The Five Best and Worst Acts of ACL 2015

His Drakeness, a somewhat underwhelming headliner.
His Drakeness, a somewhat underwhelming headliner.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

This year's Austin City Limits Music Festival lineup is finally here, so now we can begin endlessly dissecting it until October. Should be fun, right? This year's lineup is, as ever, a mixed bag, filled with all sorts of highs and lows. ACL has grown so dramatically away from its roots, yet always manages to fill its lineup with a few fantastic “gets” along with the BS that give us music nerds stress over getting a ticket. Still, this year's lineup is worth paying the exorbitant prices to see. Even despite the worsts (which I'll cover first), the bests are among the best that ACL has managed to grab in a long time. When it all comes down to it, this fest is one you shouldn't miss this fall.


Drake is a true anomaly on the lineup, but I guess it isn't that far outside the box since Kanye West performed in 2011. In the most basic terms of radio-ready hip-hop, they exist in largely the same plane. Even still, Drake stands as one of the most overrated “artists” of our generation. Prince, he ain't. When he hits the stage, his legion of devotees will surely be pleased, but it should be a real yawner for any other festgoers.

The Strokes at ACL in 2010.
The Strokes at ACL in 2010.
Photo by Marco Torres

It's been almost a decade since the Strokes put out a good album; OF maybe more depending on how much you really liked First Impressions of Earth. How they manage to capture these big headlining spots in 2015 is a mystery to me. The only worthwhile thing the band has done recently is Julian Casablancas + the Voidz, a solo project which I would be much happier to see at ACL than the boring, played out indie rock machine that is the Strokes.

Is this band still a thing? I swear to God, I relegated them to the one-hit-wonder pile in 2011 yet here they are, still occupying a major spot on the ACL lineup. This band always occupies the same head space for me as Mumford and Sons, even though they sound nothing alike. They both hit it big around the same time, they're both the kind of weak, bland, corporate “indie” rock that unfortunately has been a thing for the last few years, and both manage to maintain their popularity in a completely mysterious way.

Yet another trend that needs to die as soon as possible. ACL has admittedly been pandering towards dubstep and EDM in recent years, for better or worse, and I guess it still draws a crowd. This is a money-making venture, after all. Still, can we move on, please? This is rapidly becoming one of the most repulsive genres of music out there, and Deadmau5 is leading the charge as one of those musicians we're all going to be embarrassed that we ever gave the time of day 20 years from now.

Hozier at Bayou Music Center last month
Hozier at Bayou Music Center last month
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

I'll be honest, I liked “Take Me to Church” at first, despite how completely devoid of originality it was. It was catchy and, even though he sounds exactly like Sam Smith, didn't steal its entire existence from a Tom Petty song. But it was an obvious one hit wonder situation from the very beginning, and throwing him up on the big stage is going to look really silly a few years from now. Furthermore, the song has been played out so damn much at this point, that it is damn near unlistenable.


It's been a long damn time since Brand New released an album, so the fact that they can still land a major spot on the ACL lineup is just a testament to how great everything they've ever done is. Many of us have grown up with this band, and their legion of faithful will be there to sing along with every word. That they've only released one new song since 2009 is irrelevant. They can still capture the public's imagination with fantastic performances and their stellar back catalog.

Modest Mouse at Bayou Music Center in 2014.
Modest Mouse at Bayou Music Center in 2014.
Photo by Jim Bricker

Coming off a weak performance at ACL Jr. aka Fun Fun Fun Fest, Modest Mouse has a lot to prove to Texas music fans and festival-goers. That being said, if they dominate and play the best of their music, this could be one of the best shows of either weekend. Their new album, Strangers to Ourselves, is a middling affair, but should provide enough great material to mix in with the old that this should be a fun time for fans of any and all eras of the band.

Florence Welch became a massive star overnight in 2010 with the song “Dog Days are Over,” and then has released a lot of mediocre work since that hasn't quite captured the same appeal. To be honest, I thought she and her band would probably never match that high again. Then they surprised me with their new single, “What Kind of Man,” which is every bit the massive dose of synth pop goodness that we expected from Welch + the Machine. They've got enough great songs to fill out a festival set, but the real appeal is that Florence is also a live performer of the highest caliber. Her broken foot from Coachella should be all healed up by then, and she should be ready to go as hard as we're used to.

While their recent output has not been very exciting, Foo Fighters remain one of the most intense and dedicated live rock bands in the world today. They never give less than 100 percent to a live show, even a festival set, and this should be no different. As the main headliner, expect to end the fest with a rip-roaring good time both weekends, for hardcore and casual fans alike.

Billy Idol at House of Blues in 2010
Billy Idol at House of Blues in 2010
Photo by Marc Brubaker

What, really? Billy Idol? Yes. You'd think the '80s rocker would have slowed down due to his lack of career success this last 20 years. Instead, he's still a top-notch live performer with just enough massive hits to fill out a badass festival set. This is your requisite nostalgia act, like Tears for Fears at this year's Free Press Summer Fest, but it's a solid one. Watch any recent live video of the man on YouTube: he's still got all the fire and the magic he possessed back in the day.

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