When we woke up, tired and sore from day 1 of Austin City Limits Music Festival, we knew, somehow, that “Today was a good day.” Perhaps it was the notion that Ice Cube was going to grace the stage, or perhaps it was the knowledge that ACL was not over, despite Jay-Z’s festival-closing-level end to Friday’s schedule. Day 2 promised both discoveries and old-school throwbacks, and did not disappoint.
But, our inner 1990s child will not let Ice Cube’s return to a stage go without specific mention. Cube has transitioned out of the mainstream music scene and into films and media – a fact which he brought up from the stage, asking if people had essentially dismissed his strength and talent because of the move. Nothing could be further from the truth, and, as he pointed out and displayed from a sweltering set in the hot Austin afternoon, he hasn’t lost a single step or a single line. Rapidly traversing a catalogue as lengthy as Jay-Z’s, perhaps with more widespread appeal, Ice Cube did not lean toward his more recent PG-persona, instead simply relying on his raw lyrics and delivery to carry the crowd through NWA hits like “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Straight Outta Compton,” and moving toward his Parliament Funkadelic collaboration, “Bop Gun” and eventually reassuring the crowd that, like his own, it was a “Good Day” for all in the park.
Our good day began with an investigation of the at-the-moment darlings from SXSW 2017, Missio. Their hit, “Middle Fingers,” was enough to warrant a visit to their HomeAway stage set, where they exhibited a power from the stage that’s instantly familiar to Austin radio listeners. It wasn’t just reserved for one song, but infected the entire set, until the crescendo of “Middle Fingers” rang across the park and had an early crowd chanting defiantly.
But, Missio’s energy was only an appetizer. The real power of Day 2 (and our Day 2 favorite) came when Mondo Cozmo took the new Barton Springs stage for a test drive. Certainly, “Shine,” their hit from this year, with constant airplay in Austin, made an impact. But it wasn’t until the band made its way to “Thunder” that the real fuel was poured into a waiting ACL Festival crowd. The anthemic tune hit a chord in the audience that saw them empathizing with the band and with one another, as lead singer, Josh Ostrander, begged love to “show me a sign.” If you were down in 2016 – and plenty of people had reason to be so – this was your song, and Mondo Cozmo made it abundantly clear.
Not to be outdone, recent indie darlings, Carseat Headrest, commanded the Honda stage, adding live rhythms and natural sound to their set that amplified the sounds and sentiments delivered in their high-production-value album tracks. Emoting at a level that one would think only screamo bands could find relatable, their honest – and country-soaked – set was tight, cathartic, and mercifully concentrated. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” an indie smash, took on a particularly somber tone, which somehow increased its already profound impact.
A new experience for our outlet visited us mid-day of Day 2, as we were hosted guests of the Don Julio activation in the VIP area. Out first exposure to this hallowed ground, the focus could have easily been on the great food and drink on offer, but the real prize of the VIP area was the increased room to move without sacrificing being within earshot of nearby stages. While being the guests of the Austin Agave and Eeeeeats installation – where we dined on haute cuisine from local chefs, while drinking the best cocktails (paloma, margarita and a coffee concoction that was too good to forget) – we could clearly hear Live’s set at the American Express stage, which brought all of the nostalgia to the fore.
By the time Austin legends, Spoon, took the stage over at the Miller Lite stage, the world was all wonderful. Britt Daniel and his band have nothing left to prove to the Austin City Limits Music Festival crowd, but it didn’t stop them from reinforcing that they are, next to Willie and Stevie, one of the best musical products of the town. “Inside Out,” “Do You,” and “I Turn My Camera On,” all Austin staples, resonated with a late afternoon crowd that was unprepared for just how experienced, powerful, and impossible-to-ignore this Austin product has become. By the time they worked toward their close with the criminally underrated “The Underdog,” there was hardly a body that could remain still in the vicinity of the stage.
Leave it to ACL Fest, though. They know how to close a day out. ACL Fest alum from 2015, when he was a highlight of the undercard, Chance the Rapper took the one of the two main stages on for a close to Day 2, competing directly with legendary band, Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Red Hot Chili Peppers may have had more people see their show – with the larger field available to them, it’s certainly possible – but if they did, the competition was close. Bodies were packed in like so many styrofoam peanuts, awaiting the majestic arrival of Chicago’s own ‘Lil’ Chano.’ And, with the captive audience, Chance did what he does best – he inspired. The entire crowd was his gospel choir backup for nearly every song. He talked the amped up crowd through some of the less family-friendly tunes he covered in his set, but when it came time for the hopeful tunes, like the early appearances of “Blessings” and “Sunday Candy,” the crowd was more malleable than clay in his hands. Sweeping the entire field into a singalong for “Same Drugs,” a song about growing up and growing apart, Chance showed that while Chicago may be his town, he might have some claim to the Live Music Capital of the World, as well.