When it comes to Austin City Limits, I am no rookie. And although this no longer is my first (or 4th, 5th, or 6th) rodeo, there will be thousands of music junkies entering Austin as festival virgins. It’s a fantastic weekend for the city; days and nights filled to the brim with music, arts, food, culture, and fun.
Whether you’re a newbie or returning for another year, as a local I’m here to help you create a day-by-day play for what to expect at this year’s festival.
Headliners: Outkast, Beck, CHVRCHES, St. Vincent, Foster the People
Also, go check out: The Lonely Biscuits, The Preatures, Bleachers
The headliners for Friday are a perfect start to the festival weekend. Don’t overdo yourself the first day; Friday is the ideal day to explore festival grounds. Did you know a quick dip in Barton Springs is literally a hop across the road?
Find out which food tent your taste buds will be enjoying throughout the weekend. Are you a crunchy Mighty Cone kind of person or will you be sipping smoothies from Juiceland? The Austin Eats are far from the funnel cakes and turkey legs you’d expect at a normal festival. But we Keep Austin Weird, so treat yourself to a local dish that is worth the wait in line.
As a veteran, I must also note that Friday is the day to purchase your festival merchandise. Don’t be the one who’s disappointed on Sunday when they only have XXL in the shirt you want and they’ve run out of posters. It’s happened to the best of us.
Headliners: Eminem, Skrillex, Lana Del Ray, Major Lazer, Iggy Azalea
Also, go check out: Beats Antique, Trombone Shorty, Lucius, Polica
Arrive early. Stay late. Enjoy the sensory overload. It’s the day that the most people will attend; embrace the 75,000 person crowd. Speaking from experience, hold off from day drinking until late afternoon. You’re going to need all that energy for the evening. Lather up your sunscreen and don’t forget your hat and favorite pair of shades. I can’t tell you how many people I see who have underestimated the Texas heat. Don’t be the lobster boy freak show, you still have another day to go!
Support creativity and purchase a fresh print or one-of-a-kind painting at the art market. One of my favorite pieces own is from Rokoko Art I bought at ACL a few years ago.
For the out-of-towners & first-timers: If there are multiple acts you want to see at the same time, don’t sweat it, just plan accordingly. If you’re trying to catch the 5 acts that all start at 2:30, begin at your first show in the back on your blanket and move on to the next stage when you get your fix. It’s not necessary to elbow your way to the front row if you’re relocating in 30 minutes.
Headliners: Pearl Jam, Calvin Harris, Zedd, Spoon, Phantogram, Lorde*
Also, go check out: Gramatik, Lettuce, MØ
*Weekend 2 Only
If there’s one thing Austinites love, it’s brunch. Before heading out to the festival, enjoy one of Austin’s many delicious destinations for the perfect meal. Whether it’s South Congress Café for crab cakes eggs Benedict and a peach Bellini or chicken & waffles at Moonshine, Austin has 1000+ ways to feast while you treat that hair of the dog.
After you’re full, drunk, and happy, rent a bike and ride down to Zilker for the last hooray. You’ll be tired, sweaty, and sun burnt, but you’ll have a million memories of great music, great food, and our great city.
More Rookie Tips
- Plan ahead: Look at the schedule, and plan your route to music accordingly. Cell phones do not work during ACL. Because of the tens of thousands of people, reception is scarce. Always have a plan with the group you come with. My personal plan is I’m always on the left-hand side of the sound stage.
- Slow your roar: Don’t go too crazy the first day. Heat + hours of music + alcohol can be a bad combination. During my first ACL in 2006, I spent the entire day drinking and standing front row for every show. By the time the Stars came on, I had to have a friend pull me out of the crowd in fear of having a heat stroke. Weather don’t play down here, homie. Make sure to get plenty of water in between beers and sets. The last thing you want is your festival cut short after a trip to ER. Don’t be that guy.
- Pack snacks: Eating at the food court three times a day for three days straight will rack up a bill. Revert to your childhood and pack a PB&J or other light snacks for when you need to satisfy your hunger.
- Stash a supply: Think you’re the first person to come up with vodka in your Camelback? Guess again. While single tall boys can run you $8 a piece, a single flask can keep you drunk in love all day for the same price.
- See what you want to see: If you don’t have a group or buddy to go with to that one show you’ve been dying to see, don’t miss it. Go alone. I’ve never had a bad time at a show solo. In fact, the best sets I’ve been to at any festival or show have been when I was alone. When you’re outside your comfort zone, it’s amazing how your perspective changes.