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Austin City Limits 2017 Review: Top Performances and Festival Review

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Austin City Limits W1 has come and gone and so has the 2017 festival season with it. Yes, there is still Voodoo, Snowglobe and some others, but for the most part Austin City Limits is the last of the major music festivals in 2017. Here's what we thought about the summer's last 2017 festival.

Top Performances at Austin City Limits 2017

Obviously you can't see everyone when you go to the music festival, especially one as big as ACL - conflicts are abound. Tough choices need to be made so I may miss some of what others consider to be top sets, but this is who really stood out to me at ACL.

  1. Jay-Z: I'm a fan of Jay-Z, but by no means a superfan. What I really liked about his headlining spot at Austin City Limits was it just felt like an event. Few artists get as much excitement in a crowd at a festival as I saw for that ACL performance. It was a great mix of his new 4:44 album and all of the classics. It was the one performance of the weekend I would categorize as can't miss.

  2. Gorillaz: They're just a terrific live act and really perfect for a festival. The big problem this year is you have to choose between The Killers and Gorillaz, which is tough for a lot of people. I saw The Killers at Lolla and Gorillaz at Outside Lands and to me it's really not close of who is the better live act to see. Gorillaz closing out with Feel Good Inc and Clint Eastwood was special.

  3. Vulfpeck: If you've never listened to Vulfpeck they are a bit hard to describe. It's this weird, funky, experimental jazz rock that is just fun and their performance perfectly matched. I always judge festival performances by how fast did it feel like it went by, and Vulfpeck's set went flying by even in the 95 degree heat. They are definitely worth checking out if you want to dance and have some laughs too.

  4. Cut Copy: I love Cut Copy and ACL was my first chance to check them out live, and they did not disappoint. The setting was perfect as the sunset on Saturday evening of ACL, and it was an all out dance party. I was pretty amped for this set and it surpassed even my highest expectations. Basically if you like Tycho or LCD Soundsystem you should check out Cut Copy.

  5. Rainbow Kitten Surprise: These guys put on an awesome show. Sunday afternoon was about as hot as I've ever experienced at a music festival and these guys still danced their asses off the entire set. They have so much energy it's hard to not enjoy them, and they even showed off some new songs off of their upcoming album. I hadn't listened to them much before ACL but between listening to their albums and seeing their live show I am now a big fan.

Honorable Mention: Charlotte Cardin, Milky Chance, Whitney, Spoon


ACL Charlotte Cardin

Top Lower Line Discovery - Charlotte Cardin

For me the best part of Austin City Limits is getting there early to find great, rising acts. There were a lot of shows we saw before 3 p.m. that were great - Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Mondo Cozmo (always great), Methyl Ethel, and others. The best we saw was Charlotte Cardin, and I couldn't recommend checking her out live enough. Her voice is probably the best I heard all weekend at Austin City Limits. She played some new songs and they were all terrific - look for her to rise on festival posters in the coming years.


Overall Festival Review

Obviously there is a lot more to festivals than just the music - getting there, the crowds, etc. The rest of this review goes to our thoughts on the total ACL experience.

ACL Free Shuttle

Getting to ACL

About as easy of an experience as I've had getting to a music festival. We stayed in downtown Austin for Austin City Limits so we took advantage of the free shuttle on Guadalupe and 4th. The shuttle was efficient and well run, with us never really waiting more than 5 or 10 minutes either way to get on a bus and be on our way. The picture above is from us heading to the shuttle line (or lack there of) at about 12:30 on Sunday. Admittedly we do try to leave 5 minute or so before the headliners wrap up because there is a mad rush of people when ACL ends. That said the buses were comfortable and a pleasant experience. For future attendees I would recommend downtown Austin for ACL and getting there by the free shuttle.


Austin City Limits Crowds

Of the big music festivals we have attended this year (Coachella both weekends, Outside Lands, Lollapalooza), Austin City Limits definitely felt the least crowded. Don't get me wrong, there's still 80,000 people at ACL but in terms of getting around and navigating the festival it is probably the easiest of the big ones. Zilker Park, where ACL takes place, is pretty open and spacious so it was great at making it not feel super crowded at any point all weekend.


ACL Weather

Good god was it hot at Austin City Limits. Each day was 90+ and what makes ACL really hot compared to the other festivals is there really isn't anywhere to get some shade. If you go to ACL be sure to dress cool, bring sunblock and prepare to be a sweaty mess for three days. I still had a blast but it is definitely one of the hottest festivals we have attended, even in October.


Austin City Limits Food

 I am torn on the food at Austin City Limits. On one hand everything is absolutely delicious (all local spots except Chipotle) and fairly reasonably priced at $8-$11 mostly. On the other hand all of the food is located in one corner of the festival so it gets extremely crowded. Additionally if you are on the other side of the festival it is pretty much impossible to get a quick snack and get back to the shows, because all the food is in one spot. I don't understand why food is not located throughout the festival like at most music festivals.

ACL Drinks


Austin City Limits Drinks

Farily reasonable compared to most music festivals. Here's a summary of the prices for adult beverages:

  • Miller Lite: $7/$9 depending on size
  • Hard Cider: $9
  • Craft Beers: $9-11
  • Bottles of Wine: $29+

ACL is definitely cheaper than Coachella or Outside Lands to drink, and bars are plentiful with them being located at every stage. Definitely a good festival if you like to enjoy some adult beverages at your shows.


Austin City Limits Overall

Overall I really enjoyed Austin City Limits. The music is great, the crowds are great and the overall setup is really well done. Also keep in mind that ACL is $250 roughly for a 3-day passes. That's nearly $200 cheaper than Coachella or Outside Lands, and about $100 cheaper than Governors Ball, Lollapalooza and other fests. It's still the best bargain of any music festival. For me the biggest downsides were the weather and the fact that getting food is a pain in the ass and not something I feel you should have to plan your day around. Aside from these minor gripes, it's still consistently one of my favorite music festivals and a great experience. I continue to always look forward to my next trip to Austin for ACL.

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