"Why I'm Not Going to ACL" vs. "Why I Am Going to ACL"

Two music writers justify their stance on this weekend's fest

Photo by Jana Birchum

Why I'm Not Going to ACL Fest

Why am I not attending ACL Fest this year? Same reason I wouldn’t have last year, had the show gone on: COVID-19. Remember that? It’s still happening.

ACL 2021: booked in a moment of optimism. Though plenty out there refused the vaccinations, things looked good. President Joe Biden urged us to hit the park and have unmasked picnics, as long as we were vaccinated. More restrictions relaxed. Suddenly, we’re at shows again, happily embracing our friends after 18 isolated months. Things weren’t fully normal, but we were getting there.

Then comes the Delta variant. In the space of two July weeks, 15 of my friends tested positive for COVID-19. All were fully inoculated. The shots did their job – symptoms were mild and they didn’t need ICU beds. Those were largely occupied by the unvaccinated.

Austin reentered Stage 5 restrictions Aug. 5 and only this week dipped to Stage 4. As I write this, there are zero staffed ICU beds open in the city. Zero. C3 Presents can check shot records at Zilker Park’s gates and require masks all day. Those masks will come off once inside, and good luck practicing social distancing. Tanya Tucker canceled her entire tour, including her ACL slot, because of COVID’s resurgence. She’s concerned about her fans’ health. Why isn’t anyone else? – Tim Stegall

Why I Am Going to ACL Fest

An astrologer once casually pronounced me bereft of the wisdom necessary to offer good counsel. Let that be a warning and a disclaimer. What I’m about to say is possibly “unwise,” but also, let’s call that particular astrologer’s spiritual insight debatable.

I’ll grant that attending a fest in the time of COVID, with our low ICU capacity, seems completely irresponsible. Perforce, we’re gonna breathe humid subtropical plague all over one another. Foolishness in a flower crown is my hope against reason that a vaccine and the hot breeze will protect me, but I’ve attended smaller indoor events without incident – I think.

I’ll also grant that dustyass ACL tortures my asthma. I blow black boogers each night, then take weeks to recover. This is canon. Plus, I’m injured from falling off one of those stupid Downtown scooters (totally sober, but in stupid stilettos). Mortal, asthmatic, and in physical therapy for my own ACL with a clinician who has asked me not to push it? Yes. One to hang on my couch when I have a free ticket available? So far, no.

Crowds of people don’t bother me as much as having no place to sit (#thisis30), but with three-day passes going for less than their early bird price, maybe there will be some extra space.

Ultimately, even without a free ticket, peer pressure would get me. It’s practically in my own backyard, and the surfeit of musical talent tickles my “I love efficiency” bone. My favorite part of ACL has been stumbling onto acts I didn’t know were amazing, so I kind of believe in luck. I’m saying yes to the fest. Though I could change my mind at any moment.  –Christina Garcia

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ACL Fest, COVID-19, Tanya Tucker, Delta variant, ACL Fest 2021

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