. But, pros that they were, the problem was fixed and Muse continued their show in its entirety.

Effortlessly mixing local flavor and international talent, Austin City Limits struck a progression of the right chords. From the friendly, knowledgeable volunteers and effortless shuttle system to the loads of merchandise and intimate band signings, ACL took what has, in many cases, become a cookie-cutter, commercialized festival experience and remolded it into an updated image of the late ‘60s festival we’ve all dreamed of attending: one with character.

To paraphrase the beloved Austonian slogan: Keep ACL Weird.


Did you try any of the amazing culinary options at ACL this year?! Contributing writer Ryan Smith shares a full helping of what to look out for next time you’re in Austin.