Best and Worst of Austin City Limits 2018
Like many Rice students, I headed to Austin during midterm recess for Austin City Limits’ Weekend One, which saw enormous crowds and looming weather forecasts. Despite the cancellation of headliner Childish Gambino, eager festival goers streamed in to see performances by Paul McCartney, Metallica, Travis Scott and many more. Continuing from last year’s review, I bring you ACL’s best and worst — to keep in mind if you’re heading to Weekend Two, or to discuss if you were lucky enough to attend Weekend One. (In case you aren’t able to go to either weekend, you can relive it through my live tweets.) Despite my best efforts, my short legs were not conducive to me seeing every single act, so don’t come for me if I don’t mention your very favorite indie band.
R&B and hip-hop artist Janelle Monae proved to everyone that she can do more than sing (and she’s a fantastic singer at that) — she can perform. She went above and beyond during her set, dancing relentlessly with an energy level paralleling that of the afternoon sun. With a crew of talented dancers, Monae never missed a beat, hip pop or thrust as she sang her way through her album “Dirty Computer” and old hits like “Electric Lady.” It should also be known that Monae changed her outfit five times in one hour, more times than I changed the entire weekend, and managed to look good while sporting pants that can only be described as “vagina pants.” Your boring fave could never.
Like most performers, Monae interspersed commentary in between songs, but unlike most performers, she did not hold back, proclaiming the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ communities and women. She concluded her show with “November 6th, go vote! Fuck the system,” establishing Monae as a performer unafraid to use her platform.
One benefit of having 14 members is that you never fail to establish great eye contact with the audience. Personable, energetic and quirky, hip-hop band BROCKHAMPTON put on a show for the most diverse group of fans I saw all weekend. From the shy-looking indie girl clinging to the rails as she nodded her head to the beat to the bulky jersey-wearing fraternity guy moshing his way to a bloody nose, fans from all around gathered to hear the band play songs from their newest album, “iridescence,” as well as popular hits like “STAR.”
Electronic music often gets a bad rap, but ODESZA puts this stigma to shame. The duo brought out a drum line to support their set – highly synchronized and choreographed, the line made marching band seem cool. ODESZA’s set also featured some of the most successful visuals of the festival, pairing their euphoric sound with trippy videos that provided a new way to interpret the music. In addition to all that effort, ODESZA brought out surprise guest Naomi Wild to do her vocal feature live on “Higher Ground” — a performance that brought the energy in the crowd to a peak.
“Midterms matter — let’s VOTE!” was a slogan splashed across a public mural at ACL. Along with paper fans encouraging festival-goers to “just fucking vote” and a number of Beto shirts in attendance, the mural was a clear sign that both ACL sponsors and attendees were pushing for voter participation.
When droplets of rain began to fall, I had very vivid flashbacks to the disaster of Free Press Summer Fest 2017. However, ACL organizers were incredibly on top of their organization this year. The application (which never crashed on me and worked with no signal!) sent out push notifications well in advance, with transparent warnings about possible rain and thunderstorms. And while festival-goers were spared a torrential downpour, the presence of large, ventilated tents (Beer Hall and Tito’s tent) meant that they at least had somewhere to take refuge.
Camila Cabello’s blunders
While I believe pop singer Camila Cabello has only the best intentions, those best intentions didn’t stop her from saying, “Dallas, thank you for a great show tonight!” In addition to this mistaken address, Cabello’s departure was sudden and awkward. Audience members expecting a performance of the famous “Havana” were confused and milled around before realizing that cheering for an encore was the expectation. Despite these blips, Cabello did manage to deliver a powerful vocal performance with awkward but wholesome messaging about loving yourself.
Bazzi’s “hype” attempts
Possibly my biggest pet peeve is when artists ask the audience to sing the most important part of their songs. For Bazzi, that song is “Mine,” made popular through its use in memey videos. Instead of belting out the iconic lyrics, “You so fucking precious when you smile,” Bazzi instead chose to point the microphone at the crowd and jump around the stage. This, in addition to Bazzi’s static performance (standing still or asking the crowd to get louder), ruined some of the magic in his vocals.
Not the pigeons — the electric scooters. Walking never felt like such a struggle, especially as other festival-goers zipped by on the sidewalk.
“We’re too British for these temperatures,” pop band CHVRCHES said during their set, and I felt that. The longest lines at ACL were at the hydration stations, and many festival-goers stuck in the crushing crowds had to be rescued by security. The heat is certainly out of anyone’s control, but it was still the cause of my continuous pounding headache, and for that I am bitter.