One of our favorite times of year is almost here: the Austin City Limits Music Festival! Celebrating its 15th year right here in our backyard, ACL features all kinds of music and the chance to not only hear your favorites, but to also hear from some new-to-you artists. In case you missed it, we posted our Ultimate Guide to ACL 2016, which you can read here and which tells you everything you need to know before you go, including what to bring, what to wear, how to get there and more. We’ve listened to all the bands and think you should put these on your schedule:
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30th
11:30am – VHS Collection (HomeAway) is kicking things off with some music that will transport you back to the 80s. The synth pop three-piece from NYC have been friends since childhood, and there is no doubt in my mind that if you listen to “Lean” a few times, you’ll be hooked.
12:15pm – Liza Anne (BMI) did an excellent cover of “Wrecking Ball” and you’re likely to have heard “Take It Back” on the radio. Her lovely voice is showcased alongside easy, folk-infused melodies. If you aren’t convinced, split the set with Eliot Sumner (Samsung), who is Sting’s child. Eliot’s music sounds industrial, experimental and a bit haunting at times. “Information”, the title track to Eliot’s newest album, marks a new chapter for the former I Blame Coco lead singer.
1pm – Frightened Rabbit (Miller Lite) is a Scottish indie rock band which recently released their fifth album, Painting of a Panic Attack. If the band’s song “Get Out” reminds you of The National, you may not be surprised to hear that the two bands share a producer and a studio.
2pm – The Front Bottoms (Honda), a New Jersey-based punk rock band, is making the rounds on the festival circuit, having played earlier in the year at Coachella. Having been on the road most of the past seven years, the band has a loyal following, as you can see from this clip from their fan favorite “Au Revoir”. The Front Bottoms bring the perfect energy for an outdoor festival like ACL.
3pm - Practically everyone knows all the words to “Spirits”, The Strumbellas‘ (Miller Lite) breakout hit, so that song is sure to be a massive singalong. “Spirits” was the lead single from the Canadian band’s album, Hope, which was released in April. The songs on the new album continue combining serious themes with catchy melodies, as in the recently-released “We Don’t Know” video, which addresses keeping up the faith when hope seems lost.
4pm – Oxford-based Foals (Samsung) is coming off the high of playing a headlining spot at the Reading and Leeds Festivals. The latest album, What Went Down, explores weighty themes, including life and death, loneliness, anger, love and humanity. You may also want to leave a bit early to hear a bit of the fabulous Gina Chavez‘s (Tito’s) set, which begins at 4:45pm.
5pm – By this time in the day, you’ll be ready to dance! Jean-Philip Grobler aka St. Lucia (Miller Lite) and his band will bring their infectious pop anthems like “Dancing on Glass” and “Elevate” to one of the main stages. Next door at the Cirrus Logic stage is Cold War Kids, a long-standing indie rock group that’s just released their fifth album.
6pm – Julien Baker (BMI) may have just turned 21, but she is getting the attention of music fans across the country who are captivated by her heart-wrenching songs about growing up in a very Christian part of the country and wrestling with coming out of the closet to her family. Her journey from loneliness to acceptance and the bumps along the way keep crowds in other cities quiet during her shows. We’ll see if that happens at ACL as well.
7pm – Of course, we have a soft spot for other parents, and so we liked Band of Horses (Miller Lite) even more after reading this article about how things have changed for the founder and lead singer since he became a dad. Why Are You OK is the band’s fifth album, and songs like “Casual Party” seem tailor made for an outdoor concert with tens of thousands of your closest friends.
8pm – Festival organizers have been trying to book Radiohead (Samsung) since the very beginning, and the stars have finally aligned for that to happen. The band’s latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is their best in recent years, and from reviews from the road, this tour has been a great mix of new songs and old favorites.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1st
12:30pm – Yeah, we know that Kupira Marimba (Austin Kiddie Limits) is playing in the kids’ area, but the high-energy dance music seems like the perfect way to start off Day Two. Whether you are taking your kids or need to borrow a friend’s (or just pretend your kids wandered off), the Austin-based ensemble will get you warmed up for a day of music.
12:45pm – Nothing But Thieves (Honda), a five-piece alt-rock band from Essex, had their first No. 1 single on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart in March of this year with “Trip Switch”. The band’s self-titled debut has established the band in the UK, and from the looks of it, fans here in the U.S. are catching on, too. Matt the Electrician is another solid bet during this time slot, although us lucky Austinites can see him perform in other venues around town.
1:30pm – Caveman (Miller Lite) is bringing a more mainstream sound to fans their third time around with their latest album, Otero War. The first single, “Never Going Back”, is indeed “blending Springsteen and Wilco’s polished roots rock with the soaring emotional drama of Tears for Fears and the Human League”, as the band’s bio describes frontman Matthew Iwanusa’s vision.
2:30pm – There are several great bands in this time slot, but ultimately, Saint Motel (Honda) is likely to be a really fun set, with their songs which sound surprisingly retro and modern at the same time. If the band’s name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s likely that the summer hit “My Type” will. Lucy Dacus (BMI), who recently made a stop into NPR for a Tiny Desk Concert, is another option at a smaller stage.
3:30pm – Andra Day (Miller Lite) was anointed as “America’s Next Great Soul Singer” by New York Magazine, and her single “Rise Up” will serve as the theme song for a forthcoming film produced by CNN Films, called We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World. Day’s jazzy.soulful voice caught the attention of Steve Wonder’s wife, who shared it with her husband, who connected Day with industry veteran Adrian Gurvitz, who co-produced her debut album.
4:30pm – Welsh indie rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen (Honda) won British Breakthrough Act in the 2016 BRIT Awards, beating out James Bay, Jess Glynne, Wolf Alice and Years & Years. The band aspires to reach the critical success of Oasis, complete with plenty of hooks and lots of energy, which will be great for an outdoor festival like ACL.
5:30pm – The Naked and the Famous (Cirrus Logic) are back after a two-year absence with a new LP, Simple Forms, which the band crafted with the intent to make a pop record. During the time off, Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers ended their relationship, although the album showcases “their knack for earworm melodies, and those soaring singalong choruses, while introducing an on-trend, high glitz, pop-production style”, as one review put it.
6:30pm – The recently-released video of “Soy Yo” by Bomba Estéreo (Tito’s) has gone viral, with everyone from NPR to the Guardian singing its praises. The Colombian hip hop duo is sure to bring an infectious energy that will keep everyone moving.
7:30pm – Irish three-piece Two Door Cinema Club (Cirrus Logic) will release a new album, Gameshow, on October 14 after taking a hiatus during which the bandmembers struggled with alcoholism and depression. The group’s sound has evolved and become more varied, based on more recent releases.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2nd
11:30am – LA-based four piece The Shelters (Cirrus Logic) were “discovered” by Tom Petty, who was so impressed by the band at a show that he ended up co-producing the band’s debut EP and their first full-length album. The lead single, “Rebel Heart”, is a timeless song heavy on guitars and a departure from the electronic music which is prevalent in the ACL lineup.
12:30pm – The School of Rock (Austin Kiddie Limits) teaches students confidence through lessons and live performances. Students who have performed before can try out for The School of Rock AllStars, the cream of the crop who travel across the country to perform at large festivals like ACL and Lollapalooza. Each year is a different set of performers who give you a glimpse into what the future of rock and roll will look like.
1pm – Hometown group Wild Child (HomeAway) is centered around the core duo of Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins. The band’s most recent album, Fools, with its catchy title track with received a lot of radio play. Their latest effort is a break-up album of sorts, as Kelsey split from her fiancé of 5 years, and her parents divorced, during the writing of the LP.
2pm – Texas-born Country music singer and songwriter Kacey Musgraves (Samsung) started writing songs at the ripe age of 9, but it was years later that Musgraves was signed after competing on the singing competition Nashville Star in 2007. Her shows mix her original songs with covers, but hopefully she will grace the ACL crowd with “Follow Your Arrow”, one of her top hits which she happened to play on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must allow same-sex marriage.
3pm – Pete Yorn (Miller Lite) became a dad last year and is back with a new album, Arranging Time, after a six year absence. The mellow guitar pop is considered by many critics to be a return to his roots. See the video for “Lost Weekend” here.
4pm – Unlike some of the newer acts at the Festival, Local Natives (Honda) has been together for 13 years. The band members worked together on the latest release, Sunlit Youth, which began as 50 to 60 songs and was whittled down to a dozen carefully crafted tracks.
5pm – Oh Wonder (Miller Lite), a London-based electro-pop duo, is a testament to how the music industry is changing. The group sold out shows in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and New York without ever performing live beforehand. What started as a side project, which was to self-produce a song each month and share it on SoundCloud, blossomed into a tour a year after the first single was released online. The slow, R&B-influenced sounds like in “Without You” will ease you into the last evening of the festival.
6pm – “Genghis Kahn” by Miike Snow (Honda) may very well be one of the catchiest songs in recent memory. The Swedish indie pop band pepper falsetto vocals and piano into their music and have some hilarious videos which look plucked out of James Bond meets Austin Powers (check out new release “My Trigger” here).
7pm – When it comes to sister act Haim (HomeAway), most music fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em. The band canceled European dates on its summer tour to finish recording their sophomore album. After the success of their debut album, the new LP will be a tough act to follow.
8pm – Although Mumford & Sons (Samsung) has evolved from a banjo-playing group of lads, their newer, more guitar-laden songs still stand out like anthems that the crowd can sing along to. Seems like the perfect way to close out three straight days of music.
What bands are you most looking forward to seeing?