Austin City Limits Festival 2022 - Weekend Two (Photos + Recap) (2023)

Austin City Limits Festival 2022 - Weekend Two (Photos + Recap) (1)

Last week, our team made the journey to Austin, TX to attend weekend two of Austin City Limits Music Festival. It was our first time in attendance at a major music festival since before the pandemic, and ACL Fest certainly made it worth the wait.

The festival takes in beautiful Zilker Park, a 361-acre recreational park located in the heart of downtown Austin. With 100+ performances taking place across 9 stages set up all around the park, ACL Festival attracts 450,000 people each year, making it one of the largest music festivals in the United States.

Founded in 2002, the ACL Festival is named after the longest-running music television broadcast in history, Austin City Limits, which started way back in 1976 and featured none other than Willie Nelson in its pilot broadcast.

Read on for a full recap of our Austin City Limits experience.

Day One – Friday, October 14th

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We arrived early on Friday to catch Nashville DIY rockers Twen on the American Express Stage.

Twen have played Charleston several times in the past, including an epic show in 2018 opening for Ron Gallo at The Royal American, and more recently, they completely outshined The Nude Party when they opened for them at Charleston Pour House last October.

Twen are fresh off the release of the full-length One Stop Shop, and their set at ACL marked their first performance at a major music festival. Their quirky, psychedelic style was a hit with the already-sweaty crowd.

Frontwoman Jane Fitzsimmons is full of energy, and her ability to switch between multiple singing personalities within one upbeat verse is always a sight to behold.

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After Twen, we rolled over to the Miller Lite Stage to catch Blondshell, the songwriting project of NYC-raised, LA-based artist Sabrina Tetelbaum.

Blondshell is relatively new to the scene, and caught the attention of the likes of Pitchfork & Stereogum up after writing some touching, personal songs during the pandemic, and later gathering the courage to share them with others.

Also making their festival debut, the band was gracious and happy to be there and it shined through brightly in their performance. They did justice to the three excellent recordings released thus far, and even had time to show off a few of the tracks they’ve got in the pipeline, winning over a crowd that had largely never heard of them before and made fans of quite a few of them, this writer included.

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Up next were British indie rockers Wet Leg on the Honda Stage, who are currently in the process of becoming one of the most popular indie rock bands around.

Based around the songwriting of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, Wet Leg’s songs are reminiscent of the looseness that initially drew people to Mac Demarco a decade ago, while the arrangements are more complex and freely experiment between the lines of rock and electronica.

Wet Leg have an eccentric presence accompanied by the ability to absolutely shred, and the songs are even more enjoyable when played live due to the personality that Teasdale and Chambers inject into them.

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Teasdale is vocal, often engaging the crowd, while Chambers brings the guitar magic and a more reserved, mysterious attitude. This dichotomy makes for an entertaining show, and it becomes obvious rather quickly how they managed to become so popular off just one album.

After Wet Leg, we took a break in the shade before hopping around in the late afternoon, first catching the groovy rapper Genesis Owusu in the Tito’s Tent. He energy was spectacular, jumping down into the crowd and getting all of us down on one knee, directing the energy like a maestro.

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Then, we caught some of the equally-groovy L’Impératrice on Barton Springs before heading over to the first massively successful act of the day, the French pop-rock band Phoenix on the Honda Stage.

We were lucky enough to be in the pit for this while the band opened with “Lisztomania” and then proceeded to bang out hit after hit with precision. The crowd was energetic as the sun began to set and the 90-degree heat began to subside, and even newer tracks like “Tonight” and “Alpha Zulu” had everybody going nuts.

Singer Thomas Mars clearly noticed the excitement in the crowd as he jumped out into it during the set-closing “1901” and surfed nearly to the sound booth before floating his way atop a sea of hands back to the stage. Then, Phoenix gave a bow and said their goodbyes, and we were on our way to the next show.

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Anticipation was high going into Billy Strings at 7pm on the T-Mobile stage. The young bluegrass picker and songwriter has garnered quite a bit of attention over the past few years for his skills on the guitar, especially within the jam community.

Witnessing his performance it was clear to see that this attention was warranted. The crowd was completely entranced as he seamlessly made his way through a short (by his standards) set composed mainly of originals, heavily featuring songs from his 2021 album Renewal.

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Billy’s guitar playing was nothing short of mesmerizing, with intricate movements and endless quick chord progressions as his all-acoustic band chugs along. Then, when the jams really get going, Billy throws strange effects like distortion and reverb on his acoustic guitar, giving the music more of a psychedelic edge.

Check out a video from the set, featuring Billy putting his pedal board to work during “Turmoil & Tinfoil”, thanks to Reddit user SnooDoggos8938:

Once we managed to pick our jaws up off the floor following Billy Strings we made our way over to the Honda stage for SZA, who was headlining opposite The Chicks on the American Express stage.

With her stage built into a wharfside lighthouse adorned with sunflowers, the R&B queen captivated the crowd through a twenty song set to close out the first night of weekend two.

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Perhaps the most memorable moment of this evening came near the end of the set, when SZA played “20 Something”. First, she took a moment to address the crowd, expressing how lately she notices time slipping away more and more, and how she wishes she could have a better grasp on it. She then thanked us all for choosing to spend our time with her, and segued into the sentimental, introspective closing track to her 2017 album Ctrl.

SZA enchanting vocals washed over the crowd, wrapping them in nostalgic self-reflection and love for the people closest to them, some of whom may have been standing beside them at ACL. It was a remarkable way to begin closing out night one.

Soon, we would be ejected onto the streets of Austin, stumbling our way towards our respective destinations, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

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Day Two – Saturday, October 15th

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In the spirit of Texas, we hung around watching the Longhorns beat Iowa State on Saturday morning before heading to Zilker Park in time for Samia at 3:30pm set on the Miller Lite stage.

When she stepped out, she was in disbelief at the crowd of people who came out to see her, first asking, “Are you real?” before serenading us with sad songs for the better part of an hour. Samia was in motion the entire set, dancing around the stage and interacting with her band members, and even attempting ballet as they moved through songs from her 2020 breakout album The Baby & more.

A standout, as expected, was the dazzling “Is There Something in the Movies?” coming in the second-to-last slot in the set. Musing upon the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry, this song is quite personal for Samia, being the child of actress Kathy Najimyand actorDan Finnerty.

Though these are unique life circumstances, “Is There Something in the Movies?”, and many of Samia’s other songs, manage to be relatable on an emotional level even to listeners who don’t share that experience.

After Samia started things off, we went over to T-Mobile to watch a disappointing set from The Front Bottoms — the only letdown of the weekend. To put things simply, their new material is just not as good as their old stuff, and that also seemed to carry over to the live performance.

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Luckily Death Cab For Cutie made up for the letdown with a stellar 6:15pm performance on the Honda stage, with a massive sea of people coming out to see them.

Frontman Ben Gibbard moved through the hits plus some new material from their recent album Aspalt Meadows. The setlist and performance were similar to the one given at Charleston’s Firefly Distillery just one week prior, except the ACL set had a whole lot larger of an attendance.

Gibbard himself commented on the size of the crowd, addressing us to say “I’m gonna tell my mom there were 400,000 people here” before launching into the band’s most popular song, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”. Near the end of the song, Gibbard tells the crowd that he will trade us, one chorus for one chorus. First it was our turn, and the audience quietly sung while he patiently watched and waited before belting into his own (far superior) rendition.

Death Cab also played the darkly self-deprecating fan-favorite off 2008’s Narrow Stairs, “I Will Possess Your Heart”. This was captured and uploaded to Youtube by Mike Tadd:

Next up was the most anticipated set of the day, The War on Drugs on the T-Mobile stage, as the sun sank beneath the horizon.

The War on Drugs bring a layered indie rock sound complete with tight instrumentation, supported by strength in songwriting and frontman Adam Granduciel’s mysterious, intriguing presence. Soon we found ourselves hypnotized by the intricacies within their sound and the light show that accompanied it.

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Energy within the crowd built throughout the set as they showcased new songs from their album I Don’t Live Here Anymore and the old favorites like “Under The Pressure”, played second to last prior to the new album’s title track.

There were endless details to enjoy, musically, and the lights were layered behind the band, often moving in opposition to one another as the musicians weaved in and out of opposing, but complementary soundscapes.

Soon, there were balloons bouncing through the audience, lit up by bright lights of all shapes and sizes. The music faded away to heavy bass drops coming from headliner Flume, and we found ourselves back over at the Honda stage.

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While electronic music typically isn’t our thing, Flume’s set was an excellent trippy nightcap for us, and we opted for that over P!NK on the American Express stage. The DJ normally performs by himself, but for his ACL set he brought out a number of special guests that added depth to his performance, and we zoned out and allowed the music to take hold.

Then, as quickly as it began, Saturday came to a close, and the crowds were once again back on the streets of Austin. We spent some time on the James D. Pfluger bridge, not far from Zilker Park, where we admired the city skyline and allowed ourselves to decompress before heading home for the evening.

Day Three – Sunday, October 16th

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Sunday was the hottest day, both musically and temperature-wise, and though it was the day that we caught the least amount of music, it also had many of the artists we were most looking forward to on the lineup.

We arrived during the hottest part of the day, just in time for Faye Webster at 3pm on Barton Springs.

Faye Webster’s set brought a soulful, R&B influence to solemn indie music, with a full band that even included the very welcome pedal steel at stage right. For some of us, it was a chance to cool out mentally while the heat of the day raged on, but others weren’t so fortunate.

Major props to Faye Webster for pausing the show and calling for medical staff when somebody passed out in the crowd. Then, the crew began throwing free cartons of water out into the crowd for anybody who had their hands up in the air. This created a great communal environment, with the notion made clear that it’s important to look out for the people around us and make sure that they’re alright.

With the crowd all accounted for, Faye moved back into a set that included a variety of choices, including of course cuts from 2019’s breakout Atlanta Millionaires Club, and more. Most interesting of all was the full “Jonny: Suite”, as it allowed her to show off a jazz style of singing in the reprise section. We already knew she could sing a melody, but to see her finding her own pace through the emotional, almost-spoken word section of the song was fantastic.

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Faye Webster gave way to the legendary Austin locals, Spoon, on the Honda stage.

By this time, some cloud cover had started to move in and cooled things off significantly. Thus, Spoon had a late afternoon rager in store for us. Spoon have performed at seven years of ACL Fest, which is more times than any other artist besides fellow Austin locals Asleep at the Wheel, who have been at every incarnation of the event except for 2012 and 2021.

What this meant is that the crowd overwhelmingly knew the music, and had seen Spoon before. It was one of the most engaged crowds of the weekend, and Spoon took full advantage of that, busting out bangers from all across their discography. This included, of course, a heavy sampling of new material including the recent hit “Wild” and more off their 2022 album Lucifer on the Sofa.

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Things get a little fuzzy here, after Spoon, as we had been consuming Miller Lite since Friday morning and it was finally catching up with us. In a daze we hopped between Big Wild, Japanese Breakfast, and James Blake on various stages until just before sundown.

Snapping back into focus, we found ourselves with an exceptional spot in the crowd for Goose at Barton Springs.

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Goose have been making waves in the jam scene over the past few years for their musicianship, feel-good attitude, and the way they mix together elements of indie rock with psychedelic jamming to create something that appeals even to folks who may typically (think they) dislike jam bands.

Like Billy Strings, this was a shorter show for Goose at just 75 minutes, but they took full advantage of the time to dive into a scorcher of a set.

Playing songs off their 2022 album Dripfield and more, Goose crafted a rising tension accompanied by a kaleidoscopic light show that had the crowd at once dancing and pondering their very existence. They even threw in a newer one called “Animal” that has yet to appear on an album, though they have been playing it out since June.

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To close things out, Goose first wished a happy birthday to percussionist Jeff Arevalo and then rode triumphantly into a cover of “Shama Lama Ding Dong”, first performed by the fictional band Otis Day & The Knights in the 1978 film Animal House. This brought the crowd out of the trance that they had been placed in by “Creatures” and finished the set off with a raging dance party.

One of the coolest things about Goose is that they release soundboard recordings of nearly all their shows for free listen and purchase on their Bandcamp. Listen to their epic Austin City Limits 2022 performance below:

Finally, we reached the Extra Chill-proclaimed queen of the entire festival, Kacey Musgraves on the Honda stage. Performing opposite the Red Hot Chili Peppers over on American Express, it was a coin toss for many on who to watch as the final act of their weekend. For us, however, Kacey was the main event.

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She walked out on stage to wild applause from a fueled-up crowd numbering in the tens of thousands, backlit by a burning heart. Many knew all the words to all the songs, and she didn’t seem to mind their contributions to her angelic renditions of music from both the 2019 Grammy-winning Golden Hour and 2021’s star-crossed.

Alternating between the cosmic country sound of Golden Hour and the pop sound of star-crossed, we saw Kacey both with and without a guitar, playing the part of both pop star and living country legend with ease.

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While the whole set was a karaoke of sorts, Kacey especially encouraged it when she dove into a cover of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, near the end of the set. The words popped up on the screen behind the stage and the entire crowd joined in to sing along.

Kacey let us back out into the world with two of her most powerful songs, “Rainbow” and “Slow Burn”, played as a pair to end the set.

When the lights went down, we debated going to catch the end of the Chili Peppers, but opted for hitting the streets of Austin as we watched the fireworks rise up over the American Express stage, closing the curtain on Austin City Limits Festival 2022.

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