There is no doubt that when you come to a C3 festival, every whim and whisper will have a smiling face to meet it. Austin City Limits is a prime example of how corporate efficiencies can come together to provide an experience that is all inclusive. It's easy to lament the professionalization that the music industry has undergone over the last few decades. It's far harder to deny it's merits.
At ACL this year was every amenity that you could imagine, coming together to form a music festival whose breadth exceeds any traditional parameters. Gone are the days of a stark split between GA and VIP. Instead, C3 embraced the fact that sponsors have a ton to offer, and so created a multitude of experiences throughout the park that allowed for the attendees to craft their own unique weekends. There were about 11 different "VIP" areas, including ones sponsored by Tito's Vodka, Miller Lite, American Express, HomeAway, State Farm, along with access to the shaded grove that came with the VIP tickets.
Hands down, ACL has the best food out of any of C3s festival offerings. Every single Austin staple had a presence, rounding out into what was, for us fatties, maybe the most exciting part of the festival. We'll list some out now, because honestly, you should make an effort to try each and every one of these if you find yourself in Austin. Micklethwait Craft Meats slinging prime brisket sandwiches. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro's elk foie gras tacos (with blueberry slaw). Fried chicken and avocado goodness served in Mighty Cone's innovative handheld form factor. Wholly Cow's outstanding burgers with their subtle grass fed sweetness. Chi'lantro's world famous kim-chi fries loaded with pork belly. And last but not least, Tiff's Treats bringing it home with warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies. We hope those from out of town took the opportunity to try out some of the above delicacies, because a trip to Austin simply isn't complete without some serious binge eating.
Crystal Castles, the Canadians with a tumultuous history as a band, began with Ethan’s signature synthetic pop sound we all know and love. It has already been established how much fans miss Alice, but once the dance party started, we decided she was probably glad she wasn’t there for Ethan to make her wear three layers of black clothing in 90 degree Texas weather as a political statement. However, as the set came to a close, “Not In Love” helped fulfill any Crystal Castles festival goals we might have had and all turmoil was quickly forgotten.
Love him or hate him, Martin Garrix is one of the most popular DJs in the world for a reason. His high energy brand of EDM consistently brings a massive crowd ready to jump in elation to his synth-y, bass-y tracks. Based on all the fists in the air it was blatantly clear that all the bros were feelin’ it, and the stage theatrics were undeniably impressive.
For what potentially could be viewed as one of the most underrated artists at ACL, Tove Lo brought an absolutely massive crowd to her Saturday performance. Fans too far away to even see her on the Barton Springs stage, sang along and hip-thrusted with her to every word through the night. Her vocal presence was exceedingly powerful and all those in attendance came away with healthy respect for her skills and passion.
If you weren't a believer in Chance The Rapper, his ACL performance certainly changed your mind. Church was in session and there weren't many dry faces in the crowd. From showcasing the individual talent of his backup vocalists, to briefly sharing about his addictions and journey to getting clean with his baby mama, it was incredible to see a performer be so honest with their fans.
Speaking of honesty, Russ threw in his hat for the most heartfelt performance of the weekend. He made no qualms about telling the audience that "these clothes on my back are yours, not mine. This chain is yours, not mine." When, halfway through his closing song, he asked the DJ to start it again from the beginning, he confessed that "I wasn't paying attention. Y'all deserve better than that. Excuse me but let me re-do it." Even more poignant, when his sound cut out as Ice Cube started performing on the adjacent stage, Russ' fans sang out every remaining word to his song. It's hard to imagine a more touching way to demonstrate just how important his fans are.
The Yuma-esque Tito's Tent did an exceptional job at building and holding the crowd's energy through each of the sets played there. With the stage nearly at eye level, it was necessary to show up early in order to catch a good view of the performers. Furthermore, the crowded tent served to heat up the floor to high school dance levels, adding to the overall energetically invigorating experience.
Far and away the most mind-blowing set of the weekend took place in the Tito's tent. Sunday afternoon, South African tropical house duo Goldfish put on a masterclass on bringing mainstream EDM sounds and samples to an audience that likely wouldn't call themselves fans of that style (ourselves included). With easy to sing lyrics, stellar saxophone, an upright bass, and even a flute accompaniment, this had all the marquis features of a well rounded show. The energy in the crowd was absolutely outstanding and the "3-2-1 JUMP"s felt natural and, honestly, pretty damn good.
Another notable Sunday feature of the Tito's Tent was BadBadNotGood. Billed as producers extraordinaire, they proceeded to blow the minds of the audience by shredding a style of nu-jazz that felt like the best combination of old and new. The instrumentation was without a doubt some of the most impressive on display across the wide array of acts across the festival. BadBadNotGood was anything but.
The always seductive Zhu didn’t disappoint with one of the more moody EDM performances of the festival. Sporting a matching Zorro like cape-and-hat combo behind a cloud of smoke, he forced the crowd to focus on the artistic expression and overall creative message embedded in his music. He asked you not judge his outward appearance as an Asian-American DJ, but to look deeper at the meaning behind the experience he cultivated.