Fest Pics: ACL 2021 In Review

We are a little bit clear of ACL 2021’s two weekends. We dealt with the mental gymnastics required to attend both weekends during a pandemic. Proof of a negative test or full vaccination likely meant that Zilker Park was the safest place in Austin. But then again, a lot of people are liars.

So difficult to let go of being safe, yet so easy to get caught up in the moment.

Let’s get on to some thoughts a few photos.

Winners
Duran Duran: To think, they were a last-minute fill in artist. The crowd for DD was massive. MASSIVE. It stretched further back than Gorillaz a few years back, all the way into the flags on the top of the hill. The crowd was also the most diverse. 50-somethings, their kids, even their grandkids. It was a sing-along dance party and the responsible booker at C3 that managed to sign them quickly, brilliant. While their catalog is so big as to always disappoint a particular favorite song was not played, their set was crammed full of hits. The few newer tracks they played suited the vibe perfectly, “Anniversary” being a love letter to fans.
The Hu: The Mongolian heavy metal band’s performance in the Tito’s tent both weekends made me believe in humanity again. Enough true fans to guide those that lucked into seeing The Hu gave the space a united feeling. Everyone chanted, sang along, raised metal hands, sweat a little, even moshed a bit. The cover of Metallica’s “Sad But True” was pretty face-melting, a wall of sound coming amplified morin khuurs and tovshuurs bolstered by throat singing and a flute solo will cause me to bring up The HU anytime Metallica enters the chat.
Cautious Clay: Much of the XMU fave’s airplay tracks are pretty chill, but the flute, sax, hook-laden modern soul of both weekends was downright strong. Perfect festivals sets are a rarity, my crew on WE2 were happy they took my recommendation to hang with quite talented Clevelander, Joshua Karpeh.
White Reaper: Purist rock set of the weekend, they split time between the more polished recent material and the jams that comprised their previous ACL appearance on the BMI stage a few years back. Weekend 2, playing a slightly smaller Miller Lite stage versus Honda on Weekend 1, they seemed more comfortable and encouraged a circle pit, so they got one.
Indie-ish Hip-Hop: Noga Erez from Israel was rad. Clever, appreciative, worth a listen. Also worth a listen, my favorite discovery of ACL (meaning I wasn’t going to shoot, but a friend encouraged me to, so I did) was Channel Tres. Blending hip-hop, subtle rap and house music, the set started with songs from his Black Moses EP. The dancers were unexpected and artistic. Later in the set, he retired to the DJ console.
Chris Lake: Dear jeebus, this was a house-blasting sonic cleanse with a synchronized jumping crowd with hands raised. The set was massive, may have been the loudest of the weekend.
Band of Horses: All the hits, all the time. They took on the heat and blinding sun of the 4:30pm Lady Lake stage set time and got the entire crowd gathered to sing along, smiling as wide as they were.
Dayglow: The band from Austin kind of blew up during the pandemic. Their sets on the vibe-filled VRBO stage both weekends were homecoming parties.
Durand Jones and the Indications: You know that ATH loves this guy. It is a shame he couldn’t play Weekend 1, too, but so happy to have been in attendance, swaying, dancing. Durand gets best cover award; they totally nailed a soul-blissed version of Fleetwood Macs Dreams. As cliche as that song was during Covid memes, this cover was gorgeous and relevant.
Locals: Gina Chavez and Sir Woman both had *chef’s kiss emoji* sets.

Losers
Punctuality: Erykah Badu, ten minutes of intro music from her band and another five minutes faffing about on weekend 1, twenty minutes late weekend 2, whining about time being short at the end of her set, both weekends. You would think by now she could resemble being a professional. Polo G was thirty minutes late to his WE2 spot and only really performed about two tracks. Finally, Phoebe Bridgers, yes, the exalted darling of indie, you know exactly how long your set is. You were cut off when you started a song at the end of your allotted time. Don’t make eyes like you didn’t know.
Erykah Badu Pt. 2: What is with the big dumb hat?
Modest Mouse: Just not very good for me. I am sure fans loved it, but I skipped both weekends to shoot other more interesting stuff (The HU). What I heard getting ready for the next things was not good.
Future Islands: Back off the guttural roar and drop your vocals in the mix a bit.
Early bands on Friday: Sorry, that frog-floating, gully-washer ruined your festival. Friday was also the only day with significant lines getting in
Covid: No uptick yet and stats that well over 80% of people showed vaccine cards. Now, there could have been some Covid denying dicks using copies, but I tend to think that the crowd for a festival is not congruent with a crowd of vaccine protestors. Now, I will say I would have liked to have seen more masks in crowded areas. I wore one in the photo pit, it was not a big deal. The lack of masks will probably lead to plenty of other bugs going around that will sell a lot of home Covid tests.
Machine Gun Kelly haters: Yes, he is god awful, but that was a big crowd that knew every word. Now, the QR code to pre-order the new record before and after the set was a bit tacky, MGK, but on brand.
New Country: From George Strait to Charley Crockett to Calder Allen, real country was on display this weekend. I hope Hardy took notes.

As Expected
ACL Eats: Best selection of locally curated bites at any music festival. Props to Tamale Addiction nourishing my Vegan homies.
It was not for me: I am nowhere near the target demographic of this year’s festival. Now that lineups include TikTok and YouTube stars, I get to be the grumpy photo guy talking about back in my day.

Welp, lets get to some photos

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