Like Friday afternoon, Sunday brought more local talent into the spotlight with Sailor Poon headlining the Barton Springs stage around 11:45 a.m. Fronted by vocalist Billie Buk, the band band formed in 2015 while Buk attended the University of Texas. The best way to describe their music? Feminist Garage Rock. They’ve opened for the likes of Ty Segull and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, so their stage presence and sound is more or less in the same ballpark. Just like the acts they’ve opened for, Sailor Poon delivered their performance with their tenacity and energy. Their set list was spearheaded by their crowd favorite singalong, “Leather Daddy,” which is best described as a bundle of energy layered with indistinguishable lyrics. The crowd was small, but the energy emitted was not. Conventional moshing and crowd shenanigans weren’t feasible, but we did what we could with the cards dealt, and that was something that only Sailor Poon could provide at ACL.
– Julian Combong
Perhaps the most prolific post-punk indie band of the past ten years, Parquet Courts, pronounced “parkay courts,” gave an inspired, eclectic performance at the Barton Springs stage mid-afternoon on Sunday. I’ve been a fan since the band’s debut album, Light Up Gold, but never really had a chance to see them live, so when I saw that they would be at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival, they were my main draw. Although their debut holds a special place in my heart, their subsequent albums have always been compelling, and lately, with the release of Wide Awake! The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Texas band has dabbled with more experimental sounds to a solid level of success. I knew going in that the band would use the majority of their set to play their new tunes, but that didn’t bother me, because I knew they’d pepper in a few of those golden oldies. Opening with “Football,” from their latest project, the band’s energy was immediately on high as A. Savage delivered his trademark disaffected monotone vocals. “Dust,” from 2016’s Human Performance followed which bled into “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience.”
At one point early in the set, the band, true to their Texas roots, expressed their displeasure of Senator Ted Cruz with a four-letter word or two. The band covered the Ramones’ “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World,” to great success, and followed that up with the cleverly placed “Dear Ramona.” Then, I heard it, that opening guitar lick of my favorite Parquet Courts album, they were playing “Master of My Craft,” a personal favorite. Austin Brown took over vocal duties for the song, literally expressing his diss-affectedness “Forget about It.” The song, through a long instrumental interlude bled into “Borrowed Time,” at which point I lost any semblance of sanity. The audience may have not been as familiar with the track as I was, because the multiple two-second long gaps between verses prompted the crowd to applaud and cheer right as the band went right back into it. Other highlights included the performance of the James Chance-esque title track off their latest album, and their “Light Up Gold II,” closing out a solid set. Although I would’ve preferred to hear the band’s more raucous material, I was satisfied with the performance nonetheless. Maybe in 2022 when Light Up Gold turns ten years old I’ll be able to hear other personal favorites like “Yr No Stoner,” “Stoned and Starving,” and “N Dakota.”
– Waylon O’ Day
The title of last band to play at the Tito’s Homemade Vodka stage was handed to Houston natives Khruangbin. Led by Mark Speer on guitar, Laura Lee on bass and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums, the band has drawn a mass following in the past year for their distinctive and unique sound, which is best described as a mixture of Thai Funk with Iranian influences. Primarily instrumental, the band has captivated audiences far and wide by luring them in with mesmerizing guitar licks that double as both rhythm and lead, groovy bass lines that hold the band together, and drums so tight that you’ll never be lost or out of place.
For Sunday, Khruangbin played a set consisting of songs from their debut album The Universe Smiles Upon You and their latest release in Con Todo El Mundo. Because of the festive nature of ACL, the band began with the upbeat song that is “People Everywhere (Still Alive),” before venturing into other popular songs like “Mr.White,” “Maria Tambien,” and “Lady and Man.” What won the entire audience, if they weren’t already into the Khruangbin spirit beforehand, was their hip-hop medley that paid tribute to iconic songs like Ice Cube’s “Today was a Good Day” and Dr. Dre’s “Ain’t Nothing but a G Thang.” By the end of their set, the crowd was in an ethereal, elevated phase fitting of Khruangbin’s name, which translates to “airplane” in Thai. Never to disappoint, my third time seeing Khruangbin was definitely the most memorable as whole, especially given the ACL atmosphere.
I’ll be honest, I only know Phoenix because of the car commercials from the early aughts. Take that as you may. I always thought the songs that I heard were catchy, and I’ve attempted, in the past, to get more into them, but I haven’t been very successful. I honestly didn’t even know they were French, I sort of assumed they were from, well, Phoenix. Regardless, their set at ACL was one of the more picturesque, not only because they performed during the fabled “golden hour,” but because it’s everything you expect from the stereotypical romanticized version of a music festival; people dancing, smiling, jumping around. It was something I hadn’t seen in a while.
Phoenix, who were on their last stop of their tour, opened their set with “J-Boy,” from last year’s Ti Amo. Early on in the set the band surprisingly played one of their bigger hits, “Lisztomania,” from 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. At about the midpoint of the set, marked by “Ti Amo,” lead singer Thomas Mars made his way into the crowd, and pretty much stayed there for the rest of the set, surfing over the seemingly endless sea of fans at the Miller Lite stage. Towards the end of the set, I finally got to hear that song that seemingly was always following me in 2010 as the band played “1901.” At this point I had lost my view of Mars and assumed after the song concluded, that the set had ended as well. That is, until I spotted Mars in the middle of the crowd standing still as a statue before playing their closing song “Ti amo di piu.” Honestly, I enjoyed their set, I was surprised, because I’m usually extremely pretentious when it comes to “indie” bands that find anything resembling mainstream success, but after this performance, I may have to rethink my preconceived notions about mainstream success.
A huge factor into bringing the garage rock sound back into the mainstream light, the British bred Arctic Monkeys are led by Alex Turner on guitar/vocals, Matt Helders on drums, Jamie Cook on lead guitar/keys and Nick O’Malley on bass guitar. With a sound that encompasses various styles of rock, it was only fitting that they end ACL on the Honda stage, a space reserved for the bigger acts of the weekend. Their set list started off with the song “Four Out of Five,” one of the lead singles off their newest album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, leading into Brianstorm off their sophomore release Favourite Worst Nightmare. The remainder of their set included songs new and old from their entire discography, including favorites like “505” and “Do I Wanna Know,” before concluding their original set with “Arabella” off of their 2013 release AM. Being the last act of the night on the Honda Stage, the band gave into the encore demands of the crowd, extending their set before concluding with a very powerful rendition of their popular song, “R U Mine?”
Sunday was a great way to cap off what I thought was an eventful of 3 days of music at Austin City Limits. The atmosphere, the live performances and the theatrics in between led to an experience everyone should try to live out at least once in their life. The musicians involved are always circulating for each rendition of the festival, so if this year didn’t peak your interest, there’s a chance next year will be the dream lineup for you.
Look, I’m not going to mince words when it comes to Travis Scott. I’m a fan. I’m from the same area as La Flame, our high schools were rivals in almost every sport. I’m proud of what he has accomplished, proud that Houston has another representative in the pantheon of hip-hop. Not since DJ Screw has Houston had someone that we can point to as our torchbearer. With that being said, I did not enjoy Scott’s set at ACL. Originally he was slated for a forty-five minute set, before Childish Gambino pulled out due to energy. It seems Scott stuck to that time requirement as he showed up 15 minutes late, and left the stage 15 minutes early. On top of that, his performance left something to be desired. Although I will acknowledge that I have never seen a more bonkers crowd in my life. Mosh pits the size of parking lots were present throughout the set and never seemed to die down, even between songs. Scott opened with “Stargazing,” the opening track from his latest, chart-topping album, Astroworld, and followed it up with the Frank Ocean supported “Carousel,” and no Frank didn’t show.
The biggest highlight for me was when Scott ran through his verse on “Mamacita,” one of my favorite songs from his earlier work. The majority of the set was just verses from select songs that Scott “performed” as he jumped up and down the length of the stage, seldom nailing his verses, sometimes just saying the last word of the verse. The spectacle was worth it though, seeing the swaths of people lose their minds to Scott’s music along with the pyrotechnics and fog machines was really something else. Towards the end of the set after dedicating his performance of “Skeletons” to a childhood friend, and playing older cuts like “Upper Echelon,” and “Antidote,” Scott stopped all momentum of his pulse-pounding set to usher a fan onto the stage. Taking a page out of Kendrick Lamar’s playbook, Scott invited the audience member to rap the chorus to the most successful track off La Flame’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. Honestly, I’ve never enjoyed seeing audience members being brought on stage, not because of jealousy, but just because of the anxiety it induces in me. I’m always praying the person on the stage doesn’t embarrass themselves, but luckily in this situation, the person brought on stage amped the crowd up and said more of the chorus than Scott himself did. So all in all, good job random fan. After that detour, Scott closed out the set and Weekend One of ACL with his smash hit, “Sicko Mode,” at which point I checked my watch and realized I had been duped, and shorted half an hour of Travis Scott, but alas, I had my fill. All in all, his set was enjoyable, not because it was an amazing show of artistic prowess, but just because of the sheer magnitude of spectacle the set embodied. I don’t think I’ll ever go out of my way to see a Travis Scott show, but I would tell anyone who hasn’t had the chance to see La Flame in action to do so, because it really is a sight to behold.