You’ve probably seen the viral clip on Twitter by now. It’s from April at Coachella, and Texas’ own cowgirl queen Kacey Musgraves dances onstage in a flowing red dress, carefully instructing the mass of Californians and other clearly non-Texans how to do a basic “yee-haw” call and response. The exercise ended as you might expect — the Coachella crowd failed miserably and Musgraves went viral with an expletive.
RELATED: Kacey Musgraves goes viral after failed call and response during Coachella
The Austin City Limits Music Festival this weekend then was her chance at redemption with a crowd of her own — boisterous, two-steppin’ Texans and at least folks who are familiar enough with the Lone Star State to make their way to ATX for the fest and choose to see her show instead of lining up early for Lizzo, who may have set a record later on in the night for the amount of people packed like sardines at her stage’s edges.
But back to Musgraves. Toward the end of her set on the American Express stage, it was time to "yee" the "haw" — or something like that.
“I tried this thing at Coachella and it didn’t work very well because we weren’t in Texas,” she said. “So let’s try this again. When I say ‘yee,’ you say ‘haw’!”
“I said ‘yee’ this time!”
“I tried this thing at Coachella and it didn’t work very well because we weren’t in Texas so let’s try this again ...” —@KaceyMusgraves#aclfest#aclfest2019#ididntfuckingsayyeepic.twitter.com/zRFFV6qhnI— Johanna Gretschel (@jojo_shea)October 7, 2019
Of course they did. The crowd of festival-goers showed out at headliner levels for the rodeo country queen, even while the 2019 Grammy Award winner for best album (let’s repeat that for the folks in the back!) was relegated to a sunny 6 p.m. time slot. Forget “Golden Hour,” the sun was still properly baking the audience through the duration of her set — though it didn’t help that her stage was on the east side of Zilker Park. (That could have been planned a little better, no?)
The best part of Musgraves’ live shows — queue monologue about seeing her up-close-and-personal at ACL Fest three years ago — is her dry, irreverent banter in between songs.
“I want everyone here tonight to feel they can be themselves and let loose,” she said after opening number “Slow Burn.” “Turn to your neighbor and say hello, give ‘em a high five.”
“That’s like church,” said the guy to the left of my friend and me, who took our photo a few minutes before the set.
“”Come on, Texas,” Musgraves went on, “I know you can do this. Now, put two middle fingers in the air.”
“That’s not like church,” my friend said with a laugh.
Musgraves isn’t a belter and she doesn’t do Ariana Grande-style vocal runs, but her appeal lies in a sweet, simple singing voice that she doesn’t ask to do more than it can, and sincere, yet often cheeky lyrics that portray Texans and country music stars as pretty much the opposite of everything you thought you knew about the genre: her favorite topics are weed, tripping acid, gay rights and her husband. Case in point: the “‘cause I got way too high” line in “Lonely Weekend” gets a big cheer from the crowd, as does a throwaway “It’s smelling really nice out there” during the tongue-in-cheek “High Time.”
It took me nearly the entirety of “Butterflies” to notice that her Jumbotron wasn’t working. The screens were dark where usually a psychedelic swirl would be, but it’s a testament to Musgraves’ stage presence that the technical malfunction didn’t matter in the slightest.
Midway through the set, she knows what’s on everybody’s mind and says, cheerily, “y’all better (expletive) run. Kick off the cowboy boots!” before leading leading the crowd in a “1-2-3, Lizzo, we love you Queen!” chant.
As if on queue, Musgraves’ permission granted, the fans immediately started heading out toward the Miller Lite stage where Lizzo court would soon be in session. Still, Musgraves played all the way through her hour-long set — ignoring a common trend to let the fans out 10 minutes early for more time to get to the next act.
This is when she rewarded her true believers with the “yee-haw” chant and a run of fan-favorites, including “Velvet Elvis,” a toes-tappin’ cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Rainbow,” a cover of Brooks and Dunn's “Neon Moon” and closing number “High Horse.” Hordes of tween girls ran by me with sad faces, “I love this song,” while trying to secure a spot at Lizzo, and others gripped onto the metal barriers, mouthing every word to each song.