By Jonathan Kastens
Music festivals always seem to deliver an electric atmosphere, great music, tasty food, and some of the most interesting fashion. Austin City Limits checked off all of those boxes and knocked them out of the park. The Austin skyline looming over the stage while Paul McCartney rocked out like it was 1967 created an atmosphere rivaling the best festivals in the country. Day 1 might have been the best collection of artists on one day out of the entire weekend, from BØRNS’s chill harmonic sounds echoing from the Honda Stage to Odesza’s deafening bass that could shake your bones and make you shuffle your feet like never before. As a music fan who enjoys multiple genres like indie rock, folk, rap, EDM, and the occasional hard rock show; ACL provided the perfect variety for what I wanted to hear.
Going from Boulder to Austin in October was quite the change in weather, and even my Texas roots could not prepare me for the heat. It was a pretty incredible thing that the one legitimate gripe I had with the festival was the weather—something the organizers couldn’t even control.
The food at ACL was absolutely indicative of the Austin food scene. They had all the classics: BBQ from the Salt Lick, burgers from P Terry’s, and of course the cult icon Torchy’s Tacos. I realized that there’s nothing like having a taco from Torchy’s while jamming to Greta Van Fleet and feeling like I’m back in the mountains.
I would have to say my experience on day 1 at ACL was a complete success and that I was blown away by the atmosphere they created. It was full of young music fans dancing with their friends, Austin Natives chilling on blankets and lawn chairs, and travelers like me soaking it all in. The rest of the weekend has me full of optimism and I can’t wait to share what artists like Metallica and Travis Scott are like in a festival setting.
Day 2: Metal is Still Alive
Day 2 at Austin City Limits was able to keep the energy from Friday and simultaneously blow it out of proportion. Saturday had the largest crowd which made the atmosphere even more incredible. The anticipation for Metallica’s set at 8 was building all day; but festival-goers were able to warm up with tunes from the British rock band The Wombats, dance to EDM artists like San Holo, and reminisce about the mid 2000’s while listening to Nelly. Yet there was only one performance that would change the way I think about rock music.
I had always heard stories from my Dad and his concert buddies that Metallica was a must see experience, and I always kind of shoved it off. I just knew around 7 of their songs and understood that they were a transcendent band that had stayed together for 37 years. Then, I heard them open with Seek and Destroy and wow is all I can say. I was absolutely blown away by how good they sounded, how much energy they had, and how much they got the entire crowd into it. There were obviously people who hadn’t been to metal concerts before and even they were bobbing their heads and tapping their feet. Metallica has this ability to just jam out for 2 hours and maintain that electricity the entire time. From listening to the ballad “One” to the anthem “Nothing Else Matters” and the finale “Enter Sandman,” seeing Metallica perform was everything I could have asked for or wanted.
As a huge rock music fan, it made my heart happy to see so many people enjoying a legend like Metallica and just appreciating their music. There’s a feeling of adrenaline you get from listening to them that isn’t found in any other music I have listened to live before. Also, if you haven’t seen them before you’re in luck. Lead singer James Hetfield announced to the whole crowd that “Metallica is just getting started”, so clearly they’re going to keep rocking and rolling for years to come. I honestly can’t stress how much of an experience it was seeing them.
Day 3: The Finale
The third and final day of Austin City Limits had yet another great array of musicians playing all day. My group started with the mellow beach sounds of the Bahamas before moving on to the alternative powerhouse X Ambassadors. Both sets were everything the indie kid in me could have wanted. Those two were followed by an electric set from the DJ Illenium who made everyone at the Miller Lite stage dance. I loved the feeling of transitioning from listening to alternative rock to EDM and having completely different experiences with the same sense of euphoria afterwards.
Since my whole group was from Houston, we were all thrilled out of our minds for Travis Scott with Night Cap. We got there forty-five minutes early along with the other tens of thousands of people waiting to rage. Unfortunately, Scott came out about fifteen minutes late and ended twenty minutes early which was really disappointing. I still enjoyed every minute that he was playing, and I couldn’t have been happier to see a hometown guy play at a major festival like this. It was just quite the downer that he didn’t keep playing for his full hour and fifteen slot. Still, he was another artist that I could check off my concert bucket list and this weekend was full of those.
Featuring legendary acts like Paul McCartney and Metallica alongside rising stars like X Ambassadors and Khalid, ACL really delivered on a great experience. More than anything, it was incredible to see so many people thoroughly enjoying all genres of music in such a communal way. My final verdict of the festival would be an eight out of ten across the board. Everything from the lineup, to the atmosphere, and even the food and beverages around the fest was stellar; and I’d highly recommend checking out both the up and coming city of Austin and the Austin City Limits music festival.