Austin City Limits Music Festival released its day-by-day lineups Wednesday, which made us think of an eternal dilemma: If you can only go for one day, which day do you choose? Whether it’s a cost issue or a busy calendar, it’s a tough call. We’ve analyzed the lineups and have some tips to help you plan your one-day pass purchase. And no, the actual set times aren’t out yet.
Weighing the hip hop options: Yikes. This is the choice no discerning music fan should have to make. Jay-Z headlines Friday, Chance the Rapper takes a top slot Saturday (along with Ice Cube) and Run the Jewels play Sunday, though not in a headlining slot. Choices, choices. If you’re looking for a perfect blend of old school and new, Saturday is obviously the day to pick, with Lil Chano and Cube offering the best of both worlds. You’ll also get A$AP Ferg in the deal. After that, it all comes down to which you value more: classic star power or vitally relevant political rap.
For the former, Friday and Hova welcome you with open arms. For the latter, run them jewels fast to a Sunday pass. Friday’s Skepta and Sunday’s Danny Brown might not be the tie-breakers you need, but need we point out that Carter sister-in-law Solange also plays Friday? Regardless: If you’re going to ACL Fest for Jay-Z, you already know what you need to do.
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For a chill day at the fest: If you're looking for a more mellow approach to the fest, Sunday's your best bet. Folk queens First Aid Kit will bring their chill Swedish vibes to the last day of the fest, as well as singer-songwriter Vance Joy and his ukulele. The Head the Heart are among Sunday night's headliners, and honestly, what's better than watching the sun go down in Zilker Park to the tune of "Rivers and Roads"? Not much.
Maximize your singalongs: The upper echelons of the ACL bill hold plenty of hitmakers. However, if we’re looking strictly for big hooks with karaoke chorus potential, it’s hard to argue that Sunday isn’t your best option, with the Killers. A case can also be made for Friday due to Foster the People backing up Jay-Z, but the nostalgia factor sways us to Sunday. (Unless, of course, you are dadcore to the bone. In which case, listen to what Red Hot Chili Peppers say-oh.)
To hear the most country music possible: Whereas last year's ACL celebrated country music with the likes of Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves, this year's lineup is more hip-hop heavy. But never fear, country fans, you've still got options, most of which are on Friday. Asleep At The Wheel will play their normal first-day-of-the-fest set, as well as Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (yes, that Nelson -- Willie's son in the flesh). Friday night's country-ish headliner, Ryan Adams, may be doing more of a folky singer-songwriter thing these days, but let's not forget Whiskeytown, his alt-country roots.
Stay on trend: Scoping emerging talent is really more of a South By Southwest game, but it’s not impossible at ACL Fest. The lower decks are teeming with up-and-comers, so it’s really dealer’s choice. To help guide you in your quest: Friday promises SXSW Grulke Prize winners The Lemon Twigs, indie blog darling (Sandy) Alex G and actual multigenre genius Valerie June; Saturday stacks sadboy stars Car Seat Headrest (who had a breakout 2016) and queer band Muna, who have opened for Harry Styles; and Sunday will deliver the easy vibes of Whitney, outrageously delightful NPR Tiny Desk concert winners Tank & The Bangas and Chance the Rapper collaborator Jamila Woods.
For ladies who rock: And sometimes at ACL Fest you look around at your friends and ask, "Hey, I just really feel like watching some badass women tear up the stage." And you can do that on Saturday with Angel Olsen (who is, of course, an absolute angel on stage) and Grace VanderWaal, the mindblowing 13-year-old who won the nation's hearts on America's Got Talent last year, and whose latest single "Moonlight" will make you wonder why this teen has somehow accomplished so many more life goals than you, a functioning adult. Then there's the aforementioned MUNA, whose lead singer Katie Gawin is a joy to watch, especially to "I Know A Place," which was released late last year but remains one of my summer bops. Continue the girl-power dance party with Tove Lo, whose 2016 anthem "Cool Girl" is perfect to close out a probably-way-too-hot-for-October festival day.