Highlights of ACL 2016
By: Michelle Hershberger
When it comes to Austin City Limits, the question is not whether it will be a great and unforgettable event, but how this year will be different than all of the others. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, this year’s ACL needed to be big and bold. Just like every other year, it delivered.
The qualities of ACL which give the festival its uniquely Austin charm were all present at this year’s event. Seeing someone eat salty french fries directly from their lap without a plate or even a napkin—while wearing black jeans—and instantly feeling at home is representative of the unique beauty of ACL.
Style-wise, there was a significant amount of originality this year. Crop top representation was much lower than I expected. However, men wearing overalls without a shirt underneath was popular this year. Flower crowns were practically obsolete and were replaced by space buns, which I donned to really get a festival feel and definitely can get behind.
Of course, the reason everyone is at ACL is for the music. As for the headliners, Kendrick Lamar’s Saturday night performance was the highlight. His show had the most energy and intensity, and the energy of the crowd during “Alright” was unparalleled during the rest of the festival.
The only challenge to that might have been “Closer” during The Chainsmokers set. Based off of how many times I hear “Closer” on the radio, I probably should not have been surprised by the crowd’s response. However, the amount of people in my general vicinity crying with happiness from hearing it live made me wonder if The Chainsmokers should have been on the Samsung or Honda stage.
Local Austin artists also shined at the festival this year from Wild Child to Matt the Electrician to Bayonne to Asleep at the Wheel. Whether there is something to be said for the music festival equivalent of homefield advantage or if playing for your own people is just that meaningful, these artists were a highlight and ACL’s commitment to showcasing local talent is part of what makes the festival so special.
My favorite part of ACL is sunset. At this point, the festival and nature are finally working together, providing a backdrop fitting of a production of ACL’s magnitude. The backdrop suits all acts in the sunset timeslot—from The Chainsmokers, Two Door Cinema Club, and Andrew Young—and brings a cohesion distinct to ACL.
Another festival highlight was when two women were talking about accidentally thinking the giant white ACL balloon in the sky was the actual moon. I made the same mistake and wondered about the significance of that moment. If only ACL could control the sun.
It has been a great 15 years with ACL. While waiting for artists to take the stage, the screens showed throwback videos of past performances—including The Roots, The Avett Brothers, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The people around me who had been before reminisced about ACL through the years, touching on the festival’s increasing commitment to sustainability and wondering how exactly the lineup is selected. On Sunday night, as I joined the hoard of people exiting, I only had one question—who will it be next year?