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Austin City Limits Music Festival 2018 - Complete Guide
Although change has been coming to various parts of the world naturally, one thing has remained constant: Austin is maintaining its sterling reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Part of this music culture began deep in the 1960s and has turned this beautiful city into some sort of a mystic place. Austin City Limits (ACL), the PBS series, has played a major role in Austin’s musical journey.
But even with this huge role, it’s still quite hard to accept as true that a festival that only begun to showcase acts tied to this legendary music TV show has grown to become one of the most eagerly-awaited music festivals in the world. In its 16th anniversary, the Austin City Limits Music Festival has been growing from strength to strength, and this year’s show is expected to be even better, full of retrospective fun and certainly worth attending!
Festival Overview - What is it?
Held annually at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, the ACL Music Festival has become world-famous as the must see event in Austin, and now attracts an approximated 500,000 people. Founded in 2002 and organized by C3 Presents, the ACL Music Festival is held over two weekends in early October with each lasting for three days from Friday to Sunday. As noted earlier, this music festival was originally inspired by the hugely popular ACL TV Show with the first event lasting for only two days. It however, attracted 67 bands performing on five different stages with close to 42,000 people in attendance.
Having grown from its early days as an event for country and folk music, the ACL Music Festival is currently a mega Live Nation-owned event that alongside SXSW, has given Austin more legitimacy as the ultimate destination for live music. In fact, ACL is now a premiere music festival of the Southwest region. This is basically why close to half a million people travel to Austin in the fall with one purpose in mind: to enjoy two very epic weekends full of live music and lots of fun!
Recently, ACL Music Festival has grown to include more than just musical performances. There have been ACL Art Market and Austin Eats. Austin Eats is a sensational food court, that pays homage to the legendary New Orleans Jazz Festival. It draws top chefs from around the world, as well as the best restaurants and caterers in Austin. ACL Art Market is a top-notch exhibition that showcases the incredible artworks from a number of local artists.
This festival has also grown to include a charity known as ACL Cares Section, which allows festival goers to contribute as little as $2 as a way of giving back to the Austin community. This positive action has, in the past, helped various causes such as HeadCount, Austin Music Foundation, RoomFunding, Kids In a New Groove, Austin and Keep Austin Beautiful.
ACL History and Some of its Greatest Moments
Since its beginning in 2002, the festival has only grown year over year. Even though it began as a perfect platform for promoting Austin’s local talent, it has grown to include plenty of international musicians and thousands of music fans from around the world. To give you hindsight of what you can expect this year, here are some of the festival’s greatest moments.
2002: The inaugural two-day festival was a major success as it attracted 67 bands playing across five stages for the 42,000 fans in attendance even though only 25,000 fans were expected.
2003: After its first year’s success, the festival was expanded to include 100 bands and turned into some sort of a family affair as it saw the debut of Austin Kiddie Limits. The lineup included Ben Harper, REM, Rebirth Brass Band and many more. The crowd was so big that the beach area with chairs and umbrellas were overcrowded by a sea of music lovers.
2004: The festival’s third anniversary saw an expansion of the stages to its current number of eight with 75,000 fans in attendance. Some of the biggest performers included The Killers, Spoon, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello & the Imposters and Drive By Truckers. This was also the year when hot & crunchy cone by Hudson’s on the Bend became a thing at the ACL Fest and went to become one of Austin’s most iconic festival foods.
2010: After years of disappointments brought about by various issues including; the infamous “dust bowl” (2005), unbearable heat (2006), cancellations from Amy Winehouse, the White Stripes and Rodrigo y Gabriela (2007), sweltering heat (2008) and changes in dates (2009), 2010 was the year that the festival bounced back in big fashion. Some established acts such as The Strokes, Muse, Vampire Weekend, the Flaming Lips, Deadmou5, The National, M.I.A and Sonic Youth graced this memorable event.
2011: The 10th edition brought a diverse lineup that included Nas, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damian Marley, Randy Newman and Arcade Fire.
2013: This was the first time in the festival’s history that it was split over two weekends with one of the greatest lineups ever witnessed. The lineup included Lionel Ritchie, Vampire Weekend, The National, The Cure, Tame Impala, Wilco, Phoenix, Atoms for Peace, Kings of Leon and many more. This was the first time that the Barton Springs Beer Hall was added to give fans the chance to enjoy some micro-brew.
2014: With the introduction of the game-changing ACL cashless, fans could link their debit or credit to their wristbands to enable them enjoy onsite purchases such as food, lockers, art, beverages and festival merchandise. Organizers also included huge TV screens to air live NCAA and NFL games all weekend long.
What to Expect
Set to take place for two consecutive weekends between October 5 and October 14, these events will be spread over eight stages where you’ll enjoy various music genres such as rock, country, folk, indie, electronic and hip hop, making this the top choice for concerts in October. There’s no doubt that these stages will be packed to the brim with tens of thousands of music fans from around the world looking to quench their varying music thirsts. Austin will be bursting not just with local music fans but also with fans from across the world looking forward to delightful performances by some of the best musical acts.
One important thing to expect is that tickets will run out even before the first performance kicks off. All venues will be packed and you should definitely expect thousands of younger fans who are in sync with the “Keep Austin Weird” mentality. However, this doesn’t mean that older music fans can’t attend. Of course there will be a lot of performances perfectly suited for older music fans.
ACL Lineup for 2018
With this year’s star-studded lineup, the 2018 ACL Music Festival promises to offer something great for everybody. In fact, many have hailed this year’s lineup as the best in years. Headlined by the legendary Paul McCartney, Childish Gambino and Metallica, the 2018 lineup is already electrifying. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect.
Paul McCartney last performed in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center in 2013 and put in one of his greatest shows in recent years. For older fans, the inclusion of McCartney seems to be a major coup for the festival’s organizers. Other artists such as the Breeders and David Byrne will also resonate well with older fans as well.
This year’s festival also promises to be a great family affair with the inclusion of the National, Arctic Monkeys, St. Vincent and Father John Misty. So, if you're looking for things to do in Austin with your kids, this festival has you covered. Youngsters are not forgotten given that some great young performers such as Khalid, Travis Scott, Elle King, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes have been included in this year’s show.
Even though there are no female headliners, noticeable women performers such as Janelle Monáe, Brandi Carlisle, Sharon Van Etten and Lily Allen will be gracing this year’s show. As always, the ACL Music Festival wouldn’t be complete without the representation of local music. That’s why local performers such as Shakey Graves, Näm, Sailor Poon, Molly Burch, Jackie Venson and Sweet Spirit are all lined up to perform.
Tips for Attending the ACL Music Festival
Things to Carry and Packing Tips
A must-bring to this year’s festival is a factory sealed water bottle to keep you hydrated given that most of the performances will be under the scorching Texas sun. That said, you should remember to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and probably a hat. You can also carry a portable charger to keep your phone charged so that you don’t miss out on sharing your favorite parts of the concerts on social media just because your phone ran out of battery. In fact, you should carry with you a small backpack that can fit in a few small items such as your sunglasses and charger.
In terms of dress code, you can dress as you feel comfortable. For instance, you can choose to put on some comfy tennis shoes, fun t-shirts or some nice and cute festival wear. You can as well get the festival’s merchandise, but you should go for them earlier before they sell out because they always do by the first weekend of the fest.
Where to Stay
If you’ve secured your tickets and convinced a number of friends and loved ones to accompany you to this year’s ACL Music Festival, it would only be proper if you figure out nice places where you’re going to rest your head at night after a fun-filled day. There are a number of hotels to consider such as Hotel Van Zandt (offers breathtaking views of Lady Bird Lake), JW Marriott (located on the historic Congress Avenue), Hyatt Regency Austin (it’s actually the closest hotel to Zilker Park), the Highlander (a bit far from the festival but great if you’re attending on a budget), the Driskill (a historic hotel located on the historic 6th Street District) and many others.
Where to Eat
As a city, Austin is known not just for its music culture but also for its food. That’s why ACL Music Festival is also growing in popularity for its food culture. Known as ACL Eats Food Court, you’ll find some of the most delicious food, drinks and biting from some of the city’s top caterers and favorite restaurants. Some great options inside the Zilker Park will include ACL signature delicacies such as hot & crunchy mighty cone, funnel cakes, turkey legs, as well as a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options.
And even if you don’t want to wait in long queues for Chi’lantro’s kimchi fries, you can choose to venture outside where you’ll find a number of restaurants such as Magnolia Café (a 24-hour goodness across Lake Austin), Frank Restaurant (offers perfect hot dogs and tasty drinks such as morning espresso), 24 Diner (a 24-hour option serving breakfast at all times, as well as plenty of cocktails), Counter Café (a great breakfast spot for concert goers and early risers), Deep Eddy Cabaret (a perfect after-fest beer joint that’s very different from the crowded 6th Street bars), Fabi + Rosi (a little German and French spot that’s very close to the Zilker Park) and many more.
Place to go at Night
Lately, the ACL Music Festival has been offering late night shows so you don’t have to be worried about getting bored at night. With official late night shows tickets available, you can sample some of the best venues in Austin including; Emo’s Austin, Stubb’s and the historic Scoot Inn.
With around $1000, you can be good to enjoy yourself at the ACL Music Festival. You should keep in mind that the biggest variation of this amount will be in hotel costs. For instance, hotels in downtown Austin will cost you an average of $100 a night if you book in advance with another $100 going to food and booze every day, but it depends on how you want to dine and wine. To cut the long story short, you can spend $255 on fest tickets if you’re an early bird, $400+ on hotels, $300 on food and drinks and around $10 to travel around the city.
The 2018 one-day GA tickets are on sale for $100 while three-day tickets are on sale for $255. A one-day VIP ticket will cost you $450 while a three-day VIP ticket will cost you $1,100.
Get Your Tickets Today!
As one of the greatest music shows on Earth, there’s absolutely no doubt that the upcoming 2018 ACL Music Festival is stands to be among the best. Set for two weekends beginning October 5, you should ultimately make no excuses non-appearance. That’s because this year’s festival has the right ingredients to make it the greatest. From headliners such as Paul McCartney, Metallica and Childish Gambino to other performing artists such as Khalid, Travis Scott and many more, it’s certainly going to be most memorable, epic and probably one of the hottest festivals you’ll ever attend. Make arrangements, get your tickets, book your hotel and enjoy the best that the 2018 ACL Musical Festival has to offer!