Live Music Preview: Discover Austin and Buzz Acts at ACL Festival

Next week the 16th edition of Austin City Limits Music Festival (October 6-8 and 13-15) kicks off with a new slate of headliners. Jay-Z, Solange, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Killers will all make appearances at Austin’s Zilker Park amid a cacophony of  exciting acts listed in the middle of the bill. While it’s a no-brainer to catch top hip-hop artist Jay-Z on the opening night of the festival, there are plenty of homegrown acts and buzz bands you should add to your schedule. It’s the bands scheduled earlier in the day and on peripheral stages that offer a chance at real music discovery. With nearly 200 acts slated to perform, finding new bands to fall in love with should be a priority for true music fans. 

Yes, like everyone else we want to know if Beyonce will make an appearance. After all, her husband, Jay-Z and sister, Solange are both playing the festival. It is probable the current queen of pop will be there. Will she appear on stage? That is the big question festival ticket holders are asking. There’s so much more to the event which will feature Austin-bred acts Spoon, The Black Angels, Lukas Nelson, Mobley and The Wild Now at the festival this year. 

Find a break-down the first weekend of the festival listed by day and learn which acts still have Late Night Show tickets available below. Our focus is on Austin bands because these local artists make some of the best independent music in the country along with a few bands that should be on your radar we think you’ll like. 

Included in the list of recommendations are links to official Austin City Limits Music Festival Late Night Shows. Grab tickets to those performances for a less crowded, headliner version of each artist’s festival set. 

Friday, October 6

The Wild Now – Miller Lite Stage – 11:45 a.m.

The Wild Now, an Austin duo comprised of vocalist, Taylor Baker and guitarist, Drew Walker make their first ACL Fest appearance first thing on Friday. While listening to Baker sing beautiful pop melodies along with Walker’s impressively intricate guitar work you’ll notice the couple is also easy on the eyes. Not a bad way to kick of the festival in our humble opinion.

If you’re one of those folks who set up camp chairs when the gates open, posting up at Miller Lite for the day might be a good way to go. Besides catching these up and comers, the Barton Springs Beer Hall is adjacent to the Miller Lite stage. Willie Nelson’s son Lukas and his band play later in the day before petulant indie songwriter, Ryan Adams. 

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real – Miller Lite Stage – 5:15 p.m.

How good is Lukas Nelson and POTR? They were Neil Young’s backing band on his 2014 tour and album. Nelson is the Willie Nelson offspring most like his father in terms of musical ability. That doesn’t mean he’s the next outlaw country star. The guitarist likes to play Americana-tinged rock with abandon, often leaping into to the air with his axe. After ten years of POTR he knows how to entertain an audience. He’s also got decent pipes like his iconic father. 

You’re going to thank us for this recommendation later, especially after you learn his ACL Festival Late Night Show at Antone’s  Nightclub on October 11 already sold-out. 

Bonobo – Tito’s Vodka Stage – 6:15 p.m.

After watching Lukas hype up the crowd, you’ll be ready to get your dance on with DJ Bonobo doing a full live set at the Tito’s Vodka Stage. While we’ve seen Bonobo perform solo, we’re excited about the cutting edge DJ’s full band performance. Bonobo’s given name is Simon Green. Green got noticed with his second album “Dial M for Monkey” (2002) becoming one of the “new downtempo pioneers” in the process. We’re curious how the live arrangement will play in a sundowner festival setting. Betting it’s going to be a crowd pleaser. 

Fans have a second chance to catch this London-born, LA-based DJ at Emo’s on October 7 with Jeremy Sole during his ACL Fest Late Night Show.

Saturday, October 7

Mobley – Miller Lite Stage – 11:30 a.m.

Since we love Austin acts so much, pop singer Mobley should be the first artist you should see on the second day of ACL Festival. This singer might the be hardest-working solo act in town. The man wrote, produced and played every instrument on his debut album, “Fresh Lies.” The singer defies categorization, drawing a number of styles to create his music. After committing to music full-time his career has begun to take off as evidenced by his first ACL Festival slot and non-stop touring with Phantogram, JUNGLE, Mute Math (also on the festival bill) and Robert Delong. He’s an entertaining performer who should jolt you awake Saturday morning if you’re struggling after partying on opening day. 

Mobley performs with BADBADNOTGOOD on October 7. Get tickets here

Car Seat Headrest – Honda Stage – 2 p.m.

We first caught Pitchfork Magazine darlings Car Seat Headrest at SXSW a couple years ago. While we were impressed with the young Will Toledo (he was 23 at the time) at the helm of his solo act-turned full band, it wasn’t until CSH’s appearance later that year at Primavera Sound Festival that we were drawn into the cult of Car Seat Headrest like their huge online following and corresponding writers at Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Paste Magazine. At only 25 years-old, Toledo and his band have years of great music ahead of them. 

Car Seat Headrest sold-out their ACL Festival Late Night Show on October 12 at The Mohawk if that tells you anything about the band’s popularity.

The Black Angels – Barton Springs Stage – 5 p.m. 

If you’re a fan of psych-rock then you cannot miss neo-psych pioneers, The Black Angels on Saturday. The Austin band that reinvented psychedelic rock for the new millennium is one our favorite local acts. The DIY group has their own music festival, LEVITATION (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and their own unique style of psych-rock that features guitarist Christian Bland’s sublime work along with Alex Maas’ heavily distorted vocals. Drummer Stephanie Bailey might be the area’s most underrated percussionist. 

Take a listen to their latest, “Death Song”  released earlier this year. It may be The Black Angels’ best effort yet. We recommend grabbing tickets to their Emo’s Late Night Show on Thursday, October 5 for full visual effects by TBA visual expert, Bob Mustacio. Psych rock pioneer Roky Erickson opens. 

Ice Cube – American Express Stage – 6 p.m.

No one could have predicted whenIce Cube broke into music with the debut of N.W.A in 1986 with Dr. Dre and Easy E, the rapper would become a staple in major films like “Boyz in tha Hood” and “Friday” to this year’s movie “Fist Fight” but there he is appearing on screens everywhere.

Less often O’Shea Jackson performs as Ice Cube, after leaving West Coast gangsta rap pioneers, N.W.A. in 1989, which is what makes this set intriguing, particularly amid less established performers like Chance the Rapper and red-hot duo Run the Jewels. In three short years, Ice Cube was on his way to becoming an icon of American culture which makes him relevant despite his waning musical output. His first three solo records were huge hits beginning with 1991’s controversial “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” cementing Cube into the annals of great hip-hop artists. 

Spoon – Miller Lite Stage – 7 p.m.

We love that C3 Presents booked two of our favorite Austin bands, the aforementioned Black Angels and hometown heroes, Spoon nearly back-to-back on Saturday. Spoon has played the festival before but gets a coveted evening slot on the Miller Stage this year on the heals of Matador Records release, “Hot Thoughts” and an ongoing world tour to promote the record. 

What is not to like about the kings of Austin indie rock led by Britt Daniel (vocals, guitar) and Jim Eno (drums)? The band has been putting out incredible albums for over 20 years culminating in a return to the label they started out on. Not only does the album signal a homecoming of sorts, it’s a great listen

Grab tickets to Spoon’s Late Night show on October 13 at Stubb’s while you still can. 

Sunday, October 8

Middle Kids – Miller Lite Stage – 1:15 p.m. 

Australian three-piece pop-garage rockers, Middle Kids impressed last March at SXSW where we saw the band play before Spoon’s Waterloo Records show. When we spotted this Sydney act on the bill we knew we had to see them again. Led by Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Hannah Joy, Middle Kids represent a world-wide trend of female-led acts similar to Austin’s Moving Panoramas and A Giant Dog. 

Following SXSW, Rolling Stone named the group one of ten bands to watch, confirming their buzz act status. Catch Middle Kid’s Late Night Show at Antone’s on October 12 with Austin’s Summer Salt. Tickets are still available

BADBADNOTGOOD – Tito’s Vodka Stage – 6:15 p.m.

Besides having an unforgettable moniker, BADBADNOTGOOD presents unconventional, free-form jazz in a way that appeals to young and older fans alike. The trio that is now a foursome hails from the wintery confines of Toronto. BBNG’s collaborations with Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah and Kaytranada have thrust the group into the forefront of the modern jazz/hip-hop trend best reflected locally by Brownout’s occasional performances with Ghostface’s bandmate and ringleader, GZA. 

Their latest album IV is on regular rotation at our office for good reason, the album is refreshing, employs multiple styles (elements of kraut rock, & futuristic hip-hop are present).  It’s a really great listen. If you’d rather see the group headline their own performance versus seeing them during the day at ACL Fest, grab a ticket to their Mohawk show on October 7.  Austin act, Mobley opens the show.