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True Texas cowboy George Strait brings 'King'-level country to a field of Western-inspired wear at ACL

County legend George Strait plays on the Lady Bird stage during weekend 2 of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, October 8, 2021.

What happened at Zilker Park last night wasn't all that different than what happens at every little honky tonk bar. 

Country legend, the King himself, George Strait took the stage for his second week closing out a night of ACL Fest, and did what Strait is known to do: played an effortless and lengthy set featuring hit after hit -- all without breaking a sweat visible on the fest's big screens or knocking his hat even a little askew.

"He's really playing the classics!" someone yelled to a friend. But, of course, everyone knows that's the thing about George. 

It's all he has. 

In terms of discography, yes, but in terms of performance and stage presence, too. In a crisp button down, signature black cowboy hat and starched and pleated blue jeans, Strait looks exactly the part. The part was written with him in mind, after all. A real Texas cowboy frozen in time, dropped right into the chaos of Austin's signature music festival, glowsticks, cow-print, $54 wine carafes and all.  

ACL Fest 2021 weekend 1:Song after song: Texas legend George Strait serenades his first ACL Fest crowd with decades of hits

He isn't one for stage banter, and he doesn't do much more than point out into the crowd a few times by way of choreography. When he introduced his "backup dancers," as my friend jokingly called them, his band of primarily Central Texas musicians did no more than raise a hand to the crowd somewhat solemnly or tip their hat. 

The magic in Strait is and has always been his consistency. He sounds crisp and twangy and not especially different than how he's sounded week after week on the American Country Countdown. He's built a renowned career off of what he did during his two hours onstage at ACL: singing the hits that soundtracked so many Texans' lives and mentioning "this great state" again and again by name. The point (the charm) is it's not novel. 

It's "Amarillo by Morning," and it's "Check Yes or No," and then it's "Here for a Good Time." It's Texas nostalgia incarnate, and it's a country artist who loves the Lone Star State so much that he didn't ever, not once, dare move to Nashville. 

It's George Strait!

ACL Fest 2021 weekend 1:'He's the only reason I'm here': George Strait's loyal subjects assemble at ACL Fest

Down on on the grassy, makeshift honky tonk of Zilker Park, couples, friends and a few babies grabbed onto one another and two-stepped. Some surprisingly skilled, others less, all singing along to Strait's set. Many were outfitted in cowboy hats (some of which light up) or Western-inspired wear. A twirling Boulangere dance of drunk and happy people. 

Sometimes, especially when George Strait's on stage, it feels good to be Texan.