ACL Music Festival | Texas Review | Ralph Arvesen
Austin City Limits Music Festival Weekend 2 Day 1 at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Since its start in 2002, ACL Music Festival has grown to nine stages that feature a diverse lineup of over 100 acts. Approximately 70,000 festivalgoers flocked to Zilker Park each day, amassing an estimated total of 450,000 attendees for the entire six-day event. These impressive numbers make ACL the second-largest annual event in Austin, surpassed only by SXSW. Artists covered include:

  • Jimmie Vaughan & Title-A-Whirl Band
  • Font
  • The Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Collective
  • Jaime Wyatt
  • The Altons
  • Emlyn
  • Thee Sacred Souls
  • Nessa Barrett
  • Austin Kiddie Limits
  • Abraham Alexander
  • Ethel Cain
  • Oliver Hazard
  • Raye
  • The Teskey Brothers
  • The Moss
  • Maggie Rogers
  • Portugal. The Man
  • The Lumineers
  • Silent Disco

Earlier this year, Austin faced a brutal 78-day streak of triple-digit temperatures. Things have since cooled down, but the city is still notorious for having extreme weather variations in October. In 2019, for example, weekend one (October 6) featured the second-hottest day on record (high of 99 degrees) while weekend two (October 12) had the coldest (high of 65 degrees).

The weather was relatively mild for weekend two this year, with highs peaking in the upper 80s on Friday and some excessive wind gusts on Sunday. Of note was the annular solar eclipse on Saturday, October 15, the last annular solar eclipse visible from the U.S. until 2039! The "ring of fire" occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but is too small to completely cover the Sun's surface. It was reported to reach a maximum coverage of 89% at 11:54am.

Beyond The Music
Eight vendors delivered an elevated experience to festivalgoers. Some of the activities and goodies offered at these special areas included:

  • T-Mobile Club Magenta: VIP lounge seating, private bar, side stage access, giant claw machine with prizes
  • Coke Studio: create AI album art, record a custom music video, ice-cold Coke Zero Sugar
  • The Pixel Experience: first look at the new Google Pixel 8, AI-powered photo ops
  • Hulu House: escape room experience, stream content live from select ACL Music Festival stages, comfortable seating and air conditioning, free Hulu swag
  • Tito’s Stardust Experience: bandanas, claw machine with prizes such as hats, koozies, sunglasses, Tito’s vodka, and side stage access
  • Amex Experience: shoot pics on a digital camera in a retro photo studio, and edit them in an old-school photo lab
  • Wrangler Ranch: buy limited edition merch and vintage denim, with special branding available
  • Honda Retreat: 360º photo booth, cool off under misted water tower
  • Miller Lite: cornhole, basketball hoops, mist fans

This Must Be The Place is a nonprofit organization that travels to music festivals throughout the states. Travers-Hayward and his associates provided free Narcan nasal spray, as well as education about signs and symptoms of drug overdose and how to reverse it. The World Health Organization estimates that 69,000 people die from opioid overdose each year, making free Narcan and education a truly priceless resource.

The combo of filming, snapping pics, and struggling to get cell service makes it difficult to ration out one's phone battery. Portable charging stations offered peace of mind to many by allowing users to rent a portable charger for $15.00. Festivalgoers could then film their favorite bands all day long, and still have enough juice to call an Uber at the end of the night.

Austin encourages festivalgoers to start young. Kids under 8 years of age entered the festival free of charge when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. Austin Kiddie Limits provided an array of activities for the little ones, such as crafts, line dancing lessons, a drum zone, temporary “tattooz”, and a rainbow chalk wall.

Eats, Sweets, & Drinks
Attending a 3-day festival can be exhausting, so proper hydration and refueling are a must. ACL Eats catered to many dietary restrictions (vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free) and food categories, including American, Asian, BBQ, burgers, Indian, and Mexican.

ACL Eats featured 39 food vendors, while ACL Sweets hosted 11 delicious dessert vendors. Many local Austin favorites were featured in this year’s food lineup: Happy Chicks, East Side King, The Original Black’s Barbeque, Bananarchy, and JP’s Pancake Company, to name a few.

Prices were jacked up inside the festival gates, as expected. For example, a Shackburger ($6.59 at local Shake Shack) was $14.00 and fries ($3.89 at local Shake Shack) were $8.00. In between acts, the line for food could reach up to 45 minutes.

Water, however, was a different story. Five Yeti hydration stations were scattered throughout the park, making it easy for festival goers to refill containers with clean, cool water. The water stations were extremely efficient and hardly ever harbored a line. While waiting, fans could cool off under a giant misted fan.

Barton Springs Beer Hall was curated by Houston brewery Karbach Brewing Co. Here, fans could grab a pint, cool off in a shaded area with attractive string lights, and watch any of the various sports games on one of two giant screens. For the first time, ACL served mixed drinks, such as Tito’s Vodka sparkling lemonade. There was also canned wine, freshly-squeezed lemonade, High Brew Coffee, and Rambler Sparkling Water available throughout the park.

An abundance of trash cans and recycling bins made it easy to dispose of waste responsibly. As an additional incentive to keep the park clean, ACL Fest handed out green bags sporting three guitars in the shape of a recycling sign that read “Rock and Recycle”. Concert-goers were encouraged to fill the entire bag with cans in exchange for a unique, limited edition shirt designed by a local artist.

The restroom situation at ACL improves every year. This year’s toilets had a step-to-flush feature that greatly reduced unpleasant smell and sanitation situations associated with port-a-potties from previous years. Staff helped to ensure comfort and safety of festival-goers by tossing boxed water into the crowd between performers and in the midst of long shows, and medical personnel were amazingly attentive and quick to respond to those who needed medical attention.

Parking was not available at Zilker Park or in the surrounding neighborhoods, but it was easy to get to the festival via metrobike, scooter, foot, Cap Metro bus system, rideshare, or the free Festival Shuttle. The pedicabs that lined the roads near festival exits were fun and convenient, but at a price–customer report paying anywhere from $20-100 for a 5-minute ride. More than 35,000 were reported to depart from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday, making it a top five record-breaking day at the airport.

The Lumineers

ACL Festival The Lumineers performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Denver, Colorado’s The Lumineers released their eponymous debut album through Nashville’s Dualtone in 2012. The triple platinum album garnered two GRAMMY nominations and spawned the chart-topping platinum singles, “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love”.
Absolutely magical! The Lumineers were amazing! This was the best concert I’ve ever seen. They sound even better in person, they really know how to perform live. And they had some fun little flairs to keep the audience engaged! 10/10 experience. If you like this style music I’d say they’re a must see in person!

It was one of the best concert experience I have ever been too. Non-stop music, great songs and one of the most talented performers ever! Great Job, Lumineers! Hope to see you again soon!

Honest music. No frills, no theatrics, no bull. Music. Straightforward. Incredibly talented musicians who play a variety of instruments. The audience was engaged and felt welcomed. No drama. No egos on stage. Refreshing and honest.

Portugal. The Man

ACL Festival Portugal. The Man performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Over the past decade, Portugal The Man has established themselves as one of rock's most prized possessions and a live phenomenon, with over 1,600 shows under their belts and a storied reputation as festival favorites.
Rock gods! They put on a performance that front to back cannot be matched.

Amazing performance! I was really excited to go see Portugal the man and of course it was a great performance by them. Their songs are very well written and their music was top notch. Would see them again of course.

Maggie Rogers

ACL Festival Maggie Rogers performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Maggie Rogers is a producer, songwriter and performer from Easton, Maryland. After her education at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, she released her breakout single "Alaska" and subsequent critically acclaimed debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading. "Alaska" has since charted in Spotify's Viral 50 in 40 countries, hit #1 in 23 countries and now has over 100 million global combined streams to date. The BBC, Tidal, Google Play, Vevo, Pandora and numerous publications – including Rolling Stone, NYLON, SPIN, Billboard and more – have tipped her as an artist to watch. NPR named her one of its Favorite Musicians and The New Yorker declares, "Maggie Rogers is an artist of her time."
Magical concert! Maggie rogers is a magical talent. Her voice, her stage presents, her set list, all amazing.

Wonderful! First time seeing Maggie. Her music was recommended to me recently and love it! Thoroughly enjoyed the show.

The Moss

ACL Festival The Moss performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Originating on the shores of Oahu as teenage buddies, Tyke James (vocals/guitar) and Addison Sharp (guitar) traded in beaches for the Great Salt Lake joining forces with Willie Fowler (drums) Caiden Jackson (bass) to form The Moss. As the group’s principal songwriter, Tyke channels his own personal experiences and passions into The Moss’ radiant and deceptively sunny tunes—fusing indie rock and reggae while drawing from artists like Pinegrove and Kevin Morby for sonic inspiration.

Last January, the band released their Insomnia EP and the title track became a breakout single for The Moss after landing on Spotify’s Viral 50 playlist and reaching #13 on the Alternative radio chart. The band’s blazing touring success has landed them on a number of festivals over the past year including Bonnaroo, Summerfest and Life Is Beautiful. The band’s insightful songs and memorable live shows have also earned The Moss acclaim across the music press world, including Alternative Press, Under The Radar, The Alternative, LADYGUNN, Earmilk, Atwood & Ones To Watch.


ACL Festival Raye performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Rising UK artist Raye is not a polite pop star. If it happened, she'll write a song about it, and nothing's off limits. Her music is fun and dance-worthy, but cathartic in its subject matter. She deftly blends blues, R&B, trip-hop and pop sounds with lyrics written straight from the heart and experience.

Raye has written songs for artists like Beyoncé, John Legend, Little Mix and David Guetta, but gained notoriety as a performer after being featured on several UK Top 20 hits, including "By Your Side" with Jonas Blue, "You Don't Know Me" with Jax Jones, "Secrets" by Regard, and "Bed" with Joel Corry and David Guetta. In 2017, "Decline," featuring Mr. Eazi, was her first UK Top 20 hit.
She was amazing, I was able to meet her and she was so down to Earth. Her voice is truly one of the best I've ever heard, she sounds better than her albums. I look forward to seeing her again!

I knew Raye was going to sound amazing but wow... history in the making, she's going to be so big, I love how humble and personable she was throughout the show, thanking everyone and making her concert very interactive. Her vocals, attitude, energy, just perfect! Highly recommend for anyone that loves music!

Oliver Hazard

ACL Festival Oliver Hazard performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Oliver Hazard is an American indie folk trio from Waterville, Ohio. The band calls their music a ramshackle of uprooted folk-stomp and a chain gang choir of three.

Ethel Cain

ACL Festival Ethel Cain performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Hayden Silas Anhedönia, known professionally as Ethel Cain,is an American singer-songwriter and artist born in Tallahassee, Florida and living in Enterprise, Alabama. In mid 2017, Cain began experimenting with writing, recording, and producing her own ethereal style Gregorian chant inspired music. After releasing various mixtapes and EPs on streaming platforms under the moniker White Silas, as well as sites like SoundCloud and Tumblr, she adopted a more alternative sound and began using the Ethel Cain moniker in mid 2019. Cain's music deals in nostalgic and Southern Gothic themes, such as poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, death, and transgenerational trauma. Her music has been associated with the ambient, alternative rock, and dream pop genres.
Ethel was even more amazing live than anticipated! She brought energy and passion to the stage! Her humble and thankful personality really shined through while she performed! Can’t wait to see her again live!

Ethel is an absolute queen that own that stage and interacts with her fans in a meaningful way.

Abraham Alexander

ACL Festival Abraham Alexander performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Born in Greece to parents of Nigerian descent, Abraham Alexander moved to Texas with his family at age 11, determined to escape the racial tensions they faced in Athens. And while his lyrics speak to pain and trauma and life-changing loss, Alexander instills his music with a joyful passion and irrepressible spirit, ultimately giving way to songs that radiate undeniable hope.

In the making of his debut EP, Alexander traveled from Fort Worth to London, shaping his songs with elements of soul, hip-hop, and blues. He is currently working on his follow-up album with Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter, Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee).
Intimate and real. Abraham talked us through and connected with everyone about the meaning behind his music. Genuine performance full of emotion and talent. Would recommend for anyone who wants to experience music on a more intimate level.

Terrific connection with the crowd and heartfelt, soulful vibes. Abraham was classy and the band is a great complementary bonus!

Austin Kiddie Limits

ACL Festival Austin Kiddie Limits performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Austin Kiddie Limits runs parallel to ACL Festival in its own securely designated area at Zilker Park. Austin Kiddie Limits creates an environment for parents and children to enjoy family-friendly music on their own stage. While you’re listening, you can make arts and crafts to remember sharing these memories with your kids.

Nessa Barrett

ACL Festival Nessa Barrett performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Rising pop superstar Nessa Barrett was named as one of Billboard’s 21 Under 21 and 25 Artists to Watch. She is taking the world by storm. While her music career took off in 2019, Nessa was born with music running through her veins with strong influences from her musical family. Posting covers and creations to TikTok, Nessa quickly gained popularity on the app for her candidness and authenticity. Now with more than 19 million TikTok followers and 1.3 billion streams, Nessa has a legion of loyal fans ready to embark on the journey to stardom alongside her.

Following a series of releases including singles ‘Pain’ and ‘La Di Die’, Nessa released her debut album, Young Forever to critical acclaim and support from fans, with Ones To Watch claiming “she firmly turns the spotlight on herself a bit brighter, declaring that if we are going to look at her, we might as well see everything” and The New York Times abelling the project, “supremely self-conscious”.
Nessa was a star that shined incredibly bright on stage. The lighting and stage sounds made me wanna cry. Best concert I’ve been to in a while!

It was so good best show ever I loved all her songs she is the sweetest am angel for real I miss her already.

Thee Sacred Souls

ACL Festival Thee Sacred Souls performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

A silky-smooth soulful sound emanates from the San Diego, California-based R&B trio, Thee Sacred Souls. Known for their combination of R&B and soul, Thee Sacred Souls uses a number of different guitarists, keyboardists and backup singers when they perform live. Thee Sacred Souls consists of singer and songwriter Josh Lane, bassist Sal Samano and drummer Alex Garcia. Following the release of the debut self-titled album, this grooving and heartfelt band commenced their tour with stops across the United States. Their unique mix of '60s soul and '70s R&B creates a modern sound that is quickly attracting fans from around the globe, with one concertgoer writing, "It was amazing. One of my best times in my life."
I would like to simply start off by saying that this band is amazing. Everything from the vocals to the instruments blend well. Thee sacred souls sounds exactly ass if your listening to them through your phone. Seeing them live was an amazing experience, if you like thee sacred souls then you definitely need to see them live.

Thee sacred souls are such an amazing group and perform so well. The energy they give to the audience is unreal and they make sure to connect with the crowd.


ACL Festival Emlyn performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Emlyn is an emerging alternative pop singer/songwriter. She was featured on the cover of Spotify’s SALT playlist twice and has had tracks placed in New Music Friday, Young & Free, Fresh Finds: Best of 2021, Sad Hour, and many others. She's also been added to Apple Music's New Music Daily, New in Alternative and graced the cover of Amazon's Breakthrough Pop playlist. Her music has racked up over 20M streams in just the past year and has had songs go viral on social media dozens of times. Ones to Watch described her as “Oozing with confidence and power… enticing listeners to discover what other characters, interesting sounds, and sharp lyrics Emlyn has up her sleeve.”

The Altons

ACL Festival The Altons performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

With roots in different schools of thought, The Altons combine soul and rock with a Latin twist into one sonic sound. Driven by energetic licks and grooves from the rhythm section, they bring the audience up to their feet. Soulful voices from each lead singer as well let lovers come in close for dancing. The experience that is The Altons is not one to be missed.
Great performance. Went to see The Altons they are awesome. Everyone had a blast. Cant wait to see them again.

What a great band this was my first time seeing them it won’t be my last, I look forward to there future shows.

Jaime Wyatt

ACL Festival Jaime Wyatt performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Hailed by Pitchfork as one of the “most exciting and skillful storytellers” working today, Jaime Wyatt is the kind of generational talent whose raw, honest lyricism is matched only by the power of her huge, unmistakable voice. Wyatt first began turning heads with her breakout 2017 debut, Felony Blues, which chronicled her now much-publicized battle with addiction and transformative journey through the criminal justice system. Wyatt’s 2020 follow-up, Neon Cross, tackled even more profoundly personal revelations. Both records arrived to universal acclaim, with NPR praising Wyatt’s “remarkable voice” and Rolling Stone lauding her “lush, layered, and complex” performances.
Great show, great atmosphere. Jaime is such a talent, I highly recommend.

I've seen Jaime several times with her full band, and as great as those shows were, catching her with just her and Andrew was so special. Raw, vulnerable and beautifully show-casing her amazing vocals and song writing.

Jaime is such a natural talent.

The Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Collective

ACL Festival The Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Collective performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

This is the second time HT’s Jazz Collective has been invited to perform at Austin’s favorite fall music festival. Dr. William Oliver, Director of University Bands and Assistant Professor of Music Education shared, “A sizable segment of the East Austin music scene was built by students and alumni who once walked the halls of Huston-Tillotson University – music pioneers such as Damita Jo DeBlanc, Dr. James Polk, Louie Carrington Jr., and current day musicians such as The Peterson Brothers. Accepting the invitation to perform at this year’s ACL is our modern-day version of paying homage and contributing to Austin’s vibrant and culturally rich music scene in the same vein as earlier music pioneers from Huston-Tillotson University once did.”


ACL Festival Font performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Font is an Austin-based band made up of Thom Waddill, Jack Owens, Anthony Lawrence, Roman Parnell, and Logan Wagner. Font began playing shows regularly in the beginning of 2022. The Austin Chronicle has described their music as "relentless post-punk with New Wave keyboards and arty, personality-driven singing."

Jimmie Vaughan & Title-A-Whirl Band

ACL Festival Jimmie Vaughan & Title-A-Whirl Band performing at the ACL Music Festival on October 13, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen)

Jimmie Vaughan's style was influenced by Freddie King who gave him personal advice. Also two other blues guitarists, Albert King and B. B. King, were important influences. Johnny "Guitar" Watson was another important early influence (Jimmie says that he and his younger brother Stevie studied Johnny "Guitar" Watson more than any other single guitarist).

Jimmie Vaughan developed his own personal style that is easily recognized. He formed the band The Fabulous Thunderbirds with singer and harpist Kim Wilson, bassist Keith Fergusson, and drummer Mike Buck. (The initial Fabulous Thunderbirds members were all proteges of Austin, Texas blues club owner, Clifford Antone.) The band's first four albums, released between 1979 and 1983, are ranked among the most important 'white blues' recordings. Sadly, since those early albums did not sell well, the band was left out without a recording contract for a couple of years (during the times when Jimmie's younger brother achieved popular success).

Austin City Limits Music Festival

ACL Festival is an annual music festival held in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas on two consecutive three-day weekends. Inspired by the KLRU/PBS music series of the same name, the festival is produced by Austin-based company C3 Presents, which also produces Chicago's Lollapalooza.

The ACL Music Festival has nine stages where musical groups from genres including rock, indie, country, folk, electronic, and hip hop perform for fans. The concerts continue from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the festival with various stages spread out in the park. Approximately 450,000 people attend the festival each year. In addition to the music performances, there are food and drinks, an art market, a kids area for families, and other activities for attendees.

ACL Music Festival
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