Austin, TX. The name itself brings to mind one thing immediately: live music. The city hosts throughout the year some of the most influential showcases of the music industry as a whole. SXSW takes place in March and it's late summer brother, Austin City Limits, occurs in September. We were there this year for ACL and were blown away by the festival as a whole as well as what we noticed about the topography of the music industry. The tides are turning quickly. Electronic dance music only a few years ago was a side stage act, a drug fueled subculture that only attracted the outcasts. Now the genre takes headlining spots regularly, attracting some of the largest crowds of festivals. We will give you a full run down of what we noticed and enjoyed about this year's edition of ACL.
Friday started off with a bang. The festival grounds were packed to an almost absurd capacity. It was a different experience than we were used to. We have covered dozens of festivals which cater exclusively to electronic music fans, and therefore attracted a smaller crowd of individuals. Austin City Limits is a premiere music festival, attracting fans of all different types of music. Zilker Park is massive and the max capacity is on par with other mega events such as EDCLV. So once we got our bearings of the festival grounds we were off to take a look at the first acts performing. Flight Facilities started off our day with an amazing set. The pair has evolved beautifully from year to year laying down strong vocal riffs with a powerful stage presence. The Future Classic favorite has continued to make a name for themselves in and out of the dance music industry. The crowd they attracted for an early set at a side stage was impressive.
Next up was Flying Lotus who demonstrated his expertise of live performance. FlyLo's set was a beautiful fusion of hip-hop inspired beats with several electronic elements. Throughout his set he worked the crowd into a frenzy, pushing the limits on sound design. All in all it ended up being one of the most influential sets of the weekend. Next up was Flume. The virtuoso of modern day music. The Aussie came out to his smash hit ‘Helix'. The stage was covered in a large sheet which was whisked away as the song built to maximum tension, revealing the man himself, who was met with a crowd reaction that was deafening. Flume put on an incredible show. It was interesting to see the crowd's reaction. Flume is most widely known in the main stream for his remix's including: Disclsoure's “You and Me” and Lorde's “Tennis Courts”. That being said his last album, the critically acclaimed, “Skin”, was much more of an experimental endeavor. Many of the tracks he played out, while impressive, garnered a mixed reaction from the crowd. People were not expecting what he put out, so while it was jaw dropping in terms of sound design, experimentation and fusion, the crowd wanted something they were familiar with. Harley ended his set and quickly prompted the crowd to go see Radiohead. Interestingly enough, nobody listened.
Radiohead and Major Lazer were the closing acts on the day. Traditionally it would be expected that a band as legendary as Radiohead would pull in a sizable crowd. What we saw was surprising. We checked out both sets, and ultimately Diplo and his friends almost doubled the crowd of the landmark British rockers. This was a foreshadow of the weekend to come. Tradition festival headliners were consistently overshadowed in terms of crowd size by dance music acts. Major Lazer without a doubt put on quite a show, opting for more of a party atmosphere instead technical skill. Radiohead played a solid set, and quietly with a smaller crowd charged forward to continue to reign supreme in terms of set quality. Friday was quite an experience and a great appetizer of what was to come.
Day 2 was a different experience entirely. Attendance was much more manageable, there was room to move. The dance music acts performing were scarce so we decided to focus on some of the indie and cross overacts dominating the line up that Saturday. It was without a doubt a throwback to my middle school years. Acts that I have not heard in almost a decade where leading the charge on the earlier half of the day. This turned out to be the magic of Austin City Limits. There was such an amazing collection of music throughout the weekend, the entire experience turned out to be a sonic journey of sorts. Catfish and Bottlemen started off our day with a an entertaining show of rock that set the tone for what was coming next. Next up was Cage the Elephant, who delivered an incredible performance full of emotion and energy. Playing all of their hits spanning the better part of a decade the group left the crowd in absolute awe.
The Chainsmokers yet again proved the enigmatic appeal of dance music with their performance at 7:30. The duo attracted one of the largest crowds of the weekend on a side stage. People lined up for so long that many in the back ended up in sound bleed areas. The guys played out all of their Top40 hits and brought an infectious energy. We forwent the conclusion of their set to check out Two Door Cinema Club. The group without a doubt influenced the dance music scene as a whole with their cross over brand of rock. Their crowd size suffered as The Chainsmokers pulled majority of attendance to their set. That being said while the crowd was smaller, their quality was not. The guys put on an outstanding performance.
Kygo and Kendrick were the acts shutting down Day 2 and yet again dance music proved to be king. While the ratio of attendance was much closer than it was the night before the DJ yet again overtook the other artist in terms of crowd sized. Kygo played all of his hits and pleased the crowd as his set seemed to bring back the heart summer in late September. Kendrick was as always, incredibly impressive. He remixed songs live, dropped new material and freestyles and once again proved that there is solid reason that he is a festival favorite to headline. It makes the Coachella headlining rumors much more coherent after seeing his dominating stage presence.
Sunday was like a dream, electronic acts dominated the line up with different sub genres being represented throughout the day. It was truly one of the best line ups in recent memory. Break Science play a small and short set over at a side tent which was high energy. It seemed the group worked to make up for the short time slot with raw intensity. After they concluded there was just enough time to head over to see Bob Moses perform live. I was more than familiar with the duo's DJ endeavors as I had never seen or heard a live set from them. It was an excellent experience to say the least. Light synth riffs, and drone style vocals where accompanied by airy guitar and intense drums. The live performance was different to say the least but equally as entertaining.
Miike Snow took over the smaller of the main stages next. The group is widely known among the electronic community for several songs such as “Animal” and “Genghis Khan” that have been remixed by many high profile artists. The group laid down countless hits during their time on stage, making for several sing along moments for the gigantic crowd they attracted. Their fusion of rock and electronic seems to be the direction in which many mainstream popular artists are heading. Once Miike Snow concluded the act which we were most excited for over the entire weekend was next, Porter and Madeon. Two of the most powerful acts in all of electronic dance music teamed up for a very special tour. Lucky for us they stopped in Austin that weekend. Porter and Madeon came out with a bang, pyrotechnics, visual displays, live elements and lighting made for an jaw dropping set. The pair traded off original tracks and remixed the other's songs flawlessly. It was an absolute masterpiece of collaboration, the crowd leaped and cheered with joy as the song structure went from hard electro into more experimental oriented sounds and finishing out with pop vocals and dreamy beats. Porter and Madeon stole the weekend entirely, nobody could come even close to their performance.
The festival concluded with LCD Soundsystem up against Mumford & Sons. If you could not guess from now, the electronic act once again prevailed. LCD Soundsystem came out of the gate swinging, within the first five songs they had played hits such as “Daft Punk is Playing at my House”, “All of my Friends” and “I can Change”. The group improvised riffs and jams live. It was all in all a beautiful way to close an incredible weekend. We walked out of Zilker Park for one last time and saw Mumford & Sons playing to a slightly smaller crowd and the realization hit us hard. Electronic dance music is here to stay, and the tides of the industry are turning. We are no longer a side stage, sideshow, we are the headliners, we are the acts people travel from country wide to see, we are now the mainstream.
Special Thanks to ACL and their Photo Team: All Pictures can be Viewed Here