Homegrown’s Alright with Texas at Austin City Limits 2018
Amidst heavyweight legends like Paul McCartney and Metallica at this year's ACL, plenty of fresh-faced acts showcased their love for Texas, and a charity group helped to celebrate music as the best medicine.
The road to ACL is a long stretch past a slew of ticket resellers, purveyors of knock-off shirts, and various other sundries. The festival stretches over the wide expanse of Zilker Park, a large grassy field under the blaring sun. A storm is hovering in the forecast. A good way to gauge the seriousness of the weather risk is to see if people actually bothered to wear rain boots.
Fashion at this festival is largely pragmatic. A sweaty man in a tank top comments to his comrade, “I tried to do the whole dress up thing—the next day it was a t-shirt and shorts.” This seems to be the Austin way, save for a few ambitious exceptions taking cues from the Coachella aesthetic. C3 events runs this festival, along with a variety of others. But Austin City Limits always seems to maintain some focus on local artists, and this year was no exception.
One of the Texas-based artists was Khalid, formerly of El Paso. His humble demeanor and smooth vocals were countered by an energetic performance with three female dancers. Another Texas band who played Friday was Brockhampton: Frontman Kevin Abstract called back to their Texas origins with the shoutout, “We used to live in San Marcos!” A self-identified “boy-band energy” matched their almost-synchronized dance moves.
The closing act was current legend, former boy-band member, Paul McCartney. This was his first time at Austin City Limits, and he came onstage wearing a suit and carrying a left-handed bass. A very large crowd of all ages were all eager to hear him perform. McCartney began with “A Hard Day’s Night,” and the crowd went wild. A particularly haunting moment occurred when old black-and-white Beatles footage played on the screen behind him, his younger, fresher face juxtaposed with his present day, wiser one.
The second day included more Texan artists. Among them was Austin native Jackie Venson, whose deft guitar-playing and melodious blues-rock had her on tour with Gary Clark Jr. In a brief interview, Venson expressed her gratitude. For her this was a “hometown win,” and she “can officially say that my town reps me.” She admitted that this approval is “a hard thing to get, because there’s a lot of great bands in this town.”
Metallica showed a similar appreciation for their audience. James Hetfield started with a “stupid question: how many people have never seen Metallica before?” A smattering of hands were raised and he said, “Thank you—it’s about time you showed up!”
One interesting group in attendance was MyMusicRx, a charity organization. They set up a bedroom in the press lounge and enticed musicians into their lair, which was part of the “Bedstock” series of concerts: described as “an online music festival where all the bands play from bed as a show of solidarity with the kids that are stuck in their hospital beds.” They are part of a larger group called Children’s Cancer Association, according to the vice president Abby Guyer. They have partnered with Austin’s St. David’s Hospital in their efforts to use music to “reduce stress anxiety and perceptions of pain” for children who are suffering from a serious diagnosis.
Elle King came to play a short set from the tent. “Oh, so we do it on a bed!” she exclaimed with a winking charm. Crawling to a comfortable place in the confines of her very soft performance space, she seemed at ease. But her ACL show demonstrated a different side entirely. Her hit “Ex’s & Oh’s” brought the crowd to life, and everyone seemed to know the chorus. She was a force to be reckoned with, all boundless swagger and grand gestures.
Arctic Monkeys played one of the last sets on Sunday night, their performance dignified and unhurried. People drifted between them and the concurrent show by Travis Scott, who had a more frenetic energy. “I’ve been waiting to do this festival for a very long time,” Scott told the crowd. FL