Austin City Limits Music Festival has been drawing attention to smaller, niche bands and honoring larger acts since it began in 2002. Originally, ACL started as only a one weekend music festival. In 2013 though it expanded to two weekends. Saturday, October 6th marked the first of two Saturdays in the 2018 ACL lineup. Featuring musical acts such as Brandi Carlile, Paris, and Metallica the day was set to begin at noon and end at 10:00 p.m. The gates were delayed a bit due to the weather, but once it kicked off, there was nothing to dampen its momentum. Julian Combong and Waylon O’Day with Coog Radio hit the ground running, enjoying acts such as Molly Burch, Japanese Breakfast, and The Wombats.
If you have never heard of Molly Burch, it’s okay, about half a year ago, I was in your position, ignorant to the delicate, melodious stylings of the Austin-based Burch. Only performing once at the festival, as opposed to both weekends, and early in the day to boot, Burch put on a great show for those fans that braved the storms that were circling Zilker Park early Saturday afternoon. Leaning heavily off her album First Flower, which had been released the day prior to her set at ACL, Burch performed songs such as “To the Boys,” as well as the title-track from her debut album, last year’s Please Be Mine. The cloud cover, and the slow, soothing nature of Burch’s music created the perfect atmosphere to relax and enjoy the sounds at what was a more than hectic festival this year.
– Waylon O’Day
Seattle’s Naked Giants were another band that I discovered late in the game, but as they say, better late than never. It was strange considering their contemporaries are all bands that I tout as favorites of mine. After their set at the festival’s smallest stage, BMI, I had added a new favorite band. The energy the three-piece exhibited over the course of their forty-five minute set was more than palpable as the audience matched the band tit-for-tat the whole way. Half jam band, half pure unadulterated adrenaline, the band roared through tracks from their debut full-length, SLUFF, including “TV,” “Everybody Thinks They Know (But No One Really Knows),” and the ironically titled “Slow Dance II,” which is anything but slow. The band made quite the impression on me during their set, forcing me to buy tickets to their next Houston date, where they will open for Car Seat Headrest in February at White Oak Music Hall.
– Waylon O’Day
Hailing from Liverpool, the hometown of the Beatles, The Wombats have been one of those bands that stuck with me throughout my many changes in musical taste throughout the years, for better or for worse. I’ve had ample opportunity to see the group, once before at this same festival, but alas, the opportunity has never realized. Finally, I made the time, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Now, if you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of happy-go-lucky pop music, which The Wombats embody, but just this one time I gave in and indulged myself, with positive results. Despite not recognizing the majority of their set, I was still able to enjoy it thoroughly, as I danced and hopped along to the music, which if you know me , is completely out of character. So yeah, you could say I enjoyed it. However, the biggest highlight of this set was me dancing to the Wombats playing “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” a personal favorite from my days as a theater kid in high school.
– Waylon O’Day
Japanese Breakfast, the project of Michelle Zauner, hit the Barton Springs stage around 3:45 p.m. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Zauer, of Korean and not Japanese decent, fronts the band on guitar and vocals with soft melodies backed by a strong stage performance. Like her sophomore album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, the set began with the song “Diving Woman” leading into “In Heaven” off of the debut album Psychopomp. The transition between the two songs was flawless, appeasing the crowd’s appetite with a Breakfast that only the Japanese could provide. The set continued on from then, including other hit songs with “Road Head,” “The Body is a Blade,” and “Everybody Wants to Love You.” A delightful performance overall, the set ended with a cover of “Dreams” by one of Michelle’s biggest influences, The Cranberries. A few minutes before they took stage, I ran into a few others who claimed they didn’t know anything about Japanese Breakfast, saying the name alone is what drew them to their set. If they didn’t know anything about them before, they sure did right after their powerful performance at the Barton Springs stage.
– Julian Combong
The same afternoon had Scottish band Chvrches headline the Honda stage for what proved to be one of the more energetic sets of the day. Consisting of Lauren Mayberry, Martin Doherty and Lain Cook, the band has released three albums to date with 2018’s Love is Dead being their latest. With ACL being a part of their Love is Dead tour, the group opened up with the the lead single off the album, “Get Out.” Being the upbeat synthpop song that it is, it set the mood for the engaging and energetic performance that Chvrches is known for. The band continued the afternoon playing songs from their entire discography including “Under the Tide” off of their debut The Bones of What You Believe and “Leave a Trace” off of their sophomore release Every Open Eye. Their set concluded with the song “Never Let Die,” fitting since the crowd didn’t want the set to end. Alas, Chrvches did have to end their set, but not before Lauren saluted Austin for their hospitality, enjoying their first big foray with the Lone Star State.
– Julian Combong
French electronic duo Justice followed Chvrches on the Honda stage. Consisting of Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay, the duo’s live performance can only be described as otherworldly. The combination of their music complimented by outstanding lighting and visuals make their live sets one of the best experiences a person can experience. So it’s only fitting that they headlined one of ACL’s bigger stages during the night. The entire set was so engaging and memorizing that I couldn’t remember a good majority of the songs, being too fixated with the visuals and overall vibe of the crowd. The only songs I do remember were the “Safe and Sound,” the song they started the night with off of their third album Woman, and “Stress” off of their debut album Cross. “Stress” in particular was memorable as it involves lighting and theatrics that differ greatly from their other songs, encompassing only white and red lighting with revolving fixtures atop the stage. Taking all that into consideration, Justice’s live performance of “Stress”, ironically enough, relieved whatever stress people accumulated to that point. Justice ended the night with an extended remix of “Safe and Sound” and two others songs, before announcing that ACL would be their final show of the decade. Not wanting to leave the crowd on a sour note, Gaspard then made his way to the edge of the stage and crowd surfed, channeling the energy of the crowd one more time for a final hurrah. Needless to say, Justice surpassed my expectations and were by far the best performance of ACL for me.
– Julian Combong