ACL Fest: Is It Really Worth the Hype?

“It’s the Coachella of the South. My friends and I had been planning this trip nearly half a year in advance, and it surely did not disappoint,” said Hailey Gulick ’20.

It is impossible for you to not have heard of ACL before. However, for people who dwell under rocks, from the genius minds of Lollapalooza the ACL fest is an annual music festival held in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas and is also one of the biggest music celebrations in the United States. According to USA Today, Festicket Magazine, and numerous other magazines, ACL Fest, also known Austin City Limits Festival, is a must-go-to event featuring artists from rap hero Jay-Z to British rock duo Royal Blood.

“Initially my friend group for ACL consisted of ten people, but it eventually narrowed down to four people including myself. In the end a group of four people could be too big. We lost each other most of the time, so I kept with a buddy instead,” said Maxine Polma ‘20.

There are eight stages in total, and about 450,000 people attend every year. All eight stages are not occupied the entire duration of the festival. Instead, only two to three performances simultaneously occur during the same hour. Thus, thousands of attendees are split only three ways, and each performance occupies much more people than any high school dance does.

“We arrived late, and Billie Ellish’s performance had started. We decided to cut and scoot ourselves to the front. And let me just say, don’t do that. Most people were annoyed and tolerant, but there are few who picked fights,” said Hailey Gulick ’20.

Regardless of the adult atmosphere of drugs and alcohol, parents, their children, and even grandparents attend this annual event. Attendees from as young as 13 to as old as 60 have been waiting for their favorite artist’s performance for hours. Families set up chairs and wait for their favorite artist to enter the stage.

Contrary to the extensive, stressful preparation process, there are various musical acts from genres from rock to country to pop. The concerts start from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and you can stay as long as you desire. Some stay for a few hours while others party for the full weekend.

Surprisingly the Austin City Limits festival did not first start as a festival. Instead, it was a TV series showcasing Texas singers and folk performers. Taking inspiration from this award-winning TV show, the ACL fest was formed with a similar lineup, but over the years it has expanded to more music genres from jazz to rock.

The Austin City Limits Festival was founded in 2002 and primarily was a one-weekend event until 2012. As ACL grew in popularity and the artist lineup expanded, the Austin City Council members opened the festival to two separate weekends.

Besides the amazing music, the festival also features famous foods and various displays of art. The food court, Austin Eats, consists of Austin’s most historic and iconic eateries with a diverse selection of foods from gluten-free meals to a full steak. Including the Austin-originated Torchy’s Tacos food truck, the food court also presented appearances from Stubbs B-B-Q, Chi’Lantro BBQ, and Amy’s Ice Cream, and more of Austin’s favorites. In addition to food, the ACL Art Market exhibits and sells art from local to well-known artists.

When asked to describe the ACL fest in one word, Paola O’Rourke ‘20 answered, “I honestly cannot describe the food, the experience, or the music in just one word. The time I had was unforgettable, unique, and so much fun,”

The Austin City Limits Festival is not just any festival but a celebration of music, art, and humanity. People from all over the Unites States come to Austin to embrace Southern culture from its bomb tacos to its people’s friendly nature. So, is the Austin City Limits Festival worth the hype? In the end, the answer depends. If you love Southern culture and are open to different types of music, you will no doubt adore this unique festival and all it has to offer.

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