The smorgasboard of a lineup at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival featured artists such as Guns N’ Roses, Billie Eilish and the Cure. Throughout the weekend, performances revealed fresh sounds and sights. Here are the eight best developments from weekend one of ACL.
For the first time in ACL history, the entire northwest section of the park was filled with landlocked fans, shoulder to shoulder, trying to watch a single performer. Festival organizers had booked the “Truth Hurts” star, Lizzo, on a small stage. Thousands of fans spread across the viewing areas for three different stages, cheering and screaming every word in her set. “I’ve played a lot of festivals,” the Houston-born singer said, “and this might be the biggest crowd we’ve ever had.” Lizzo earned herself the title of honorary headliner with her tight choreography, energetic renditions of “Juice” and “Good as Hell,” and legendary flute dance. Lizzo returns — to a bigger stage, maybe? — next weekend, on Oct. 13.
True to her diva-like nature, rapper Cardi B delayed taking the stage for 30 minutes past the scheduled start time of her headliner slot. After several rounds of boos and a brief promo for her new Netflix series, “Rhythm + Flow,” Cardi won over the initially lethargic crowd with a fiery performance of “Get Up 10.” In a pink leopard-print bodysuit, Cardi spit each bar harder than the one before. Despite ACL’s family-friendly environment, the “Hustlers” star turned up the gangster sex appeal several notches by twerking on a motorcycle and pouring water all over herself. Highlights of her set included children getting caught cursing on the large screen, the addition of convulsing guitar riffs during “Bartier Cardi” and the announcement that she will start recording new music after her tour ends. Her tour ended in El Paso on Oct. 7, so fans should expect hints of a new album.
“Golden Hour” During the Golden Hour
Kacey Musgraves returned home for an fun, energetic set on the American Express stage. The crowd was full of pink cowboy hats in homage to the “Velvet Elvis” star. Musgraves, a six-time Grammy award winner, pleasantly lulled the crowd with ballads like “Butterflies” and “Happy & Sad.” Despite performing right before Lizzo, Musgraves delivered an impeccable, positive show as the sun started to set. After a brief dance interlude with a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Musgraves spoke about gun control. “I want to thank everyone for loving music enough to brave mass gatherings like this,” she said, alluding to the two mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa earlier this year. Musgraves will perform at the festival again on Oct. 13.
King Princess, All in White
With all of the bravado of Mick Jagger and the grandiose style of David Bowie, King Princess blew fans away with her ACL debut. The 20-year-old singer, real name Mikaela Mullaney Straus, showed off stellar guitar skills. Her soft, breathy vocals clashed with the flashy all-white jumpsuits worn by the band. Straus bolstered her rockstar persona even further when she bossed her male roadies around, yelling, “Can someone can tune my f―ing guitar?” The crowd got a kick out of watching Straus’ sign language interpreter determining how to convey her various mentions of female genitalia. Her debut album, “Cheap Queen,” is set for release on Oct. 25.
The Terrifying World of Tierra Whack
Entering the same space as Tierra Whack requires some degree of suspended disbelief. The 2019 Grammy nominee devoted her set to the outrageous visuals and colorful wordplay featured on her latest album, “Whack World.” The show began with technical difficulties as her DJ’s laptop kept overheating and dying. After four mechanical fans blew it back to life, Whack burst on stage in a Clintonesque purple plaid pantsuit and matching pant purse. The crowd consistently moshed along to hits like “Flea Market” and “Cable Guy.” Highlights of the show included Whack giving away her special edition sneakers to a fan as a birthday present and stealing an event staff pass from a security guard only to regift it to a different fan. Whack will perform again on Oct. 12.
The Newcomer TOBi
TOBi, born Oluwatobi Ajibolade in Lagos, Nigeria, is a relatively new artist whose crowd began small, but rapidly grew as his melodies seduced various passerby during his ACL debut. He began harnessing his musical craft after immigrating to Canada when he was 9. “The City Blues” star referred to Anderson Paak and Imogen Heap as dream collaborations, also citing shoegaze as a source of inspiration in his music. The sometimes-R&B, sometimes-rap artist will release a new single Oct. 15 called “Beige.”
The Australian psychedelic funk band first performed at ACL in 2015 on a small stage. Its intense laser show captivated the crowd throughout the trippy set. “You guys don’t want to watch Guns N’ Roses?” the frontman, Kevin Parker, asked of the massive crowd. “You guys want to see Tame Impala instead?” After poking fun at the competition, Parker delivered a spot-on Matthew McConaughey reference. The band, who hasn’t released an album since the 2015 “Currents,” hinted at a new project in the works. Tame Impala will take the stage again on Oct. 11.
The Gospel of Gambino
Childish Gambino, who was unable to perform his original headliner slot in the 2018 lineup due to a broken foot, opened this year by crooning on an elevated platform made of disco balls. “I broke my foot last year, but I will not fail y’all this year,” he said. “I have two rules for my show. One, if you came here to record your favorite song, go home now. This is an experience. Number two, put your phone down. This is for us.” Gambino proved himself to be worth the wait and then some. His set was marked by heavy gospel influences, guitar solos that rivaled Guns N’ Roses themselves and previews of new music. Fans should expect Gambino’s new sound to feature an eclectic combination of electronica, house and ’90s gospel. The “Atlanta” and “Lion King” star will perform at the festival again on Oct. 12.