Music and Twists and Turns: ACL 2023 Weekend One, Day One Recap
Written by Andrea Diaz, Isha Merchant on October 7, 2023
On Friday, Oct. 6, Austin City Limits, informally known as ACL, was in full swing as fans entered Zilker Park in anticipation of several talented artists, including Kendrick Lamar, The Lumineers, Maggie Rogers, and various others.
Starting with the band half•alive on the T-Mobile stage, they filled the audience with energy by performing their most known songs and began their performance strongly with their song “The Fall.” They utilized contemporary dancers to visualize their songs’ emotions, covering themes such as self-discovery and personal growth, which intrigued many who were watching. Their passion for their music presented itself on stage for all to see.
Next, the rock band Portugal. The Man at the Honda Stage. Portugal. The Man performed a beautiful set featuring a variety of their most popular songs and brought a large crowd around the stage as they watched in awe of the group’s cohesiveness. John Gourley, lead guitarist and vocalist, was dressed in a Western theme, donning a cowboy hat, oval sunglasses, and a chunky jacket. The band ended their set with one of their most popular songs, “Feel It Still,” which brought amazing energy among the crowd, as many stood up and sang along to the song.
Around the same time, BLOND:ISH performed at Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage. The duo consists of Anstascia D’Elene Corniere and Vivie-Ann Bakos. They made the crowd dance and move to the beat of the music during their performance. Their electronic music stands out by incorporating deep house, techno, and tribal elements to present the crowd with their blend. They grabbed attention with their unique ability to lead the crowd in a drop or new beat. They kept the crowd engaged with the constant changes in the songs that drew attention.
Right after Portugal. The Man, the upcoming punk-rock band Bass Drum of Death, took over the BMI stage, right next to the Honda stage. Although many ACL fans were originally unaware of Bass Drum of Death, fans were fully immersed in the duo’s set as they began to play their distinct music. It is clear that the band pulls inspiration from a variety of 1970s rock influences, as well as underground punk influences.
The duo consists of brothers John Barrett and Jim Barrett, who worked together to make the crowd go wild. Jim Barrett, the supporting guitar player, would often step onto the speakers surrounding the stage while flipping his hair and energetically playing the guitar. The duo put their all into their music and fully bodied each song. It is evident from this set alone that Bass Drum of Death is not going anywhere and has earned their spot on the ACL setlist.
Also during the same time, Brittney Spencer, country singer and songwriter, performed at the IHG Hotels & Resorts stage. With mesmerizing melodies and powerful vocals, she captured the audience’s attention. She talked frequently with the crowd about her journey to being a country singer and her path to performing at ACL for the first time. She joked after the first song of her performance that it would contain a lot of unreleased songs from her soon-to-be-released album next year and to not be mad at her for the songs not currently available. She gave an emotionally driven performance with themes of love, life, and personal experiences that impacted the crowd.
Following Bass Drum of Death, Maggie Rogers put on a spectacular show on the Honda stage. As soon as she walked onto the stage, she lit up Zilker Park with her fantastic energy and positivity as she greeted the audience. She put her all into each song, dancing and running across the stage, engaging everyone within her audience. At one point, she played an acoustic guitar, which limited her movement on stage, yet she still brought the crowd to life with her amazing lyricism and vocals.
Rogers briefly discussed her connection to ACL, saying, “I first came to ACL as a sophomore in college…it changed my life” as she began her song “Don’t Forget Me.” When speaking to Sharon, a long-time fan of Maggie Rogers, she said, “She is amazing..she is perfect…she puts on a good show”. During her set, Rogers performed a beautiful cover of the song “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. As always, Rogers put her own twist on the song and accompanied it with her acoustic guitar and breathy vocals while smiling out to the crowd. Towards the end of the set, Rogers grabbed a camera mirroring the set on the large screens surrounding the stage and pointed it towards herself and the audience, ending her performance on a touching note.
Around the same time, Major Lazer began their performance to a packed crowd at the American Express stage. The group brought nostalgia to those watching by performing their most-known hits and remixes, such as “Lean On” and “Light It Up – Remix.” They constantly got the crowd going wild by hyping them up with each song performed. Diplo always kept hyping the crowd up to keep them fully engaged. Everyone in the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves, feeling the music through their constant movement. Their performance was energetic for the audience from start to finish.
The most anticipated performance of the night, Kendrick Lamar, at the American Express, began with complications. The time Lamar was supposed to perform came and went until 20 minutes later, the crowd was told via the stage’s screen that due to plane issues, his performance that night would be delayed and that further updates were to come. Many in the crowd became frustrated with the wait time, and others speculated that Lamar would not attend.
It was almost an hour of waiting before another update showed on the stage’s screen, stating that an abbreviated set by Lamar would begin at 9:45. With that, the crowd regained hope, and many settled in for the performance. Lamar delivered a fantastic performance, captivating the crowd immediately with his larger-than-life stage presence.
The performance consisted of many of Lamar’s greatest hits, such as “DNA.” and “HUMBLE.” A set of five dancers also contributed to the performance with their intricate choreography and interpretive dance that added to the many themes covered in Lamar’s intricate lyricism. Sadly, the performance ended far sooner than the audience anticipated.
Lamar was only allowed to perform for 30 minutes as ACL ends the day’s festival at ten at night. By around 10:18 pm, Lamar’s microphone and music gradually get quieter and quieter until his microphone and music can no longer be played, signifying the end of his performance. While saddened and frustrated by what had happened, he expressed his gratitude for the fans staying to watch him perform with his body language.
Overall, it was a day of outstanding performances and unexpected events. It was great to see such a variety of talents across multiple genres! Please look forward to our coverage for Day 2 of ACL!