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20th Anniversary of Austin City Limits 

20th Anniversary of Austin City Limits 

By Maximilian Polishuk 

*This review is older and was in our Issue 69 magazine.

Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) returned this year to full capacity to celebrate its 20th anniversary with an amazing lineup featuring George Strait, Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus, Rüfüs Du Sol, Alison Wonderland, Chris Lake, Duran Duran, and many more. ACL is known for having diverse lineups spanning multiple genres. Not surprisingly, when it came to celebrating their 20th anniversary, they spared no expense. It spanned eight stages where musical groups from rock, indie, country, electronic, hip hop, and other genres all were able to perform so that anyone who attached could find a new artist to enjoy and vibe with. 

Austin, Texas, being one of the most well-known music capitals of the world, sure knew how to throw an event of this magnitude. What started in 2002 has grown to two weekends with an attached local culture that brings it to a top-tier festival. C3 Presents is a locally based company that puts ACL on. For anyone who has not attended ACL before, C3 has done Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Lollapalooza, and Music City Food + Wine Festival in Nashville just to name a few. The knack of being able to put a big festival on is no easy task and C3 over the years has done it well.  


Tickets to attend ACL ranged depending on the tier levels. I will be speaking from the latest tier level prices only. Daily passes of $135 to $300 weekend for the General Admission pass, to $2100 for the Platinum daily pass, and $4400 for the weekend pass. What is the difference you may ask? There are several which may enhance what you pick if intend to attend next year. 

General Admission of course just gets you in but they do also offer a General Admission Plus which was $250 for a day pass, and $550 for the weekend which included shade and seating in a private, shaded lounge, Air-conditioned restrooms so no need to hit up the typical port-a-potties,  and a full-service bar.

VIP is the 2nd level of the ticket which was $550 for the day or $1300 for the weekend. This included several highlights I thought made it more enticing to get. You get to have unlimited access to two VIP lounges including a new addition on the west side of the park, access two viewing decks of the two main stages, a dedicated festival line entrance, of course, all the complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails that you want (which could be a price saver depending on how much you drink), nice to-go snacks, spa treatments, concierge services, and last but not least, preferred locker rentals with mobile charging. While I was not able to review the VIP ticket, it does have its perks and ACL seems to not let it go to the waste side.

A Platinum ticket is the highest level you can purchase. You will be paying a big chunk of money in order to have this luxury. However, depending on the perk you might want to do this. You have an elevated viewing of the American Express main stage from the shaded deck within the Platinum Lounge and up close prime viewing at six stages which is a nice little area to not be crowded in.  They do have a platinum lounge for you so you do not have to get drinks from the main areas. They also provide golf cart transportation from the entrances, lounge, and front of stage viewing areas. You’ll have your own private entrance into the festival ground with golf cart transportation, get your own locker with mobile charging, Wifi, a ride into the festival from JW Marriott, and much more. That golf cart transport sounds like a dream if you ask me!


Austin City Limits is located at a beautiful park right by downtown called Zilker Park. It has 351 acres to roam, sit, and enjoy yourself if you ever visit Austin, Texas. While Zilker is a gorgeous park and easy to walk around, it does present some challenges especially if it does rain. For the ADA individuals that need help, ACL does provide some added support for you. However, do expect to walk a ton as this venue is big. Zilker also does not provide a ton of shade in certain areas of the park. This means you will need to bring sunscreen or anything to keep the October Texas sun from beating on you.  

Pro tips for the location regarding water. Bring an empty, refillable water bottle to fill at the 

filtered water at Hydration Stations located throughout the festival to help reduce waste. 

Finally, Zilker Park is a non-smoking park. If you do plan on smoking at the festival, they will allow you access in and out so just keep that in mind while attending the festival. 


Logistics is a big part of getting to the ACL festival. There is no public parking at Zilker Park or the surrounding neighborhoods so be sure to plan your day around getting to the festival. If you are visiting, try to stay downtown somewhere so you will not have to walk far. There are two main entrances to get into the festival: Barton Springs East and Barton Springs West.  

Now ACL does have options to get you to Zilker Park. The first one is a complimentary shuttle that you board at Republic Square Park at the corner of 5th & San Antonio streets in downtown Austin and you’ll be dropped off outside the Barton Springs West Festival Entrance. When you’re finished rocking, hop back on for a return trip to the same spot. While the first day had long lines, by the rest of the weekend, I heard it went smoother. So do anticipate a wait for the shuttle according to your plans for next year. 

Of course, if shuttling is not your thing, you can always bicycle and walk. Bike parking is available on Stratford Drive after crossing the Mopac Pedestrian Bridge. Additional bike and Scooter (Dockless Mobility) Parking was located on Toomey Road at Sterzing Street and on Azie Morton Road. MetroBike staff will host a MetroBike valet at their Barton Springs Road and Sterzing Street Station, guaranteeing you a place to dock your MetroBike when you get to the festival. I saw a bunch of people using this as well and it looked like a great option. 

If bicycling, walking or the shuttle does not fit your attitude to attend, you can choose the Cap Metro Bus or and ride-sharing options. Uber is the partnered rideshare app that makes it easy for you to be able to go. You just have to type in “Austin City Limits Music Festival” or “Zilker Park” into your app and it will do the rest for you. The only downfall is that you must exit the festival and walk away from Zilker Park to request going home. So be prepared for long waits as well.

Here is a pro tip for Uber or just general of getting to the festival that is less hassle. Go to the Barton Springs East entrance to skip the hassle. How do you get there? There is a bridge under Highway 1 at Stephen F Austin Drive and Veterans Drive (Put that in your Uber). It’s easy access to the festival and not crowded lines. My friends started the first day at Barton Springs West and it took forever. Every day for the remainder of the weekend, they went East and got in with no problem. 

Another big pro tip: They say if you go between 3-5pm, expect a longer wait time before you get into the festival. So take the other way I just mentioned as there was no wait time for it. 

Covid Protocol 

I’m sure everyone is tired of everyone talking about covid-19. However, sometimes we do have to explain the process so we can all get better at this. ACL’s covid-19 policy from the city was delivered to everyone a week before the festival was going into week 1. Talk about a time crunch situation but a necessary plan to avoid the spread of the virus. 

The plan was no different than what people have seen so far but to reiterate you needed a printed copy of a negative covid-19 test result within 72 hours of you first entering the ACL Festival each weekend. If you are fully vaccinated, you can just show your vaccination card instead of proof of a negative test. You just had to make sure that you were fully vaccinated 14 days after your final shot. 

It Sounds simple. However on day 1, I never got asked to see my results or vaccination card. No one was checking and I just walked up to the gate with no problems. Maybe it was my side of the venue I entered, who knows. However by day 2, the process was implemented in which security was checking ID’s and covid results to make sure they were complied with. That was a big sigh of relief. According to the ACL media source, 86% had vaccinations, 14% came with negative covid tests and only 1% were turned away. 

I do have one criticism. While I do agree that we need to show test results, there has to be a better way of procuring the process better. I wonder how many people lost their vaccination cards over this weekend or got it ruined in the process. I know there is a mobile app platform that would allow for people to load their results before arriving. I do think if we continue to have protocols for ACL 2022, that they should look into this route. This will save time and energy for folks worrying about the printed copy. 

Mask and Health Policy

This is my biggest criticism of all. I do not believe you could blame C3 majority for this as this came from the city but the mask policy, yeah what mask policy is the question. I hardly saw people wearing masks in the so-called zones that we were required to do so. To give you a brief understanding this is what we were suppose to have:

As required by City of Austin Order 20210811-033, masks will be required in areas of Zilker Park where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, including on festival shuttle buses, entrance lines, areas closest to the stages, and in the limited indoor areas at the festival, including our on-site merchandise store. 

None of it ended up happening. I was at stages where the signs said “Mask beyond this point” and no one was wearing it. At this point, I would consider it a formality that was provided on the insurance rider. However, I do agree that it’s hard to tell people to mask and then also be able to enforce it strictly without hiring tons of expensive security guards checking. There’s really no chance especially in the middle of a stage with 1,000’s of people.

ACL Eats

One of the best things I love about ACL is that they work with local vendors in the area. This is not a typical festival that grabs different food vendors and plucks them at the festival. ACL has over 30 local restaurants attending this event so there was a wide range of food options for anyone’s heart to be desired. You can try to eat everything alone but I imagine it would take you all three days to make the rounds as all the food is big portions and mighty tasty. They had a major ACL Eats area for everyone but they also had some vendors on the other side of the park so you would not have to walk far. 


Another great feature at this year’s ACL is everything is cashless. No need to bring cash for everything and if you want, you can put your credit card on the wristband you hold. This will allow you to even not carry different credit cards for the event. Just like some others, you are required to put in a pin code in order to make a purchase but hey no need to worry about loose change falling. 

Another Pro Tip: American Express gives you a $10 credit for ACL to use. A great way to save money while at the festival. Please do not go out and get an American Express Credit card just for this event as the comps do not add up. 

As I mentioned above, ACL Eats is the mega place for food but what about drinks. Concessions had beer for $10, Hard Seltzer for $11, Wine for $19, and non-alcoholic drinks for $5 bucks. This is pretty much the price for any festival, concert, or sports event. 

What to Do Besides Listening to Music

ACL has so much room for activities that you can never get bored trying all the different things going on. So if you do not want to listen to an artist and are stuck between waiting go check out what they may have in store for you. This year they had:

  • BARTON SPRINGS BEER HALL: Catch the weekend’s best sports games on the big screen between sets and taste some amazing local, regional, and national craft brews in the shade. It was a great place to hang out to cool off. 

  • BONUS TRACKS STAGE: Love learning about Austin? They had several f live podcasts with KUTX, Bob’s Dance Shop parties, Best of Austin Drag, and more local experience fun.


  • BODEGAS: The ACL Bodega is a one-stop-shop where you can buy quick snacks like fresh fruit, and festival survival necessities like sunscreen and ponchos.


  • ACL WINE LOUNGE BROUGHT TO YOU BY 14 HANDS: 14 Hands Winery is great if you feel like checking out some wine. 


  • ACL Merchandise Tent: The actual tent was in the shade and a full-on store. You can shop in comfort with the air-conditioned ACL Festival Store.


  • AMEX® SHOP SMALL® MARKET: You could support local Austin businesses by visiting the Amex Shop Small Market which has lots of good merchandise to shop.


  • MILLER TIME: The new Miller Time Social space near the ACL Fest Frame is the spot to enjoy a Miller Lite, cool off with the fans, and recharge yourself and your phone.


  • BUMBLE HIVE: A space to charge your phone, snag free merch, and snap a new profile pic if you have a bumble account.


  • TITO’S PARTY IN THE SHACK: You can sign up to become an official Tito’s Taster for free WIFI while you sit back and catch a set. So yes a perfect spot for the blogger. 


  • ROAD TO THE HONDA STAGE: Go to The Honda Trading Post to recharge with your friends and they even give you a free temporary tattoo!

Day 1

Day 1 started off with a delay from the gate being open due to a torrential downpour the night before. It was a smart call by ACL because, for the next two weekends, the grass field would have been destroyed by the number of people walking on it if they didn’t delay the opening. Gates ended up opening at 3 pm which is considered a late start for ACL but quickly started the day off with strong performances. I got to see Machine Gun Kelly at the Honda Stage. He played a bunch of his newer songs and some favorites “Jawbreaker” and “Forget Me Too”  to help keep his hour going. Say what you want about Machine Gun Kelly but he knows how to perform for a crowd. 

It was Mid-morning when I found out Zhu was the surprise guest and going to be in the Titos Tent which I will call the rave tent. We all call it the rave tent because that is where the majority of electronic music was played at rock festivals. So regardless of other genres in the tent, it became a rave tent for that hour. Zhu had wall to wall of folks dancing away to his set.

I was able to catch Megan the Stallion real quick as she is a local favorite from Texas. I did end up seeing Miley Cyrus twerking to her music which was always great to watch. I do enjoy it when other artists join other artists on stage. I think that is what makes festivals so magical. I always wish opening bands would come to play a track with headliners at shows but I get it. 

Speaking of Miley Cyrus, she crushed her performance. To give you some back story, I’m old. Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana was not in my age bracket growing up. I was already post-college when Hannah Montana became a staple in households. Just like her dad, she knew how to take command of a stage and bring the energy to a whole new level.  

The performance that spoke to me the most on day 1 was Chet Faker. He’s an Australian singer that has electronic performances of downtempo, trip-hop, and soul. He definitely knows how to get a crowd to groove to music as the sun is going down. I recommend his cover version to “No Diggity” if you want to have a taste of what his performance can do for you. 

Day 2

The second day was full of great artists hitting the stage. This was the day I was looking forward to the most as Rüfüs Du Sol and Alison Wonderland were going to be dropping some amazing music. I decided to arrive midday to avoid some of the rays from the sun. I met up with some friends for another Texan artist named Charley Crockett. He has an Elvis-like voice but very blues and country style to him. We danced his set away and he knew how to entertain the crowd. 

Next, we caught some shade and watched the remaining set of the Future Islands. Future Islands is a synth-pop band that has been a festival mainstay for a long time. Samuel T. Herring is the lead vocalist and had an interesting way of presenting his lyrics to the crowd. At times, you can feel that he was very passionate and that several of Future Island’s songs have a much deeper meaning than a poppy song you might hear on the main stage.

Alison Wonderland. Just wow. She had an hour to perform and she knew where to take the energy. She released some exclusive tracks during her set but the visuals and the direction she wanted to take the crowd was amazing. The sun was setting when she came on stage and she presented an energy that the crowd needed prior to the closing out the night before the two headlining stages took over for the final performances.

Rüfüs Du Sol and Billie Eilish closed out the second night. Two headliners that I wish were not back to back to each other. I would have really loved to see Billie Eilish play but Rüfüs Du Sol is where my heart is. 

Rüfüs Du Sol did not disappoint. They took the stage and immediately I was set in for an amazing experience. They played “Eye” “Innerbloom” “Sundream ” and “Underwater” to name a few but they knew how to make a crowd melt. I can’t explain it but they have a Massive Attack meets Thievery Corporation tone to them. It was such a magical set, to say the least.

While the Rüfüs Du Sol performance spoke to me the most, I do have to say I was impressed by the local electronic duo Missio. If you have not checked them out, I do recommend keeping them on your radar moving forward. They have the perfect mix of uptempo to downright chill music for you to listen to. It was a nice change of pace for the day and I’m sure we will see much more of them to come. 

Day 3

I arrived later in the day as the artists I wanted to see were not going to be on till after 4:00 pm. I felt like the second day’s sun beat me up a bit and I needed a day to relax before heading out for the last night of weekend 1. 

The first act up was Chris Lake holding it down on the bigger Miller Lite stage. Droves of people listened to his house set as it set the early evening off to a higher state of consciousness. I really enjoyed watching the people dance to the tracks he threw down. 

For a different variety in electronic music Lane 8 presents a more melodic/progressive deep house sound. While it doesn’t have the fun house beat of Chris Lake, Lane 8 provides a nice early evening warmup of Anjunadeep music to keep you going. The place was packed with folks but it was nice to listen to while my friends got some much-needed food into them. 

Lastly, Duran Duran closed out one of the main stages. I grew up a Duran Duran fan so this would be the first and only time I will probably see them. They of course did not disappoint. They played several favorites “The Reflex”, “Notorious”, “Come Undone” “Girls On Film” and of course “Hungry Like a Wolf”. The one song that always has spoken to me as a Duran Duran fan was “Ordinary World”. Such an iconic track and it still resonates with anyone today. Several artists constantly remixed “Ordinary World” so that just tells you how good of a song it is and how many people it connects with.  

The best performance of the day had to go to St. Vincent. She is a Texan local that knows how to bring weird talent to it. Her music is funky and downright great. She played “SugarBoy” “Birth in Reverse” “Pay Your Way In Pain” and “Fear The Future” to name a few. Her sets included several backup vocals and some light entertainment to go with it. 

ACL Nights

ACL ends early at 10:00 pm each night. While for some it might be the end and calling it a day. Others, well, it’s time for the afterparties or parties depending on what day it is for ACL. I did not attend any of the afterparties as I wanted to stay home. If you do plan on going to ACL in the future and want to go to an afterparty, please get your tickets way in advance. The majority of the afterparty acts will sell out and you will be stuck listening outside. 

Non- Profit Organizations

Another cool thing about ACL is that it partnered with two non-profits that pertain to several things going on in the music industry as well as in Texas. I do not plan on getting political here but I wanted to share the information. 

The Hi, How Are You Project is inspiring new conversations around mental health issues

by funding and creating thoughtful media content, projects, and events. This year at ACL I had the opportunity to speak to one of the board members and witness an interview. To hear 18-year-olds asking questions to artists about mental health was amazing. We need more of this discussion especially in our line of work.   

The other nonprofit organization is NOISE FOR NOW. This is an initiative that connects and supports people and organizations that work in the field of reproductive justice. 


I have really enjoyed the last several years that festivals are starting to understand the needs of our ADA community. While Zilker Park has its challenges, ACL does try to help. They provide viewing stations right next to several stages, limited parking at the festival, power outlets for recharging powered mobility devices, programming information in large print and braille for reference, and ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter requests for artists. Please note that they do recommend contacting ACL as soon as you can to make sure they can provide an ASL Interpreter for you. 

Final Thoughts

As we continue to navigate covid-19, the question becomes do we continue to throw festivals? The answer, while I will say yes, is still left to be determined. ACL is very much a local meets corporate festival. It provides a major economic boost to the area but can ACL maintain its sustainability as this event continues to grow in popularity? I do not know. As a local Austian, I do understand some of the politics regarding Zilker Park and ACL, but in all honesty, it is what makes Austin great. So if you ever want to come and check out Austin, I highly recommend putting this festival on your list. 


The post 20th Anniversary of Austin City Limits  appeared first on EDM World Magazine♫♥.


By: Max
Title: 20th Anniversary of Austin City Limits 
Sourced From: edmworldmagazine.com/20th-anniversary-of-austin-city-limits/
Published Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2023 16:50:20 +0000

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