North Texas Daily

Festival Review: Austin City Limits

Festival Review: Austin City Limits

Festival Review: Austin City Limits
October 08
11:26 2013

William A. Darnell / Arts & Life Editor

When Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National, ambled off the stage, drunkenly sauntering to the waist-high barrier separating the crowd, the stage and the media and leapt over it, I lost all bearing on thought and reason. The moment defined surreal.

Musicians often crowd surf near the end of concerts, or walk close to their audience, but rarely do they incite such chaos as Berninger did when he walked through the crowd singing one of his bands’ most visceral songs, “Mr. November.”

Berninger was slightly unhinged for the band’s entire performance—drunk, sipping on what was presumably whiskey and manically pacing the stage between songs—but when he crossed the real and imagined plane of interaction, his performance crossed a line between merely enjoyable and ecstatic.

Music fans, myself among them, attend music festivals like Austin City Limits for moments that transcend the normal experience between musician and fan. The National and several other bands at last weekend’s festival epitomized the exact experience festival-goers purchase highly priced wristbands to feel—raw, unbridled, emotional connection and togetherness with music.

The festival, which was founded in 2002, is an annual 3-day event that takes place at Zilker Park in Austin. Traditionally more than 200,000 people attend during the festival’s three days. This year, for the first time, the festival will feature two identical weekends, Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13. More than 130 bands will perform on the festival’s seven stages, with acts such as Atoms for Peace, The Cure, Lionel Richie, Kings of Leon, and Phoenix among the major headliners.

Below is a list of festival highs, lows, do’s and don’ts:


• Wake up early for the first day of the festival. Establishing a good sense of direction really helps navigate the festival when it’s after sunset and you’re competing for space with tens of thousands of other people.

• Park and ride. The shuttles are extremely efficient, free and add a sense of anticipation on the short ride from downtown Austin to the park. Lines typically last less than 15 minutes, and the ride is less than 10.

• Bring water, chairs, blankets, bottled sunscreen, CamelBaks and cash. Some of the food establishments are cash only, so bring the green to avoid paying nearly $5 in ATM fees.


• Arrive 30 minutes prior to the start time for your favorite band and expect to find ample seating/standing room.

• Be one of the obnoxious few jabbering through concerts while waiting for the band they want to see to start. Courtesy is paramount when in close quarters with thousands of new friends.

• Expect to spend less than $50 per day if you plan on eating and drinking at the festival.  Beer will set you back $8, and most food options are between $5 and $8.


• Kings of Leon. The much-maligned Tennessee quartet are back from hiatus and giving a damn again. The Followill family was engaging, played a wide variety of hits, seemed enthusiastic and profusely thanked an absolutely eager crowd.

• Portugal. The Man. The Alaska-born psychedelic rock band dazzled in its afternoon slot, energizing a huge, but somewhat reluctant, sun-weakened crowd.

• Grouplove. The five-piece band of “hippies” absolutely wowed in one of the danciest and wildest performances of the weekend. “Colours,” a song about a suicidal man, was especially wonderful. Hannah Hooper, who plays the keyboard and sings, was one of many highly talented female musicians at the festival.


• MS MR. The two-piece, New York-based indie pop band came into the festival with large expectations and fell completely short of them. Singer Lizzy Plapinger sounded like a karaoke version of Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine. The band also played one of the shortest sets of the weekend, only using 41 of its 60 allotted minutes. The crowd didn’t seem to mind the performance being cut short though.

• Grimes. The Canadian electronic artist has a large following with high expectations. Unfortunately, her voice was too soft-spoken for the venue and most of her set was drowned out by her instrumentation.

• Sights, smells and standing. Repeatedly throughout the weekend, the PA service reminded festival-goers Zilker Park was a smoke-free facility. Alas, the festival was rife with cigarette and marijuana smokers, marring the experience for thousands of tightly packed partiers who weren’t partaking.

At every major show, the crowd jammed the people waiting in the front into contorted positions they were forced to maintain for hours in wait. However, the overwhelming, intoxicating and indefatigable scent of body odor overpowered everything in terms of unpleasantness. Bring deodorant and use it liberally.

Tickets and wristbands for weekend two of the festival are still available on and

Portugal. The Man lead singer, John Gourley, unleashed the band’s psychedelic-groove on Saturday at the AMD stage during ACL. Feature photo by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor 

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