After a year of anticipation, the highlight of Texas’ musical world finally returned as thousands returned to Zilker Park for Austin City Limits. Fortunately for all, the lineup this year did not disappoint and the stars aligned in so many ways to set the mood. Austin, having experienced a heat wave in the time leading up to the festival, cooled down just as the festival began, leaving the city toasty but not unbearable. The lineup left little to be desired, featuring everything from Country to Hip Hop. The stage was set for a weekend full of musical collaboration, suspense over artists’ performances, and memorable moments both on and off the stage.
Early on the mainstage, Georgia rapper Lil Yachty found ways to incorporate his roots into his set early on. The performance opened with an all-female-of-color band, playing a calmer and more down-to-earth and melodic beat than his typical sound. One of the women picked up a microphone and began singing the intro to the recent single “drive ME crazy!” Lil Yachty appeared for his part of the song halfway through and introduced the band soon after. After a brief lull, he confidently shouted into the microphone “Let’s turn this bitch up” before starting “the ride-” and continued the set with a more consistent trap sound. The rest of the set was rousing and upbeat, including songs old and new including “Poland,” “Broccoli,” and “Coffin” before finishing his set with “the BLACK seminole.”
As the sun disappeared, Louisiana powerhouse The Revivalists took the stage to truly make the audience feel something. Opening with their recent single “Good Old Days,” lead singer David Shaw took the stage with an outfit and brand of confidence that clearly resonated with many Texans as he lept down to the pit and touched the hands of as many people in the front row as he could. The band played an upbeat version of “It Was a Sin” as Shaw seemed to spend more time standing on the speakers than the stage, his passion and energy uncontainable. Their sound live struck the right combination of old and new, as well as Folk and Rock as their setlist was fully flushed out including “Catching Fireflies,” “All My Friends,” and “Wish I Knew You” before finishing with another recent single “Kid.”
In a devastating blow to the fans in attendance, Kendrick Lamar’s set ran into a rather difficult-to-overcome hitch, the absence of the artist. For the first hour of the scheduled time, a note was displayed on the screen informing that the show would be delayed more than an hour due to an apparent issue with the musician’s flight. However, the snafu allowed all eyes to focus across the park where the longstanding Folk stars of The Lumineers performed an incredible and attention-grabbing set. As the band opened with “Cleopatra,” their entrances felt like people showing up to a family reunion as the members, starting with frontman Wesley Schultz, filed in one by one to a connecting platform in the middle of the audience to add their contribution to the song. Schultz took great care to interact with the audience, telling the story of writing “WHERE WE ARE” and it having been inspired by a vehicle accident, the lyrics “crashed the car in Arizona” resonating much more with the context, and reminiscing on past conversations with fans. He also remarked “Every once in a while we’ll meet a fan who will tell us when they got married they danced for the first time to one of our songs. It’s a great honor… They usually tell us it was “Ho Hey” and we tell them that’s about a breakup, but they will not listen.” The setlist was full of hits from across their decades as a band including “Ophelia,” “Flowers in Your Hair,” and “Gloria,” even covering Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You” in their time.
The Lumineers' co-headliner status almost turned to the opening act for the Nobel Laureate across Zilker as The Lumineers ended their set with “Stubborn Love” a loud bass started from across the way, as the two sets had only minutes of overlap. Lamar did eventually make his way to the stage less than 20 minutes before the originally scheduled end of the day, but his performance was nothing short of justification for delayed gratification. While shortned for time, he was able to pack more into his performance than anyone could have imagined. Opening with “N95,” his energy started high and kept it there for the whole half hour. His interactions with the audience were sparse, understandably to get to as much music as possible on a truncated schedule, but he remarked early in the set that he was not going to stop performing until they cut his microphone off. He did perform a surprisingly full show consisting of “King Kunta,” “DNA,” and “Humble.” It felt like the show would have lasted all night if allowed to, however, it finally came to a close when at 10:16 his microphone was cut and the show was unceremoniously ended in the middle of “Alright.”
After a short spout of the audience pleading in vain for the music to resume, they finally began to leave the park. However it was not all bad news, with the late performance, ultimately that could only mean less time until the festival would resume the next day.