For four weeks now we've been digging into the numbers behind this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival schedule, using the schedule tracker on the fest's website as a barometer to see what bands are getting a lot of attention heading into October. Certain trends have emerged the Black Keys could probably win a general election for the presidency tomorrow, and a lot of people still like Pete Yorn but it's time to call in backup for some extra help dissecting this year's lineup. For our first pinch hitter we turned to Andy Langer, a DJ for KGSR and 101X and a music reporter for News 8, who's also a veteran of every ACL fest and a regular visitor to Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and many other festivals.
American-Statesman: Anything surprise you up at the top?
Andy Langer: I think the top 20 are fairly predictable with the idea that the people who are already so gung-ho about ACL that they're willing to chart their schedules now are something more than the average music fan but something less than a Pitchfork-reading student of everything that's typically in the middle of the lineup. The people who are filling this out now are representative of the middle of the ACL festivalgoer spectrum, so the things that are obvious are doing the best.... Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will wind up with one of the 10 biggest crowds of the festival. Period. And they're at number 24 here and that's surprising. Then the XX is at number 13. If tomorrow 7,000 people went to see the XX, maybe 3,000 would still be there after the third song because they'd be bored silly and they'd leave... This may also be a case where people put stuff on their schedules that they think should be there. Are 6,000 people going to see Sonic Youth? Probably not.
Can you explain how Matt and Kim are so high?
They strike me as one of those that are kind of an XX, Sonic Youth thing. People think they should go see them, but I'm not sure that many people will actually go to see them. When you look at the numbers like this the lineup looks a lot stronger than it ever has. The top 10 is pretty immovable. Muse, the Strokes, Spoon, Black Keys, Band of Horses u2026 we know they're going to draw, so breaking into that group is going to be tough. So saying Ed Sharpe should wind up with a top 10 audience, that'll be hard to do since all of those top 10 bands, without exception, are going to finish in the top 10. You see the strength of the lineup when you say that. Black Keys being in fifth isn't a surprise at all. This is their year; they're arriving right as festival season is hitting and had one of the largest crowds at Lollapalooza this year.
What surprises you?
In terms of bands with bigger audiences, I can't imagine more people going to see Matt and Kim (No. 19) than Gaslight Anthem (32). I can't imagine Monsters of Folk (23) playing to less people than Pete Yorn (15), or by the time the fest rolls around Local Natives (34) outdraws Yeasayer (18) for sure. If the other fests this year are any indications, then the ones here who are really too low are Gaslight Anthem, Local Natives, Edward Sharpe and Deadmau5 (26). ... The bands that are going to have breakout years where people say they remember seeing them at ACL 2010 are Chief (95), Lissie (74) and Dawes (69), who all come into it with significant album or festival buzz. ... Dawes ended up with an enormous overflow crowd at Lollapalooza and I assume the same thing is going to happen here. They'll draw better than Beach House (28), Matt and Kim and Yeasayer. Out of the top 10, Vampire Weekend at No. 3 is a little surprising. They've never been a good festival band and only at their last appearance at Stubb's did they seem like a band who were worth staying more than five songs for. Obviously they're not going to be No. 3 when all is said and done, since the Eagles move into the No. 1 spot even though they're No. 7 here. There will be 60,000 people in front of the Eagles.
What's the deal with Phish and where they rank (No. 14)?
The problem with Phish is the reason you book Phish for a festival is Phish fans will come from around the world to see Phish because it's a destination and you sell tickets because of that. The problem with Phish at ACL is you have a festival that was already sold out before they announced Phish was playing, which means for people who have already bought tickets, you're putting Phish upon them when only a percentage of that crowd will be interested in Phish. Phish makes perfect sense as a festival headliner for a festival that is having trouble selling tickets or will need a push. It makes very little sense at ACL, the way ACL sells out in advance. ... Still, if you walk around ACL in the general population and see what people look like in their festival gear, a lot of them look like dirty hippies who will see Phish even though now they're there for Flaming Lips, Gogol Bordello or LCD Soundsystem. They spent their college years listening to Phish.
Who should be higher?
Dawes at 69 is ridiculous. Charlie Mars drew 8,000 people to Blues on the Green. That was a free show, but theoretically the same thing applies here since you're already there and he's playing, so he'll be way better than 64th. Grace Potter makes her living at festivals and is a wide appeal act to hippies, women and will finish far better than 59th. Ozomatli (48), Robert Randolph (44) and Ryan Bingham (45) will all do better than this list suggests. Another weird thing about this is there are little chunks that aren't realistic. Portugal the Man (37), Switchfoot (38), Amos Lee (39) and the White Rabbits (41) u2026 they'll all finish much lower. Like I said, Temper Trap and Edward Sharpe will come in significantly higher than where they are. There will be 30,000-40,000 people for Edward Sharpe.
That's like what Spoon would do.
Yeah, and what's the deal with Spoon's time, like I think they have no competition. (Pulls up ACL schedule) Yeah, here's a classic case of "How does a band have a headlining size audience while not being a headliner?" Spoon are up against absolutely nothing — Amos Lee and Slightly Stoopid (30) represent zero threat to Spoon. So as many people as can possibly fit at the AMD Stage, which is a headline-size stage, will be there to see Spoon. They have a dominant time slot where they've been done an enormous favor of having nobody up against them ... And they're right after Black Keys, right?
Yeah. Black Keys, them and the Strokes right in a row.
That's another thing. You look just at this list and you can lose the fact of how easy it is to just set up camp at one stage and feel like you've gotten your money's worth just by seeing the Black Keys, Spoon and the Strokes and you're done. In fact, if you see those three you've missed Ryan Bingham, Vampire Weekend and not much else. That's not a bad equation.