The faces of ACL Fest: 40 stunning portraits of the artists who brought the music to life
You've heard the songs. You've read the reviews. But have you seen the artists of this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival up close and personal?
From Oct. 1 through 3 and 8 through 10, photographer Dave Creaney captured portraits of the musicians who helped Austin's signature fall festival come back to life in person for the first time since 2019. And he shot them in every fest-goer's natural element: outside in a hot, dusty Zilker Park.
These are the faces of ACL Fest.
— Eric Webb, Austin360 Editor
What we said: "'Always On My Mind,' a soulful single that slinks until it's a sonic boom, had a healthy early ACL Fest audience singing along (on Oct. 10). A kinetic performance of "Blue Velvet" jolted tired (maybe hungover) fest-goers into moving stiff and sun-dried joints. The band's interlocking percussion, guitar and bass all formed a propulsive rocket strapped to Sahad's soaring vocals. And to mention the frontman, he's a rock star through and through. With a bend of the knee and a swipe of his arm, Sahad's showmanship can't be beat." Read the full review here. — Eric Webb
What she told us: After performing at a march for women's rights at the state Capitol on Oct. 2, Chavez took ACL Fest's BMI Stage. She spoke with us before the set about the march: "So many people sharing their stories. It definitely is humbling. I get to have a voice on a stage like that, but we have so many people who don't have a platform, who we're not listening to. ... We have so many other chairs that we need to pull up to the table and voices that we need to make room for." Watch the full interview. — Deborah Sengupta Stith
What we said: "'I think that there's a bunch of (expletive) that you can do that's punk,' Jxdn told the Statesman on Oct. 8 before his Honda Stage set. 'I think I'm punk because I do what I want. I'm wearing a T-shirt and shorts; I'll wear a T-shirt and shorts for the rest of my life.'
"And you know what else is punk? Grabbing random audience members out of Zilker Park and letting them stand on a catwalk with you while you sing the title track of your debut album, just so that they have a nice birthday.
"'Can someone grab her? I don’t know if I have that power,' he laughed from the stage when he spotted a fan in the crowd." Read the full story. — E.W.
The Austin-based hip-hop artist performed on Oct. 9 on the Vrbo Stage.
The Texas-raised, New York-based singer-songwriter performed Oct. 3 on the T-Mobile Stage.
Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas
What we said: "The seven-piece ensemble, sparked by co-founding guitarist Adrian Quesada's frequently stinging and soulful solos, consistently gave (singer Eric) Burton solid backing for his vocal flights on crowd favorites such as 'Know You Better' and 'Black Moon Rising.' Burton engaged the crowd to participate with handclaps on 'I'm Ready' and arm-waves on 'Oct 33,' then tossed out a special treat with a solo rendition of the first verse and chorus of Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' (which Burton used to play on Austin's downtown streets as a busker before Black Pumas formed)." Read the full Oct. 2 review here. — Peter Blackstock
What we said: "He pranced up and down the stage and was confident in how good he was. He is that good. His solo music differs from the work he's done with his sister (Billie Eilish). It's more folksy, romantic and rock-oriented. He volleyed between playing the piano and the guitar while he sang. He did it all." Read the full Oct. 1 review here. — Kelsey Bradshaw
Bob's Dance Shop
What they told us: We stopped by the Bonus Tracks Stage on Oct. 1 to meet the "vibe curators" at the fest. They told us that their dance tutorials and flash mobs are "all about creating a paradise for self-expression." Watch the full interview. — D.S.S.
Sloan Struble of Dayglow
What we said: "Struble, 22 and recently married, still seems kind of amazed to be here. 'Man, this is crazy,' he said several times from the stage on (Oct. 2), gazing out over the crowd he used to be a part of when he attended ACL Fest as a teenager." Read the full review here. — P.B.
Riders Against the Storm
What they told us: We talked to Riders Against the Storm after their Oct. 8 set in Tito's Handmade Vodka Tent. "He's our new band member," Ghislaine "Qi Dada" Jean said of the couple's unborn child. "We're happy that he's already bringing all this joy to everybody in the world." Watch the full interview here. — D.S.S.
What they told us: The local soul standouts talked to us ahead of their Oct. 10 ACL Fest debut. “I want to take the things that I deem to be the best music to ever be created and mold them all together to create something new, (something) that will inspire other artists to do the same,” singer Sam Houston, aka Juwan Elcock, said. Read the full interview here. — D.S.S.
What they told us: The Nashville-based rock band stopped by the Austin360 tent after their Oct. 9 set on the Vrbo Stage. “We have a lot of friends who are in bands, I think that are pretty good, and being around that, it has a very friendly, competitive kind of atmosphere," singer-songwriter Nathaniel Banks said about Nashville. "Emphasis on the friendly, I think, and the mutual encouragement." Read the full interview here. — E.W.
The Atlanta-based artist performed Oct. 10 on the BMI Stage.
What we said: "The sound mix is important with Person's music, and it was good at the fest, allowing the weight of his often socio-politically relevant lyrics to be heard above the hard-edged wall of sound he and (collaborator Jake) Wyble create. (Oct. 10) was Person's first-ever ACL Fest performance; odds are good that it won't be his last." Read the full review here. — P.B.
The Zimbabwe-born Australian alt-R&B singer performed Oct. 1 on the T-Mobile Stage.
The California alternative singer performed Oct. 1 on the BMI Stage.
The R&B singer performed Oct. 2 on the Tito's Handmade Vodka Stage.
What we said: "Frank and Padalecki hammed it up out front, the former on vocals only while Padalecki alternated between guitar and keyboards. On a riser behind them, a rhythm section steered the syncopated, reggae/calypso-influenced grooves that are a big part of Surfaces' sound, while keyboardist Lito Hernandez frequently emerged for lively saxophone solos that revealed him to be clearly the best musician onstage." Read the full review of the Oct. 2 set here. — P.B.
The singer-songwriter performed Oct. 2 on the Lady Bird Stage and Oct. 10 on the Miller Lite Stage.
Zeale and Phranchyze of Blackillac
The Austin hip-hop duo stopped by the Austin360 tent on Oct. 10 for a freestyle performance. Watch it here.
What we said: "Crockett isn't a naturally spectacular vocalist, but there's a lot of character to his voice, and he uses it well against arrangements based on a guitar/bass/drums core with lots of color from pedal steel player Nathan Fleming and keyboards/trumpet player Kullen Fox. His music is retro, to be sure, but it sounds fresh in Crockett's hands. He seems a born entertainer, and he dresses the part: On Saturday, he spotted a spiffy lavender suit with rhinestone accents." Read the full review from Oct. 2 here. — P.B.
The genre-defying Alaska-to-L.A. artist performed Oct. 3 on the BMI Stage.
The rock band behind viral TikTok song "Hayloft" performed Oct. 3 on the Honda Stage.
Rüfüs du Sol
What we said: The Australian electronic group headlined the Honda Stage on Oct. 2 and 9. We reviewed their second set opposite Billie Eilish, who performed across the park: "But singing like Coldplay’s Chris Martin at his most bewildered and curious, Rüfüs du Sol proved more than the sum of its glowsticks. And sweet." Read the full review here. — Ramon Ramirez
Primo, the Alien
The Austin pop singer was set to perform Oct. 1 at ACL Fest before a rain delay canceled the set.
What we said: "Bedroom dreamers wilting in the sun, let Claud transport you back under the covers. The mononymous singer-songwriter stood alone on the cavernous Vrbo Stage at Austin City Limits Music Festival (on Oct. 8), but the space never swallowed them or their emotive pop confessions." Read the full review from Oct. 8 here. — E.W.
The country artist performed Oct. 1 and 8 on the T-Mobile Stage.
The Seattle-born rock artist performed Oct. 1 on the BMI Stage.
What we said: "Gracie Abrams, who brought her raspy yet smooth voice to Austin City Limits Music Festival on (Oct. 9), proved she would likely come up on the Lorde radio algorithm on your Spotify. Abrams, who is the daughter of blockbuster director J.J. Abrams, took the Miller Lite Stage at 2:20 p.m. and sang in the blazing sun. She horrifyingly admitted she wasn't wearing any sunscreen to the sweaty crowd." Read the full review here. — K.B.
The hip-hop act performed Oct. 2 on the Miller Lite Stage and Oct. 10 on the T-Mobile Stage.
What we said: "'Just in case you didn't know, this is his first band gig ever.' Guitarist Charlie Sexton was introducing Calder Allen, a young singer-songwriter making his ACL Fest debut in the Tito's tent on Sunday afternoon, to a crowd that likely was not familiar with Allen." Read the full review from Oct. 3. — P.B.
The rapper and singer performed Oct. 3 and 10 on the T-Mobile Stage.
The Kentucky rock band played Oct. 3 on the Honda Stage.
The rapper performed Oct. 9 on the Miller Lite Stage.
Disciples of Christ
The Houston gospel group performed Oct. 9 on the Tito's Handmade Vodka Stage.
What we said: "Missio's music is interesting in that there's quite a bit of variety in tempo and feel from song to song — and yet, when you hit the chorus, almost every track becomes anthemic." Read the full review. — P.B.
What we said: "You wouldn't have been able to tell who was a longtime fan or who just stopped in after picking up lunch in the food court next door. Everybody was grooving. ... The songs were something out of an '80s movie, pop-y and synthwave-y. I imagined Molly Ringwald might show up at any moment." Read the full review. — K.B.
The Austin rapper performed Oct. 3 on the Miller Lite Stage.
What we said: "AG Club today was rolling deep. But the chaos was controlled with smart planning: There were three principle vocalists, four microphones, three dudes with cameras documenting proceedings — a good ratio for orderly results amid calls for teenage mosh pits. I also counted 10 of the members in white shirts that featured the album title. The ethos seems to be that yes, everyone is in the band, even if many are effectively hype men during the show." Read the full Oct. 10 review. — R.R.
The Austin rapper performed Oct. 8 on the BMI Stage.
Find full coverage of ACL Fest 2021, including more photos, at austin360.com.