Festival organizers don’t often traffic in superlatives or absolutes. Much as sports coaches prop up the team over contributions of any single player, they’re more likely to stress the value of the whole package.
Amy Corbin, head of C3 Presesnts’ concert division, has that down when discussing the lineup she booked for this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. “Two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers,” she says of Paul McCartney and Metallica, but she’s quick to add: “And it’s a nice balance with Childish Gambino and Arctic Monkeys and Travis Scott and Odesza — there’s literally something for everybody.”
When pressed about McCartney, though, she admits that getting the legendary Beatle was an above-and-beyond coup. Would she call Sir Paul THE biggest act ever booked to play ACL Fest?
“I would,” Corbin replies, without hesitation. “I think even if you look at the ‘Austin City Limits’ television show and its legacy acts, I don’t know of any living musician that can beat Paul McCartney. It certainly is the biggest that we’ve ever booked.”
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They’d been after McCartney for years, Corbin confirmed, but the odds went up after they hooked him in 2015 for Lollapalooza, the major Chicago festival that C3 also books. “That was our first, and it was great working with his team. They are the best in the business,” she said. “We knew he would be perfect for ACL.”
Since then, it’s just been a matter of waiting for the stars and schedules to line up. “It mainly comes down to timing,” she said. “Sometimes it takes years of continuing to put that bug in somebody’s ear, like, ‘Hey, we’re still here, we’re still interested.’ And it just so happened that this was our year that the magic happened.”
That 2015 Lollapalooza lineup also featured Metallica as a headliner. Corbin says the fact that both were booked for this year’s ACL Fest was “total coincidence. But we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Metallica.”
The two Hall of Famers notwithstanding, Gambino — the musical persona of actor and comedian Donald Glover — might end up generating just as big a buzz at the fest, which runs Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-14 in Zilker Park. (Tickets to each weekend, $255 plus fees, are available via the fest’s website.) A few days after he was announced as an ACL Fest headiner, Glover hosted “Saturday Night Live” and released a new single, “This Is America,” that quickly topped the charts after its video went viral on YouTube.
“I mean, I woke up on that Sunday just elated,” Corbin recalls. “We’ve had Gambino on (ACL Fest) twice before, so we know he’s a great performer and he’s super talented. But that performance, and hosting SNL and that video, was spectacular.”
As for whether McCartney, or Gambino, might tape the “Austin City Limits” TV show while they’re here, Corbin offered no clues, saying simply that “I have no idea what they’ve got up their sleeve.” (The festival and TV program share a name but are separate entities with different production crews.)
Corbin’s clearly pleased, though, that after a somewhat bumpy 2017 rollout that included the addition of Jay Z after the main announcement, this year’s lineup seems to have been met with broad approval.
“Not many people will reach out and tell me anything that isn’t positive,” Corbin admitted. “But from what I saw on socials and everything, it was overwhelmingly positive.”
That’s the value of getting McCartney. “I can’t wait to see him performing on that stage with the city skyline in the background,” Corbin said. “And just (playing) hit after hit after hit after hit. It’s going to be special.”
READ MORE: See all our ACL Fest 2018 coverage