Our Austin City Limits Music Festival team is getting ready for three days of music at Zilker Park. Here, they share their top bands to see each day.
The Eastern Sea. 11:20 a.m. Austin Ventures. Austin’s Matthew Hines leads folk/rock group the Eastern Sea, which sometimes enlists seven members in service of its rich, layered pop.
Gary Clark Jr. 2:15 p.m. AMD. Here’s your chance to see Austin’s next about-to-be-even-more-famous guitar hero before he’s playing next year in a headlining slot.
Iggy and the Stooges. 6:15 p.m. Bud Light. Punk rock founding father and Keith Richards-level death defier Iggy Pop is probably more Fun Fun Fun material than ACL, which will make his early evening appearance on Sunday even more entertaining.
Willis Earl Beal. 6:15 p.m. BMI stage. Like Iggy and the Stooges, Beal’s strange, raw blues is kind of an odd fit for the festival. And he has an oddly compelling backstory — a stint in the Army, time spent busking and leaving CD-Rs around Chicago until finally signing a record deal and winding up performing at big festivals.
The Avett Brothers. 6:15 p.m. AMD. In the world of the Americana/folk/pop revival, North Carolina-based Avett Brothers lead the pack with songs about love and death and a larger-than-life sound.
Gary Clark Jr. 2:15 p.m. AMD. Austin’s greatest living bluesman, and he’s younger than 30; nuff said.
Polica. 3:15 p.m. Honda. Synth-pop in the middle of the afternoon might be just the breather everyone needs.
The Weeknd. 5:15 p.m. Barton Springs. Another wild card. The man is a producer, and how his gauzy hip-hop will work live is a toss-up.
Iggy and the Stooges. 6:15 p.m. Bud Light. Even with founding guitarist Ron Asheton having gone on to his reward and James Williamson in his place, this still should be an insane set from men of iron; expect a lot from “Raw Power.”
Childish Gambino. 7:15 p.m. Barton springs. Finding an actor who can actually make sharp, skillful hip-hop isn’t exactly common; Donald Glover can do it all.
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH
Gary Clark Jr. 2:15 p.m. AMD. The kid used to be a local secret, a young blues phenom you could catch kicking around the Continental Club on a Monday night. Then the rest of the world caught on. He’s been working the festival circuit all summer, most recently knocking out both days of Jay-Z’s Made in America fest and notching a Reeperbahn appearance in Hamburg, Germany, before his ACL Fest homecoming (and Stubb’s on Oct. 10).
Thundercat. 4:15 p.m. Zilker. Wildly creative, insanely experimental music from a bass-playing master who has held down the low end for everyone from Snoop Dogg to thrash band Suicidal Tendencies. Think Jaco Pastorius meets Sun Ra in a cool California commune that’s not at all cultlike but serves oddly addictive herbal tea and organic juice blends. Or something.
Die Antwoord. 5:15 p.m. Honda. Perhaps the most off-the-wall booking ever at ACL Fest, the South African rap/rave/art rock duo wields disturbing imagery, aggro-lyricism and weirdly infectious electro beats in a way that’s both deeply unsettling and utterly enthralling.
Barrington Levy. 7:15 p.m. Zilker. An ’80s dancehall king with a few tunes that have endured the test of time. If you’ve ever been to an excellent reggae dance party odds are pretty good you know every word of his anthemic hit “Here I Come (Broader Than Broadway).” If you’re a hip-hop fan you certainly would recognize the oft-sampled groove. If you’re looking for a laid-back irie vibe to begin cooling out your fest this is the ticket.
Childish Gambino. 7:15 p.m. Barton Springs. The noted comedian, writer and actor (“Community,” “30 Rock”) in his angry young rapper persona is surprisingly brash, bawdy and quite frankly, hard. The humor in Donald Glover’s rhymes is of the meanest variety, barely masking a raw vulnerability as he furiously spits twisted tales of his rise from a rural Southern upbringing (in the former KKK hotbed of Stone Mountain, Ga.) to considerable fame. The effect is intense, occasionally uncomfortable, but props to him for putting it all on the line like that.
Stars. 1:15 p.m., Barton Springs. This outgrowth of the tangled Toronto indie rock scene is one of its catchiest, trading in soaring, sincere pop love letters.
Gary Clark Jr. 2:15 p.m. AMD. In a year when expectations have steadily risen for this young Austin bluesman, a killer fest set would be a great homecoming.
Die Antwoord. 5:15 p.m. Honda. Has ACL ever has a more “out there” act than this South African techno/rap combo? Jaws will be hitting the lawn en masse.
Old 97’s. 6:15 p.m. Austin Ventures. There are few acts more reliable than this Rhett Miller-led alt-country band, now heading into its second decade together.
Red Hot Chili Peppers. 8:15 p.m. Bud Light. The unlikeliest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ever? They’ll end the weekend with a feel-good alt-rock hit parade.
Gary Clark Jr. 2:15 p.m. AMD. It’s Austin. If you haven’t checked out the rising star’s modern blues music, there’s no reason to wait.
The Devil Makes Three. 2:30 p.m. Austin Ventures. Part of the ACL fun is discovering new music. This punk-folk trio is likely to draw curious listeners.
Ruthie Foster. 5:45 p.m. Zilker. Foster’s soulful vocals infuse depth to her popular rock, blues and folk sound.
Barrington Levy. 7:15 p.m. Zilker. Wind the fest down with reggae grooves.
Red Hot Chili Peppers. 8:15 p.m. Bud Light. Join the masses for a show sure to make you feel nostalgic.
Kimbra. 12:15 p.m. Bud Light. Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve probably heard her arresting voice, which pretty much made the ubiquitous Gotye smash “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The New Zealand native wowed fans at numerous SXSW 2012 shows with soulful songs from her eclectic debut, “Vows.”
Gary Clark Jr. 2:15 p.m. AMD. The Austin guitar hero’s star has achieved a whole new order of magnitude since his appearance on a side stage at ACL last year, with a succession of high-profile performances. Here’s your chance for a preview of his long-awaited full-length Warner Bros. debut, due in stores Oct. 23.
Old 97s. 6:15 p.m. Austin Ventures. One of the best things ever to come out of Dallas, Old 97’s know how to charge up an audience with irresistible alt-country originals such as “Time Bomb” and “Big Brown Eyes.” And they’ve even won Bob Dylan’s seal of approval, for 2010’s “Champaign, Illinois,” which sets frontman Rhett Miller’s lyrics to the tune of “Desolation Row.”
Iggy and the Stooges. 6:15 p.m. Bud Light. In case you rock ’n’ roll animals needed any more incentive to see the still-snake-hipped legend Iggy Pop, he and the Stooges should be especially fired up by the new material they’ve been working on. The lineup includes original drummer Scott Asheton, almost-original guitarist James Williamson and sax player Steve Mackay, plus mighty 21st-century bassist Mike Watt, of Minutemen fame.
Barrington Levy. 7:15 p.m. Zilker. He became king of the Jamaican dancehall singers in the 1980s, and Levy’s distinctive rich, vinegary tenor is still mesmerizing on classics such as “Murderer” and his dub version of Horace Andy’s “Skylarking.” Recently, he’s recorded with Shaggy, Snoop Dogg and other younger admirers.
ERIC S. PULSIFER
Alt-J. 11:30 a.m. Barton Springs. Though they’ve remained mostly under the radar here, British buzz-band Alt-J is already a success overseas. This show is a chance to show the States why the band, which some have compared to Radiohead, has already secured a spot on some critics’ best-of-2012 lists.
Freelance Whales. 1:15 p.m. Honda. It’s a tough call between the time slot-sharing Freelance Whales and Stars (whose set, by the way, could include a cameo from Metric’s Emily Haines). But given how well Freelance Whales’ sweet indie pop translates live and that this show comes on the heels of their sophomore release, “Diluvia,” they take it by a nose.
Two Door Cinema Club. 4:15 p.m. Bud Light. Irish dance rockers return after building a substantial following from nearly non-stop touring since 2010. The trio put out their second album last month, and while the new material lacks some of the impossible catchiness of the old, their energetic tunes should be a sonic boost for crowds in need of a second wind before the festival’s close.
The Weeknd. 5:15 p.m. Barton Springs. Though he’s debatably the most acclaimed voice in R&B over the past year, you won’t find any of the Weeknd’s trilogy of albums on Spotify or at Waterloo Records — they were all released online for free. But online buzz has given The Weeknd more momentum than money can buy, and his show on Sunday evening offers a chance to see if Toronto singer/rapper Abel Tesfaye lives up to the hype.
Crystal Castles. 7:30 p.m. Honda. Electronic duo are loud in a way that makes Sleigh Bells seem like coffee shop music. Thundering lo-fi, distorted arcade-inspired bleeps and bloops, and Alice Glass’ trademark screams will leave ears ringing Sunday night.