By Etta Enow | 31 October, 2022
One of the special qualities of Austin City Limits is its diverse lineups, bringing newcomers and legends to Texas. Most festival goers showed up at Zilker Park each day with a handful of artists they wanted to see. There were so many fandoms attending ACL anxiously waiting to support their favorite artist. The magic of Austin City Limits is the ability to be at one stage discovering and falling in love with an artist you’ve never heard of before, or at another stage watching your favorite artist perform, igniting the flame in you as a stan.
The crowd was varied and it was noticeable attendees traveled long distances for the festival. However, I would say that the majority were Texans. This festival brought in a crowd of all different ages because the music genres were so broad. Older attendees sat on their blankets and chairs to watch their favorite sets while younger adults dressed up for the weekend’s festivities.
ACL always pulls in a stacked lineup among the hip hop, country, rock, and indie/alternative genres, with a few electronic acts as well. Case in point: the headliners this year were P!nk, SZA, The Chicks, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lil Nas X, Flume, Kacey Musgraves, and Paramore.
SZA Takes CTRL Of ACL
Vulnerability has always been SZA’s superpower. Her music is so blunt, true, and introspective.
SZA took us back to Wakanda circa 2018 by opening with “All The Stars” from the Black Panther soundtrack. She ascended center stage with a lighthouse - the light at the top strobing to the song’s rhythm. The lighthouse suddenly made perfect sense: SZA’s music represents hope to lost souls. She then ripped into her catalog which has made her one of the biggest pop stars and very worthy of her spot at the top of the bill. Her set list included all charting songs from her debut album CTRL. Starting with the first song off the album “Supermodel,” a tale of love and rejection, into “Go Gina” and ”Broken Clocks.”
The set turned stormy and the dancers moved to the sound of rain as she played the romantic ode “Doves in the Wind” which segued into the crowd pleaser “Drew Barrymore.” When a fan near the front slipped down in the crowd, she paused the show for a moment, directing security to help them. “Safety really do hit different,” she said as a lead into her Ty Dolla $ign collab, before taking the atmosphere up a notch with one of the biggest singalongs of the night, “I Hate U.” She performed the soul searching “20 Something” and closed her set with her love triangle song “Weekend.”
Montero Transforms Austin
Lil Nas X’s hour long set was structured in three acts, REBIRTH, TRANSFORMATION, and BECOMING, complete with costume changes, backup dancers, and a prop golden horse. Lil Nas X has had a slow steady rise in popularity over the past few years and it was surprising he was not scheduled as a headliner. His set proved that he is just as big a star in concert as he is on social media. Lil Nas X had the ability to command a crowd: his engerized set had us eating out of the palm of his hand; we chanted and screamed anything he commanded. Near the end of the show, the background screen read, “Long live Montero.”
P!nk Gets The Party Started
Across Zilker Park was hit after hit coming from P!nk. The pop superstar rallied through her impressive discography and even lent her voice to several covers of Bishop Briggs, Queen, No Doubt and Bob Dylan. The show concluded, like all her others, with her suspended above the crowd flipping and flying from one side of Zilker Park to another. P!nk shot into the sky with the lyric "I wanna start a fight!" from her #1 hit “So What.” P!nk is truly an artist that can bring generations together: people of all ages sang passionately word for word to each of her songs. Her infectious energy made for a great show and we as fans fed into it as a memorable performance for the weekend.
Kacey’s Golden Hour
"It's a beautiful night," Kacey said early into her Sunday set, after commenting on the full moon, "Perfect to hear some super depressing songs." In reference to her 2021 album “star crossed” about her 2020 divorce, Kasey’s set opened with "good wife," "cherry blossom," "simple times" and the electrifying "breadwinner." Despite her warning that the set would be depressing, Musgraves performed songs from her 2018 album “Golden Hour.” She has such an angelic voice. I adore an artist who performs their live performances better than the studio version.
Musgraves was born and raised in Texas and made sure we knew it: the ‘hometown hero’ of ACL. Musgraves was funny and relatable and seemed to be something of a hopeless romantic at heart. She had the confidence of a seasoned performer, keeping the crowd entertained at her own, laid back pace. Kacey can easily mix styles effortlessly, she truly revived the genre of country music in a modern light. When she sings the crowd comes alive and enjoys her presence. It was clear she was having fun; that is one of the best things any fan can hope for.
The beauty of Austin City Limits is the ability to experience and be a part of so many fandoms all at once. After interacting with so many festival goers I left understanding why they stan, who they stan, and the impact their artistry has left on their lives. One fan expressed how much SZA meant to her “I have been a fan since CTRL, I [have] even seen her live twice. SZA helped me during an exhausting, challenging break up I went through in college. I’ve been a part of the growth of her career and to see her headlining ACL it’s just amazing.” Music brings out so many different emotions that experiencing it live can have a profound, personal impact. Austin City Limits ensured that no matter if you are a stan, new fan, or a music lover, their lineup would leave you speechless.