Austin City Limits 2012: A Retrospective

Quiet Company at ACL 2012 – Justin Wiseman

First Aid Kit at ACL 2012 – Justin Wiseman

Red Hot Chili Peppers, despite offering an energetic, career-spanning set, had no way of reaching the height of last year’s festival finale. Last year Arcade Fire, newly adorned with an “Album of the Year” Grammy Award for “The Suburbs,” triumphantly wrapped the album cycle in Austin to frenzied fans still riding high after indie music’s triumphant victory. Still, 2012 will be remembered as one of ACL’s best years.

This year, sandwiched between the 10th anniversary celebration and the onset of ACL’s format expanding to two weekends, one might have expected a lull. But across the board, ACL’s forte, high-quality acts from the pre-noon Friday sets to the often-times truly, legendary headliners helped this iteration be among some of the best ever.

Caveman, First Aid Kit, and The Features proved themselves as worthy acts, opening on their respective stages. Florence and the Machine, Gotye, Alabama Shakes, and Metric all dazzled massive crowds in their early evening sets. Those seeking a unique experience found the Afghan Whigs’ reunion show and Bad Books’ rare festival appearance. The Black Keys and Neil Young gave predictably seasoned, exceptional headlining performances.

Ultimately, neo-folk (Civil Wars, First Aid Kit, Lumineers, NEEDTOBREATHE and Punch Brothers) and electronic dance music (Crystal Castles, Bassnectar, M83, AVICII, and Zola Jesus) won out as the most prevalent and well attended genres.

For being the Live Music Capital of the World, one might expect more local talent, yet those who did perform shone bright amongst national bands. Quiet Company’s infectious, irreverent pop-rock outshone many who played hours later (their 30 minute set began at 11:15am on Saturday). The Eastern Sea, Wheeler Brothers, Wild Child, and Gary Clark Jr. rounded out the local talent billed this year.

The weather, which often leaves its mark on the festival as much as the music itself, mostly cooperated despite rather warm Friday and Sunday afternoons and sporadic showers on Saturday. Unlike the mud-pits of 2009 and the dust-bowl of 2005, this year’s showers were a mild inconvenience at worst. The only notable hiccup of the weekend was The Weeknd singer Abel Tesfaye’s illness causing the band to cancel their Sunday slot last-minute.

Rumors are still circulating as to whether the festival lineup will be the same both weekends or if each will be unique. However, one can surmise that regardless, C3 Presents will not disappoint. The festival has sold out nine years in a row and this year before the lineup was announced. C3 Presents, who also curates Lollapalooza, along with expanding ACL, is also broadening the Lollapalooza franchise to Tel Aviv, Israel in August 2013. Tickets to ACL 2013 go on sale on Tuesday, October 30th at the ACL website: – Justin Wiseman

Bad Books at ACL 2012 – Justin Wiseman’s 2012 FAVES – First Aid Kit, Caveman, Tennis, Gary Clark Jr., Florence and the Machines, The War on Drugs, The Lumineers, Rufus Wainwright


ACL 2013 Predictions

Headliners – Mumford & Sons, Ryan Adams, The Killers, The Throne

Mid-level – Grizzly Bear, Fiona Apple, John Fogerty, Janelle Monee, The Wrens, Phoenix, Animal Collective, The XX, Silversun Pickups, Paramore, MIA, The Knife, Wiz Khalifa, Passion Pit

Local  – Bright Light Social Hour, David Ramirez,  Zeale, White Denim, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Ume, The Rocketboys, Mother Falcon, Grupo Fantasma

Kishi Bashi at ACL 2012 – Justin Wiseman