Anyone that’s attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival understands the importance of the weather over the weekend. You might remember the dustbowl year, or the Dillo Dirt mud-fest. While Friday was hot and humid, Saturday’s cooler temperatures ushered a forgotten sensation into town. And the change seemed to be all anyone could talk about.
“You know the weather is perfect you know,” said Austinite Uly Suchil. “It gets a little cooler, you know. And I can’t wait ‘til tomorrow and next week as well.”
Suchil snagged passes for both weekends of the festival. But most attendees seem to be choosing just one or the other. The first weekend sold out quickly. Judging from ticket sales, an estimated 75,000 people should have come through the festival grounds each day of this first weekend, the same attendance seen at last year’s one weekend ACL. But it certainly didn’t feel as packed as previous years.
Three-day passes were selling for less than a hundred bucks last week on ticket reseller, StubHub. And outside the festival grounds there was an increased scalper presence – which made you wonder what percentage of the sold-out ticket sales went to actual people over resellers.
Robert Cole noted the attendance difference while catching a set from indie pop band Passion Pit on Saturday.
“Well right here, we’re about three-quarters back from one of the main stages; this is one of the best bands playing,” Cole said. “And there’s enough room to move around. I can throw the football with my son. I can move around and actually have a good time instead of being bumped into and constantly apologizing to people around me.”
Cole added that he’s come to the festival every year, and this year was “a lot less oppressively crowded.”
While the exclusion of single-day tickets this year disappointed many, one popular change was the inclusion of craft beer. In a tent dubbed The Barton Springs Beer Hall, festival-goers could post up on a 100 foot bar with 16 tap beers from Real Ale, Alaskan White, Stone IPA and more.
Arch Rowan came to the festival from California. He took the opportunity to grab a brew and ponder how he might have done the festival differently.
“You know what would be cool?” Rowan mused. “If the didn’t have the same venue each weekend. One weekend was strictly local, strictly small town. The other weekend is like bring in the big names. And whatever else. That would make it cool.”
At Saturday night’s Cure show, all generations were represented in the crowd as Robert Smith rocked Austin for two hours. Even if they were covered in blankets and scarves due to the sudden drop in temperatures, everyone was dancing and singing along.
Other notable acts caught were folk country husband and wife Shovels and Rope, psych rockers Tame Impala, Austin soul revivalists Latasha Lee & the Blackties, indie dance master Toro y Moi, powerhouse rocker Lissie, and the festival’s sole hip-hop act Kendrick Lamar. Phoenix enchanted the crowd at twilight on Sunday with a headline worthy set (that was sadly not on one of the main stages). They, along with a few other acts including Muse, also suffered from technical issues that caused all the sound to cut out for periods of time. (Especially bad timing when Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars was in the middle crowd surfing and singing).
One of the biggest surprises of the festival was Lionel Richie’s closing set Sunday night. Richie inclusion in this year’s ACL completed the triad of headlining ‘80s acts, but some questioned it. Richie, however, dispelled any doubts as he entertained and delighted an audience that spanned half of the festival grounds. Almost everyone was either singing or dancing as Richie ran through his greatest hits, including “Say You, Say Me,” “All Night Long” and “Dancing on the Ceiling,” as well as the Commodores classic “Brick House,” the Ohio Players’ “Fire” and finale, “We Are the World.”
On Friday, Weekend Two of the festival kicks off. With tickets available, there’s still the opportunity to check it out – or relive it all again. And this time there might be some rain in the forecast.