Here's who we think you need to see on the first day of ACL Fest
Indecisive about what to check out for the first day of the first weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival? Never fear, Austin360 is here. Here are the artists our experts recommend for Friday. See picks for all three days of the fest here.
Peter Blackstock's picks
1 p.m. Asleep at the Wheel (Honda): The only band to play every single ACL Fest is also the only Austin band that has existed for 50 years and is still going strong. Ray Benson’s group will celebrate its golden anniversary later this month at Waterloo Park, but in the meantime, catch them in their traditional festival-kickoff slot.
4 p.m. Joy Oladokun (Lady Bird): Daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Nashville-based Oladokun has earned widespread praise for her two-volume set “In Defense of My Own Happiness,” released last year and this year. She’s gotten enough attention for the emotional impact of her songs that she scored a coveted “Austin City Limits” TV taping while she’s in town.
5 p.m. Tkay Maidza (T-Mobile): A native of Zimbabwe who now lives in Australia, this eclectic 25-year-old artist blends hip-hop, synth pop and more on the three volumes of her “Last Year Was Weird” EP series released across the last three years. (And those years have all been weird enough that we fully endorse the extended series.)
8 p.m. George Strait (Lady Bird): Will the country legend’s die-hard fans that sell out the Erwin Center every time he plays there go to Zilker for his first-ever ACL Fest show? Or will it be more a case of younger-generation festivalgoers checking out this dude their parents and grandparents listen to? Our guess is a mix of both, but we’re intrigued to find out. Either way, it’s a lock that Strait will deliver a fine performance that stays faithful to the way his hits sound on the radio.
Deborah Sengupta Stith's picks
1:45 p.m. Claud (Vrbo): We’ve got a “Soft Spot” for the Chicago singer-songwriter’s thoroughly charming bedroom pop.
2:30 p.m. Nané (Lady Bird): Your new favorite Austin band wants to sweep you up in glorious swells of sound, rock your body and start your fest right.
3:15 p.m. Skip Marley (Miller Lite) A third-generation Marley who’s emerging as the heir apparent to his grandfather’s crown.
5 p.m. Tkay Maidza (T-Mobile): A Zimbabwean Australian rapper singer who can spit fierce bars over an Afro house groove then slay a cover of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind”?
5 p.m. Moses Sumney (Miller Lite): Whether the Ghanaian American crooner is draping his silky falsetto over rich orchestral soundbeds or quiet acoustic soul, he creates enchanting sonic adventures.
6 p.m. Megan Thee Stallion (Honda) or Black Pumas (Lady Bird): Oh gods of impossible festival choices, what hath thou wrought? Will you revel in the yonic power of a modern-day sex goddess who will make you feel yourself in all the right ways, or lay down your burdens and lift your spirits with the most life-affirming rock & soul outfit in the world?
7 p.m. Chet Faker (Miller Lite): The Australian singer-songwriter artfully weaves wistful nostalgia into modern electronica. Exhibit A: his downtempo take on “No Diggity.”
8 p.m. Miley Cyrus (Honda): Wait, you’re going to skip a legitimate Texas legend for a set that will almost surely end with “Party in the U.S.A.”? Look, Miley’s evolution from child superstar to unrepentant party girl to powerful artist with genuine maturity and depth is one of the most fascinating pop transformations of my lifetime. I’m in.
Eric Webb's picks
2:30 p.m. Nané (Lady Bird): On the record, I think Nané and frontman Daniel Sahad are poised for a good ol’ fashioned breakout this year. Soulful and full of energy — and blessed with Sahad‘s instantly iconic hair — the band’s ready for the biggest stages. For months, I thought their song “Always On My Mind” was Brittany Howard every time I heard it on the radio before I knew better, which is about as high of praise as I can think of. Nané plays at noon on the Miller Lite stage for Weekend 2.
2:30 p.m. Nothing, Nowhere (Honda): Scratch your emo itch with Joe Mulherin, who takes influences from his youth like Sunny Day Real Estate and American Football and synthesizes all those feelings into SoundCloud-ready confessions. Maybe the only artist at ACL with a song that references “Danny Phantom”? Weekend 1 only.
4 p.m. Machine Gun Kelly (Honda): Join me in my morbid/rabid fascination toward this long, loud man, who pivoted from making just-fine rap to, last year, putting out one of my favorite recent pop-punk albums, “Ticket to My Downfall.” Plus, if you’re invested in Pete Davidson, there’s a not-zero chance he pops up, too.
5 p.m. Tkay Maidza (T-Mobile): For fans of AlunaGeorge or Junglepussy, this rapper and singer might be just the ticket. Weekend 1 only.
5 p.m. Moses Sumney (Miller Lite): Sumney was captivating when he played the small tent at ACL Fest in 2019. This R&B/soul shapeshifter, a friend of Sufjan Stevens, will be a nice breather for your first day.
6 p.m. Megan Thee Stallion (Honda): Real hot girl s—. After her aborted booking in 2019, I thought we might never see Meg in Zilker Park. But few have had a higher rise in the two years since than this fierce lyricist and charismatic force: Grammys like whoa, a culture-defining “Saturday Night Live” appearance, a hosting gig on HBO Max’s fun “Legendary,” an excellent album with “Good News,” everything about “W.A.P.” … gonna be hard to get a spot here, y’all.
8 p.m. Miley Cyrus (Honda): Listen, as someone who has an indelible memory of hurtling down the highway and being excited to hear “See You Again” on the radio back in the “Hannah Montana” days, I feel qualified to say that it’s about time we see Miley on the headliner stage. Whether it’s the hits era of “Wrecking Ball,” the sea-salt chill of the “Malibu” period or her current Joan Jett cosplay with songs like “Midnight Sky,” the lady’s got great pop tunes and knows how to put on a show.