It’s that time of year again! The Austin City Limits Music Festival is almost here and we can’t wait to head over to Zilker Park for a fun-filled weekend (or two) of excellent live music, killer food and great memories. To help us prepare, we talked to a few local music experts to find out who we should see and what we should do to make the most of the epic weekend.
Headliners. From Prince and Justin Timberlake tag-teaming South by Southwest last year, to a pair of mainstage massacres at Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2011 and 2013 by Slayer, Austin’s myriad music festivals live and die by their marquee toppers. The Austin City Limits Music Festival, let us count a few ways: Al Green (2003), Massive Attack (2006), Bjork (2007), Stevie Wonder (2011).
This year, ACL’s outdone itself.
Previous headlining tandems boasted twin pillars such as Neil Young and Jack White; 2013 rocked ’em/socked ’em with heavyweight genre giants The Cure and Depeche Mode slaying consecutive nights on the same ACL stage. Come October, the Zilker Park rave detonates a pair of same time/same night face-offs: Outkast/Beck and Eminem/Skrillex. Best go both weekends and catch four full sets.
Except… a humanity convergence on the order of SXSW, ACL, and FFF never, ever boils down to its top one percent. Every music festival from Coachella to Lollapalooza erects a pyramid of talent stone by stone. Today’s B, C, D stage band remains tomorrow’s top billing. When Kings of Leon debuted at ACL 2003 alongside their debut full-length, the Tennessee studs performed on a B stage first thing Sunday morning to no more than a couple hundred people.
Even that misses the point. Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit floored many a local at ACL 2011. The chances of their becoming the second coming of Joni Mitchell strike me as slim, but them mesmerizing local hippies with crystalline harmonies as pure and cool as a Scandinavian fjord tattoos the mind. Austin collects performances into its collective music database, from Johnny Cash immortalizing a young Emo’s in 1994 to Luciano Pavorotti booming at the Frank Erwin Center in 1999. The live music capital notches global talent act by act, show by show, decade by decade.
Here’s a trio of recommendations for ACL 2014 that aren’t likely to bump Pearl Jam off the ascension stage, but then that’s the point. Any festival’s undercard carries the day. These three come guaranteed.
Like ACL royalty Manu Chao, born to Spanish parents in Paris, Anamaría Merino Tijoux became a Lille, France, native via Chilean parents. The thirtysomething rapper’s spit her rhymes at both SXSW and Austin’s annual springtime Latin fest, Pachanga, but this ACL offers Tijoux perhaps her biggest local audience. Fifth release Vengo sponsors this spot with beatbox street salvos both political and personal and in what should be Texas’ second native tongue. Femmcee power, all the way.
Recent Chronicle cover boy Adrian Quesada brought his native Laredo to Austin via the Hispanic horns of Grupo Fantasma, which won a Grammy during his tenure in the big band funkestra. His dual guitar offshoot from Grupo, Brownout, received a shout-out in the last month from no less than Ozzy Osbourne for the band’s Black Sabbath covers disc Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath. At least three more bands divide his time, but the breakout may well be this collaboration with Dante Schwebel, frontman for former San Antonio hopefuls Hacienda, and My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan. Remember sixties garage rockers ? & the Mysterians (“96 Tears”), a Texan crew that migrated up to Michigan? Spanish Gold may well constitute the indie rock version on its debut LP, South of Nowhere.
I said it at this year’s SXSW and it bears repeating until my trademark’s been registered. Four letters sum up this Brooklyn powerhouse: ABBA. Planting a Lone Star flag last year at Utopia Fest and making their name here for March madness, Lucius actually debuted on Sixth Street at The Parish between those two spotlights. Seeing Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig – in platinum blonde wigs and booming dual vox – out front of three dudes who looked like an early version of Devo while walloping clarion pop “Turn It Around” and “Tempest” from their Wildewoman bow led to only one obvious conclusion. Like ACL sisterhood Haim, it’s only a matter of time before Lucius commands a festival mainstage.
Visit the Frank Erwin Center website to see who's coming, and subscribe to Be the First to Know to get a jump on upcoming pre-sales and ticket giveaways.