Promise filled the air on the opening afternoon of the 16th annual Austin City Limits Festival, as fans steeled themselves against the punishing heat and posted up at the American Express Stage in anticipation of Jay-Z’s headlining set, still eight hours away.
They had a few things on their side. Methyl Ethel quelled the heat with their breezy indie rock, and crafty folks strung a blanket across the barricade as a makeshift tarp.
Under such conditions, festival-goers make fast friends. University of Texas students Annie Harris and Abinav Kumar and recent graduate Brianna Spiller braved the sun’s unforgiving rays together, stocking up on GoodPops and kettle corn to last them through the long haul.
Spiller and Harris were no strangers to camping out for a festival headliner; they did the same thing for the Foo Fighters at ACL 2015. Spiller had simple but essential advice: “Stay out of the sun. Drink lots of water. Don’t move. And make friends!”
They practiced what they preached, befriending fellow long-hauler Stephanie Cisneros, who’s been a Jay fan since his first album, “Reasonable Doubt,” which dropped when she was in high school. Cisneros had seen the rapper twice before, but never in this capacity. As she put it: “You’re not gonna be front row unless you pay.”
By 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled again to a couple hundred, with fans eager for Andrew McMahon’s early set. They were the privileged ones, able to find sanctuary in Zilker Park’s precious few shaded groves at the end of his hourlong performance. But as the crowd ebbed and flowed all day, the HOV stans remained, determined to see the iconic headliner front-and-center.
These folks had 99 problems—impending sunburn, hunger pangs, aching feet—but a lack of willpower wasn’t one.