Thursday, October 13, 2016

[RECAP] ACL ’16: Flying Solo


Words by Elisa Regulski

Twelve girls in flowing maxi skirts linked arms and weaved their way through the crowd. Helium- filled balloons shot toward the Austin skyline and skittered their way back to the field. As baskets of chili fries and guacamole-covered hamburgers wafted their tantalizing smell through the crowd, people turned and eyed them lustfully.

You notice these things when you dance through a festival on your own.

Wandering aimlessly through a horde of 90,000 revelers has an oddly meditative effect. Like looking up at the stars on a clear Autumn night, you realize how many of us there really are. From the center of the festival, you can hear hundreds of sounds melting together. When pulsing electronica mixes with vulnerable acoustic blues, you know you’ll never taste that musical cocktail ever again.

This year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival celebrated its 15th anniversary, and while the music has shifted and the styles have changed throughout the years, the festival’s intent remains the same.

Whether you were smushed against Matt Shultz’s armpit during Cage the Elephant’s crowd surfing session or you were absorbing Gina Chavez’s lyrical Latin folk music, endorphins twinkled and hearts roared.

Even as a lone reveler, the buzzing energy felt tangible. I caught more than thirty sets during the ACL’s second weekend, but these are the moments I can’t stop thinking about.

Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club’s catchy, electronic swirl always perks me up when it plays on the radio, but their sound soars to new levels when they perform live. Like a thoroughly satisfying cup of coffee, their tone is full of bold, rich strength. When the lights picked up in a mesmerizing cyclone of color, the crowds melted away. I was engulfed in their sound, and that was all I could see.

Young the Giant

Young the Giant’s life-affirming anthem “Cough Syrup” got me through many stressful college midterms and sinking breakups in 2011. It’s the kind of tune that makes you want to roll your windows down on the highway and taste the breeze. This five-piece indie rock band wasted no time and launched into this song early in their set. This time, it took on a slower, groovier tempo, allowing frontman Sameer Gadhia to slide through the chorus and soak up the melody like a sponge.

City and Colour

Known for his emotional acoustic ballads, City and Colour ended their Saturday morning set with a surprising cover. Still ringing in his pure falsetto, Michael John Albert Green let his golden vocals soar in D’angelo’s “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker.” There’s something oddly cathartic about hearing Green’s resonant, angelic voice cuss out a former lover. Never abandoning his sweet vibrato, Green managed to get the whole field singing along to his twisted take on the song.


I’ve been told, in times of doubt and low confidence, to channel my inner Beyonce and flash a well-manicured middle finger up to my haters. While this advice was well-intended, what I really needed to do call upon the confidence of Lizzo.

With her mammoth vocals and powerful presence, Lizzo strutted across the stage like she was queen. Sure, all hip hop artists add some swagger to their performance, Lizzo’s shines so genuinely that it’s infectious. Body-positive, celebratory, and fierce as hell, this Sunday morning show set the bar high for the rest of the day’s headliners (and, let’s face it, they didn’t live up).

“Tell me how you’re feeling!” She yelled into the crowd.

We’re feeling good as Hell, Lizzo, and that’s what this whole thing is about anyway.