Why Austin City Limits is one of the greatest festivals in the world (and 3 artists I discovered while I was there)

  • Nathan McVay
  • October 14, 2016
  • Comments Off on Why Austin City Limits is one of the greatest festivals in the world (and 3 artists I discovered while I was there)

Music has always served as one of the most important things in my life. It is an escape, a way to deal with your problems and serve as a reminder someone else understands. Live music brings that feeling to a level 10. Concerts and music festivals are spiritual experiences for me. It’s my favorite kind of church. You gather with like minded people in means to celebrate life. It is a time for reflection, celebration and to let loose.

The timing of Austin City Limits couldn’t have been more perfect. The United States of America is in as much turmoil as it has been in decades. The Presidential election has made the country split and mirror more a comedy skit than a Presidential race. The violence and hatred spewed on its streets have rippled after effects that impact peoples lives daily. The “greatest country in the world” as Americans would like to believe has seemed a lot more vulnerable in the past year.

That is why the 15th edition of Austin City Limits could not have come at a perfect time. A music festival like this is a reminder of what makes life so great and opportunities like this so memorable. Nearly 450,000 people gather in Zilker Park over two weekends to celebrate music as diverse as this country is. Rappers, DJs, Country Music stars, Folk artists, Rock Stars and more all gather in one park to celebrate the one thing we can all agree on: music is freaking amazing.

You wouldn’t have been able to guess anything was wrong with our country during the festival. There were no political protests to be seen. No fights. No arguments. No dissent anywhere. This was a time to celebrate and escape for three days and everyone was on board in one of the greatest cities in the US.

Austin has always been my favorite city to visit in the country because of how wonderful and weird it is. “Keep Austin Weird” is the town’s motto and you can see it spray painted and on billboards everywhere. This makes the city an unpredictable, never ending joy to be in. Yes, the people can be weird, but everyone is so nice. This city is a college town, a capital and the live music capital of the world. There legitimately is something for everyone. The food is amazing. The bars are numerous and outstanding. And the vibe is unmatched by anyplace anywhere.

A music festival in such a weird, cool town was something I was so greatly anticipating. I was not disappointed. Having traveled to festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, ACL is the most ranging festival I have ever been to in terms of age. Bonnaroo to me is like a survival test. Four days of camping in the hot early summer sun is exhausting and grueling. So with this, the audience at the festival is very young. Lollapalooza in the middle of Chicago skews a little younger and due to the ban on chairs and sitting on park grounds turns away a lot of families. That was the biggest thing I noticed at ACL, there were so many families and kids setting up blankets and lawn chairs on the hills over looking the stages. It was great to be at a festival where a six year old girl was perched on her Dad’s arms with her hands in the air jumping up and down to a British rock band. Then you could walk to the other side of the fest and see a man in his 70s seeing Willie Nelson (pictured) for maybe the 100th time. People were here for the music and the experience. It was refreshing and truly remarkable.

Add to the fact that Austin City Limits was one of the smoothest, well run music festivals I have ever been to and you might stumble upon one of the greatest festivals in the world. It was definitely an amazing three days in that park in my favorite city in Texas. The lineup didn’t disappoint, the crowd was greater than I ever could have imagined and the memories I will take will last a life time. Thank you ACL! I will see you next year!

My Favourite Discoveries

Festivals are all about stumbling into a concert you had no intentions of going to and falling in love. Here are my three best discoveries of Austin City Limits.

Photo: roho foto
Photo: roho foto


This young R&B crooner was my biggest surprise of the festival. One could never expect the amount of soul and incredible R&B vibes resonating from the stage on a Sunday afternoon, but that’s exactly what Gallant brought. This 24 year old singer brings to mind comparisons to Frank Ocean and Maxwell with his incredible range and his funky-fresh backing band. The amount of talent coming from one of the festivals biggest stages stopped me in my tracks and I had to go find out what this kid was all about. Over the next 30 minutes I was blown away by the kid’s talent, range and soul. It was one of the favorite moments of the festival.


Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals

The young crowd that showed up to one of 2016’s greatest new faces was ready for a party. Anderson Paak, the young artist who doubles as a rapper, singer and drummer promised the audience they were about to get down and get sweaty. And he followed through on his word. Paak has been around for a while working on other projects and under other names, but 2016 has brought much success for this man who richly deserves it. This was the first Anderson Paak show I had ever been to and I was blown away. The man is truly a multi-talent as he is constantly moving around the stage and showing his talents as a true Renaissance Man. Paak’s singing resembles some of CeeLo Green’s early work with Gnarls Barkley, while his hip hop flow brings to mind Pharrell Williams. But, Paak doesn’t stop with his incredible vocal talent, he spends nearly half the show on his drum kit giving the crowd even more reason to jump up and down and get moving. Paak is a true talent to watch rise and he definitely gained a new fan in me at ACL.

Photo: Nathan McVay
Photo: Nathan McVay

Oh Wonder

Josephine Vander Gucht, the lead singer of the UK alt-pop duo Oh Wonder, definitely wins the award Most Wonderful Sweetheart of Austin City Limits. Listening to her sing then talk to the audience makes you absolutely fall in love with this band. As she told stories of her first time visiting the town of Austin years before, and the two of them doing “touristy” things around the town like shopping and taking out a canoe, the audience automatically was won over by her charm and bashfulness. But as they opened up their hypnotic, beautiful setlist it is easy to realize this band is just as talented and promising as adorable. “Lose It” is an absolutely enchanting single and their harmonies live are just as hypnotic as they are in the studio. These two have bundles of talent and I can’t wait to see them evolve and mature into their future.

Willie Nelson Photo by Cambria Harkey


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