JACKS have jumped on a plane and headed to the Lone Star State of Texas. While there, we caught the final day of Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Park, Austin.
Austin City Limits (ACL) has been running for over 40 years and has gained the reputation as one of America’s best festivals. Taking place across two weekends in October, this year’s headliners included Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, Gorrilaz and The Killers.
We arrived early on the final day of ACL 2017 to take a look around and see just why America loves this festival so much. Boasting seven stages across the site an impressive beer garden and a stunning view of Austin’s skyline, it didn’t take long to find out why.
Our first band of the day were Deap Vally who can be best described as the female version of Royal Blood. Doused in filthy hooks and empowering beats, anyone with a hangover from the night before had the cobwebs blown out of their heads in emphatic style. The early arrivers at the American Express Stage were taken on a wild ride of exciting rock and it was so damn good that it ended too soon. WIth songs like ‘Teenage Queen’ and ‘Royal Jelly’, the Californian duo were a thrilling star to our ACL experience.
One down side to Deap Vally’s set and I think America as a nation need to come together and put an end to this, is step stools at festivals. As they played, a woman happened to use a step stool to see, the fact she already must be around six foot made it even worse. As if short people don’t have enough issues of trying to see bands at gigs, we don’t need the BFG adding an extra couple of inches to see nothing more than they already can see. Word of advice from across the pond, if you’re going to a festival or gig in the UK or Ireland, leave the step stool at home.
Wondering around the festival site more, Zilker Park really did look breathtaking. With gentle hills, rocks with ACL Fest on them in Hollywood-esque style and a huge beer tent offering the finest craft beers Texas has to offer. The view of Austin’s skyline behind the American Express Stage was easy on the eye too.
Over on the Miller Lite Stage, we caught Middle Kids, who were wrapping up their US tour before heading back to Australia. Even though back home people are turning the heating on and wearing hats and scarves, Middle Kids literally brought out the sun on ACL’s final day at the perfect moment during ‘Edge of Town’.
With soaring guitars, passionate lyrics and catchy hooks, it’s no wonder the band drew such a big crowd. Seeking feedback bassist Tim Fitz, shared his phone number asking for people to text in. Cue thousands of unrelated texts as Fitz turned into an announcement service for the remainder of their set.
There was a moment of perfection during ‘Old River’, when the sun was finally out, with the woodland as a backdrop to the stage, there were dragonflys zipping around the crowd. It felt like it was still summer, or at least it did to me as I put on sun cream while others were feeling a bit nippy and putting on a jacket.
The laid back approach of American’s at festival’s was a breath of fresh air as opposed to back home. Sitting on the ground in between acts, socialising with anyone and everyone and just embracing what a festival is all about. It was also a bonus that not once was a bottle of piss or alcohol spotted being launched over the crowd.
Sticking around at the Miller Lite and with bands from the bottom part of the globe, New Zealand duo, BROODS were next up at Austin City Limits. The siblings emphatic performance had the crowd in the palm of their hands.
The explosive energy from singer Georgia while brother Joel was bouncing in the background from instrument to instrument, made it for an exciting set to watch.
At the halfway mark of the day, it was no surprise to see they had the biggest crowd so far. Ending with their hit ‘Heartlines’, the synth-laden set was ended to huge roars as the duo appeared to be taken aback by the huge reception they’d received.
Moving over to the HomeAway stage, First Aid Kit were back for the second weekend of Austin City Limits. The Swedish sisters are close to releasing their fourth album and have already released new single ‘It’s A Shame’ just last month.
The pristine sound of the folk band was a joy to watch. Two girls on stage, performing with passion and clearly loving what they do. The passion was on show most during the performance of the single ‘You Are the Problem Here’, which sees them tackle sexual violence and how another rapist got a lenient sentence, which lead singer Kara, summed up pretty bluntly afterwards “is pretty fucked up”.
Apart from that fiery moment, it was a joy-filled set where the Söderberg sisters smiles reflected onto the crowd as the sun began to set over Texas.
The Honda stage had a hell of a line up to close out ACL this year, with the final two acts being Run the Jewels and then Gorillaz. However, everyone encounters a clash at festivals and at Austin City Limits, it was Gorillaz and The Killers. It was a very difficult decision to make but once Run the Jewels had finished, in the words of Brandon Flowers, “it’s indie rock ‘n’ roll for me…”
But before The Killers, Run the Jewels were up and brought the party to ACL. The hip-hop duo were like puppeteers, with the raise of a hand and the crowd would bounce. Killer Mike noticed pushing going on, so on the count of three, the crowd all took a step back on his command. When told to go crazy, without asking twice, the crowd went wild. Run the Jewels know how to put on a show for everyone including themselves, to enjoy.
They’re headed to the UK this November, with support from Danny Brown who performed earlier in the day. After performing ‘Hey Kids (Bumaye)’, they brought it back and got Danny out to perform his verse on the track.
It was time for Austin City Limits to wrap up their 2017 installment and bringing the night to an end were Las Vegas rockers, The Killers. With a huge back-catalogue of anthemic sing-alongs, there’s only one way the set was going to go.
Opening with lead single of the new album Wonderful, Wonderful, ‘The Man’ set the tone for the night. Flowers was in great form, grinning throughout the night while the crowd sang back to him.
While ‘Mr. Brightside’ may be a British night out anthem and closed out ACL 2017, the biggest and most passionate sing alongs came during ‘When You Were Young’ and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’. During the latter, the echo ringing around Zilker Park was hair-raising and a moment that should be remembered for a very long time for those that chose The Killers over Gorillaz.
The Killers are a band that since the release of Hot Fuss, have only gone from strength to strength and continue to prove they’re one of the most exciting live bands in the world. With sparks showering down behind them during ‘When You Were Young’, the gorgeous backdrop of Austin City behind them and a crowd fixed on every word and note coming out of the speakers, The Killers brought Austin City Limits to a close in phenomenal style.
Branded as the “live music capital of the world”, Austin’s premier festival showed just how true that is. For those with wanderlust and an obsession with music, Austin is a must with live music everywhere.