Austin City Limits completed its final day of weekend one on Sunday. The sun rose to the coolest temperatures all weekend, a welcome reprieve from the sweltering heat festival-goers had had to endure, but nowhere near cold.
Goth Babe kicked off the day with an energetic set. Performer Griffin Washburn did his best to hype up the crowd, going as far as to instigate a dance-off and launch vegan cupcakes into the crowd. Even those that were not too familiar with their music were soon smiling and bobbing along. The audience begged for more after “Weekend Friends,” prompting Goth Babe to return for a two-song encore.
An act that has really been taking off as of late is Muna. The L.A. pop trio has been snowballing their success in the indie scene with their danceable songs, encapsulating the 20-something experience with their lyrics. They got a crowd of people, many of which had never heard of them, moving within just a few songs. The stragglers started dancing too once they covered the iconic 2000s hit “Mr. Brightsidfe” by The Killers. They closed their set with gay anthem “Silk Chiffon,” clearly their most well-known track based on audience reaction.
A naturally unusual performer, Oliver Tree seemed to feel right at home in front of an Austin crowd. The eclectic star has found success via virality. Songs like “Life Goes On” have gone viral on TikTok, skyrocketing the already rising Tree to unprecedented success. Although grateful for the opportunities internet success has provided him, he remains very self-aware, introducing the song as “the song that ruined my life.” He doesn’t take himself too seriously, declaring his love for his hometown of Austin to raring applause (even though he’s actually from Santa Cruz). He’s a troll at heart. This is reflected as much in his diva tantrums while a geist on the H3H3 podcast to his erratic, angular leaps on stage. He takes time to fist-fight a speaker, asking the audience if they’re ready for one more song after every single song ends. There is a stark dichotomy between the wacky outfit changes and mannerisms and the content of the music. “Cowboys Don’t Cry” had the audience moving, “Miracle Man” only served to get them more invested. He joked with the audience the whole set, announcing that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had canceled due to the loss of some of their supplies a mile out of the city, but promising he’d come back for another set later in the evening.
Japanese Breakfast took the T-Mobile stage at 5 o’clock, announcing the start of their performance with multiple rings of a gong and hit song “Paprika” off 2001’s Jubilee. The Pennsylvania band has gathered quite a dedicated following since its debut in 2013. Frontwoman Michelle Zauner stole the show in an artsy black dress. She is poised when she sings, always making the notes seem effortless as she excerpts complete control over the performance. The band closed with “Diving Woman,” leaving fans and passersby alike in a reverent near-silence.
But nothing can be truly silent at ACL. Many fans had begun to gather and camp in front of the American Express stage, just in time to see Paramore. Paramore has been a band for almost 20 years. As is a trend with many rock acts, the band has seen a plethora of musicians come and go, with only singer/songwriter Haley Williams remaining a constant presence in the band. However, she is currently flanked by long-standing guitarist Taylor York and founding member Zac Farro, who returned to the band in 2017 after a six-year departure. The band launched into their latest single “This is Why” as their opener, following it up with “Brick By Boring Brick,” much to the delight of older fans. Younger fans lashed out at older ones, shoving, kicking, and loudly complaining about tall people or anyone older than 21, threatening to start swinging as soon as the show picked up. It was a little disheartening to notice the lack of concert etiquette from some of the youth. However, the performance more than made up for it. Williams seemed very excited to be performing for a television audience, making sure to play to both the audience before her and the ones watching courtesy of Hulu. The band played with energy and the ease of seasoned veterans, closing their set with the poppy “Hard Times.”
On another stage, Marcus Mumford was diving into his set. The frontman of the folk band Mumford and Sons is no stranger to Austin City Limit, having headlined with his main band in 2019, but it was his first time coming on as a solo artist. He did not stick solely to his solo material, beginning his set with “Awake my Soul” and “The Cave,” two songs popular within the M&S core fanbase. But he commanded the attention of the audience with his solo work too, somehow managing to create an intimate atmosphere on festival grounds. Hy finished his set with “Kansas City,” a long-lost song penned by Bob Dylan that he and a few other musicians had given new life to in a project known as The New Basement Tapes.
Kacy Musgraves wasn’t to be left behind in terms of emotional performances. The beloved new-age country singer began her set with the ever-popular “star-crossed.” The audience was very female-friendly, and she emitted positive, powerful energy through her set. She played with grace and attitude, clearly in her element as a Texas native. During her song “High Horse,” Musgraves took a jab at junior senator Ted Cruz, inserting him into the line;
“Cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz, every time they open their mouth… Ted Cruz.” The crowd cheered in support, drowning out any naysayers (although I personally did not notice any). The disgust the nation feels towards current Texas politics is only amplified within many Texas residents, with The Chicks making similar digs on Friday night to overwhelming applause. Musgraves closed her set with a passionate rendition of “Slow Burn.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Finally, the act everyone had been waiting for took the stage at 8 p.m. The Red Hot Chili Peppers fans skewed on the older side, and they quickly quelled the entitled few that had given some grief during Paramore’s set. Following a mini jam session, singer Anthony Kedis joined the rest of the band on stage for the mega-hit “Can’t Stop.” The interesting thing about the Red Hot Chilli Pepper and their extensive discography is that it’s difficult for them to -play a song that isn’t considered good and well-known amongst the fanbase. Although it was a set packed with all the hits, they still made room for multiple solos and some songs and poetry courtesy of Flea. RHCP still play with as much chaotic energy as they did 20 years ago, proving it with a rambunctious rendition of “Give It Away” near the end of their set. They ended things on a high note with an encore of “By The Way,” the crowd swaying and singing along the whole time. The show finished around 30 minutes early. Initially, fans didn’t think it was over. But when the house lights came on and Smith tossed his final drumstick into the crowd, the audience began to disperse. It seemed like the techs didn’t know the show was over either. The fireworks, traditionally set off at the end of the final headliner’s set, didn’t start shooting up into the sky until 10 p.m. By then, a lot of the crowd was already walking outside the festival grounds.
Fans weren’t too happy about having the biggest headliner cut things short. Some took shots at the band’s personal life and vices as they walked away. The more light-hearted fan spoke about there being some truth in Oliver Tree’s words from earlier, speculating that he probably knew more about the early end than he let on.
Overall, Austin City Limits has gotten off to an adequate start this year, although not as stellar as some pre-pandemic years. If you are interested in the lineup this year with the addition of acts like Death Cab For Cutie and The Front Bottoms, purchase tickets to weekend two here.