Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Finneas, standing on his own at ACL, pledges paycheck to Planned Parenthood Texas

Kelsey Bradshaw
Austin 360
Finneas performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 1, 2021.

Two years ago, before all of the collective trauma we've endured, Finneas performed his first solo set as an artist at Austin City Limits Music Festival.

The singer and producer, whom you likely know as the brother of pop star Billie Eilish (one of the fest's Saturday headliners), was singing to a small crowd of mostly teens in the beating sun back in 2019. He had an early set on one of the smaller stages. 

In 2021, being Finneas means something different.

More:Machine Gun Kelly's ACL set was a middle finger-thrustin', pill bottle-poppin', pop-punk party

"I'm trying to touch his feet," one attendee near me said.

Another person close by poo-pooed a couple who laid out a blanket in between all the standing bodies, saying they'd end up getting trampled as fans rushed to the stage. At least a couple hundred people were lined up before Finneas went on the Vrbo Stage, and they ran toward the stage when he came out.

In his hourlong set, Finneas played 15 songs, with three from his new album "Optimist," slated to come out Oct. 15. Wearing a tan, tie-dyed suit and a white tank top, he commanded the stage, confident as all get out. At one point, he stood completely still with one hand in his pocket and another on the mic. 

He smiled out at the crowd. 

"Doesn't it feel so surreal to be here?" a person behind me at the show asked a friend. They discussed how the last thing they did before the pandemic shut the world down was attend a concert.

"It's been a weird year right?" Finneas asked the audience, as if reading their minds.

'Excited to get ratchet':Megan Thee Stallion fans form crowd hours before Houston rapper takes ACL Fest stage

Live music can often bring out the emotional romantic in all of us. But this time, this show, was the first — at least for me, and I'm sure some in the crowd — in nearly two years. The pandemic continues, but the music is back. 

The collective stress relief of screaming, and being in a crowd, and hearing music bump in your ears, was invigorating. So, I give Finneas an A+ for both his performance and the fact that we get to be here, vaccinated, after all this time.

He played through hits of his that longtime fans likely know: "Angel," "Let's Fall in Love for the Night" and "I Lost a Friend."

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. It's more folksy, romantic and rock-oriented. He volleyed between playing the piano and the guitar while he sang. He did it all. 

In between songs toward the end of his set, "Bans off our bodies" flashed on the jumbo screen next to the stage, referencing the Texas abortion ban that went into effect in September. Under the new law, people who are pregnant can't get an abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they're pregnant.

Finneas then announced that he would be donating his entire ACL Fest paycheck to Planned Parenthood Texas.

"I'm happy to be here in Texas, because I'm happy to be here with all of you," he said.

He then cursed out Gov. Greg Abbott, and the crowd cheered. 

Finneas finished out his show with "Let's Fall in Love for the Night," and it was euphoric. The sun finally started to set, and his voice was so smooth. 

When I arrived a bit before he went on, a person around me asked their friend: "Who is this one?"

The friend replied: "Billie Eilish's brother."

By the time his set was over, he might have changed his mind on that one. It was clear Finneas is a name that stands on its own.