Austin City Limits (or better known as ACL) is one of the few festivals which has managed to become a nationally recognized entity. California has Coachella, Chicago has Lollapalooza, and the South has Bonnaroo. While these names are each iconic in their own right, none can compare to the allure of Austin City Limits.
Welcome To Austin's Paradoxical Wonderland
While there is no way to put into words specifically what makes ACL so special, there are some brilliant paradoxes that contribute to the beautiful energy that can be felt across two weekends every October in Zilker Park. While Austin is only the fourth largest city in the state of Texas, it still holds a population that is quickly approaching a million.
In recent years the city has undergone a construction boom and new buildings are springing up left and right. Yet amid all of this chaos, ACL has still managed to become a lush oasis of sorts among a city that is constantly expanding.
Merging Reality With Fantasy
Any attendee who has made the walk from South Lamar Street down Barton Springs Road to the final bridge over one of the many offshoots of the Colorado River can attest to the feeling of entering a different world. With each additional step, the city melts away and reality melts away with it.
Petty Cabs (and in recent years, scooters) race down the roads usually reserved for cars, buskers set up on corners helping anxious attendees get a taste of what is to come, and individuals who were strangers mere seconds before become instant friends as excitement boils over into conversation.
Austin City Limits not only has the ability to bring people together who would otherwise never mix, but it also has an energy capable of transforming individuals on the spot.
People who claim to hate live music can be left in awe by the drumline and lighting display of Odesza, people who say they are only in attendance for EDM can find themselves shouting the lyrics to “Hey Jude” at the top of their lungs, and people who go just to fulfill their Instagram quotas can leave with a new found sense of excitement around music festivals, and music in general.
Mixing Generations and Genres
ACL is unique as it is an all ages festival. In this day and age, that is a rare box for a festival to be able to check. As somebody who attends several festivals every year, I can attest to the twinge of confusion I felt when I first saw a group of 12-year-olds blow by me to make it to the front of the crowd for Greta Van Fleet, or when I saw a women in her 70's slow dancing with her husband to Paul McCartney as the first night concluded.
It is honestly unexpected to see people who fall outside the usual age range of 18-32 attending music festivals. This is because of how festivals are most commonly, aggressively marketed to strictly millennials and Gen Z. Austin City Limits doesn't only defy these expectations…it shatters them.
Just looking at the lineup, one can immediately tell that the talent buyers went far out of their way to curate a line up that stretched across nearly 75 years of musical excellence.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles took the stage at the same time as Odesza, ruler of the 90's Metallica took the stage at the same time as dance music pioneers and house legends Justice, and the iconic indie rockers of the early 2000's, Arctic Monkeys went played parallel to hip hop and rap superstar of today, Travis Scott.
As each day bled into the night every genre from every era could be heard ringing out from each stage.
Carrying A Piece Of Fantasy Back To Reality
Austin in and of itself is a paradox. A hyper-liberal city hidden deep within one of the most conservative states of the union.
While politics were not ignored at the event as thousands could be seen wearing “Vote For Beto” t-shirts, and a mural urging the public to vote took shape over Weekend 1, the festival still served as an escape for the unrelenting waves of political chaos taking place each week. There was a sense of innocence to the entire experience which serves as a reminder of how great our society still remains even in an era of widespread political unrest.
Young 16-year-old boys ran around with Hawaiian shirts, khaki shorts, and Sperry's just the same way as metal heads with hair down to their waists with worn Metallica shirts did.
Sorority girls posed tirelessly to capture the perfect boomerang in front of the iconic ACL flags just as couples celebrating their 40th and 50th anniversaries hugged each other for a picture in front of the breathtaking Austin skyline.
In short – Austin City Limits demonstrated that while differences exist in everyone, we are all a lot more similar than we sometimes feel. At the end of the day, good music, good people, new experiences, and an open mind can create new feelings, realizations, and memories that last a lifetime. If we let them of course. In the end – I challenge anyone who was lucky enough to attend ACL this year to carry with them what they discovered at Zilker Park.
If you weren't able to be in attendance then you're in luck because all of this magic will once again occur in just a few days time during Weekend 2. Select tickets are still available here.
Featured Image By: Roho foto vai ACL Facebook Page