Our music critics' picks for which artists to see at ACL Fest 2019
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is back in Zilker Park Friday through Sunday and again Oct. 11-13. Here, our team offers a musical guide for Weekend One.
12:45 p.m. Asleep at the Wheel (Honda): You may have seen bandleader Ray Benson as an authoritative voice on the recent PBS “Country Music” series. The Wheel is the only band to have played every single ACL Fest.
12:30 p.m. Barton Hills Choir (Austin Kiddie Limits): The elementary school choir’s director, Gavin Tabone, tells us to expect covers by top-of-the-bill festival acts Guns N’ Roses, Tame Impala and the Cure.
2 p.m. NPR Music All Songs Considered with Stephen Thompson (Bonus Tracks): What’s the deal with this new podcast stage at the fest? Find out in this half-hour segment featuring one of NPR Music’s top editors and reviewers. They'll do this each day at the same time; Friday's kickoff will feature an interview with Jenny Lewis.
3:30 p.m. Tyler Childers (American Express): A rising star in Americana music who has been championed by John Prine (he got a spotlight during Prine’s “Austin City Limits” TV taping last year), Childers is riding high on the August release of his third album, “Country Squire.”
5 p.m. Weyes Blood (BMI): Singer Natalie Mering’s hauntingly beautiful voice and enchanting folk-pop songs attracted Sub Pop to release her latest album, “Titanic Rising,” which could well extend her audience beyond the indie realm.
6:30 p.m. Jenny Lewis (VRBO): Lewis played ACL Live this past spring, but the former Rilo Kiley singer’s ardent fans no doubt are happy to have her back so soon for another round of pop music that draws from both indie and Americana.
8:15 p.m. Tame Impala (Honda): New songs “Patience” and “Borderline” have whetted fans’ appetites for a fourth album by Kevin Parker’s rock/pop outfit from Western Australia. Here’s a chance to hear more, plus no doubt some favorites from their two previous Grammy-nominated records.
11:45 a.m. Ingrid Andress (BMI): From Nashville via Colorado, Andress emerged earlier this year as a rising talent on Warner/Atlantic with the pop-leaning country songs “Lady Like” and “More Hearts Than Mine.”
1:15 p.m. Finneas (Miller Lite): A 22-year-old actor and musician, Finneas O'Connell also happens to be the older brother of red-hot ACL Fest headliner Billie Eilish. An early afternoon cameo from li’l sis, maybe?
4 p.m. Brittany Howard (Honda): Maybe the Grammy-winning, chart-topping Alabama Shakes was just an early-career starting-point for Howard, whose solo debut “Jaime,” released a few days ago, pushes her musical horizons outward in fascinating new directions.
6 p.m. Gary Clark Jr. (American Express): The brightest Austin star to rise in decades gets a prime slot on the fest’s biggest stage just before headliner Childish Gambino. Expect a tour de force of material from his breakout 2019 album “This Land.”
8 p.m. The Cure (Honda): So many indelible singles from the 1980s and 1990s, from “In Between Days” to “Just Like Heaven” to “Friday I’m In Love.” In 2019, the Cure passes as an oldies act, perhaps, but a very good one.
11:45 a.m. Otis the Destroyer (VRBO): Fixtures on the local indie-rock scene for the past several years, the band fronted by singer-songwriter Otis Wilkins recently released a new five-song EP, “Cool Evil.”
2 p.m. Joseph (American Express): The Portland, Oregon, family trio — Natalie Closner Schepman with her younger twin sisters Allison and Meegan Closner — has released three radiant pop albums in the past five years, the last two for ATO Records. Expect a focus in this set on the new “Good Luck, Kid,” which came out a few weeks ago.
4 p.m. Rosalía (Honda): The 20something eclectic singer-songwriter from Spain has collaborated with Pharrell Williams and James Blake and won two Latin Grammys last year. She’ll also tape an episode of the “Austin City Limits” TV show on Oct. 8.
5 p.m. Billy Strings (BMI): A big hit at a recent Old Settler’s Music Festival appearance, Strings has rocketed to the forefront of Americana music in recent years with a sound that bends hot bluegrass picking toward raucous punk energy. His new album, “Home,” came out last week on Rounder Records.
6 p.m. Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers (Tito’s): Tough draw going up against Grammy album of the year winner Kacey Musgraves, but ace keyboardist Hornsby has a few Grammys on his own shelf, including 1987 best new artist after his platinum-selling debut “The Way It Is.” He’s had a fascinatingly diverse career since then, as his set with the Noisemakers no doubt will bear out.
8 p.m. Mumford & Sons (American Express): Headliners on this same stage just three years ago, the British folk-rockers return with a focus on last year’s “Delta,” their fourth album.
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH
1:15 p.m. Alesia Lani (T-Mobile): For her ACL Fest debut, the standout Austin R&B singer is bringing a nine-piece band to orchestrate her simmering, soulful tunes.
2:45 p.m. Cherry Glazerr (Vrbo): Laying sugary vocals over reverb-laced guitar riffs, this L.A. crew is a leader of the post riot grrrl rock resurgence.
4 p.m. King Princess (Honda): With gauzy vocals that ache with emotion, the 20-year-old singer songwriter tugs at the heart while her poignant lyricism paints unshakeable word pictures.
5 p.m. Kaytranada (Miller Lite): The Haitian-Canadian trackmaster will cut the late afternoon heat with a sophisticated selection of chilled out electro funk dance jams.
5:30 p.m. The Comet Is Coming (Tito’s): Over the last several years, a streak of avant garde adventure has reshaped the U.K. jazz scene. This group pushes boundaries, unfurling sprawling compositions in a swirl of saxophone, pounding drums and electro fuzz.
6:30 p.m. Jenny Lewis (Vrbo): Lewis’ latest, “On the Line,” written in the aftermath of her mother’s death and the demise of a long-term relationship, is a rich collection of lilting laments with grandiose arrangements that lift her signature dry wit.
7:30 p.m. Guns ‘n’ Roses (American Express): Hey there casual fan, who’s not trying to hear 150 minutes of G’n’R, here’s the deal: If the band sticks to the set list they’ve been playing this year, “Welcome to the Jungle” should come about four songs in. Then, if you don’t mind missing Axl’s take on “Live and Let Die,” immortalized at ACL Fest last year by Sir Paul himself, and a selection of deep cuts, you can slip away and catch a full hour of Tame Impala before the band gets to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain” late in the set.
1:15 p.m. Taylor Bennett (T-Mobile): On his latest release, “American Reject,” the artist who would prefer not to be known as Chance the Rapper's little brother weaves a heady mix of insightful social commentary, hooky sing-alongs and bisexual love jams.
2:15 p.m. Men I Trust (Honda): Indulge in a lazy afternoon interlude with the dreamy Montreal pop trio.
3:15 p.m. Tierra Whack (T-Mobile): The most stylistically adventurous rapper in the game spends her sets whiplashing through sing-song nursery rhyme grooves, moody club bangers and expressive confessional pieces, shifting styles on a dime and mastering each one with stunning skill.
4 p.m. Brittany Howard (Honda): It’s always a joy to watch the expressive Alabama Shakes front woman explore her vocal range, following phrases down winding pathways and discovering unusual sonic contours outside the scope of most singers’ imaginations.
5 p.m. Kali Uchis (Miller Lite): The Colombian American artist's first EP was loaded with such sugary pop that a promoter actually brought a cotton candy machine to one of her early Austin gigs. Her latest release, "Isolation," is darker and edgier, but still loaded with lush aural escapes that sound like summer.
6 p.m. Gary Clark Jr. (American Express): Love Billie Eilish’s dark pop, but Clark’s “This Land,” a declaration of freedom fueled by an undercurrent of rage, is one of the most powerful protest songs of our turbulent times.
7 p.m. James Blake (Miller Lite): Real talk: Blake’s woozy, haunted forest R&B might not provide the Saturday night turn up you’re looking for, but the man is a master of gorgeous songcraft that will be sublime at sunset.
8 p.m. Childish Gambino (American Express): Actor/comedian/writer/rapper/singer Donald Glover is one of the great talents of our time. Since 2010, he’s evolved Childish Gambino from an angsty emo rap project into a funkadelic explosion of falsetto and fury creating urgent, powerful music for troubled times. These ACL sets are the final gigs before he retires the alter ego, and we know he’ll leave it all on the stage.
12:30 p.m. Nilüfer Yanya (American Express): The London pop breakout with the gorgeous, smoky voice has been on a rapid rise since her debut album, “Miss Universe,” an engrossing collection of catchy, complicated pop dropped in March.
1:15 p.m. Duckwrth (T-Mobile): The Cali rapper uses a bounce and groove theory to rock a party right. On his latest release, “The Falling Man,” he mixes his signature West Coast G-funk with dark atmospherics and bass heavy club bangers.
3 p.m. Koffee (T-Mobile): The 19-year-old DJ and chanter from Jamaica takes reggae back to its roots, using the form as both an outcry against injustice and celebration of sunny island vibes.
4 p.m. Rosalía (Honda): Buoyed by tremendous range and superb showmanship, the Spanish pop singer who smoothly shifts from dramatic vocal flourishes that tremble with passion to sassy hip-switching Latin pop jams is on a meteoric rise.
5 p.m. Fisher (T-Mobile): Let the Australian house DJ soundtrack your dinnertime dance break.
6 p.m. Kacey Musgraves (American Express): Musgraves singing warm and lovely songs from “Golden Hour” with the city skyline at her back as the sun begins to dip in the sky? Yes, please.
7 p.m. Lizzo (Miller Lite): After a spectacular summer spent speaking self-love to power all over the world, Team 360’s favorite rap queen lands in Zilker Park where we will ugly cry our feelings out and shout along to every word of “Truth Hurts.”
8 p.m. Cardi B (Honda): In case you forgot that the ladies are running this rap game right now, Cardi, who’s been cleaning up at award shows all year, arrives to put an exclamation point on the end of your hot girl summer and take this fest out right.
1:45 p.m. Fidlar (American Express): Scuzzy punk from this Los Angeles band is a fine way to kick your fest off. This year’s “Almost Free” introduced some blues and funk sounds to their tunes, but I’d still bank on some songs like “No Waves” and “40oz. On Repeat,” which sound so much like a garage, they still have Penzoil on them.
4 p.m. King Princess (Honda): A SXSW standout from March, when I wrote that the NYC singer “gives off her own gravitational field. She uses her voice like she’s flexing muscles, and its warmth is narcotic.” Joyous queer vibes, too.
5 p.m. Kaytranada (Miller Lite): A Canadian DJ/producer with the summer afternoon jams you need. (No, it’s not really fall.)
6:30 p.m. Jenny Lewis (Vrbo): All hail the queen of indie rock! Lewis comes to town pretty often (she even namechecks Austin on the song “Party Clown” from new album “On the Line”), but it’s part of a good mental health regimen to check in with her every once and awhile. Fingers crossed for old faves. We could stand to “Rise Up With Fists!!”
8:15 p.m. Tame Impala (Honda): We all love a light show.
1:15 p.m. Taylor Bennett (T-Mobile): If you like Chance the Rapper’s flow but want to dim the lights down a little and dig into some thoughtful lyrics about identity in America, check out his younger brother.
2 p.m. Sigrid (American Express): Big ol’ juicy Norwegian pop hooks. Any cut off of this year’s “Sucker Punch” would make a great end credits song.
3:15 p.m. Tierra Whack (T-Mobile): My colleague Deborah Sengupta Stith tipped me off to the quirky Philly rapper’s 15-minute visual album, “Whack World,” and I think watching that sensory charm trip is all the rec you need.
4 p.m. Brittany Howard (Honda): The Alabama Shakes howler’s recent solo album of earthy incantations is a warm blanket. I recommend putting it on in the car while you talk to a friend about your most recent therapist appointment on the way to a birthday party. (Definitely not speaking from experience, no.) Howard is an unstoppable live performer, to boot.
6 p.m. Billie Eilish (Honda): The only thing more zeitgeisty you could do would be to read impeachment coverage with a Juul in your hand.
7 p.m. Metric (Vrbo): Emily Haines and company have been putting in the indie-rock work since the late 1990s. You will put some respect on their name. I will also hope they play 2015’s “The Shade.”
8 p.m. Childish Gambino (American Express): The only day of the weekend with a real tough call, in my view. This might be Donald Glover’s last stand as Childish Gambino; the window for seeing Robert Smith’s band is getting narrower all the time. Childish gets the nod from me, just by a hair.
12:30 p.m. Nilüfer Yanya (American Express): This British singer’s voice is unreal. Stream “Baby Luv” and then meet me at the front of the stage.
1:15 p.m. Duckwrth (T-Mobile): The Cali rapper had a memorable track on the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” soundtrack, and his creative rhymes and colorful beats are going to hit the spot in the early afternoon.
2 p.m. Idles (Honda): British creators of the hardest-driving song that namedrops Malala that you’ll ever hear. Raising consciousness in the mosh pit.
4 p.m. Rosalía (Honda): The flamenco sensation’s “Con Altura” made both my summer playlist and Barack Obama’s. If you don’t believe one of us, at least believe the other.
6 p.m. Kacey Musgraves (American-Express): The yee-haw agenda strikes again. The former Austinite and Willie Nelson protege is going to pack in the crowds, so get there early. Also the start of a three-hour run of gay icons that includes ...
7 p.m. Lizzo (Miller Lite): We here at Austin360 have been Lizzo evangelists since SXSW 2016. If you’re not going to listen to us at this point in regard to the former Houstonite — now owner of the longest-running No. 1 single by a female rapper ever; potentially the future president — then you should probably burn your ACL Fest wristband.
8 p.m. Cardi B (Honda): Someone get an aerial video of people immediately heading from Lizzo to Belcalis Almánzar (now co-star of seminal Jennifer Lopez film “Hustlers”). Cardi don’t need more press, but I can’t help but urge you: Send out the first weekend of ACL Fest with this lady.
STATESMAN AT ACL FEST
See all our previews and live coverage at austin360.com/acl. Check out our expanded ACL Fest preview in Friday's Austin360.