Your Austin City Limits Music Festival Cheat Sheet (Weekend One)

by Daniel Ramirez on October 2, 2018 in Entertainment, Music, General, Lifestyle, Living Texas, Austin,

(Photo Credit: Charles Reagan Hackleman)

It is almost time. The stages are set up and the park has been sealed. Supplies are purchased and lineup changes made on the fly. Everything is ready for a little fun in the sun (or rain) and, beyond all else, a song to sing along. It’s fall, and, like clockwork, Austin City Limits Music Festival is ready to begin, to take us all away from the world for a little while and transport us to a place that is evergreen, no matter the weather, because, no matter how Austin has grown or changed in the 16 years since Zilker Park’s grounds were first visited by the final music festival of the fall, ACL Fest has remained true to its roots – put the music before everything else.

This year, to get you ready, we’ve compiled a simple playlist of where we’ll be found. Mostly, we will be making the trek from HomeAway stage to Tito’s Tent to Honda Stage, with a few pauses to discover new bands at the BMI stage, but our tastes are fairly universal, so there’s something for everyone in our choices for the first weekend of ACL’s 2018 smorgasbord of sound.



Friday is always our favorite day of the festival – fewer crowds, a more leisurely air and a feeling that one is playing hooky by ditching work. So here are our Ditch Day favorites:


      Greta Van Fleet – admittedly, we’re a little late to the party on this band. After taking 2017 by storm, it wasn’t easy to access the Chicago-based “it band” that sounded like they might lean too heavily on Led Zeppelin riffs in vocals and guitars. Pair that with the fact that only some of the band can drink alcohol legally and it’s a recipe for volatility. However, while reviewing the bands for ACL 2018, there is a single tune that stands out, and it is forcing the 4:45 set at the Miller Lite stage to be a “must see.” If you can listen to “Flower Power” and deny this band their inevitable ordination into rock superstardom, you’re better than we are. Pair that with the fact that they boldly cover the Sam Cooke classic,”A Change Is Gonna Come,” and you know where you need to be on Friday.


      Sir Sly – getting a ton of airplay and love from Austin radio, Sir Sly is just the right amount of dance, rhythm, and electro funk that it should have both every pair of legs moving, along with a great chance to have a back and forth between band and audience, as people “kick my shoes off and run.”


      Hozier – absolutely, you should go see the biggest legend to ever grace the ACL stages, Sir Paul McCartney. But, if you miss Hozier’s set, you’ll be missing a star in their absolute prime. A veteran of both ACL and SXSW, he’s no stranger to Austin. And, although his last big hit was the meteoric “Take Me To Church,” the buzz and the beat of his latest offering, “Nina Cried Power” is the defiant anthem the world has been thirsting to hear, and to hear it live could very well be one of those experiences people talk about another 16 ACL Festivals from now.


By Saturday, the city has descended on Zilker and your choices should be mapped out in advance and found abut 20 minute before the set begins, unless the band is playing before 1 p.m. So, get to these artists’ stages early and enjoy a full day in the park.

      • BEST BET

        Brandi Carlile – There is perhaps no more iconic voice for dancing between the genres of rock, country, folk and soul than Brandi’s. Her bellow from “The Story” solidified he place in the folk/Americana pantheon, but she never let go of that hold and a decade later, she’s still delivering the goods with songs like “The Eye,” an anthem of a different kind – this one for friendship, love, and holding your life together when everything around is chaos. We could all use a listen.


        Alice Merton – If you’ve turned on the radio in Austin over the past few months (or in Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio), you’ll have heard the pounding drum beats, rock-solid bass line, and infectious howl of Alice Merton. Her hit, No Roots” defines a song that seems built specifically for a festival grounds and the crowd surge that is inevitable when the bridge hits.


        St. Vincent – Austin has all but claimed the Dallas-raised powerhouse of creativity that is St. Vincent, whose given name is Annie Clark. With one of the most critically acclaimed albums in recent history, her MASSEDUCTION is a favorite of turntables and streams, still, despite the ravenous appetite of music listeners. “Los Ageless” defines the unique sound of her stage production, featuring her guitar work, her relentless creativity, and her melodic voice. There will be no lacking for energy (even when she works her way to “Slow Slow Disco,” another absolute standout of her legendary album.


We know it sounds funny, but we just can’t stand the pain…when ACL is leaving us on Sunday. Bearing that in mind, Sunday is ACL’s most relaxed day, until the sun goes down and everyone wants to get just one more day of music in, before work returns. Here’s how that can be managed.

      • BEST BET

        Janelle Monae – For years, we have been convinced that Janelle Monae’s productions need the space of a stadium to fully bloom. This year, she gets Zilker Park near sundown, and we are, to quote the young, #HereForIt. On the strength of The Arkandroid, Monae built a sound that honored the soul of the 1960s, while updating the rhythm and power behind her messaging. “Dance Apocalyptic” stood as her tour de force for years, until she realized her full potential and transformed completely into the hurricane of creativity, video, and sound that is “Dirty Computer,” from which the awe-inspiring tunes, “I Like That” and “Pynk” emerged.


        Houndmouth – Responsible for perhaps the greatest road trip song of the 2000s, “Sedona” is instantly familiar, drawing from peers like Vampire Weekend, Dawes, and The Lumineers. Take the song for a spin and then try to fight the urge to be in a crowd that responds to the chorus with “so bright and pink!” at the Barton Springs Stage. The rest of their music builds on that Austin favorite and is welcome on any Interstate within the Texas border.


        PHOENIX – We cannot say enough about Houston’s own TRAVIS SCOTT, and he would certainly take this spot, if not for the fact that when a Sunday night headliner canceled due to injury, a stadium-worthy band answered the call to bail out the fest-going faithful and Phoenix rose from the smoke to save the fest. Known for hits like “1901” and “Everything Is Everything,” this French band who has owned indie and college radio for decades is far more than a last-minute replacement, having been a headliner at ACL in 2013. You’ll know most of the songs, and the ones you don’t, the light show and dance party will guide you through.