For four decades, the public television series “Austin City Limits” has entertained American households with live musical performances in an intimate studio setting. Long before Nirvana’s VH1 “Unplugged” debut, musicians like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan treated Texan audiences to dimly lit, professionally produced glimpses at these live concerts. Eventually the program spread across the nation, turning into an inclusive venue for a wide variety of genres.
This October, more than 130 recording artists will perform at the two-weekend Austin City Limits Music Festival. Fans can purchase one-day tickets or three-day passes, and they can choose from the two weekends’ very slightly different lineups. More than ninety artists will be performing throughout the whole festival, while dozens more will perform exclusively on either the first or second weekend.
Like the show that inspired it, the Austin City Limits Music Festival no longer focuses exclusively on Texan or even Southern music; lineups in recent years have represented dozens of emerging and mainstream genres, from Top 40 pop and hip hop artists to progressive and alternative rock bands and innovative electronic music artists.
As usual, fans bought out every last “early bird” ticket long before learning the official lineup. After months of waiting, dozens of big-name recording artists kicked off Earth Day by announcing their participation on Twitter. There weren’t many surprises this year. After SXSW, Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, the ACL lineup looks awfully familiar. For example, top talents who will appear at Lollapalooza before headlining Austin City Limits include Eminem, Outkast, Skrillex and Lorde, as well as hit-makers Childish Gambino, Calvin Harris, The Avett Brothers, Foster the People, The Head and the Heart, Interpol and Chvrches. Still more acts kicked off the summer by two spending two weekends in the Southern California desert. Bands and artists that Austin borrowed from Coachella’s lineup include Outkast, Beck, Lorde, Arcade Fire, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Lana Del Ray, The Replacements, AFI, Chromeo, Zedd, Broken Bells, Foster the People and The Head and the Heart.
For those who love this alternative-minded city, which is unlike any other in Texas, the festival headliners actually saved the best for last. This October, the picturesque Zilker Park will fill with screaming fans and stages dwarfed by a one-of-a-kind backdrop, Austin’s iconic skyline. The 46-acre park on Barton Springs Road is bordered on two sides by the Colorado River and Barton Creek, and it will hold the thousands who flock to Austin, Texas, every year for the year’s most inclusive, eclectic and exciting music festival.
Weekend One (Friday-Sunday, October 3-5)
Almost twenty musicians will help kick off the ACL Music Festival during its first weekend, but won’t be back for a second round the next week. Bands and performers on the Weekend One list include indie-folk duos Johnnyswim and Dawn and Hawkes; Texan country group Asleep at the Wheel (for the second year in a row); New York blues band The Last Internationale; indie garage band Moats; five-piece pop/rock ensemble Snowmine; four-woman folk act Von Grey; electronic rock trio Sphynx; solo rock dynamo Arum Rae; multi-genre soul group the Gospel Silvertones; and funky folk act Hard Proof.
Austin natives playing Weekend One include the soulful rock/country group Mike & the Moonpies and alternative folk/indie band Blue Bear, but Nashville will be even more well-represented. Music City acts coming to town for the weekend include young singer/songwriters Jon Pardi and Marc Scibilia, as well as progressive folk and rock groups Modoc, Los Colognes and A Thousand Horses.
Weekend Two (Friday-Sunday, October 10-12)
Lorde, the prodigy songstress from New Zealand who reigned over the charts with “Royals” in 2013, is one of twenty acts that won’t be arriving in Austin until the festival’s second and final weekend. She’s seventeen now, with a couple of Grammy’s and a #1 hit under her belt, so it’s likely she’ll be worth the wait for concertgoers who choose Weekend Two.
Saints of Valory, the band that made “Royals” their own last summer, will join Lorde for the festival’s second half. Austin natives that are also exclusive to the Weekend Two lineup include folk duo Penny & Sparrow, bluegrass band Wood & Wire, and soul/motown band The Nightowls. The rest of the lineup includes young singer/songwriters Parker Millsap, Ashley Cleveland and Emily Wolfe, The Voice contestant Melanie Martinez, electronic duo Future Unlimited, Canadian rock duo Black Pistol Fire, hip hop duo (and married couple) Riders Against the Storm, old-fashioned indie acts Colony House and Catfish and the Bottlemen, Midwestern rockers The Stapletons, the seven-sibling indie-folk band The Hunts, rock trio The Wans, emerging alternative band Bully, Nashville indie group The Lonely Biscuits and melancholic rockers Beat Connection.
Both Weekends (Friday-Sunday, October 3-5 & 10-12)
Superstar Eminem is the lineup’s biggest and most pleasant surprise. After headlining Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park and embarking on the worldwide Monster Tour alongside Rihanna, the legendary rapper will headline both weekends at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Outkast took advantage of festival season too, performing at both Coachella and Lollapalooza before heading south to the annual finale in Austin, Texas.
Last year’s ACL lineup included obligatory old-timers such as Lionel Richie, The Cure and Depeche Mode, and it also showcased bands that have undergone transformations since their early peaks, such as Jimmy Eat World, Wilco, Muse, Kings of Leon, The Verve Pipe and Franz Ferdinand. The 2014 lineup continues this long tradition of representing both the new and the renewed, featuring several still-touring acts that will trigger nostalgia for the 1980s and 1990s. Pearl Jam, Beck and Spoon are among the stars with real staying power who are back to promote new albums, but headliners Eminem and Outkast can trace their careers back to the 1990s too. This October is an appropriate time to remember that great music is timeless and great talent doesn’t run out, and to catch upcoming stars in the very earliest stages of their rise to fame.
No matter which weekend they choose, ticketholders will have a chance to see rap legend Eminem, hip hop duo Outkast, the rock pioneers in Pearl Jam, The Replacements, Interpol and AFI, dubstep pioneer Skrillex, and iconic indie rocker Beck. Contemporary indie pop favorites include Foster the People and Belle & Sebastian, while The Avett Brothers and Broken Bells will keep alt-country fans happy and current indie-folk “It” band The Head and the Heart will make their obligatory festival appearance. Local indie rockers Spoon, controversial solo talent Lana Del Ray and American actor-turned-rapper Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover) round out the list of headliners.
Foreign singer/songwriters following in Lorde’s footsteps include Iggy Azalea (Australia), Jimmy Cliff (Jamaica), Paolo Nutini (Scotland), MØ (Denmark), Sam Smith (England), Mac DeMarco (Canada), Hozier (Ireland), Bernhoft (Norway), and Ana Tijoux (France). They share the two-weekend lineup with young American peers St. Vincent, Elizabeth McQueen, Jenny Lewis, Benjamin Booker, Tor Miller and Robert Ellis. Innovative electronic DJs will come from several continents too, including Calvin Harris (Scotland), Zedd (Russia/Germany) and Major Lazer (England).
Dozens of other contemporary artists will perform both weekends: country crooner Nikki Lane; electronic/folk duo Chromeo; electronic Scottish band Chvrches; Jersey rock band Gaslight Anthem; reggae act Rebelution; a pair of Swedish DJs known as Icona Pop; soulful supergroup Spanish Gold; New Orleans jazz/rap act Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; apocalyptic pop band Night Terrors of 1927; South African band KONGOS; the stripped-down multi-instrumentalists in Reuben and the Dark; folk duo Falls; psychedelic Latin band Zoé; electronic trio The Glitch Mob; funky organ-playing duo Sugar Free Allstars; Australian rock band The Preatures; Hall-of-Fame rockers The Legendary Soul Stirrers; Chicago duo The Q Brothers (second year in a row); Brooklyn-based indie-pop/rock groups Lucius, Miniature Tigers, Bleachers and Real Estate; upbeat rock band J. Roddy Walston & the Business; innovative New England act tUnE-yArDs; multicultural fusion band Beats Antique; British psychedelic rockers Temples; R&B ensemble Bad Rabbits; indie-rock duo The Rosebuds; indie-pop duo Capital Cities; electronic rock duo Phantogram; experimental indie DJ The Chain Gang of 1974; charismatic jazz pianist Jon Batiste and Stay Human; legendary seven-piece funk group Lettuce; Slovenian hip hop pioneer Gramatik; indie-soul group Fitz & the Tantrums; Brooklyn metal band Young & Sick; female-fronted indie wonder My Brightest Diamond; Colombian metal artist Juanes; Red Dirt country group Turnpike Troubadours; Irish rock group Kodaline; Aussie psychedelic rock band Jagwar Ma; Synthpop act Poliça; rock-country band Blackberry Smoke; eclectic indie jazz band Lake Street Dive; seven-piece Latin rock/pop band Ozomatli; British hard rock group Cults; and indie rock band Empires and The Districts.
Even Austin’s thriving gospel and soul world will be well-represented. Spiritual acts include the alternative gospel group The Jones Family Singers; gospel trio Shields of Faith; twelve-woman gospel choir The River City Christianettes; four-priest pop/rock group The Levites; and inspirational ministry group Wesley Bray and the Disciples of Joy.
The festival even offers a kid-friendly alternative called Austin Kiddie Limits, where children can enjoy the musical talents of singalong guitarist Steve Songs, kid’s rock band Ralph’s World and Peter DiStefano & Tor, the fifth and sixth graders in The Barton Hills Choir and young cover band School of Rock.