Photo By John Anderson

Three Times a Lady

Things are preternaturally calm Monday afternoon at Zilker Park. Four short days before tens of thousands descend on the soccer fields for the third Austin City Limits Music Festival, site crews in "ACLMF" ball-caps zip around on Gators and golf carts. Row upon row of bike racks sit at the ready, day laborers hoist the festival's colorful skyline logo atop what will become the Bank of America stage, and walkie-talkies crackle with various staffers going "off radio" for lunch. Having an extra two weeks to set up the park has "given everybody a lot more breathing room," notes producer Charlie Jones. "It means we can go home and sleep at night."

If no one seems to be losing sleep this year, there's a good reason. It's not exactly Jones and partner Charles Attal's first rodeo, and with ticket sales outpacing last year's, the festival is poised to hit a very comfortable plateau. "[It's] close to selling out," says Attal, who oversees the 130 performing acts while Jones handles production. Estimates have 75,000 people per day streaming through the Zilker gates. "I think we'll find this year is as big as it's gonna get," says Jones.

For that reason and others, 2004 promises to be a defining year for the music festival. Word has obviously gotten out, as requests for credentials have poured in from places as far-flung as Japan and Sweden. Rumors have gotten out, too, but Franz Ferdinand is not playing Stubb's tonight, and organizers are not adding a fourth day next year. A recent Associated Press article pegged the local/out-of-towner ratio at 45-to-55, figures Attal confirms. Webcasts by co-sponsor SBC at will raise the potential audience even further. Though the national press has been slow to recognize it, as is often the case with events outside the New York-Nashville-L.A. line of sight, ACL is gathering Coachella- and/or Bonnaroo-type steam. Except with nicer scenery, prettier girls, and better food.

Even as ACL becomes more and more of a national, and even international, happening, the festival remains very much an Austin endeavor. With few exceptions, all the labor and services required to produce the festival, as well as the more than 1,000 volunteers and paid staffers who make it happen, hail from within the city limits. More than that, the wide range of music on display ("It's gotta be one of the most diverse lineups of all the festivals," says Attal) reflects an environment where, despite all the glib "Keep Austin Weird" sloganeering, creativity really is celebrated and nonconformity is the norm. How could visitors not catch on?

"I don't know how many times I hear, 'I caught [an Austin band] at the festival and they were great,' then they go see them in Chicago or somewhere," Attal says. "I hear that all the time."

So sweep out the hallway and get out the good china, Austin. Company's coming.

  • More of the Story

  • TCB

    The Austin City Limits Music Festival gets big without outgrowing its roots


  • TCB


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More TCB
Music news

Christopher Gray, June 29, 2007


Christopher Gray, June 22, 2007

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle