I know I’m a little late to the party here. Blame two absolutely batshit weeks of midterms and one nearly-as-batshit week at work.
My mom is cool as shit and therefore got hooked up with a couple of free 3-day passes to ACL which, naturally, she sure as hell was not going to use. So I got to feel like a total VIP / actual human slime strutting my way past the masses to pick up said wristbands from the “guest list” tent on Friday afternoon (try to think of something more bougie, I dare you). I only did about a day and a half of ACL, seeing as I had other plans and it was the kind of hot that can actually kill people that weekend. Plus, I sold my pass on Sunday in exchange for a donation to Planned Parenthood, which made me feel good about myself for five minutes.
Oh, and also I despise music festivals.
“Why are you so indignant about music festivals, you frigid bitch?” you may be asking as you adjust your flower crown and brandish your Lonestar to pose for a Snapchat story.
Live music has always been something special to me. From nutty all-ages punk shows at Bryan, Texas’ finest venues to mellowed-out house concerts held in backyards and living rooms to the first time I was allowed to drive to Austin for a show at the Mohawk, I’ve been moved time and time again by hearing musicians pour their hearts out (or just have a damn good time) in front of an audience. But music festivals aren’t really about music anymore. They are, as my cultural geography prof would tell you, a spectacle– an inversion of social and spatial rules designed to give people an arena in which to let loose so that they’re more apt to be complacent living in the hegemonic power structures that govern our everyday existences (can you tell I’m knee-deep in academia right now?). But also, they’re about seeing and being seen; picking out the perfect outfit and waiting in line for an actual hour to take an Instagram shot in that fucking stupid frame thing (you know the one).
Festivals are also gross and crowded. At ACL, it’s like every horrible person in Austin (and Round Rock and Pflugerville too) has descended upon Zilker to wave their dumb-ass flag in your face and climb on their boyfriend’s shoulders just as Sturgill croons the opening notes of “The Promise.” You can expect to be shoved, stepped on, and spilled upon. You can expect to have your view blocked and your hearing obstructed by two drunk moms who decide to shoot the shit about fucking nothing in the middle of Lorde’s set (not that I’m still salty about this or anything). Human decency and personal space are thrown way, way out the window. So while I eternally dig live music, I really can’t stand festivals. ACL is no exception.
But ACL didn’t completely suck. I had a rad time with my friends and was lucky enough to witness some fantastic performances. I’m genuinely grateful that I got to go, although it’s one of those things I’d be perfectly content to never do again. All in all, it’s a well-organized festival that brings a diverse array of talent right to our backyard and gives attendees a chance to discover lesser-known artists they may never hear of otherwise.
With that, here are a few favorite songs from the artists I saw at ACL this year.
The London Souls doin’ dope shit
Moaning Lisa Smile- Wolf Alice
I love this song. So badass, so catchy. Seeing it performed live was just as fantastic as you would imagine.
Steady- the London Souls
I was wandering around solo Friday afternoon, waiting on my friends and Wolf Alice, when I stumbled upon this badass duo playing one of the smaller stages. And damn, did they kill it. With a bluesy-cool sound and some of the most genuine talent I saw all weekend, the London Souls will certainly be playing to bigger audiences soon. But for now, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to shimmy right on up to the stage and dance just below their feet.
Life of Sin- Sturgill Simpson
Although I’m an avowed country music hater, I have a weird soft spot for Sturge. Call him NPR-country, if you will- and you know I’m an NPR kinda girl. This is a fun lil’ tune regardless of your feelings on the genre.
BOOTS puts on an excellent show, especially on a smaller stage with a thinned-out audience (I got real lucky on this one, as his set overlapped with that of some lame headliner or another). Although he didn’t play this song at ACL, it’s my favorite of his and well-worth a listen.
Lift Me Up- Vince Staples
One Rolling Stone review described Vince Staples as something along the lines of a “worthy understudy” to Kendrick Lamar or Earl Sweatshirt. I’d agree- and I’m eager to see him further carve out a niche of his own. His was more or less like any other hip-hop show, but I certainly had a good time bouncin’ around with all the frat dudes in stupid jerseys (only for you, Vince Staples).
The Perfect Parts- Shakey Graves
I love Shakey. Hometown reppin’ and all that shit.
Valerie- the London Souls
Again, the London Souls are so fantastic. Give ‘em a listen– these dudes are what festivals like ACL are truly all about. Mairead and I (and you, probably) owe some of our favorite musical finds to performances we’ve spontaneously seen at festivals while waiting on different acts. As much as the spectacle bullshit sucks, ACL and its contemporaries provide solid opportunities for lesser-known bands to be heard. And that’s an alright thing.
Heavenly Creatures- Wolf Alice
A slower, feelings-ier side of Wolf Alice that’s definitely worth a Spotify play or three.
The Promise- Sturgill Simpson
Again, I have a weird thing for Sturgill Simpson. This cover is lovely, and as you may imagine, sounds even lovelier live.
Señorita- Vince Staples
Fun story: Vince Staples quite actually had a seventh-grader on stage. Said seventh-grader requested this song, to which we all got HYPE AS FUCK (obviously) (sorry for the terminology). Post-song, Staples was all (and I quote) “yo child, what’d ya think?” and the kid was all,
“THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME.”
It’s heartwarming to see today’s rap stars engaging with the youth, isn’t it?
Family and Genus- Shakey Graves
I think Shakey was the first artist I’ve ever seen actually break a guitar on stage. ‘Twas enjoyable. This is also my favorite song of his, so enjoy accordingly.
Dramamine- Modest Mouse
I’m not really including any Modest Mouse on this playlist, even though theirs was probably my favorite set of the weekend. I mean, you most likely know the songs they played already and all that jazz. Plus, I don’t really have a favorite Modest Mouse tune. But I will throw “Dramamine” in because it was played so uniquely and so wonderfully this past ACL that it truly was an experience just to be there and listen. It’s a beautiful, raw song that can truly make ya feel shit, especially when performed live.
Hold On We’re Going Home- Drake
This is one of my favorite songs to sing while intoxicated, tbh. But yeah, we only saw a bit of Drake’s set (because who really wants to shove through thousands of fuccbois just to see Drake live?) and this song was, thankfully, part of it. Dude really can sing. Also, am I wrong to find “Hold On We’re Going Home” really sexually appealing? It’s like, that moment at a party where you make eyes with someone just knowing you’re about to get out of there and bone (with obligatory, Drake-style snuggling afterwards, of course). No? Just me?
Enjoy some not-sucky tunes from ACL 2K15 with this playlist!