The Austin City Limits music festival isn’t far from the heart of Austin’s downtown, but getting there isn’t a matter of simply walking through the front door. With no official parking adjacent to or near Zilker Park—that is, unless one wants to fork over several hundred dollars for a VIP parking pass—festivalgoers must either walk two to three miles to Zilker Park from downtown, or take a free but highly congested shuttle line from Republic Square downtown to ACL. There’s also a drop-off area in the north end of the park. Every day, the festival starts off with a small journey on the part of festivalgoers. This move to reduce vehicle traffic in this popular area of Austin’s south side is smart on the part of the festival conveners, though as I walked back downtown after the festival a steady line of cars on both lanes inched forward. On this weekend, all roads seem to lead to ACL.
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It has become something of a cliché to say that Austin is heating up. Whether it’s in reference to Austin’s booming tech sector, its increasingly unwieldy population, or its scorching summer temperatures, the phrase “heating up” encapsulates numerous aspects of where Austin is in 2016. Of those “heating” features, the most relevant for attendees of the 2016 Austin City Limits (ACL) music festival—the 15th year of the event—is temperature. Austin is one of the fastest heating cities in America, and despite the wave of listicles about autumnal garb and pumpkin spice lattes that has followed its predictable course online, Austin continues to sting of summer. The thousands upon thousands of festivalgoers that will stampede South Austin’s Zilker Park for the final weekend of ACL will have to contend with lingering heat to keep alert and energized throughout each of the festival’s three days.
It should be apparent that Josh Ritter is one of my favorite artists as I’ve covered his shows at least five times for this site alone. So at the first chance I had to see him with The Royal City Band in 2016, at a free outdoor show in Prospect Park (where he had opened for Damien Rice last year) I leapt at it. Ritter is one of the happiest performers I’ve seen on any stage and there was no reason this show would be different.
If you overlooked our coverage of Governors Ball so far, you should go back and read about Day One with Beck and The Strokes and Day Two with The Killers and M83 at these links respectively. However, our festival coverage considered many bands we didn’t get chance to write about but we did have a chance to photograph. Check out some great images of a variety of bands from both days (the third having been rained out) below.
Going into the Red Bull Music Academy’s “Where Spaceways Meet: A Night of Spiritual Jazz” event, I had imagined there would be a few instances of collaboration between the musicians slated to appear. Unfortunately, that was not the case but audiences were still treated to incredible sets from the groundbreaking artists, Sun Ra Arkestra, Pharoah Sanders and newcomer Kamasi Washington. First thing to mention though, I had to miss most of Kamasi Washington’s set, which was a big disappointment for me, but I was truly pleased with what I had seen and heard by that point.
RMBA events are often in venues off the beaten path of the typical NYC circuit. Last year FKA twigs was at Brooklyn Hangar and this event took place in a warehouse near the river in Greenpoint, with the stage set up in the round so the audience could get a 360 view of the bands performing. I hadn’t ever seen Sun Ra Arkestra or Sanders though I have seen Washington twice, including his first NYC run at Blue Note.