The Best and Worst of ACL 2016

Written by Waylon O’Day and Raj Radia

The fifteenth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival was an experience for sure, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always a good experience. The good definitely outweighed the bad, but regardless, some acts soared, while others faltered heavily. Here are Waylon and Raj’s favorite, and least favorite sets from the second weekend of ACL.

Waylon’s Top Three

 

Two Door Cinema Club

This set was pure nostalgia for me throughout, and for me nostalgia equals goosebumps, and goosebumps equals good music, it’s as simple as that. Since they first came onto the scene with Tourist History, I have been a huge fan, and even though I saw them years ago, seeing them now, when I’m coming into my own as an adult, made all the difference. All the memories I had made to TDCC’s music converged upon me as I stood at the Cirrus Logic stage, it’s a feeling I will not soon forget.

 

Young the Giant

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Like Two Door Cinema Club, Young the Giant served me up a heaping dose of nostalgia, the only reason I list them after TDCC is because I expected Young the Giant to perform a great show, I didn’t expect that quality from Two Door. Regardless, I felt as though I have matured with Young the Giant, both musically and just in general. I remember seeing them at the same Free Press Summer Fest that I saw Willie, and Two Door, and I can recall thinking they seemed like they had lucked into this opportunity, but seeing them this time proved to me that these guys aren’t one hit wonders, they are artists, plain and simple. They have earned their fan base through hard work and dedication, as a part of that fan base, I can’t wait to see these guys live again.

 

Willie Nelson

It’s Willie f*cking Nelson, did you really expect me to say he didn’t have a good set? He’s eighty-three years old, I’m afraid anything less than praise might send my hero into cardiac arrest. Yeah, it wasn’t to the caliber of some of the other performances I saw, but Willie has been doing this longer than anyone else who appeared at ACL, and to not give him his due praise is akin to “Messing with Texas,” which we all know you’re not supposed to do.

 

Raj’s Top Three

 

Anderson .Paak

anderson-paak

I can go on for days about how awesome Paak’s set was. He was the best act at ACL hands down. The main reason why I enjoyed his performance was because of the energy he gave off. He didn’t need any sort of visuals to support his performance. His whole performance was driven by raw energy and passion.

 

Break Science

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I had no clue who Break Science was until I saw them at the Tito’s vodka stage on Sunday. Their performance alone won me over. Their music was fast-paced and catchy, which made it easy to dance to. Everyone in the crowd was moving in some sort of way.

Die Antwoord

die-antwoord

Their performance was the craziest thing I have ever seen. They did the most obscure things on stage and I loved it much. They also did a great job at engaging the crowd. They made sure that everyone was moving in some sort of way.

 

Waylon’s Bottom Three

 

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus Photo by Madeline Robicheaux

Flying Lotus
Photo by Madeline Robicheaux

Look, if you know me, you also know what a devout Flylo fan I am. I never miss a live-stream, a tweet, an instagram post, a single, anything, if it involves Steve Ellison it doesn’t get past me. With that said, it literally pains me to say that I was the most disappointed in his set. The thing is though, it has nothing to do with him, well it does, but the large part of the blame falls on ACL itself. Flylo was put on a stage at a time when the sun was directly aimed at his usually spectacular visual screens. The screens were even seperated, a break from the norm of having one large skrim in front and behind which creates this three dimensional immersion to his sets. It isn’t all ACL’s fault though, Flylo was turnt for his birthday, and so he got off topic a lot of the time, and just generally seemed like he wanted to get out of there. When he played music it was great, but in retrospect it really feels like he talked more than he mixed. The least ACL could have done is move him to a different stage a little later in the day, like perhaps the act I will address next.

 

Flume

flume

I’m just going to come out and say it. Flume’s live show is way overrated. I honestly felt as though I was a listening party, every song sounded exactly like the recording, there was no nuance, nothing fresh or different. It was stale, and fell flat, I think I saw him move around onstage and actually do something with the massive amounts of equipment he had onstage maybe once or twice. The visuals were weak, just some gobos and flashing lights, nothing immersive. Another reason I didn’t like his set was because of the timing, as I previously mentioned I felt as though Flylo should have played later in the day, and I think Flume should have played earlier. Flume attracted way too big of a crowd for the HomeAway stage, but he would’ve done well if he was at the larger Samsung stage, the opposite is true for Flylo. I think both artists would’ve given better shows had they been given the proper tools to do it with. I love Flume’s music, but I’m going to stay at home next time he comes to town. I would’ve thought that one of the most exciting new names in music would also have had a somewhat engaging live show, I guess there’s still room to go.

 

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar  Photo by Rupal Mehta

Kendrick Lamar
Photo by Rupal Mehta

Sorry, but once again, I am disappointed by Kendrick Lamar. I got some hate last time I wrote him a bad review, but if me writing two straight bad reviews isn’t a red flag, I don’t know what is. I will admit that my criticisms of his set whether it be at last year’s Day for Night, or this year’s Austin City Limits, come from a place of artistic yearning and dismay for the mainstream. I recognize that Kendrick is probably the biggest thing in hip-hop and maybe music in general, but I know that he is an artist in the truest meaning of the word. I think my biggest thing has to do with the fact that throughout his performance he constantly talked about his “Day One Fans,” but to him his day one fans are those who discovered him through the top forty radio stations that played “Swimming Pools (Drank)” when it first dropped. To me, those people aren’t anywhere near day one fans, I was there before he was Kendrick Lamar, when he was K.Dot, I was there when Overly Dedicated dropped, same with Section.80, and so to me, to ask that question and then drop that mainstream bubblegum crap is a straight middle finger to those who helped get him to that point in the first place. If I was in that same situation, would I do it differently? I’d like to think I would, but who knows, until I am under those circumstances, I can only speculate. From my point of view, Kendrick has fallen into the same trap that he addresses in To Pimp a Butterfly opener “Wesley’s Theory.”

 

Raj’s Bottom Three

 

Radiohead

radiohead

Before all the Radiohead fans come at me, let me just say I am not a Radiohead fan. I like a few of their songs but haven’t really gotten into them. Their stage presence was lifeless. They barely evoked any sort of energy and tried to rely on their visuals to make the show. The crowd was also boring. Not many people were getting into the music and just stood for the whole set. Standing for two hours is definitely the last thing I wanted to do.

 

Flume

flume

I’ll be honest I enjoyed Flume’s set. He put on a great performance. The thing I hated the most was being stuck in the giant crowd. Not many people were getting into the music and didn’t really do anything. Also it was almost impossible to move closer to the stage, where everyone was having a good time. I would’ve probably enjoyed it a little better if I saw him in a smaller, more intimate venue.

 

Willie Nelson

Just like Flume, the biggest problem I had with his performance was the sheer amount of people. We were so far back, that you could barely hear the set. All I could hear was the drums and an occasional harmonica solo. Again, I would enjoy this performance in a smaller, more intimate venue.

 

 

There it is, our favorite, and least favorite acts at this year’s, the fifteenth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival. We will have to wait another year to go back to Zilker Park, but at least this we will have the memories from this past weekend. If you made it out to ACL, let us know what you think, who were your favorite acts, or least favorite? Do you agree with our opinions, or do you think we are dead wrong? Let us know what you think, and thanks for reading.

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