Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits 2022 Weekend 2,
Nov 04, 2022
Photography by Yvan Nguyen
Austin in October is chaotic. Anyone who has tried to drive in South Austin in mid-October has their fair share of wild traffic stories to tell. And yet, Austinites still flock in the thousands to Zilker Park.
Every year Austin City Limits music festival seems to grow bigger and bigger. More people pack into Zilker for bigger acts and more expensive food. But the real strength of ACL is in its smaller artists, not the headliners. Though there are headliners that make it worthwhile, like Paramore performing “Misery Business” again after four years of leaving it off the setlist or Kacey Musgraves returning to her home state, covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and having Beto O’Rourke bring her out a beer mid-set, the headliners don’t have the same draw for regular festival goers as those further down the lineup.
Watching headliners comes with the inevitable fighting of extremely large crowds. That is not new, and definitely not exclusive to ACL. There does seem to be a shift in the way people interact with each other in a crowd of a well-known artist however. Being at the front is no longer just to be close to the band, it’s most likely (but not always!) to have the best post-ACL post.
One part of attending a festival in 2022 is embracing (or just putting up with) the way the internet has influenced crowds and artist popularity at shows. An artist’s most well known song may not be the lead singles anymore, but the songs that have appeared in tens of thousands of short videos. Some fans may be only fans of the one song they know, but others may have discovered an artist through a TikTok sound and are now more than just a casual fan. The seemingly relentless pace of popular songs online has made music discovery a whole different ball park for young people.
Lesser known artists are still some of the most enjoyable shows at a festival, especially at ACL, which usually means the best sets to see are those before 4 p.m., or those on the designated smaller artist stages. Wet Leg’s first day 2:30 p.m. set was energized and fun, with all in the crowd seemingly there specifically for them. Samia’s early Saturday set felt similar. A huge chunk of the crowd sang along to almost her entire setlist, and didn’t stop dancing along to her new song “Mad at Me” that she premiered during her show. The Marías also played an incredible set, with lead singer Maria Zardoya’s jazzy croon floating over the packed crowd at sunset.
Festival darling Faye Webster always puts on a great, packed set despite her songs not necessarily sounding like they would be the most energized festival songs. Although most artists have their well-known songs, Webster’s ever-growing popularity on TikTok is fun to watch in person. Her single “Kingston,” which has 43.2k videos with it in the background (the sped up version has 52.9k) is no longer just her most well-known song. It’s now become essentially a defining moment in her set. When about halfway through the song, the entire crowd whips out their phones, half to record Webster, half to record themselves singing “He said baby/That’s what he called me/I love him” en masse. Seeing some in the crowd record themselves singing part of an artist’s song seems new, and maybe a little weird, but all the same it gets people back out to see live music.
Despite the increasingly (or maybe it just seems that way) growing crowds, and hot Texas temperatures in October, Austin City Limits still keeps its name as one of the biggest music festivals in the country, and its bill of genre-mixing, diverse lesser-known artists are a big part of what helps it stay on top. Amidst its (and plenty of other festivals) desires to capitalize and monetize everything about going to a music festival, ACL remains a festival for music lovers in the live music capital of the world.
Below are photos by our photographer Yvan Nguyen from both weekends of ACL 2022.
Support Under the Radar on Patreon.