The Most Memorable Moments of Sunday’s ACL Fest

Spoon, Buffalo Nichols, and Paramore’s devotional nostalgia

Sunday at ACL Fest packed Weekend One’s highest concentration of Austin-sourced acts into an excellent afternoon. Texas-launched and beyond, here are the Chronicle music writers’ highlights from day three at Zilker Park.

Photo by Gary Miller

Paramore’s Hayley Williams Whips Up Crowd Devotion

"We're not here for looking right or looking tight," Hayley Williams screamed to the ACL throngs. With that, the Paramore principal gave millennials permission to embrace their nostalgia without airs. Over a tight 50-minute evening set, the quintessential pop punk band whipped up the crowd into a wild-limbed frenzy during their ACL debut. Fresh single "This Is Why" opened without any new-track stumbles, previewing an incoming February record. That was the last time in the set anything felt unfamiliar, as by second song "Brick by Boring Brick" Williams was fully locked in – voice soaring and clear as she spun and whipped her hair around, morphing her head into a bright orange whirl. She relied on the crowd devotion. All she had to belt was "no sir" before the crowd picked up "That's What You Get," and no one could resist the chanting parts of "Ain't It Fun." But the fervor boiled to a cathartic break for "Misery Business," officially out of a four-year retirement as of this month. As Williams directed energies and the drums built to that chorus crash, Paramore obliterated any hang-ups of looking right or tight. – Abby Johnston

Photo by Gary Miller

Spoon Remains “Wild” and Unflappable

You cannot trip Spoon up. That much was self-evident from the start, Britt Daniel apparently having woken up Sunday morning with a mission to spell every letter of the Latin alphabet with his whipping microphone cord (whether new-ish bassist Ben Trokan was standing in the way or not). But as these 30-year road warriors surely know, true rock & roll spontaneity always finds a close neighbor in disaster. Rightly, the most electrifying, high-wire moment of the Austin icons’ first hometown set since March arrived when they had to rethink on the spot. After an ACL employee burst onstage mid-song to flash an updated ending time at Daniel, the quick-on-his-feet bandleader wasted no time rebounding. Watching him travel across stage to mouth a single word to each of his silently-nodding bandmates, you didn’t need master lip-reading skills to discern what was coming next. When the band launched into the exhilarating, heart-of-life groove, the latest single’s title handily summed up the feeling: “Wild.” – Julian Towers

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Primo the Alien Lives Her Fantasy

Having already hit the goal of being booked for ACL Fest, but then facing last year’s Friday cancellation due to inclement weather, Primo the Alien’s Zilker debut was long in the making. “I used to walk through those little gates and think, ‘I can do better than that pop star,’” said Austin-based Laura Lee Bishop, in an Eighties aerobics-style black getup with frilly tutu arms. Her synthwave pop style took us back to the future with pumping, danceable tracks pulsing as a guitarist, bassist, and synthesizer played along. Primo also picked up a guitar, at first finding it unplugged, between bright banter and alternately glowering and glowing facial expressions. She asked the crowd to shout Primo back to her for her song “#1 Alien,” because “this is my fantasy.” They complied with gusto. What’s next, Primo? – Christina Garcia

Caleb De Casper Pulls Out All the Stops

Clad in a glittering leotard with a rose vine neckline and matching crown, Austin’s Caleb de Casper rolled onto the Barton Springs stage quite literally framed in a flashing rainbow cutout – pushed by dancers-turned-stagehands. Undeterred by the modest early-afternoon audience, the extravagant vocalist pulled all the stops to forge a synth-pop-fueled set. Unrestricted, De Casper’s choreographed theatrics brought his vision of 2022 tour-de-force LP Femme Boy to life. Already accompanied by his supporting band for the first two movements, “Do You Feel” marked the official entrance of the delightful backup dancers – with outfits to complement the singer’s and moves to match the eccentric pop sound of “Unicorn.” Peering sharply over Fifties-style sunglasses, De Casper connected to adoring fans through fluctuating electronic beats and audacious flair. With feather boas, pom-poms, and tantalizing phantasmagoria, the “Real Girl” showed the tenacity of a true superstar. – Alyssa Quiles

photo by Jana Birchum

Buffalo Nichols Nicely Delivers No-Nonsense Grit

Buffalo Nichols leaves silver and gold wherever he plays. One-man summit inside the Tito’s tent, and returning for Weekend Two, the Austin transplant’s Honeydripper resolve joins the ranks of a clutch of local bluesmen: Gary Clark Jr., Zach Person, the Peterson Brothers. Steel guitar and slide in hand, the nice but no-nonsense practitioner phrased swampy Southern grit through heavy reverb to elicit ghostly roots music. Heat and dust cycled through a canonical delivery, all throat and rasp – Except when he said, “Thank you all for standing there looking at me. This has been a dream of mine,” wherein he sounded like a law clerk. “How to Love” from last year’s eponymous debut, not so much – tender, but hard, realistic. “I want you all to be nice to each other,” he said in parting. “Just for one day? Can you do that?” No, but we’ll be nice to you, Nichols. – Raoul Hernandez

Photo by Lauren Johnson

Japanese Breakfast Jubilantly Urges Texans to Vote Out Abbott

Michelle Zauner can seem stony, even as she sings ostensibly jubilant work. But on Sunday, the Japanese Breakfast bandleader cracked a smile early, briefly fought it, and lost. Grinning through an hour of gong-spanking, string-stroking, and horn-heralding – trellised by psychodramatic indie rock from three albums melding pop and Eighties synth – Zauner was genial and playful. She sat at a keyboard facing her husband, guitarist Peter Bradley, giggling the words to “Tactics” before explaining “I was distracted by my husband's exposed chest.” He buttoned up with a mischievous smirk. The couple’s onstage nonverbal communication sparkled as the singer happily noted recent airing of the band’s April Austin City Limits TV taping, as well as Austin-based band members Deven Craige on bass and Christabel Lin on violin. A strong showing of young women fans focused on Zauner – two nearby leaping in the air, hand-in-hand, shouting her lyrics, and hopefully impacted by her urging Texans to vote in upcoming midterm elections: “Fuck Greg Abbott… To be a Texan voter is not to be a disillusioned one. If you believe abortion is healthcare, and if you believe in gun control, please turn up.” – Christina Garcia

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Red Hot Chili Peppers Dominate in Abbreviated 77-Minute Headline

Under a killing moon, rising slow and low to the right, the Red Hot Chili Peppers dominated the American Express stage to co-close the first weekend of ACL Fest 2022 opposite Kacey Musgraves. Schedule read 8-10pm, but the band finished in 77 minutes and only walked back out on Flea’s brief-baring handstand for detonator “By the Way.” At 9:25pm, they dematerialized like the best acts – in a flash of sulfuric alchemy. In a town that trained Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante’s delicious opening met at the two Strat-wielders' mutual intersection – or crosstown traffic, as it were: Jimi Hendrix. All three ax maniacs transcend boys and their guitars. Rather, they’re the wood and wire, and electricity pulsing through it – pure energy, circuitry, lightning. Plugging the now 52-year-old Frusciante in and out of RHCP since he turned 18 – and only for its finest recorded moments of Mothers Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication, By the Way, and Stadium Arcadium – always feels like reuniting the Clash.

“London Calling” teased Californication’s “Right On Time.” Frusciante turning in a stilling solo rendition of (Joey) Ramones’ “I Remember You,” Stadium Arcadium twofer “Dani California” and a sweet-ass “Snow (Hey Oh)” – and knockdown bookends “Can’t Stop” and “Give It Away” – all hit in the hands of a band that understands every performance represents an opportunity to tap into a singular whole. Beach psych-er “Black Summer” fared better than a pair of set mates off April’s Unlimited Love, but a grinning Frusciante and his Gretsch facing off against Flea during “Edie” from next week’s Return of the Dream Canteen stoked a full moon memento. See you next Sunday in Zilker, then. – Raoul Hernandez

Looking for our Kacey Musgraves review? Find it here. (Photo by Lauren Johnson)

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