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.

ACL 2014 Lineup Predictions

The official lineup for ACL is set to be released next Tuesday morning, so it’s time for the time-honored tradition of using exact science and probability to predict the lineup before it comes out. Using complicated formulas and hours of in-depth research, below with 99% accuracy is a breakdown of who to expect at the festival.

Outkast – The legendary rap group 20th anniversary reunion tour is stopping at major festivals around the world, and so far they have no Texas date listed. Since they’re not playing FPSF in Houston and are likely too big to play Fun Fun Fun Fest, the chances are that ACL will be the one chance Texans get to see them.

Probability: 95%

Jack White – He just headlined two years ago, but ACL has had no qualms of using repeat headliners lately. He has a new album on the way this summer and his summer tour hits Houston and Lubbock but skips Austin, which indicates that he’ll probably be back in October.

Probability: 90%

Beck – New album? Check. Popular ‘90s artist who is still relevant both critically & commercially? Check. Scheduled ACL taping with no other Austin date coming up? Check. Prior experience headlining ACL? Check. Beck will almost certainly play this year. 

Probability: 95%

Arcade Fire – It’s been three years since they headlined, and since then they’ve only gotten bigger. They did just play Austin last week, but they also played The Backyard in May in 2011 before they headlined. Austin loves Arcade Fire, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Not as much a lock as the others but still very likely.

Probability: 80%

Lorde – She sold out Austin Music Hall in March, is playing Lollapalooza (also run by C3), and is a pop star who topped the alternative rock charts. She may not be a headliner, but she’ll be there. 

Probability: 85%

Skrillex – He played ACL three years ago, and headlines both Coachella & Lollapalooza this year. While Calvin Harris or Zedd could possibly take this spot, chances are Skrillex will be ACL’s token electronic headliner this year.

Probability: 85%

The Replacements – I would have pegged them for Fun Fun Fun Fest, but there are a few rumors online indicating that they will make ACL their Texas stop instead. As a legendary ‘80s indie rock band, its not a bad fit for the festival. 

Probability: 70%

Foster The People – Still not sure who likes this band, but enough people for SXSW to book them at Butler Park this year. Along with Coachella & Lollapalooza, ACL will most likely be a stop for them.

Probability: 90%

Childish Gambino – See Above, but deduct points for ACL not being very rap friendly.

Probability: 80%  

The Avett Brothers – Here’s another ACL favorite that hasn’t played in two years, is playing Lollapalooza/Bonnaroo, and taps into the festival’s folk rock scene nicely. They’re also touring and playing dates in Texas/New Orleans but not Austin this spring as well. 

Probability: 80%

Disclosure – The brothers from England played a sold-out show at Stubb’s in January and have a large crossover appeal. This would be a good way for ACL to appeal to the electronic fans/youth while also drawing in fans who typically avoid EDM.

Probability: 70%

Broken Bells – Between The Shins & Broken Bells, James Mercer has played ACL twice already since 2010. The Broken Bells album came out earlier this year, and while they played SXSW, it would make sense for them to come back where more people can have a chance at seeing them. There's also the Lollapalooza connection.

Probability: 75%

Classic Rock Headliner – Full disclosure (pun intended), I have no idea who this will be. Every year ACL has a headliner or two whose glory days were the ‘70s or ‘80s, and this year is hard to predict. Elton John is playing Bonnaroo, but last year Paul McCartney played there and not ACL. Fleetwood Mac has touring conflicts, and Tom Petty may not be bold enough. Bruce Springsteen is a possibility for this slot as well, since he has a new album out and is touring Houston/New Orleans this fall but not Austin. If he played, it would be a big get. In a perfect world, Prince would have this slot, but sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. If ACL gets Outkast & Arcade Fire, they will likely be the big draws of the festival, making the classic rock headliner not quite as large as in years past where it was Stevie Wonder or Neil Young. 

Best Guess – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Other probable acts: CHVRCHES, Chromeo, The 1975, Sleigh Bells, The Head & The Heart, Warpaint, Darkside, James Blake, Capital Cities,  Little Dragon, The Naked & Famous, Cage The Elephant, Gary Clark Jr., Sam Smith, First Aid Kit, White Denim

Longshots that would be cool: St. Vincent, Damon Albarn, Chance The Rapper, Janelle Monae, Lauryn Hill, Pharrell, Nas, Lana Del Rey

Who do you think will play ACL this year? Sound off in the comments below. 

The meteoric commercialization of Austin City Limits Festival in itÂ’s 10 years of existence has forced the spotlight off local musicians

Photo Credit: Andrew Craft | Daily Texan Staff

The moment the “Star Wars” theme plays this Friday at Zilker Park will mark the 10th anniversary of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

The festival has come a long way since its inception in 2002. Initially marketed as more of a local festival, capitalizing off of the branding of the pre-existing television show “Austin City Limits,” ACL stands among the big four — along with Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza — in the sphere of music festivals today.

Whenever a staple of indie music hits mainstream, it’s often contested and rejected by early adopters, something Austin, on the forefront of music, has a lot of. Even so, ACL has managed to effectively dodge the designation of a has-been or sellout, earning and retaining its status as one of the most coveted music festival tickets. It is in this aspect that ACL has been able to retain and thrive from the balance of local versus national acts, with which local bands such as Sound Team can share a lineup with behemoths such as The Killers.

The festival has also given the Austin scene more than just notoriety. After parties, concerts and other promotional events have extended the sanctioned music showcase out from the confines of Zilker Park and into a city-wide spectacle.

Unlike the general benefits a city derives from a large-scale event (e.g. increased revenue at restaurants, hotels and other tourist-related markets), ACL’s influence extends to more niche levels of the local economy. Local venues benefit from it all, especially from after shows that sell out in higher frequency than in any other time of the year. Tickets for the Cults and the Smith Westerns sold out in a matter of minutes and hours this year. Local artists often get the chance to open at these events, exposing themselves to the slew of tourists visiting the city for the festival. Events created in response to the festival, including Ditch The Fest Fest, can never truly escape the shadow of ACL because it thrives solely on ACL’s existence. The disgruntled hipsters gets their own event, and C3 Presents looks good without losing any market share, creating a win-win scenario for everyone.

But as much as ACL has advanced, which is evident in its focus on audience experience — such as charging your cell phones at the Google+ Lounge and refilling your water bottles at the CamelBak Filling Stations — and on generating money into the city, the festival has failed to improve where it has needed to most: its relatively lackluster lineup.

ACL has traditionally put out a praiseworthy lineup. In 2008, the headliners included the Foo Fighters, Beck and The Mars Volta. However, in recent years, the festival has not stepped up its game to match its increased notoriety as its counterparts, Coachella and Bonnaroo, have done.

Coachella’s 2011 lineup, featuring the likes of Daft Punk, The Beastie Boys and Odd Future, sent the Internet music world into a frenzied state of frothy salivation, and Bonnaroo achieved a lesser but similar effect with Girl Talk, Eminem and The Decemberists. Even Lollapalloza, ACL’s C3 Presents-owned counterpart in Chicago, arguably superseded the live music capital of the world. Lolla 2011 included talent ranging from breakout acts such as Skylar Grey and Ellie Goulding to mainstream darlings Eminem, The Cars and the Foo Fighters.

While analysis of festival lineups is subjective to each individual, ACL’s lineup can be criticized on an objective level in regard to the press each band receives.

Each festival operates, more or less, on a system that involves booking huge bands and then supplementing the lineup with scores of lesser known indie rock groups. The problem with ACL, this year especially, is that most of those groups have received extremely little press within alternative and indie media. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who has heard of Ha Ha Tonka, The Cavesingers or Reptar. I get paid to write about music, and I don’t even know who those people are. Bonnaroo, on the other hand, had “lesser” acts such as J. Cole, the Cold War Kids and the Smith Westerns.

Neither ACL nor C3 Presents have an excuse to lose out to these festivals. Coachella is in a desert in the middle of nowhere. And Bonnaroo happens in the southern summer heat of rural Tennessee.

Austin boasts tremendous amenities to rival both of these places with a vast array of hotels and accommodations for travelers and a city full of music-hungry fans. Perhaps C3 Presents is getting lazy because it can count on the city to attract music lovers with these features and sell out ACL. If the festival is actually about the music and the art, then this shouldn’t be the case. Money is always a factor in deciding things, and this is okay. A problem arises, though, when the supposed music capital of the world gets upstaged by a desert town of 70,000.

Even so, other Austin music festivals, including Fun Fun Fun Fest and South by Southwest, have managed to acquire an arguably better lineup — maybe not megastars such as Kanye West or Arcade Fire but an overall breadth of performers. If this trend continues, it’s only a matter of time before the rapidly growing Fun Fun Fun Fest gains more mainstream acts and becomes Austin’s premier music festival.

ACL as a whole is extremely beneficial for many sectors in the city of Austin. In spite of this, the festival has a long way to go before it blows up to its true potential, and no amount of propane will help it get there.

Printed on September 15, 2011 as: ACL nails balancing act between local, national