Playback: Everyone Keeps Asking Me for ACL Fest Passes

Here’s why ...


Brockhampton (Photo by Ashlan Grey)

Solicitations have kept a steady clip since the lineup dropped in May. Friends, family, and vague acquaintances all ask: "Hey man, any chance you can score me a pass to ACL Fest?"

The answer is no, uh-uh, hell nah.

I regret to inform you that organizers of Austin's largest outdoor music event don't mail me a manila envelope full of wristbands to dole out to my social circle. I wish they did. This happens every year, but the requests have quadrupled in 2018.

Everyone wants to get inside the gates for this weekend's sold-out proceedings at Zilker Park. Here's why?

Must Be the Headliners

Just because Metallica's the Eddie Murphy of metal – brilliant in the Eighties, then curiously weak thereafter – doesn't mean they don't draw. The Bay Area thrash metal foursome's first Austin festival appearance, excluding a surprise appearance at South by Southwest 2009, prompted ACL's Saturday passes to sell out before all others. Expect a sea of banging heads cued by the opening riff to "Seek & Destroy."

Having not slotted a heritage headliner since Lionel Richie in 2013, C3 Presents now brings forth a Beatle on Friday. The best-looking member of the planet's most universal band leads this weekend's biggest sing-alongs with material he penned: "Hey Jude," "Let It Be," "Yesterday," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Eleanor Rigby," and "Blackbird." This is premium value Macca; scoring floor seats to any gig on McCartney's forthcoming Freshen Up tour will cost you more than a weekend pass to ACL.

ACL's most balanced stable of headliners in years was fractured last week when Sunday topper Childish Gambino/Donald Glover broke his foot attempting splits midconcert. While Phoenix (weekend one) and Lil Wayne (weekend two) constituted consolation adds, rapper/singer Travis Scott becomes ACL's closing ceremony. While that can't match the transcendent cultural moment of Gambino's viral "This Is America" clip, Scott's recent chart-topping Astroworld LP is a youth smash. Anyone over 35 will flood out after Arctic Monkeys on Sunday.

Or Maybe the Underground

True music heads know that the best festival bands play before 5pm.

Noname Fri., 2:45pm, HomeAway stage
A clever lyricist with a commanding sense of self, this Chicago-based Chance the Rapper associate with a jazzy band issued a best of 2018 LP with Room 25.

Dizzy Sat., noon, BMI stage
Suburban dream-pop from Canada fronted by Katie Munshaw, whose unusual melodies and unique pronunciation boost Dizzy's enchanting songs.

IAMDDB Sat., 1:30pm, Barton Springs stage
Tuneful young UK rapper, with a lot of sauce, reimagines U.S. trap and American slang.

Curtis Harding Sat., 2:45pm, Tito's stage
Versatile vocalist, experienced in soul, gospel, and rock, sang for Cee-Lo Green and released material on influential labels Burger and Anti- Records.

Japanese Breakfast Sat., 3:30pm, Barton Springs stage
Little Big League singer/guitarist Michelle Zauner crafts astral indie-pop.

Shame Sun., 12:15pm, Honda stage
Commonly uttered words at SXSW in March: "Holy shit. Did you see Shame?" The young, South London quintet's frontman doesn't sing pretty, but he might be rock's next great frontman: a reckless poet with zero-bullshit vocal delivery, who puts every cell into performance. The group's Dead Oceans-issued Songs of Praise, a platter of engaging post-punk with driving beats and unusually tidy guitar parts, has had rock critics hyperventilating (see this issue's ACL Fest supplement).

Amen Dunes Sun., 1pm, Miller Lite stage
Reverb-loving songwriting talent drives Damon McMahon's bleating voice and his affinity for electric Sixties folk.

Khruangbin Sun., 4pm, Tito's stage
Wiggly, retro Thai funk from Texas that makes the electric guitar sound highly exotic.

Actually, It's Brockhampton

After self-issuing an astonishing three LPs in 2017, the self-styled "boy band" – more accurately a scrappy, 14-member art-rap collective – signed a $15 million RCA deal and currently sits atop the Billboard charts with fourth album Iridescence. This is after the sexually inclusive group, whose leader Kevin Abstract is gay, kicked out founding member Ameer Vann in May amid allegations of sexual misconduct. As such, Brockhampton's first major local festival appearance arrives with atomic intrigue, especially factoring in that the L.A.-based unit was founded in San Marcos and key member Merlyn Wood hails from Austin.

Don't Discount Musical Genius

Set aside for a moment the Fest's neo-Springsteens (Gangs of Youth), shameless radio rock (X Ambassadors), and candied pop (Camila Cabello). The 17th annual ACL Music Fest presents genuine musical geniuses. Topping that list is Blood Orange (Sat., 5:30pm, Miller Lite stage). The London-born, NYC-dwelling artist, formerly releasing as Devonté Hynes, remains a brilliant songwriter and producer, whose busy, well-reasoned compositions peaked with August's Negro Swan.

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne (Fri., 3:45pm, American Express stage) also belongs in that category, as does his Love This Giant collaborator St. Vincent (Sat., 7:30pm, Miller Lite stage), whose incredibly artistic 2017 Fear the Future tour leaves us wondering what the Dallas native will present next.

While Father John Misty (Fri., 6:45pm, Barton Springs stage) gets dumped on as a self-absorbed, sad-sack artiste, his beautiful voice, smart songwriting, and existential anxieties are akin to a confluence of Elton John and Kafka. If he's not the best diva at ACL, it's modern pop heroine Janelle Monáe (Sun., 4pm, American Express stage). Meanwhile, the increasingly pancultural Calle 13 rapper Residente (Sat., 7:30pm, Barton Springs stage) is Latin music's inspiring rap rebel.

Chart Positions

ACL remains Austin's most pop-chartable festival. Here's where the 2018 lineup stands on this week's Billboard 200:

Brockhampton, Iridescence, No. 1

Travis Scott, Astroworld, No. 5

Khalid, American Teen, No. 39

Paul McCartney, Egypt Station, No. 55

Camila Cabello, Camila, No. 69

Shawn Mendes, No. 84

Travis Scott, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, No. 107

Metallica, No. 143

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, No. 149

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV, No. 161

Shawn Mendes, Illuminate, No. 162

Greta Van Fleet, From the Fires, No. 189

ACL Fest Notes

Bag Ban: ACL Fest now prohibits backpacks and bags with multiple pockets – ostensibly to limit contraband. Drawstring bags, small purses, fanny packs, and empty hydration packs are permitted.

Austin City Limits, the long-running PBS show that inspired the ACL Fest brand, tapped modern R&B wunderkind Khalid for a taping on Wednesday. The local institution continues to pull festival talent for its 44th season this week with a capturing of Residente on Sunday and Janelle Monáe on Monday.

Scalper market: 3-day ACL passes are running $283 and up on StubHub, where single tickets range $122-188. Weekend wristbands are $250-350 on Craigslist.

Lisa Loeb fans blew a gasket when ACL Fest's poster was unveiled and her name appeared in tiny font at the bottom. That's because she's playing the Austin Kiddie Limits stage on Sunday, 4:30pm. The "Stay (I Missed You)" singer's 15 years of children's songwork earned her a 2018 Grammy for Feel What U Feel. Loeb plays a grownup gig Monday at Scoot Inn.

Snoop Dogg performs at the Summit Rooftop Lounge on Sunday night. The show's hosted by Bumble, the Austin-based dating app on which women make the first move.

Getaway Plan: ACL Fest has added a fourth exit, on the east side of the HomeAway stage, so you can get the hell out of the park faster at the end of the night.

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