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.
Grouplove‘s founders Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi recently became parents. The band has been around for over seven years and had released two albums prior to the life-changing status that is parenthood. Zucconi has spoken about the effects impending fatherhood and the rigors of touring had on song craft for the band’s third album Big Mess.
Of the two, Josienne Clarke basically does all the talking (she also does all the singing). Between their set at Hi-Fi earlier this year and the first of two nights at Rockwood, Ben Walker only offered a quiet affirmative to a comment Clarke made about sexual objectification being the band’s raison d’etre. He’s just super quiet while Clarke’s banter is laced with her sardonic wit. At Rockwood, when someone in the audience called out for a song, she shut the request down—if it wasn’t on the set list, it wouldn’t be played. She also aired several chips on her shoulder, which includes the “objectifying” lads, but said in Clarke’s gentle voice the audience might sense she’s (somewhat?) facetious.
Saul Williams may not directly challenge the status quo every day but an uprising is at core of his being. When he performed a free show for Summerstage in Marcus Garvey Park, Williams began his set late due to technical difficulties some of which continued through his set. However, with a simple stage arrangement, it was simply him and his a backup DJ/producer, Williams commanded attention at the park. When the music dropped out (due to audio issues?) he continued on and later, he inflamed the audience further from the crowd. With the lights low (and the sun down), Williams’ system challenging lyrics aligned with his MartyrLoserKing multimedia backdrop and allowed his message to be the center of attention. As an artist, a poet, an activist and more, Williams is steadfast on his principles and his music reflects his social and political views. Check out some photos and a couple of clips from his set below.