Austin City Limits has always been the odd festival out of the Big Four. Although one of North America’s biggest and best music festivals, its presence within the Music Capitol of the World has led to instant sell outs long before it was cool to instantly sell out. Festival organizers have consistently catered their lineups more to the Austin demographics, putting less emphasis on big name reunions or unique gets. Alt-rock, folk, and twang frequently top the bill, and this year is no exception with the presence of Wilco, The National, Kings of Leon, and Vampire Weekend.
But with the expanded two weekend format comes more tickets to be sold, more people to attract beyond local residents. And as a result, the festival has put together one of its more exciting and adventurous lineups perhaps ever. Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Atoms For Peace are acts you’d expect to see atop Coachella’s bill, and never did I ever expect to see Lionel Richie hold down a spot on the second line of the poster.
Is this the year Coachella’s lineup actually ranks last amongst the Big Four? One could certainly argue that Austin City Limits is up to par with its sister festival, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo. Yes, 24 hours later and its lineup still looks quite nice.
Atoms For Peace
This fall, Atoms For Peace — the super group comprised of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco — will finally tour America behind their full-length debut, Amok. Austin City Limits marks the band’s first-ever headlining performance at a North American festival, but given the pedigree here, there’s little doubt that they’ll be one of the weekends’ biggest highlights. Expect a set comprised of Amok material and Yorke solo standards from 2006’s The Eraser. However, Yorke has already shot down any hope of a Radiohead song making its way into the setlist.
It’s all come full circle for Depeche Mode. After kicking off their Delta Machine tour with an intimate showcase during South by Southwest, the UK legends return to Austin for a headlining appearance at Austin City Limits. Like Atoms For Peace, it’s Depeche Mode’s only confirmed North American festival appearance to date. If their 2009 performance at Lollapalooza was any indication, expect something truly special.
In a little over year, D’Angelo has emerged from the confines of the studio, where he’s been working on his third album for the last 12 years, and onto the road. His surprise performance at Bonnaroo last summer is already something of legend, and following a lengthy tour with Mary J. Blige, the R&B super crooner is thoroughly road tested. Hopefully, Questlove will have his back come ACL time.
Johnny Alexander Veliotes, Jr., AKA Shuggie Otis, has made a serious resurgence in 2013. He released his first new album in three decades, Wings Of Love, which he’s supported with a jaw-dropping performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Four words: Get ready to dance.
Wilco has laid dormant for much of the last year, as frontman Jeff Tweedy has spent time producing for Low and Mavis Staples. But this summer, the Chicago rock stalwarts will return to the road for a massive summer tour alongside Bob Dylan and My Morning Jacket, which they’ll follow up in October with a high-profile return to Austin City Limits. Who knows, by then they may be supporting a new album. Or, at least, one can hope.
Kings of Leon
With word of a new album due out later this fall, I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Kings of Leon on the 2013 lineup. But with Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails both touring North America this fall, this feels like a classic case of “what could have been.”
Muse have already toured North America three different times behind last year’s The 2nd Law, which wasn’t something that deserved even one supporting tour. Beyond marketability, this booking just doesn’t make sense.
Holy shit: Lionel Richie is playing Austin City Limits.
Jimmy Eat World
Here’s the left field booking of 2013. It’s not that we don’t have a soft spot for Jimmy Eat World. Hell, their latest single, “I Will Seal You Back”, is jam-packed with great pop-punk riffs. However, in 2013, these Arizona legends seem more suited for a tour alongside NOFX, Rancid, and The Offspring (which I’d totally see, btw!) than an alt-rock festival featuring acts like Grimes and Toro y Moi.
Earlier this week came word that Brit Daniel was back in the studio with Spoon, working on a new studio album. So what’s he doing out on the road this fall with his super side-project, Divine Fits? We love Divine Fits as much as the next guy — their full-length debut cracked the top 20 of our Top 50 Albums of 2012 — but this one definitely has us stroking our beards.
Nine Inch Nails
As we discussed, Nine Inch Nails would have been a far more interesting booking than Kings of Leon or Muse, plus they’re already playing Lollapalooza. But perhaps Austin’s other great music festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, won Trent Reznor’s heart (and wallet) for 2013?
Perry Farrell doesn’t have his own
tent stage wonderland at Austin City Limits, so there’s never been a particularly great emphasis on Electronic Dance Music. However, last year saw the booking of both Avicii and Bassnectar. This year’s biggest EMD players? Not counting Depeche Mode, those honors go to Kaskade and Paper Diamond?
ACL has also never been a super fertile place for music of the rap or hip-hop variety; however, Kanye West did headline back in 2011. Last year’s biggest emcee was Childish Gambino, and this year’s offerings are even more lackluster. Kendrick Lamar is great, but there’s no one of note beyond that. In fact, I don’t think there’s even another rapper on the lineup.
There was recently a big debate amongst the community of music critics over women’s presence (or lack thereof) at major music festivals, stemming from articles in BuzzFeed and Slate. It’s not 100% the festival’s fault, especially in regards to female headliners — there just aren’t enough options out there. But when it comes to subheadliners and the mid-tier portion of a festival’s lineup, there are countless female artists worth booking. However, out of ACL’s top 30, only two are female fronted: Grimes and Neko Case. Le sigh.
Neutral Milk Hotel
These newly reunited icons are touring the Southwest during October, including an appearance at the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit. Austin City Limits takes place in October, a few hundred miles away from some of the band’s routed tour dates. Once again, le sigh.
Get There Early
Miami garage rockers Jacuzzi Boys
Florida indie folk outfit Roadkill Ghost Choir
Chicago soul band JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound
Los Angeles rock duo Deap Vally