One of the big four music festivals in the U.S., Austin City Music Festival is a multi-genre, three day weekend festival that is located at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. The festival is occurring on two weekends in October(3-5 and 10-12) and draws an average of 75,000 festival goers each day. With an event this big there is little room for error on crafting an appealing line-up. ACL festival organizers did not disappoint and have created a roster of heavy-hitting chart toppers and festival favorites to rival other massive festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. Here are my top twelve acts to see live at ACL Festival 2014.
12. The Gaslight Anthem Since festival organizers couldn’t get Bruce Springsteen to play, they decided to get a band with New Jersey roots and a very similar sound. The Gaslight Anthem is an anthemic alternative rock band that pays tribute to classic rock with a bombastic style that can take your breath away. Currently touring their fifth album Get Hurt the band will stop in Austin to perform their version of heartland rock and roll. Lead singer Brian Fallon’s gritty vocals cut through the air with ease and the catchy hooks in almost every song will make you move. TGA is a must see good old fashioned American rock band that puts their heart and soul on the line when performing. I think that this is reason enough to see one of the more underrated sets of the weekend.
Recommended Tracks: “59 Sound”, “Great Expectations”, “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts”
Last time Chromeo played at ACL was when they acted as a glorified back up band for soul/pop singer Daryl Hall. Things will be much different this time around as Chromeo has finally hit it big with their new album White Woman and their chart topping single “Jealous(I Ain’t With It)”. The pioneers of their own sub-genre that they affectionately call electro-funk, Chromeo is quickly becoming one of the most entertaining live acts of 2014. The Canadian duo is comprised of Dave-1(lead vocals/guitar) and P-Thugg(Keyboards) who play funky dance beats that are all about love and women. The intriguing formula to Chromeo is fun danceable music with a bit of humor thrown in. Style aside, the duo has been working on their live show for years and this may be the year where everything falls into place. Make way for the “Funk Lordz”, and get ready for a funky dance party that you will not be able to stop moving to.
Recommended Tracks: “Fancy Footwork”, “Mommas Boy”, “Jealous(I Ain’t With It)”
10. Childish Gambino In a perfect world Donald Glover or more recently known by his stage name, Childish Gambino would be performing a stand-up comedy set as well as a musical performance. Glover first drew attention due to his celebrity status and roles in television and comedy. However this was not enough for the ambitious Glover and he developed a stage persona, named Childish Gambino, to start his hip-hop career. I have to say I was not expecting too much from his first album that was called Camp. That is until I heard it, and I have to say I was blown away. Ever the comedian, Gambino inserts hilarious snippets throughout his fast paced raps but they are sandwiched between serious and often personal sounding lyrics. Two years later, Gambino is touring his most recent album that was released in 2013, titled Because The Internet. Receiving positive reviews from fans and critics alike Gambino is set to fire bomb the stage at ACL Festival. His live shows can be described by one word and that word is “intense”. With very little hip-hop making it onto the line-up, Gambino is a must see act.
Recommended Tracks: “3005”, “Heartbeat”, “Bonfire”
Returning hometown heroes Spoon are set to make another appearance at ACL Festival to promote their most recent album They Want My Soul. The Austin, Texas five piece have been a staple of the indie rock scene since the release of their first album in 1996. With every solid and easily listenable record they released, Spoon’s popularity grew and grew. Now on the road for their longest tour in three years the band is shaking off the dust and is regaining the gritty rock and roll style that made them a must see live act. Known for having a lively almost punk rock attitude on stage, Spoon can be described as a consistently good choice to see at any event. Not only that but what better way to finish off their U.S. tour then performing two weekends at one of the largest musical events in the country and one that is conveniently located in their hometown.
Recommended Tracks: “The Underdog”, “Black Like Me”, “I Turn My Camera On”
8. Major Lazer The brain child of American electronic DJ and producer Diplo. Major Lazer has been slowly conquering the dance scene since 2008. Joined by DJ/producers Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, the project has become a popular festival mainstay in recent years. Creating bass heavy tracks with more hooks and drops then you can count, Diplo has managed to discover a new vain of EDM by combining reggae, electro house, dubstep and moombahton. With a crazy live show that involves Zorbing balls, confetti, streamers and some booty shaking back-up dancers, ML brings the party to you in full force. Don’t be surprised if they ask for a little crowd participation and be prepared to take off your shirt and wave it in the air before a massive drop. With only a few more U.S. dates on their touring schedule, ML will in all probability not be seen until next year. If you like to dance and get down with the bass then attending their last festival show in America should be high on your list of priorities.
Recommended Tracks: “Jah No Partial”, “Get Free”, “Pon De Floor”
Having played ACL several times before, The Avett Brothers are returning veterans with little to prove. However this means nothing to one of the most popular American folk rock bands that are still around today. Consistent touring and powerful soul wrenching albums have put TAB on numerous must-see bucket lists. Mixing bluegrass, folk and a never say die attitude, TAB has become one of the best touring live shows, several years running. Showing off relentless amounts of energy and enthusiasm the bands performances become a rowdy event that celebrates rock and roll at its finest. Optimistic tracks with gentle or fast paced instrumentation make for a feel good atmosphere that brings up more emotion then one would like to admit. TAB’s are a perfect example of ACL’s former roots and are an undeniable force to experience live.
Recommended Tracks: “I And Love And You”, “Kick Drum Heart”, “Live And Die”
Dream pop singer/songwriter and indie queen, Lana Del Rey will be making a rare festival appearance at this years ACL Festival. From the beginning of her career all the way to the present, Lana Del Rey has been the center of attention that can seemingly do no wrong. Expect a slow ambient set with Del Rey’s relaxed vocals sweeping over the crowd. More of a downtempo show, but nevertheless you can be certain that she will draw a massive crowd. With her tours being either small or scattered around the world there is no telling on when you will be able to see the baroque songstress next.
Recommended Tracks: “Summertime Sadness”, “Born To Die”, “West Coast”
5. The Replacements Besides Outkast there is one other huge reunion that has gone almost unnoticed this year. Well… maybe not completely unnoticed but still playing back-burner to the more recent reunion of one of the worlds most successful hip-hop duos. The Replacements are back and in amazing form for a band that has not gone on a tour since the 90’s. Known for their wild live shows that defined punk rock, The Replacements have returned as seasoned veterans and will make their first live appearance at ACL Festival in October. While they may be older, the band still has the chops to perform live as previously demonstrated last year at Chicago’s Riot Fest and at various festivals this year as well. Playing solely the greatest hits, the band can still rock their hearts out even after all these years. Catch them live for an energetic blast to the pace and for bragging rights, so that you can say you saw one of the most influential punk bands of the past generation.
Recommended Tracks: “Bastards Of Young”, “Alex Chilton”, “Can’t Hardly Wait”
Scottish DJ/producer Calvin Harris is one of the biggest names in dance music today. He has dominated the dance and electronic charts with his 2012 album, 18 Months. It is an impressive feat to still be one of the most sought after DJ’s in the world with an album two years old. However, if you look at the statistics then it becomes more clear. His third album produced nine top singles on the UK charts and is the first album in history to do so. Boosted by this incredible rise in popularity, Harris has been touring the world non-stop and has ascended into the top tier of the EDM industry. Armed with an album full of chart topping singles and a mesmerizing light show, Harris is a shoo-in for co-headliner of the weekend. The field at Zilker Park will be turned into one massive dance party and in terms of age will attract the youngest crowd to be seen at the festival. Prepare to dance to one of the top DJ’s in the world!
Recommended Tracks: “Feel So Close”, “Summer”, “I Need Your Love”
He may not be the youngest artist on the roster but singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Beck is one of the most endearing acts from the 90’s that is still around today. With twelve genre spanning albums to choose from along with his most recent effort, titled Morning Phase, Beck has discovered a resurgence in popularity. The king of cool, Beck has created his own unique style while performing live that brings the crowd together and feels like more of an intimate gathering then a concert. Don’t get me wrong he can still rock just as hard as anyone, but the way he connects with the audience is more personal then anything. He gives his fans love and they give it back to him two-fold. While playing at random festivals and venues in the last couple of years, Beck has developed a strong set that pays homage to his older more experimental material as well as his recent work. What else can I say about one of the best American songwriters that is still creating beautiful music even today? See him or miss out on one of the best shows of the weekend.
Recommended Tracks: “Where It’s At”, “E-Pro”, “Blue Moon”
Cue the epic entrance music because one of the hardest working rock bands in the industry is coming to Austin! The one and only Pearl Jam will be performing their only U.S. festival performance of the year at ACL. PJ have been entertaining crowds with their grungy hard rock since 1990 and with time they have become one of the most sought after live bands in the world. The Seattle rock band has ten full albums worth of exhilarating and at times, moving tracks. PJ does not seem to know the meaning of slowing down or growing old. Lead vocalist Eddie Vedder is a whirlwind on stage, running and jumping like a man half his age. It is because of this special kind of charisma that PJ has continuously been recognized as one of the few hard rock bands from the 90’s that can still put on a mind-bending live show. Grab your flannel and ripped jeans because PJ is ready to shake the ground with their rock heavy set, that is sure to be one of the best shows of the festival.
Recommended Tracks: “Alive”, “Black”, “Yellow Ledbetter”
American rapper Marshall Mathers or commonly known by his stage name Eminem, is one of the best-selling rappers in the world. Having sold over 45 million albums world wide and is lauded as one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the 2000’s, Eminem is set to conquer ACL Festival. While he has not been on a full-length tour in years, Eminem has dabbled in random festivals and arena shows around the world. The 13-time Grammy winner is currently touring his most recent album the Marshall Mathers LP 2, with his longest stateside tour in three years. It has been a long time since he has played a set in Austin and with two weekends to perform tracks from across his career, Slim Shady is ready to annihilate the crowds with his unique rapping style at ACL. A tremendous live performer, an Eminem concert is a thing to behold. Hate him or love him, Eminem has enough top charting singles that anybody in the audience will recognize at least some of his discography. I dare to say that Slim Shady will draw the largest crowd of the weekend and will silence all of the haters that disapprove of his name being at the very front of the bill.
Recommended Tracks: “Lose Yourself”, “The Monster”, “Till I Collapse”