#Music Monday: ACL Returns; What To See

by Brian Maass on September 27, 2021 in Entertainment, Music, Austin,

After being cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020, ACL Fest is finally back in Austin, Texas for two glorious weekends of music. And, despite cancellations and pandemic precautions, nothing can stem the joy, excitement and anticipation of fans.

For 2021, the much heralded music festival takes place over the first two October weekends  (10/1-10/3 and 10/8-10/11) and includes over 20 bands that started in Texas. 

Founded in 2002, ACL Fest has annually called Zilker Park home. From Tom Petty to Ice Cube, music’s biggest names, along with upcoming artists, have played the now iconic festival. Photo Charles Reagan Hackleman

Artists Performing

2021’s lineup, which has undergone some changes, is diverse and includes a country legend, an up and coming local Austin band, and some of pop music’s biggest names. 


The legendary George Strait makes his ACL Fest debut as he assumes the Friday night headliner spot, alongside the now 28-year-old Miley Cyrus. The Saturday night headliner brings one of pop music’s biggest stars, Billie Eilish, who made her ACL Fest debut in 2019.

fter making her ACL Fest debut in 2019, Billie Eilish is back, this time as one of the 2021 headliners. You can catch her performance on the Lady Bird stage at 8:30pm Saturday, both weekends. Photo Charles Reagan Hackleman

After Stevie Nicks made the decision to drop out of the festival, Tyler, The Creator was quickly inserted into the Sunday headlining spot. Another act that was a late addition to the festival is Duran Duran. Also receiving top billing are acts like Texas’ own Erykah Badu, Megan thee Stallion, Rufus Du Sul and the Black Pumas. (More on those 4-time Grammy nominees in a moment.) 

Other acts of interest include Band of Horses and Modest Mouse, among many more. 

Heads Up

Be sure to pay attention to the acts only playing once, or may get shuffled to a different day of the festival. Erykah Badu plays Friday night during the first weekend, and then Sunday on weekend two. Other acts, like St Vincent, and local artist Sir Woman, play only one weekend, so be sure to study the line-up for your favorite artists. 

Austin’s Black Pumas will take to the Lady Bird stage on October 1, the opening night of ACL Fest, at 6:00pm. Photo courtesy Black Pumas

Spotlighting the Black Pumas

One band which has garnered much acclaim since releasing their debut album in 2019, is Austin’s Black Pumas. Their wide repertoire combines influences of guitarist Adrian Quesada, with the range of lead singer Eric Burton’s voice,  creating a unique psychedelic, soulful sound. “Colors,” the third single of the band’s “Black Pumas” album, was nominated for Record of the Year, and Best American Roots Performance at this year’s Grammy Awards. Sure to be a highlight, the Black Pumas will play Friday night on both weekends of the festival.

The Pumas are coming off a summer tour, which kicked off with five sold out shows at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin. They have been featured at some of the premiere events such as the NFL Draft, Lollapalooza, and Napa’s Bottlerock Fest. Once they wrap up their performance at ACL Fest, they will finish their North American tour before heading to Europe. 

Music fans won’t go hungry — or thirsty! ACL Fest has a wide variety of food options for festival goers. There is also a beer garden on the festival grounds.
Photo Jackie Lee Young

Ticket Options

Shortly after the lineup was announced for this year’s festival, tickets sold out. However, festival goers can use the official ACL Fest ticket exchange link to safely purchase tickets. 

COVID Protocols

In order to enter this year’s festival, all vaccinated attendees will need to provide proof of vaccine, while non-vaccinated attendees will need to provide a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of entering the festival. A person is fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the second shot Pfizer/Moderna or single shot of Johnson and Johnson. Masks will be required in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained, this includes on the shuttles buses, entry lines, areas closest to the stage, and indoor areas at the festival. Should you forget your mask, there will be free masks available on site.

Help keep the festival’s home, Zilker Park, clean by picking up items that can be recycled. By turning in a bag full of recyclable items, you will get a specially designed ACL Fest line up shirt. Photo Katrina Barber

Cover photo courtesy Roger Ho

Brian Maass enjoys live music, and sharing good times at a local brewery or winery with his wife and friends. If he is not at a concert, then you will find him at a National Park photographing the amazing scenery this world has to offer. brian_maass_adventures