Austin City Limits festival recently returned to Zilker Park for the 21st iteration of the festival. The city of Austin estimates that 450,000 people attend the festival over the two weekends each year making it one of the largest US music festivals. In addition to a solar eclipse, festival goers were able to experience 100+ acts across nine stages for the 2023 edition of the festival.
Weekend two began on a hot and sunny Friday, with temps reaching the mid 90’s. Music started with legendary blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and Tilt-A-Whirl band on the Honda Main Stage. Vaughan’s skills are as on-point as ever and he put on a show for the Texas crowd.
YouTube sensation Nessa Barrett recently ditched life as a brunette to become a platinum blonde. She proved that blondes really do have more fun as she led a sing-a-long with fans early in the afternoon on the American Express Stage.
It was a tough choice deciding between Breland and Abraham Alexander during the 3 o’clock hour, but country music is usually our preference so Breland took the crown and did not disappoint on the Miller Light Stage.
Ethel Cain had a huge crowd in the afternoon. During “Family Tree”, Cain hopped off the stage and sang to her fans on the barricade wall. They – understandably – were losing their minds as they cried and sang along.
Lil Yachty proved his talent isn’t just rapping as he belted out a few ballads at the beginning of his set with the funky “drive ME crazy!” and smooth hit “the ride-”. He switched gears in song three with “SOLO STEPPING CRETE BOY”, reminding the crowd he can spit bars just as smoothly as he can belt ballads.
We love Memphis native GloRilla, but she disappointed fans by taking the stage 35 minutes late and playing a short set due to her tardiness.
Maggie Rogers, in a flowy black dress, sang to a huge crowd that gathered to see her sunset performance on the Honda Stage. The “Love You For A Long Time” singer was a delight.
Texas-based Space X flew over the festival, leaving smoke rings in its wake as The Revivalists played their set on the IHG Stage. The Revivalists had a great week scoring their second consecutive Number 1 song on the Adult Alternative charts with “Good Old Days” off their latest album “Pour It Out Into The Night.”
Festival goers had to choose between alt folk act The Lumineers and the enigmatic Kendrick Lamar to close out night one. The Lumineers played an upbeat set on the Honda Stage, including fan favorites “Cleopatra”, “Ophelia”, “Stubborn Love” and a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ cover of “Walls”. On the American Express Stage, Kendrick Lamar delivered a 21 song set including “HUMBLE.”, “Money Trees” and a memorable cover of The Weeknd’s “Sidewalks.”
Saturday kicked off with a partial solar eclipse just before noon as the music began. It was about 20 degrees cooler with a breeze, which made for the perfect festival day at Zilker Park. Devon Gilfillian stepped onto the T-Mobile Stage in a flower-covered blue suit and wowed the crowd with his silky vocals.
Ben Kweller’s set was emotional. The singer’s son, Dorian, passed away earlier this year in a freak car accident at the tender age of 16. Kweller played his son’s song, “How I Am”, in dedication to him, calling his son his “one and only friend”.
Jessie Ware was a new discovery for us this weekend. The singer has a funky, pop sound that really got the crowd dancing. Ware’s joy was palpable as her smile flashed from the stage. Her set was full of infectious earworms – “Ooh La La”, “Freak Me Now” and “Free Yourself” should be on any club playlist.
Legendary country music artist Tanya Tucker had a massive crowd in the afternoon. Surely, some of the crowd was in place for viral musician Noah Kahan, who was going to take the stage after her, but it was a fun intro to the classic country sound Tucker’s stuck to for five decades. The twangy singer’s fans chanted “Tanya! Tanya!” throughout her set. Tucker was dressed in all white and dazzled on stage. With 26 albums under her belt and an induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame scheduled for this year, it was a real treat to see her live in her home state.
Coi Leray stole the show on the IHG Stage. In a scantily clad denim cutoff outfit, she entered the stage on a bed and delivered a high energy performance with backing dancers.
Dressed as a daredevil in a motocross vest and outfit with a silver cape Jared Leto leapt into the festival from the top of the Honda stage to start the 30 Seconds to Mars set after singing the intro for “Up In The Air” from the top platform. Jared joined his brother Shannon who plays drums in the band for a set filled with pyro and audience participation that made Saturday the absolute best day at ACL 2023.
Noah Kahan knows how to draw a crowd. He always mentions his Jewish roots to the crowd, and said people call him the Jewish Ed Sheeran. This weekend the “Stick Season” singer asked to be called Post Shalom, as a nod to collaborator Post Malone. The singer had the crowd singing along throughout his set.
Khan also made fun of his New England roots as he said everyone looked like they were having you much fun and all New Englanders want to do is bring people down with them when they are sad – laughing as he launched into his hits.
Saturday night was closed out by The 1975 and Foo Fighters. Since we had just caught The Foos at the ACL Live Taping on Thursday, we decided to give The 1975 an opportunity to redeem themselves after their ridiculous performance at Lollapalooza earlier this year. The band will be taking a hiatus shortly, according to singer Matty Healey.
Healey was more focused on the Honda Stage than he had been in Chicago, which made it much easier to see just how talented the band behind the chaotic singer is. The saxophonist and the bass player were the standout stars of the evening. Their set largely included songs from the 2022 release “Being Funny in a Foreign Language”, with a few other hits peppered in from their discography, including “Robbers” off their debut album. The crowd was really dancing during “Chocolate”.
The final day of ACL began for us with 26-year-old GRAMMY winner Madison Cunningham. The singer songwriter is known not only for her beautiful, warm voice but her emotive guitar playing. Her eight-song set was captivating.
We ran into another difficult scheduling choice at the 3 o’clock hour with Suki Waterhouse on the Miller Light Stage and Morgan Wade across the street at IHG. Country music again won out for us, so we caught Morgan Wade. She took the stage in an Elvis tee and her signature blue guitar. Wade sounded wonderful and had diehard fans packed together in the front row.
There was a slight onset of FOMO when we learned that Suki’s husband, heartthrob and Twilight star Robert Pattison, was seen watching her set.
1D’s Niall Horan had one of the largest crowds of the day for his set on the American Express Stage at 4:15. He came out strong as he sang “Nice to Meet Ya” while he played guitar. The front row of fans waved Irish flags and showed the singer love.
All weekend, we looked forward to catching country newcomer Corey Kent. His song “Something’s Gonna Kill You” got me through many long drives this summer. It was so fun to see him perform on the BMI stage like it was an arena show and hear the song live. BMI was also celebrating 20 years at ACL Festival.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O took the stage in a sparkly green cape to bring a little rock n roll to the big stage. It’s been a minute since I have seen the band, so it was a real treat to catch them live again. Karen O is one of the greatest frontwomen alive and just so dang cool. The band had the crowd dancing all the way through their set, saving some of their biggest hits “Maps” and “Heads Will Roll” for the end.
Labrinth was a must not miss for me after not being able to get close to his tent at Coachella earlier in the year. He took the T-mobile Stage on a platform backlit for a dynamic performance for the fans who gathered. It was one of the most unique sounds and performances of the summer festival season.
Odesza bathed the Honda Stage in lights and pyro as they closed out the Honda Stage. The band has such feel good energy. We rushed over to the Am Ex stage to catch folk rockers Mumford and Sons to close out our 2023 festival season. Marcus and crew sounded beautiful and provided the perfect sound to the crisp fall Austin evening.
We love Austin and can’t wait to return for next year’s festival.