Austin City Limits 2017 Recap: The Show Must Go On

Five days after the devastating Las Vegas shooting left 59 dead and hundreds injured, all eyes were on the first major music festival since tragedy struck the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

While the organizers of the music festival, C3 Presents, offered refunds to any and all patrons who felt uncomfortable with attending an event so soon after the shooting in Las Vegas, the message from ACL’s audience was best voiced by Austin-native attendee and father of three Kyle Chandling, “We can’t let those who spread hate and violence stop us from doing what we love. The show must go on!”Beauty_304962 by Roger Ho_preview

While the show did go on, it was not without any adjustments to security and police presence. Many festival-goers felt that they were searched and patted down inappropriately, leaving Eric from Alabama saying, “I get that they’re just trying to be safe, but I just don’t know what they were looking for when they frisked my asscrack from outside my shorts.”

When I expressed my doubts to him that this incident ever happened, he pulled out a joint from his shoe and said, “It’s always the last place you look.”

However, caution was thrown to the wind as soon as the crowd got past the entrance, anxious to experience all the sights and sounds ACL had to offer.

This year, Austin City Limits introduced a brand new layout with a new stage named the Barton Springs Stage, which held performances from Tove Lo, Eagles of Death Metal, Louis the Child. Festival-goers were also treated to food vendors in an additional brand new setting, serving Austin’s signature tastes with staples such as Mmmpanadas and Amy’s Ice Cream.

Asutin-based country band Asleep at the Wheel Grace kicked off the Honda stage Friday afternoon, having the audience swinging and dancing. The ten-time Grammy Award winning band even got a shoutout from Mayor Steve Adler in the ACL Map & Guidebook, so people knew not to miss out on their performance.


Also shining Friday afternoon was fan-favorite Vulfpeck, a funk rock group from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The sun was beaming right on the American Express stage, but the sweltering heat didn’t stop their electrifying performance from pleasing their fans and garnering some new fans in the audience.

What seems to have been one of the biggest takeaway from Friday’s performances was actually the performance that never happened. When the ACL lineup was announced, people were excited to hear Solange perform her Best R&B Performance Grammy winning “Cranes in the Sky.” When Jay-Z was later announced to be performing at the festival, it was more expectation than speculation that Beyonce would make a special appearance to support her sister and husband.

Throughout his entire set, Jay-Z put on hit after hit, and even eased the audience into his new songs from the 4:44 album. Still, audience members were bracing themselves after every song for Beyonce to come out. Even though he brought on NBA stars James Harden and Chris Paul for Weekend One, Beyonce never showed up, leaving casual Jay-Z fans yearning for more while die-hard fans couldn’t have cared less and sang along regardless.

It was apparent that Saturday was the most popular and attended day of both weekends, with each Saturday date sold-out and second-hand ticket overpriced on resale markets. Saturday promised a mix of throwback hits from 90’s as well as modern hits from the past few years.

Early attendees were treated to Grace VanderWaal, the winner of the 2016 America’s Got Talent competition. At only 13-years-old, VanderWaal is a child prodigy with the voice of a woman twice her age and four times the soul.

Gracing that very stage only a couple hours later, hip-hop singer-songwriter Russ brought the energy, but not the vocal follow-through, as he simply relied on a backtrack and lip synced for several songs. The crowd was hyped, and was actually one of the best crowds all day, but Russ did not deliver a performance worthy of the crowd before him.

Right before the headliners on Saturday night of Weekend One, festival-goers throughout the grounds were reminded of another tragic incident that happened earlier that week – the death of rock-and-roll legend Tom Petty. Video screens throughout the festival played Tom Petty’s 2006 ACL performance of “Free Fallin'” while members of the Red Bull Air Force Skydiving Team parachuted from a biplane above to pay homage to the late rock icon.

Shortly after the tribute, Chance The Rapper came onstage and put on an exhilarating performance. Often giving thanks to his mentor Kanye West, he played a Kanye medley which consisted of Waves / Father Stretch My Hands / Ultralight Beam. Chance took us to church with Blessings, later followed by Blessings (Reprise) as his encore. In tune with his audience, his energy was as contagious as the smile he never hid from his face after each song.

Side note: If you’re looking for a fun drinking game, take a sip of your $9 beer every time you see a white kid rapping the n-word and acting like it’s okay because it’s used in a song.


On both weekends, headliners left the stage a long time before they were scheduled to end, and Red Hot Chili Peppers was no exception, having left the stage nearly 12 minutes before the set time. Despite their early departure, they proved to be the highlight of the night, from Flea’s funky bass slapping to Chad Smith’s thumping rhythms to Josh Klinghoffer’s Tom Petty tribute with “A Face In The Crowd.”

Led by the ever-so-energetic Anthony Kiedis, the Peppers played all their huge hits towards the first half, making casual listeners head towards the exit to avoid the post-festival traffic. At around the halfway mark of their sets, the energy died from the crowd and was reflected onstage. 12 minutes off the stage too early, the audience was eager for more, but as one person beside me notably stated, “Flea already gave his ‘peace on Earth’ speech. It’s over, go home.”

Sunday started on a powerful note for many, with up-and-coming artist Bibi Bourelly opening the Honda stage with her empowering music, preaching a “fuck the haters, love yourself” mentality. The crowd was pleasantly treated to guitar solos galore during her setlist, an element that’s been missing in so much music nowadays.

Later in the day, there was another artist that was able to gather a rather diverse group of fans. Minutes before their setlist, there were people beside me learning the lyrics in a thick Spanish accent and saying the n-word freely, so that was fun! The artist I’m talking about is none other than D.R.A.M., who had one of the best crowds and gave one of the best performances of the weekend. He took the audience back in time to his first huge hit “Cha Cha,” and delivered a jubilant rendition of his crowd-pleaser “Broccoli.”

There’s no better way to end both weekends of Austin City Limits than ending it with The Killers. Putting on arguably one of the best performances by a closing headliner, The Killers knew their audience better than any other headliner (and didn’t leave over 10 minutes before their set ended).

There was an unspoken aura of sadness before they hit the stage, with many fans acknowledging that Weekend One’s performance was The Killer’s first show since the shooting in their hometown Las Vegas. Instead of addressing the tragedy that hit their city, they opened Weekend One’s set with an homage to Tom Petty by performing “American Girl,” later followed by “The Waiting.”

The audience for The Killers showed nothing but love, singing their hearts out to “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” air-guitared along to Guitar Hero 3’s staple “When You Were Young,” and dancing to their new single “The Man.” Brandon Flowers interacted with the crowd better than any other headliner, teasing an encore following “All The Things That I’ve Done.”

At the end of the weekend, Austin City Limits showed the world that nothing can get in the way of good music & good vibes with some good friends, and while fear arose early in the beginning, there was nothing left after ACL weekend but great memories for years to come.


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