By Claire Hansen
Blog Content Contributor
After attending Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) for the third time last weekend, I felt it was time for an evaluation. Like any large event, there are several different components that come together in collaboration to make ACL the festival that it is. Yet, just like any other music festival, it has its ups and downs. That said, some are better than others. So, here’s a breakdown of all the good and bad, the highs and lows, the fun and the not-so-fun.
Although considered a mainstream music festival, ACL is unique in a lot of ways. All the diverse components that make up the lineup, the vendors, and the activities are what create the vibe of ACL. I’ll start with the most obvious – the music. Austin City Limits does a fantastic job of booking artists from a whole range of genres, from rock, to rap, to electronic. Being able to witness Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper and RÜFÜS DU SOL all in one day is a feat in itself. On top of a consistently great lineup, we also can’t forget about all the ACL Late Night Shows that run through Austin’s best venues during these two magical weeks. It’s the perfect opportunity for non-ACL-ers to still catch those select artists on the schedule they want to see, without dealing with the chaos of being at a festival.
Second to the lineup, in terms of perks, would most definitely be the food. The food at ACL far surpasses that of any other music festival I’ve been to by a landslide. We all know that our best dance moves can only be executed with pure, direct fuel, and one of my biggest pet peeves at events is a lacking food selection. Personally, as someone who is always trying to eat healthy and practice primarily vegan/vegetarian eating habits, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you need to ingest something in order to keep the party going, but your only options being turkey legs, funnel cakes and hot dogs. ACL definitely still serves all of these things, but, luckily for people like me, Austin is a very health-conscious city, and that is reflected in a lot of their food choices, which are all guaranteed to be gourmet quality from Austin’s best local restaurants. Some of their vendors include Torchy’s, Chi’Lantro and P. Terry’s, to name a few. Lastly, we have that beautiful Austin skyline. Zilker Park provides the perfect views of downtown, and I love that it gives out-of-towners such a wonderful taste of our city. After all, the huge influx of tourists that come for this event provide a major boost to our local economy, so I am glad we can give them such a marvelous experience in return. Even though I’m not a true Austinite myself, I am beyond proud to know that I live in a place that is so entertaining and welcoming to people from all over the world.
Like any music festival, ACL does have its downsides. Zilker Park is not nearly big enough to fit as many people as they sell tickets to, which can often make the experience of walking around the festival feel more like being in a herd of cattle. As I mentioned earlier, these large masses, combined with a very diverse lineup, create lots of variety within the crowd. In theory, it sounds fun to be around thousands of strangers with all different tastes and styles, but realistically, if you are someone who primarily sticks to one genre of music and therefore is used to always being around the same crowd, this can be very significant change of pace. The audience gives off many different vibes, and the wide age range of attendees also contributes to the diversity. Also, remember when I talked about how awesome the food was at this festival? Well, I still absolutely believe that it beats nearly every other festival in that category, but, there’s always a catch there. It’s outrageously expensive. My festy-buddy and I were in search of a bite this year and stumbled upon a $13 slice of pizza. Not a whole pizza, just one slice. I have no doubt in my mind that it was probably a very delicious piece of pizza, but come on! As if tickets to ACL weren’t already expensive enough, it’s absurd to me that they would deem it acceptable to sell simple food at such a steep fare. Did you know that a ticket to ACL used to cost 10 canned goods? Now, the cost of a ticket to attend ACL in 2017 ranges up to $3,600. As great of a festival as it is, it has been commercialized so much that it seems somewhat like a cash grab now. And the fact that it has expanded into two weekends only furthers that statement. However, if that helps to make each weekend a little less crowded, then I’m all for the idea. Sad, but I guess everyone has to make their money somehow, and the funding behind ACL (a.k.a., our ticket money), is what makes it such a fun place to be with the best talent and atmosphere.
ACL is a wonderful event. It draws in the whole spectrum of people, of all walks of life, from right here in Austin and across the seas. As the “live music capital of the world,” Austin sure lives up to its name by putting on such an amazing event for so many thousands of music-lovers. No matter how expensive the price of a ticket may be, it is amazing to have this festival as a major staple of Austin, and to see it bring in such a wide assortment of people from all over the world. It is what makes Austin, Austin.
Featured image by Claire Hansen.