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Austin City Limits- Festival Survival Tips & My 2016 Experience

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Guys!!!! I went to a music festival! Austin City Limits Weekend 1 to be specific. Though going to concerts is almost a daily activity in my world, I’ve never experienced the festival life and all the glorious things it has to offer like 3 days of magical music, delicious food, fun people watching, dancing and oh yeah… did I mention delicious food?

Before embarking on my trip to Austin, I did some research on what to expect, what to pack/not pack, etc. and I picked up some helpful tips from a few friends who are seasoned ACL veterans.

Here’s what I learned…

ACL Packing Suggestions:

  • Sunscreen- ACL does not permit aerosal cans so be sure to bring the normal bottle if you don’t wish to look like a lobster by the end of the day
  • Beach towel/small blanket- Comes in handy around eating time when you can’t find a table to sit at. Also for when there’s a chill band you want to picnic for in the back of the crowd. Easier to fold up and carry in a back pack rather than lugging around a lawn chair.
  • Bandana- There is A LOT of foot traffic during this festival and by day 3, the grass is pretty dry and flying around. I’d suggest a bandana and some allergy medicine to prevent constant sneezing. I learned this the hard way… haha
  • Water bottle– Festival rules require that if you bring a water bottle, if must be empty upon entry or you can bring in 2 factory sealed bottles. There are free water stations located all around the park and with all the walking, dancing, jumping and eating you’ll be doing, you’re bound to need a drink at some point. I found it really easy to bring in an empty water bottle and filled it at the water stations multiple times. Super helpful volunteers greet you each time and I never waited in a line.
  • Koozi– If you’re like me, you probably have a large stash of koozis you’ve received at random events with obnoxious tag lines and logos on them but honestly, if you’re walking around with a beer, you’ll wish you had one. If you forget to pack one, you can always buy the official ACL koozi for a few bucks.
  • Hat– The sun was shining all weekend and my scalp burned a little bit. If you want to avoid telling people that you don’t have dandruff and just have a sunburned head, you might want to pack a hat.
  • Phone charger– There are charging stations located around the park, but as the day goes on and batteries get lower and lower, those stations fill up pretty quickly. You can buy a portable phone charger or just stay off your phone and enjoy the music! I kept my phone in airplane mode most of the day with my screen dimmed which helped spare a lot of my battery life. You can still take pictures and video in airplane mode.
  • Credit/debit card or cash– This year ACL was really pushing their ACL Cashless form of payment by hooking your credit card up to your festival wristband. While in theory this idea is great and super convenient, the first day of the festival, their payment system went down and everyone required either cash or card. Some festival attendees were frustrated because they didn’t bring a backup so be prepared for tech issues.
  • Drivers License– If you’re 21+ and plan on drinking… duh.
  • Comfortable shoes– Lots and lots of walking… this is not the time to break-in your new stilettos ladies…
  • Jacket/poncho– depending on the weather, you might want to have a light flannel or rain poncho nearby. Sometimes the nights get cooler and sometimes thunderstorms come out of nowhere. But if you’re from Texas, you should be used to unpredictable weather.
  • Hand sanitizer– helpful for right before you eat and also when the hand sanitizer pumps by the bathrooms run out.

Transportation

On day 1, I was a little nervous about actually getting to the festival at Zilker Park. I have some awesome friends from college that opened up their home to us, so lodging was taken care of (shoutout to Zac and Haley). After doing some research on the ACL website, we learned about the shuttle the festival offered. It meets downtown and shuttles you, for FREE, to the grounds and back.

After driving around downtown for a bit, we found a parking garage about 3 blocks away from the shuttle pick-up location that charged $18-$20 a day for parking. Not bad compared to some of the signs charging $40 a day… yikes. We walked to the shuttle pick-up location and were greeted by very friendly ACL volunteers who showed us where to go. We waited in no line and were loaded on the shuttle immediately and taken to the park. We repeated this on day 2 and 3 as well.

The shuttles pick up at the park at the same location they drop off at so it’s really easy to navigate. At night time, we only waited a few minutes in line before loading a shuttle (naturally, as everyone exits around the same time). I was SUPER impressed with how their shuttle system was organized and that the wait time was so short. I’d highly recommend trying this out.

Other options we noticed were people biking to the grounds. There are a ton of bike racks to lock up your bike. We noticed a lot of people parking across the highway in various fields/business and walking longer distances. We wanted to avoid this as we figured our feet would be pretty worn by the end of the day and walking a few miles to the car is the last thing we’d want to do.


ACL 2016- My Experience

For first time festival goers, myself and my friend Elizabeth felt like we were really well prepared. So naturally, we dove into Day 1 with optimism and freshly sunscreened faces.

Kicking things off on Friday, we caught Foals on the main stage. We both attended EDGE Fest at Toyota Stadium in Frisco earlier this year but showed up later in the day after Foals had already performed. Glad we had a redeeming chance to see them live again. I’ve listened to their music casually but without much thought rather then ‘yeah Foals, I like them.’ Walk in Foals at ACL….This is such a well rounded group in that they can play slower, chill songs and then can rock the fuck out. I’d see this band live 100 times and then some.

Foals on the Samsung Stage at ACL 2016

I’ve seen St. Lucia perform at Coachella via the last 2 years of Couchella (shout out to the Coachella live broadcast) but never live. This show was a lot of fun for me because it was Elizabeth’s favorite show of the weekend and I watched her sing almost every word to every song. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends happy.

Also, via stage left, we were greeted by a sign language interpreter (pictured below) who was SO into St. Lucia and so fun to watch. Definitely added some flair to this production complete with beach balls and crowd surfing.

St. Lucia on the Miller Lite stage at ACL 2016

DAY 1 RECAP

  • Foals
  • St. Lucia
  • Band Of Horses
  • Flume
  • M83
  • Major Lazer

ACL 2016 Festival grounds

I’ve listened to City and Colour on multiple occasions but never REALLY listened. Lead singer, Dallas Green, has once of the most unique, raspy, buttery, soulful voices… just gahhh. So good. Great rainy day music. Move over John Mayer. Great way to kick off day 2.

City and Colour on the Samsung stage at ACL 2016

Probably my biggest surprise of the weekend was seeing UK band, Catfish and the Bottlemen. I had been wanting to see these guys for a while now but it had been a second since I listened to their stuff. I fell back in love at ACL. Hearing Pacifier live was worth the wait. Great live energy that impressed my friend who had never heard of them before and is now a fan. Welcome to the Catfish club 🙂

Catfish and the Bottlemen on the Honda stage at ACL 2016

DAY 2 RECAP:

  • City and Colour
  • Andra Day
  • Jack Garratt
  • Catfish and the Bottlemen
  • Aluna George
  • Bomba Estéreo
  • Two Door Cinema Club
  • Kendrick Lamar

ACL was celebrating it’s 15th anniversary this year with a giant guestbook that all festival visitors could sign. I marked it with a personal celebration of spending my 5 year friendiversary with my gal Elizabeth at out first ACL!

 

Signed the ACL 2016 guestbook. <3 E & T

 

ACL 2016 guestbook

We hit up Chris Stapleton next and I’m pretty sure my face melted off from his golden voice and hypnotizing harmonies. Suhhh goooodddd. As we were leaving the show, we stopped by the Lowe’s shed for some free wifi when we came across Wild Belle performing an intimate show and doing a Q&A. Such a cool band. If you’re not familiar with their music, I’d highly recommend checking them out.

Wild Belle performing at ACL 2016

Up next… Young The Giant! I’ve literally been obsessed with this band lately. Their third album Home Of The Strange was released on August 12th and they’ve been on my music feed ever since. I’ve been a fan of this band for a few years now but never was able to catch them live… until now. Such a fun show complete with an orange jumpsuit, choreographed man dancing, and some gnarly guitar kicks. What more could you ask for?

 

Young The Giant on the Miller Lite stage at ACL 2016
ACL 2016 park views

So by this point in the evening… I’m just full blown hyperventilating. Freaking Mumford & Sons. My favorite band. I saw them in Dallas earlier this year in April and it was one of the best nights of my life. Pit tickets, dancing the whole night, and making eye contact and exchanging a few smiles and thumbs up with Ben. Last show on Sunday night and of the weekend… they did not disappoint.

We found a decent spot on stage left but continued to wiggle through the crowd closer and closer as the set progressed. Starting with hits like The Cave & Believe, the crowd was warmed up by the time Ditmas (my 2nd favorite Mumford song) came around and Marcus Mumford ran through the crowd and continued on to Dustbowl Dance (my favorite Mumford song) with dramatic sparklers on stage and Marcus pushing over the drums. The night ended with an encore of the band introducing & playing a brand new song and concluding the evening with I Will Wait.

By the end, I was drench in sweat and Mumford love… but mostly just sweat from jumping and dancing the whole time…. WORTH IT!

Also during Ditmas while Marcus was running through the crowd, I spotted THE Marcus Haney (band friend, tour photographer, and known festival crasher) chasing Mumford down the aisle. If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE fan of Haney’s film work. Check it out herehere…oh and here.

It was SO cool finally seeing him in person! I tagged him in a tweet earlier that day hoping he would be at the festival… indeed he was. He favored it later that night. Icing on the cake for the weekend.

<3

 

Marcus Mumford at ACL 2016

DAY 3 RECAP:

  • Wild Belle
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Local Natives
  • Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Young The Giant
  • Mumford & Sons

Overall, it was an awesome trip. Looking forward to checking out other festivals in the future and definitely will be hitting up ACL again.

FINAL TIPS:

  • Dance as much as you can
  • Eat ALL the food (not pictured in this post because I ate it too fast)
  • Discover as much music as possible!!!


If you have any ACL related questions, hit me up in the comments below! I’d be happy to help. Or if you had an awesome time at ACL this year, tell me about it!

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