Houstonians are just a short drive from the state capital, a blessing this time of the year when world-class musical talent streams into Texas for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. People come from everywhere for the event. To paraphrase Anthony Kiedis, whose Red Hot Chili Peppers headline this year's festival, crowds arrive from all over Texas, Louisiana, Mexico and, he guessed, "maybe Arkansas."
Weekend One was one to remember, thanks to marquee performances by the Chili Peppers, Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, Gorillaz and The Killers, but the music was amazing all weekend long. Some suggestions for Houstonians headed west for Weekend 2:
- Do not miss the musical chairs-inspired funky madness of Los Angeles-based Vulfpeck (4:15 p.m. Friday, American Express stage), a sort of modern-day Was (Not Was). This roster of versatile, virtuoso musicians, including one of the festival's best bassists in Joe Dart. Vocalist Antwuan Stanley, who channeled the late Al Jarreau, Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder in a span of just two songs. They're fun and a great way to kick off the weekend.
- If you want a reasonably up-close view of teen phenom and America's Got Talent champion Grace VanderWaal, get to the park early (she plays at 1 p.m. Saturday on the HomeAway stage). Her Weekend 1 set drew a gargantuan crowd attracted by her older-than-her-years voice. The gathering rivaled (and possibly surpassed) the audience that showed for A$AP Ferg's same-hour set last weekend.
- Catch veteran acts Live and Ice Cube (back to back on the American Express stage on Saturday). The former was tight and together and fans sang along heartily to faves like "I Alone" and "Lightning Crashes." As for Cube, he drew one of the largest crowds of Weekend 1 and took it all the way back to Compton '89 for the true OGs.
- Best place to get that contact high will be Sunday at the Honda Stage with the Pistol-and-Fist crowd at the Run the Jewels set. Last weekend's was zanier than expected; tour opener Danny Brown's show will probably feature at least one mosh pit and a lot of manic (possibly Adderall-aided) dancing.
- Wear your favorite Tom Petty T-shirt and listen for numerous tributes to the fallen rock legend, including one from ACL itself featuring literal "free fallers."
Expect Houston to represent just as hard at Weekend 2. Zealous Astros fans were everywhere, celebrating the hometown heroes' beatdowns of the Boston Red Sox in Games 1 and 2 of last weekend's American League Division Series. Game 2 was played during ACL's opening hours last Friday, and fans of the team gathered in the Barton Springs Beer Hall to sip Karbach craft brews and root for Altuve and company. Fans were geared up in fiery orange and wore ballcaps adorned by the 'Stros' star to represent and to shade against the weekend sun. Expect more of the same when Minute Maid's Mashers vie for a World Series berth this weekend.
It wasn't all fun and games, of course, The Las Vegas massacre loomed over festival-goers, nor was Hurricane Harvey far from their minds. At the American Express stage, reserved for headlining acts, a rotating sign encouraged guests to visit the Harvey Relief tent in the festival's "ACL Cares" zone. We headed that way and met with Colleen Clemens, marketing creative director for the Austin Disaster Relief Network and the organization's Harvey Response public information officer. Clemens said the organization initially delivered disaster supplies and cleaning kits to Harvey-affected communities, all through volunteer help and by way of vehicles donated for use. Their focus has shifted to long-term recovery and they've established a relief fund to help Texas families impacted by the storm.
"The one thing people need to understand too is it's a long-term impact. Because it hit so wide and was so expansive, it does take us awhile to get through the communities, and some of them did not have long-term recovery set up," Clemens noted. "Our organization has been through 16 large disasters, so we are going into those communities and cities and working with them to set up those long-term recovery teams and bring understanding and knowledge we may have."
Clemens said C3 Presents tapped ADRN as the official recipient of donations from the festival. She said there's an interesting symbiosis between storm survivors and ACL Fest music lovers.
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"There's such a diverse group here. It's the same as when we're going and serving. We just went to Port Arthur and there's a unique and very diverse group of people that live in that area. Those are the survivors that we're meeting with. It ties together because everybody's very accepting of each other; they understand differences. Music ties it all together just like our support is tying all those groups together," she said. "It truly is the uniqueness of people, but there's a lot of peace and unity here and there's a lot of joy here, just like when we come and they know that they're going to receive some kind of help."
Jay-Z asked the crowd to remember storm survivors during his set. Even though he's got an "Empire State of Mind," there was a real Bayou City tinge to his headlining set. The Jigga Man closed Friday night's events with a solid show that featured classics ("Hard Knock Life," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," an encore of "99 Problems" that was much better than the weirdly reserved crowd deserved, tbh). It also featured a giant, inflatable balloon animal and Jay rhyming UGK parts to "Big Pimpin'."
What the set did not feature was a special guest appearance by Beyoncé, though members of the Hive buzzed loudly in the crowd all night at the mere prospect ("Hey, Solange just played too...you know she's coming out, girl!") HOV may have had a little fun at their expense when, at the end of the set, he expressed his thanks to special guests from Houston who were waiting in the wings. Awestruck gasps became deflated sighs when he ultimately shouted out to Houston Rockets Chris Paul and James Harden.