Austin City Limits Music Festival

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

On Oct. 3, Elizabeth McQueen performed at Austin City Limits Music Festival with an unusual accompaniment. A group of five high school girls made up the horn section of McQueen’s act, playing just as well as any professional. This is because the girls were trained by professionals.

The girls were part of Anthropos Arts, a charity that connects professional musicians with kids in Travis County who can’t afford lessons. ACL provided a space for the organization as a part of ACL Cares, an area of the festival where select organizations can set up booths and provide information about their missions.

Dylan Jones founded Anthropos Arts in 1998 when he was coming into the Austin music scene. He founded the charity in response to his own experience of taking lessons as a kid. Jones said his teacher was a lifesaver when he was going through a troubling time.

“When I was a kid, my parents were able to pay the 20 bucks, or whatever it was, for a lesson back then, but I did a little bit of research in schools and realized that in the vast majority of Title I schools, there are literally zero kids taking private lessons,” Jones said.

Title I schools have a high percentage of low-income students, whose families typically would not be able to pay for private music lessons. Jones said the Anthropos Arts booth at ACL Cares allows the students to come to a festival they otherwise would not have been able to afford to visit on their own. For five girls, being allowed to perform with McQueen, one of Anthropos’ newest teachers, was just the cherry on top. McQueen said the girls were not intimidated in front of the huge crowd.

“It was exactly what I wanted to happen,” McQueen said. “Most of the girls are drum majors at their school, so they’re just total badasses to begin with, and they just totally nailed it.”

McQueen, a vocal teacher at Anthropos, said she thinks Anthropos Arts is a great way to take advantage of the high-quality, professional musicians in Austin. 

“We are flush with musicians in Austin,” Jones said. “Between the University and the music scene, we never lack teachers. We’re connecting that resource with the unfortunate surplus of kids living in poverty.”

Anthropos communcations director Viviana Kennealy said the program does more than just teach kids to play instruments; it’s teaching them to take commitments seriously and be self-motivated. For the past 10 years, 100 percent of seniors in the program have graduated in schools that have average graduation rates of 65 to 70 percent. 

“We pick kids based on their willingness and desire to do it, and, from there, we stay on them a lot about grades,” Jones said. “Having the extra two or three people in their lives through the Anthropos program that can be checking on them about their grades has been the biggest turning point.”

McQueen, who recently stopped touring after eight years as a vocalist with the band Asleep at the Wheel, said she signed onto Anthropos Arts when Jones asked her to join without really knowing what it was. But, after one semester, McQueen said mentoring the kids has become the highlight of her week.

“There’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot to be inspired by,” McQueen said. “A lot of these kids are not going to become professional musicians, but they are going to see that you can follow your passion and thrive and also have time to give by watching their teachers do that.”

EDM artist Kaskade performs on Friday of Weekend One at the Austin City Limits festival 2013 on the Honda Stage. In order to keep up with other music festival such as Bonnaroo and Coachella, ACL is beginning to add more EDM and DJs to its weekend lineups.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Catering to the demand of an increasingly popular genre of music, this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival lineup features more electronic artists than ever before. Since 2009, ACL has included a few electronic dance music artists each year, but no past lineup can compare to the amount of DJs that will set up at Zilker Park for the next two weekends. 

The festival, known for sticking true to its usual host of rock, pop, folk and jazz artists, has made a surprising change by featuring a once-limited genre. This year certainly boasts the most diverse lineup thus far, with electronic artists like Skrillex, Calvin Harris and Zedd headlining alongside Eminem and Pearl Jam. Tyler Pratt, an on-air producer and host for KUTX, said he thinks the 2014 lineup is proof that ACL is trying to pull in more top-40 artists.

“Electronic music is huge right now,” Pratt said. “ACL has to compete to stay in the big four music festivals — the other three being Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza. Most people can only go to one. Because of competition, they have to include EDM.”

EDM is a term that has only become popular in the past five years. While this terminology might be new, electronic music is not. After becoming popular during the ’80s in the European underground dance scene, the genre first appeared in America in the late ’90s. Although it wasn’t well known, music festivals dedicated solely to EDM started emerging across the country.
Electric Daisy Carnival in California and Ultra Music Festival in Florida were among the first events that drew relatively small crowds of dedicated EDM fans.

Flash-forward to 2006, when Daft Punk’s appearance at Coachella music festival drew a large amount of attention to the genre. The show was a spectacle with an elaborate setup, which featured a pyramid-shaped stage and light show. In 2009, EDM made it onto mainstream radio with the help of several top-40 artists such as David Guetta, The Black Eyed Peas and Cascada. From there, electronic music exploded. Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra began drawing their biggest crowds yet, and the number of festivals that showcased only EDM artists multiplied. Other music festivals, including Lollapalooza and Coachella, started incorporating EDM into their lineups to keep up with the trend and draw bigger audiences. 

Despite this growing trend, ACL remained hesitant to include electronic music in its lineup. That is, until now. For years, ACL has built up a reputation for showcasing authentic live music across varying genres. Since EDM features a primarily computerized setup and a DJ, some longtime ACL-goers see the infusion of the genre as a sign of the festival going against its traditional festival roots.

“Music is constantly changing [with] what’s trending,” said Courtney Brown, Austin native and nine-time ACL attendee. “It’s no surprise that music festivals evolve as well. I understand that ACL is changing, but it’s going in a different direction.”

Pratt, meanwhile, said that he thinks ACL’s inclusion of more EDM was inevitable.

“The problem is that ACL is part of a big corporation,” Pratt said. “They want to make a lot of money and bring in a lot of people. They’re obviously looking at the trends to see what’s popular.”

Though this year’s ACL lineup may be adhering to a growing trend, the festival hasn’t lost sight of its roots. If anything, highlighting a new genre diversifies the lineup, and hopefully, welcomes more festival-goers eager to embrace the ACL tradition.

Photo Credit: Jack Mitts | Daily Texan Staff

Austin City Limits Music Festival will extend to two weekends this year, and though the influx of an expected 225,000 visitors will necessitate road closures and increased shuttle bus service, city officials do not think the addition of a second weekend will present difficulties.

The Austin Police Department will use data gathered from previous years to prepare for and monitor the weekend festivals, held annually in Zilker Park. Both Barton Springs Road and Stratford Drive will be closed between Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 and between Oct. 11 and Oct. 13.

“With any event, we always have a debriefing afterwards with event promoters and various city staff,” William Manno, commander of specialized patrol and events planning, said. “We talk about what did not work … so when we start the planning stage for the next year’s event, [we discuss] what was identified [and] what has been done to mitigate those issues from last year.”

Alongside the Austin Parks and Recreation department and the transportation department, APD will monitor the two festival weekends from a command post outside Zilker Park to address any safety issues in a timely manner, Manno said.

“Our goal is, as citizens recognize that there’s an issue, we try to correct it that night, and we’ll put it in place for the next night if what we did worked,” Manno said.

Jake Dirr, Austin Center for Events spokesman, said the event’s additional weekend will not have a dramatic impact on transportation schedules in Austin.

“This event doesn’t require a large amount of road closures … and it’s the same plan that we implement more or less every year,” Dirr said. “Now we just implement it for two weekends [which] doesn’t require a whole lot of additional planning.”

Manno said many residents of the neighborhoods around Zilker Park have complained about people parking near their houses, so APD will have a greater presence in the area to enforce parking restrictions.

“ACL has reimbursed the [police] department [for] the cost of the officers for this traffic mitigation and enforcement in the neighborhoods, so this is not costing the taxpayers,” Manno said. 

Because Zilker Park does not offer parking for most festival visitors, a free shuttle leaves from Republic Square on the corner of 4th and Guadalupe. During the 2012 festival, 85,158 patrons used the shuttle.

ACL will pay Zilker Metropolitan Park a total of $53,060 for the event, according to the contract between the festival and the city. The festival contributed $102 million to the Austin economy in 2012 in its standard one-weekend format.

Although each band is different, the majority of bands visiting for ACL will stay downtown during the festival weekends but will not stay in Austin during the week.

Zilker Park closed for event set-up on Sept. 23 and will remain closed to the public until Oct. 26.

Read about what the two weekends mean for local business owners and visitors here. 

Austin City Limits Music Festival is a visual feast. College students walk around Zilker Park in cutoffs and bikini tops, the Austin skyline stands out against the violet sunset in the evenings and headlining artists sport some outrageous hair styles. The Daily Texan compiled a list of our favorite hair donned by singers and songwriters that you should be on the look out for this weekend.  

HAIM

The middle part is hard to pull off for anyone. For HAIM, it is even more impressive as all three sisters part their long locks right down the middle. The look fits the ‘90s rock-influenced sounds created by Alana, Este and Danielle Haim, plus their drummer Dash Hutton. Maybe the group will influence your own festival fashions. Just check with an honest friend before trying the middle part for yourself. 

The Cure 

The men of The Cure may have aged, but their hair is just as lively as ever. The Cure’s hairstyle of choice is not quite an afro and not quite a mohawk. It looks like something that is probably achieved by the band sticking their fingers in electric sockets and hair-spraying it into place right before they take the stage. Beauty is pain. But don’t worry about The Cure because according to them, boys don’t cry.

Grimes 

Grimes’ setlist is not the only unpredictable factor at the Canadian electronic artist’s live performances. There is no telling what color Claire Boucher’s hair will be when she performs at this year’s ACL festival. It’s possible it could even change between weekends. She is like the real-life version of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” character Clementine Kruczynski, whose trademark move is constantly dying her hair different vivid colors. Boucher’s hair has been orange, green, blue, pink, dark brown, platinum blonde and rainbow streaked. 

fun. 

It would be unfair to say the members of fun. are entirely to blame for the awful hipster haircut trend of shaven sides with a tall, fluffy top. But they definitely are not helping. This hairstyle looks like the army regulation cut they probably gave soliders during World War II. Paired with suspenders or skinny pants, it is an obvious hipster alert. 

Dawes 

Most members of Dawes look like any other folk rock band, with bedhead and a little scruff, maybe a plaid flannel shirt. But drummer Griffin Goldsmith has something special resembling a cloud resting on top of his head. Griffin’s dirty blonde almost-afro looks so soft you could take a nap in it. Even though he’ll be at the back of the stage, audience members from all distances will likely see his curly locks bouncing to the beat. 

Photo Credit: Anne Katrine Harris | Daily Texan Staff

The underground of starving Austin hipsters is abuzz with claims that Austin City Limits Music Festival has become a commercialized nuisance that stomps on real local talent.

Matthew Hines of local band The Eastern Sea quickly dispels these suspicious rumors.

“There’s been all this conversation about how there needs to be more local bands,” Hines said. “But I don’t think there should be any more bands in ACL than there already are from the local scene. I think it would devalue the festival.”

The three-day hurricane of celebrities and tank tops that takes over Zilker Park every year had a humble beginning in 2002 as a two-day festival that featured mainly up and coming local bands. Lindsey Tishgart, who worked with ACL as a PR publicist for three years, attended the inaugural festival as a UT student.

“It was more of an experiment the first year,” Tishgart said. “People who went were probably more familiar with the ACL TV show.”

The festival has grown into an event that sells out in days. More than 70,000 people fill Zilker Park each day of ACL, a stark difference from the 20,000 or so reported to be in attendance each day of the first festival. Kellie Goldstein, programs directors with the Austin Music Foundation, has been a regular attendee of ACL and hasn’t missed a festival since 2003.

“The first few years were gorgeous with open fields and it had more of the ‘community of music lovers’ feel,” Goldstein said. “To my knowledge, it was not sold out the first few years. I’m not sure we’ll ever recapture those amazing moments again but I do wish the crowds were more manageable than they have been the past several years.”

ACL relies on its reputation for bringing in acts like Kanye West, Coldplay and Arcade Fire to sell tickets, but local acts still break the peaceful quiet that hangs over Zilker Park every morning before the crowds pour in.

C3 Presents, the company responsible for putting on ACL, is also the company behind Lollapalooza, the mega music festival held every year in Chicago.

“At Lollapalooza, you’re not going to see a bunch of bands from Chicago just because they’re from Chicago,” Hines said. “Austin and ACL are uniquely local. They have local businesses and local bands. At least five or six every time.”

Hines explains that if local bands view ACL as a menace or a threat, it is strictly by fault of their own attitudes.

“It’s your choice whether you want to take advantage of it or not,” Hines said. “I personally love being at the bottom of a good list, because you can show that list to people and say ‘Hey, look who we’re playing with.’ It’s a weapon in our arsenal of convincing people to take us seriously.”

Goldstein agrees, and offers advice to local bands to use ACL as a networking opportunity, rather than cower in fear from the continually growing event.

“I hope that all of the musicians use the opportunity to their advantage,” Goldstein said. “There are also plenty of Austinites who don’t attend the ACL festival, but they still want to hear music. So if you’re a musician, book gigs and network even if you didn’t get the invite to the ACL Festival. The music business is extremely competitive and always will be.”

Goldstein views ACL as a crucial part of modern-day Austin culture, especially to the younger generations. She continues to have a positive and memorable experience at the festival Austinites have watched grow and mature from within the grassy confines of Zilker Park.

“[ACL] is a place where almost every age and genre have an act they can go listen to,” Goldstein said. “One of the most fun adventures we have is finding our new favorite bands, and yes, many have been local bands.”

Austin City Limits is one that includes the name of its hometown in its title. This alone speaks for the fact that ACL does have a unique focus on local bands, even if that focus is smaller than some would prefer.

“It’s like an ecosystem within another ecosystem,” Hines said. “Austin has its own world of local bands, and there’s not really a tight scene in Austin. But since Austin has so many huge festivals, both ecosystems have to live together in a symbiotic type of relationship.”

Printed on Friday, October 12, 2012 as: Austin bands play Zilker

Hard to believe, but Austin City Limits Music Festival turns 11 this weekend. Over the years, we’ve seen some ups and downs — the dust bowl, the mud bowl, the propane tank fire, Ben Kweller’s mysterious bloody nose — but the good times have easily outweighed the bad.

This year’s ACL lineup, featuring The Black Keys, Jack White, Neil Young and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is arguably the best in a few years. A caravan of additional world-class musical acts round out the weekend-long party. Here are the top 10 acts you don’t want to miss.

Friday
Delta Spirit, AMD stage, 2:15 p.m. — One of the top buzz bands over the last few years, San Diego quintet Delta Spirit expanded their sound on their self-titled third album. Catch some of their kind-of-country, kind-of-beachy, kind-of-Brooklyn-y sound.

Alabama Shakes, Barton Springs Stage, 5:30 p.m. — Grab a turkey leg and maybe a tallboy (if you’re willing to wait) and head over to the Barton Springs stage to catch one of the busiest and most talked about bands of 2012. The Athens, Ala. southern soul revivalists released their debut album Boys & Girls in April to widespread acclaim. Since then, they’ve been touring to sold-out concert halls across the globe.

Soul Rebels Brass Band, Zilker Stage, 6 p.m. – It’s always frustrating when two bands you want to see are booked for the same time slot; fortunately the Zilker stage is just a stone’s throw away from the Barton Springs stage. After catching the Alabama Shakes, head over to see New Orleans’ Soul Rebels Brass Band. Fusing elements of funk, jazz, soul, hip-hop and drumline, the band is a classic example of why the Big Easy remains one of the world’s greatest music cities.

Saturday
Metric, AMD Stage, 4 p.m. – Few bands have been more successful without the benefit of a label than Brooklyn-based indie-pop four piece Metric. “Help, I’m Alive” is one of the better indie-pop singles to come along in the last half-decade. It definitely has that radio-ready sound, but it also has a sinister edge and blow-the-speakers production reminiscent of MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular.

The Roots, Bud Light Stage, 6 p.m. — Hip-hop’s greatest live band returns to the ACL stage on break from their primary gig as the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The best band on television (apologies to Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band) has also been one of the most prolific, releasing fourteen studio albums since 1993.

Jack White, AMD Stage, 8 p.m. — What do you do when you have two can’t-miss shows happening at the same time on different stages? Good question. It’s bad enough that the folks at C3 Presents put Delta Spirit and The War on Drugs on at the same time, but double-billing Jack White and Neil Young is just downright criminal. Here is one of the greatest artists of our generation in the prime of his career, fresh on the heels of an excellent solo debut.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Bud Light Stage, 8 p.m. — Neil’s the man. Seriously, one of the greatest musicians ever. Definitely the greatest Canadian ever. Expect him and his legendary garage band Crazy Horse to blow the roof off of the Bud Light stage Saturday night.

Sunday
Gary Clark Jr. AMD Stage, 2:15 p.m. — In many ways, this may be the one show not to miss this weekend at ACL. Gary’s legend has simmered around Austin over the last 10 years, and later this month the supremely talented guitarist and soul singer’s major-label debut Blak and Blu hits shelves nationwide. The buzz is already palpable, and Gary certainly has the chops to match the ever-mounting hype. This could be one of the very last chances to say you “saw him when ...”

Iggy & the Stooges Bud Light Stage 6:15 p.m. — Old and haggard as they might appear, it’s just not every day that you get a chance to see a band as legendary as the Stooges. Iggy and company were the true progenitors of punk rock, laying out a blueprint for the sound with Raw Power in the early ‘70s. Forty years later, they’re still as wild and unpredictable as when they first started.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Bud Light Stage, 8:15 p.m. — One of the most convulsion-inducing and widely-appealing bands of our time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers blasted onto the national scene in the early ‘90s and never let go. Over the years they’ve experimented and developed their sound but never lost the original fan base that made them punk-funk heroes to begin with.

Printed on Friday, October 12, 2012 as: Top 10 acts to watch at weekend festival

Patrick Watson will be making their ACL debut at this year’s festival. (Brigitte Henry | Pitch Perfects)

Patrick Watson’s debut Austin City Limits Music Festival performance may turn out to be more of a magic show than a musical performance.

Patrick Watson is not the lonely, goateed singer-songwriter you might initially picture upon hearing the name. The name refers to a band composed of four men, one of whom is named Patrick Watson.

“We didn’t have this ambition of being a band, we were just kind of having these crazy evenings and were putting these elaborate shows on,” Watson said. “We just got kind of slumped into the name Patrick Watson. I would’ve preferred to have a band name, but life just happens the way it does.”

The elaborate shows are a signature attribute of this band of Canadian men. According to audience accounts, previous shows have seen the band perform tricks such as transforming a bicycle into an instrument while playing the song “Beijing” from their junior album, Wooden Arms.

For their most recent album, Adventures In Your Own Backyard, the band left the bike on the rack and stuck to conventional instruments during its purposely subdued recording sessions inside Watson’s home. The result of these toned-down sessions was an album that leans more toward humble subtlety with hints of magical whimsy.

Inspiration for the album was drawn from familiar places inside Watson’s own metaphorical backyard.

“Recording this album inspired me to look at my own neighborhood and take a look at people I live around,” Watson said. “Instead of being inspired by things far away, we try to be inspired by things around us.”

Watson’s self-proclaimed love for old science fiction also plays a role in their newly adopted simplistic approach to recording and making music.

“What I love about science fiction is the subtlety of the craziness. There’s very much a lack of subtlety in the era that we live in,” Watson said.

In his free time, Watson is most likely working on a film score. During the band’s brief respite between tours, Watson has been composing the score to a short film he described, as “a Jim Henson porno in space narrated by David Attenborough.”

Watson’s life is a busy one, filled with song writing, film scoring and the occasional hint of magic.

“When I go to write music, that’s my favorite part,” Watson said. “It’s a beautiful escape, it feels fantastic. I don’t think I could ever stop writing music.”

In a sense, a beautiful escape is what Patrick Watson as a band aims to provide through its live performances.

“Recordings always makes us a lot more melancholic than the music really is. It’s a fun show. People usually like our live show better than our CDs,” Watson said.

During the band’s first-ever ACL performance, audience members can expect to see Patrick Watson’s usual signature antics, but will also enjoy a more subdued show compared to previous tours.

What definitely won’t be missing, however, is the subtle magic Patrick Watson has managed to capture so well in Adventures In Your Own Backyard.

“When I’m on stage performing the album and I just feel it in my gut. There’s not another word to describe that feeling other than magic. I love that it has that kind of magic to it.”

Printed on Thursday, October 11, 2012 as: Watson's whimsical show will charm

Update at 7:45 p.m., Aug. 2 - The Austin City Council postponed voting  Aug. 2 on the agreement to extend ACL Music Festival. This agreement with ACL producer C3 Presents will instead be voted on Aug. 16.

Music will drown the city of Austin for two weekends if Austin City Limits Music Festival is extended next year.

If Austin City Council agrees with the extension, ACL will take place Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13 next year at Zilker’s Great Lawn. Many expect this longer event will help meet the increased demand of people desiring to attend the festival. C3 Presents, the entertainment planning company that produces ACL as well as more than 800 shows nationwide, is also in discussion with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to renovate Auditorium Shores, a park where events are held throughout the year.

In previous years C3 gave Austin Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to improve local parks, 8.5 percent of its ACL ticket sales. If the festival dates are extended, they will give a larger percentage.

“There are still many details to work through,” Sandee Fenton, a C3 Presents spokesperson said. “We hope we will reach a final agreement, and as soon as we have more information to share, we will make an official announcement and provide more details.”

ACL rakes in more than $73 million in visitor spending and total economic impact for Austin, according to a 2011 KXAN news story.

C3 Presents has also agreed to provide additional security and cleanup crews if the festival is extended. Throughout the years C3 has given millions of dollars to Austin and Austin Parks Foundation, which works to coordinate park improvement through many local agents, to help maintain the Great Lawn.

Ralph Webster, president of Austin Parks Foundation, said C3 has basically paid for the Great Lawn, which is about a $2.5 million investment. They have resown the lawn, changed to cleaner irrigation methods and purchased additional equipment to help maintain the lawn. In 2009, when a rainy ACL turned freshly planted grass to mush, C3 stepped in to replace the grass.

“Nobody is requiring C3 to donate millions and millions of dollars to The Great Lawn, but they do it because they want to see a world class park,” Webster said. “They are great neighbors who will take care of any damages that happen. It is their lawn as well.”

If the extension is approved, C3 has also offered to increase the money it donates each year to help improve Austin parks, including Auditorium Shores. Many events held at Auditorium Shores end up becoming a dust bowl after thousands of feet have trampled the lawn, such as the Austin Food & Wine Festival produced by C3.

Once a cost is approved for the renovation of Auditorium Shores, C3 said they will make a commitment to fund these improvements.

“The improvements to the park are vital to the longevity of future events, those produced by C3 as well as other entities,” a C3 Presents spokesman said. “We have been in discussions for some time to make these improvements, and we are thrilled to work with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to restore Auditorium Shores to a lush green space for Austin.”

History sophomore Claire Hutton said the cost of attending ACL is a hefty price for a college student to pay.

“Even though I am a student going to UT with limited funds, I feel like the unique experience of attending ACL is worth the cost,” Hutton said. “Obviously other people feel the same way if the city is contemplating extending the dates for more people to attend.”

City Council will review and vote soon on C3’s donation and possible extension of ACL, although the date of the vote has not yet been announced.