10th ACL Fest is 'off to a banner start'
A surprise appearance by a brief rain shower excited crowds at Zilker Park on Friday as the Austin City Limits Music Festival kicked off its 10th year.
The rain, which lasted only a few minutes, brought cheers across the park, which had been bracing for more of the unrelenting heat that the region has experienced throughout the summer. Instead, temperatures remained in the low 90s as the sun remained hidden behind clouds for much of an afternoon filled with mellow crowds and plenty of music.
"God bless Texas and this lovely weather," Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit said from the stage, summing up the vibe of day one. "It's finally cooling down."
By early Friday evening, the biggest problem for most people in the sold-out crowd of 65,000 seemed to be whether to go to Coldplay's or Kanye West's headlining — and competing — sets.
Hayley Phillips and Anthony DeArman, who have been to all nine previous festivals, were waiting until the last minute to decide.
"We're still kind of torn between the two," Phillips said. "It'll come down to a coin flip."
West made one of the more dramatic entrances in ACL Festival history, emerging in the center of the audience on an elevated platform, and then walking to the stage through the crowd.
Steven Lane, who flew in from Chicago, and friend Tassa Nelson, who carried a "Harry Potter"-themed "Hogwarts" flag, were planning to see Brit rockers Coldplay. "I'm most excited for Stevie though," said Nelson, referring to tonight's headliner, Stevie Wonder.
Lindsay Hoffman, spokeswoman for festival producers C3 Presents, said that things were going smoothly so far. "The festival is off to a banner start," Hoffman said. "Everyone is doing a great job beating the heat."
Medical crews said they had treated about 100 people, mostly for heat-related illnesses, by 7 p.m. "It's hot, it's been hot, you can't get away from that," said Tannifer Ayres with the South West Emergency Action Team. She warned festival-goers to stay hydrated and not take open food and drinks from strangers.
Crowds increased as the day wore on, with festival-goers who entered around 5 p.m. getting blasted with intense drum and bass from British artist Beardyman . A big crowd gathered for "Pumped Up Kicks" buzz band Foster the People , who played on one of the smaller stages. Similarly, Gary Clark Jr. played before a large hometown audience. Clark played the first ACL Fest in 2002, when he was a student at Austin High School.
Both inside and outside the festival, people were reminded of the wildfires that have been ravaging Central Texas. Boots were passed through the crowds to gather donations for volunteer firefighters, and traveling philanthropic organization the Do Good Bus was parked outside the entrance to collect money for the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund and the Red Cross. C3 Presents pledged to match every dollar raised on Friday, and the drive continues today and Sunday.
Additional material from Gary Dinges, Matthew Odam and John T. Davis.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had incorrect information about C3 Presents pledge for donations to wildfire victims. C3 Presents pledged to match every dollar raised on Friday.