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Austin City Limits showcases eclectic live performances

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 02:10

Once a year for three days Austin becomes the center of the world. At least, that’s what it feels like when Austin City Limits music festival, commonly known as ACL, returns to Zilker Park with a bill full of the latest and greatest musical acts and 75,000 adoring fans from around the country. For some, the festival is a highlight of the year.

“This is my eighth year to go to ACL,” said senior sociology major Alexandra Galewski. “I went to high school across the lake from Zilker Park and we could always hear the bands sound checking the morning of ACL Friday. It’s my absolute favorite time of the year.”

This year the sold-out festival’s headliners include modern favorites such as The Black Keys, Florence and the Machine and Jack White. Old-school legends Neil Young, Iggy Pop and the Stooges will also headline at the festival. Throw in a selection of bands ranging from electro-pop superstars M83 to soul sensations The Alabama Shakes to South African freak-rap trio Die Antwoord and the festival can cater to nearly everyone.

With so many acts to choose from, music fans with a diverse palate often find that the hardest part of Austin City Limits, or any other music festival, is deciding what artists to see and which ones to skip. Depending on what kind of music fans want to see, some of those decisions will all but be made for them (it’s doubtful that too many people will be torn between The Black Keys and AVICII on Friday night, for example), but things aren’t always so clear-cut.

“Conflicts happen every year,” said Galewsky. “I usually look and see if they’ll be playing in Texas soon, or if I know they tour around here often, then I’ll go with the other choice. There’s always someone you want to see a little more.”

Indie music fans will have an especially tough time with Saturday’s schedule, which puts Metric’s refined rock against the gently weird folk stylings of Andrew Bird in the afternoon and indie darlings The Shins up against everyone’s favorite late night house band, The Roots.

Going to ACL takes a little bit of preparation. Bringing a water bottle along to take advantage of the free water stations scattered around the park is a must and so is a bottle of strong sunscreen. The festival also recommends bringing a bike to ride to and from the park and avoid the long bus and taxi lines after the day’s tunes are over.

Some festival-goers take extra measures to get ready for the weekend, such as planning out their schedule on the festival’s website or assembling a playlist consisting of bands playing during the weekend.

“The main reason I made a playlist is to help me discover the bands that I plan to fill the empty space in my schedule with,” said senior bioenvironmental science major Jack Kelly, whose ACL playlist is around nine hours long. “A great playlist has a few songs from each band that you plan
on seeing.”

Austin City Limits isn’t just a big deal for fans. Austin locals may hate seeing their city smothered in tourists for a weekend, but the festival brings in big business for the capitol city.

Last year’s festival was estimated to have an economic impact of more than $100 million dollars, and this year’s festival is expected to do even better. A recent deal between the city and ACL producers C3 Presents expanded next year’s festival to two weekends, a move that might just double the money brought in by the music extravaganza. The economic impact of the festival doesn’t matter much to most fans though. To them, it’s all about the music and quirky sense of community that Austin does so well.

“ACL is like Christmas, it’s that one time a year that reminds me that life is magical,” said senior biomedical science major Bre Breaux. “It’s the bands, buts it’s also the people. You’re bonded by a love of music ... and sweat, a lot of sweat.”


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