The 2018 edition of Austin City Limits was highly anticipated ever since the lineup was announced earlier in the year with much of the buzz on iconic headliners in Paul McCartney and Metallica. The festival also boasted many high quality names including Arctic Monkeys, Odesza, Travis Scott and Justice. An unforeseen injury to Childish Gambino caused him to cancel not only his appearance at ACL but also his remaining tour dates. Festival organizers recovered well by adding French quartet Phoenix and Lil Wayne to the first and second weekends respectively. The first weekend went off without a hitch and brought forth many highlights and impressive performances. Taking place at the end of the year, ACL can be considered a celebration of the year’s breakouts and triumphs by artists who garnered much success throughout the year. The festival featured a handful of the year’s notable breakouts and also brought back familiar names with new material that fans were overjoyed to see again who stepped up their stage production and put on a show.
As much as the headliners are the main draw for a major festival, there’s a level of excitement of stumbling onto new music that even a casual music fan can take away from the experience. Such was the case for many who got to see lovelytheband, Greta Van Fleet, Brockhampton and YUNGBLUD. lovelytheband had a banner year for the young band, as their song “Broken” was a staple at mainstream alternative radio and their performance at ACL didn’t disappoint. It goes without saying that Greta Van Fleet had a huge buzz coming into the festival with numerous fans wearing the band’s t-shirts were nearly ubiquitous and worn by fans both young and old. Needless to say, the crowd at their set at the Miller Lite stage was overflowing to the edge of the main stage and raucous throughout the band’s nearly one hour show that featured many a solo and amazing musicianship from the young band from Michigan. The self-proclaimed “best boy band in the world”, Brockhampton played an interactive set that showcased many songs from their trilogy Saturation and proved to be wildly entertaining that more than lived up to the hype. Scheduled on the last day of the weekend, YUNGBLULD proved many times over on why he was booked for the festival. His set was akin to a mid-Saturday afternoon dance party where the British performer commanded the crowd that was a mix of young and old with perfection, encouraging a wild mosh pit to clapping and dancing.
Teeing up the headliners were numerous familiar names but those who made for a memorable festival and unique moments, ranging from The Wombats, Bishop Briggs, Sofi Tukker and CHVRCHES. The latter continue to draw huge crowds to their synth-pop music gems, as lead singer Lauren Mayberry showed growth in commanding large crowds and showing the band’s flair for surprises by bringing out from Matt Berninger of The National to perform “My Enemy” on-stage with them. Last year, Alison Wonderland drew an over-flowing crowd to her set, and this year Sofi Tukker was booked at the smaller “Tito’s” tent, only to play to an overwhelming large(and overflowing) audience. The duo, who broke out in 2017 from their exposure gained from their song “Best Friend” getting featured on a prominent smartphone ad, have built on that momentum with their debut album, Treehouse, which was released earlier this year. The Wombats continue to prove their worth as they played to an enthusiastic younger crowd earlier in the day, something that will certainly help the nearly ten year old band maintain its longevity. The British band played to an audience who responded loudly to material from the band’s last two albums, Glitterbug (2014) and Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (2018). Bishop Briggs had a set that exceeded her fans’ expectations while overwhelming garnered new fans with her powerful voice and stage presence as the young artist paced around the stage with confidence while belting out familiar tunes like her latest single, “Baby” to her signature breakthrough songs, “Wild Horses” and “River”. With a lineup that included numerous rabid fanbases, the effervescent Janelle Monae reminded everyone that she is a force to be reckoned with as her vocals and set were enhanced by an amazing stage production that attendees immortalized on their social media posts.
It goes without saying that the stalwarts of the festival more than fulfilled their headlining status with Paul McCartney kicking off the first day with notable moments and a bang. Armed with stories from his days as a member of The Beatles, McCartney’s voice is still strong and although some of the signature songs in his catalog needed to be slowed down, he still has it. A set that was balanced by familiar Fab Four tunes like “Love Me Do”, “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be”, McCartney was accompanied by a talented backing band and of course fireworks that went off during “Helter Skelter”. Metallica’s set not only showcased similar fireworks, but also many of the talents of the nearly forty-year old band. The heavy metal band was relentless in maintaining the music with less talk and allowing fans to headbang and let loose on a Saturday night at Zilker Park.
Overall, Austin City Limits 2018 capped off the festival season with a bang showcasing a well-balanced lineup that appeased both the young and old. The event could be considered the most family friendly, as parents and their children of all ages were at the same festival enjoying different acts and would eventually come together at the end to share their passion for music and possibly introduce the other to what drew them to the event. The same could be said for the performing artists, as the younger acts booked earlier in the day had the opportunity to see the veterans “show how it’s done”. Enhanced by a food lineup that is uniquely Austin, the ACL experience continues to be one that stands out above the rest.