Austin City Limits is a very well managed and organized festival.  Right up our alley as you don't need to set up a tent!!  You can walk there, from the heart of Austin in about 40 minutes, and a lovely walk it is along the water!

We wanted to do ACL this year and spend some time in Austin when its not (SXSW) crazy busy.  Tickets are inexpensive (relatively) so we thought we could check out some bands and not feel compelled to see everything or everyone, just relax and take advantage of being in Austin. 

We worked out that we really didn't need to see any of the headliners ( I know…we are going to get kicked out of the Rock Club for saying such blasphemous words!)  but out of the entire lot, Beck was the only artist that we had not seen a lot and even he we skipped. Pearl Jam its one thing to see them perform but I knew 70,000 people on the field would be singing louder than Eddie so we skipped that too!

Wristbands are encoded, you just scan in and you are on your way and your credit card/debit card is encoded on there so you don't even need cash. 

The field has seven stages, and its organized well enough that there are very few clashes but the ones that did occur were some doozies, (St Vincent vs Sam Smith, Spoon vs Replacements) but the stages are so close to each other that you could see both and the sound did not bleed from one stage to another, so best of both worlds!

We made a rough plan of who to see and where to go but we really were going to wing this one.  Stages are so close even when there were three bands on at once, you could move from one to the next and chose who you prefer! 

Two main stages are also strategically placed around the Craft Beer/Sports tent.  Picture a nice and shady large area, a refuge from the heat and sun, where big screen TV’s shows football and the bar has a very lovely selection of craft beer.  When it wasn't completely crammed it was a great place to be. 

Food options were fantastic, well laid out and easy to get food all day long and washrooms…no lineups!!  There were tons of them all over the place and it was never an issue!

But to the music with tons of bands I didn't know so we tried out a lot of new ones, here is where it gets tricky.  There was not many big bands playing that we had not seen so while I still tried to see them, if they didn't hold my attention I moved on …which turned out to be the right call. 

While all the biggies sounded great and what I did hear from them was fantastic (Gaslight Anthem, Jenny Lewis, Replacements, Sam Smith, etc) it was some of the little bands and the side stages that brought the most enjoyment. 

Bands like Jon Batiste..pure New Orleans sound of joy at the Sculptures stage, fun, frolic, crowd going crazy and it sounded fantastic.  With the family name Batiste (TV show Treme is based on his family) this kid and his band are a bucket load of fun.

Trombone Shorty another New Orleans specialty full sound, big band and lots of trombone!  Crowd went crazy and hard not to get involved.

Legendary Soul Stirrers (Sam Cooke’s band) fantastic at the Sculptures stage and audience really get into it. 

Lettuce a band at the Sculptures stage (again), funk, blues, and again getting the crowd into it, the band really put on a great show.

Southern Rock band called A Thousand Horses, brilliant band of pure Southern attitude. Stunning voice and a great show. Last Internationale openers on the Robert Plant tour, serious rock n roll (think Pretenders with more attitude and maybe a better voice (?))  Serious fun.

The Hunts seven family members singing lovely folk rock pop, great little band on a great little stage James Bay (on a big stage) was a bit of a surprise as I had not heard of him before; big beautiful vocals on this guy. Buzz is just starting on him over here so I may check him out again.

Crazy even now how I look back and see how many bands we were able to see even though we didn't spend all day and night on that field and quite enjoyed bands like Real Estate, Rosebuds, Temples, Preatures, Chvrches, Kongo’s, Fitz & The Tantrums etc etc etc.

Really to me it’s all about doing what you want at this festival, you have lots of choices and the luxury of coming and going as you please.  Everything is accessible, and you don't have to commit to one show or the other. Everything is pretty much on time and it works really well but to me, with no pressure to see the big bands, opened up a lot of options and that's where the nuggets were found. The BMI stage and Sculptures stage were two of the smallest on the field and the best. We took the most joy out of those bands performing there.

We were lucky enough to get reasonably comfortable weather, sunny and warm everyday.  They moved the festival out of September and into October as its just too warm in September.  Even so any shade was a luxury with plenty of spots to hide in but it still was really really warm.  Dust was doing a number on my lungs, remember if you have any allergies they are going to kick you in the ass like they did with me but, again, when it got too much you just took off. Crowds only really became an issue late afternoon when there were bands like Iggy Azalea on one stage and Icona Pop on another or Sam Smith and St Vincent.  That’s when it got tough to move around, but thankfully we were not really under any pressure to see the big bands so we could move around and do what we wanted and everyday, when we had our fill we just walked back to the hotel and went out for dinner!

All in all with no lineups and a lot of options, it is a very lovely festival.  Much more to this one as it also includes access to plenty of shows after the festival ends and some of the big bands like Beck, Interpol, Temples etc were playing at local bars so you could check them out there as well.  We enjoyed our time in Austin and saw some brilliant bands we did not expect to see so all in all, very very enjoyable


Festival Website