10 Shocking Things You May Not Know About Austin City Limits Festival

With Austin City Limits Music Festival finally here, we’ve been publishing ACL Fest tips, announcements, and guides like crazy to help get you prepared to not only survive but thrive during the storm of music-loving craziness that’s about hit Austin.

Now, if you’ve forked over the dough, donned your best denim, and braved the Zilker zoo to attend ACL in the past, you probably already know what you need to have an amazing, drama-free experience as you hang out with your favorite bands.

However! We’re willing to bet that at least some of the following 10 lesser-known facts about ACL will shock you, no matter how much of a badass festival veteran you are:

1). ACL is produced by the folks behind Lollapalooza.

lollapalooza C3 Presents ACL Austin City Limits Music Festival

Photo: Flickr user Liliane Callegari, CC licensed

The Austin City Limits Music Festival is run by an event management company called C3 Presents. These awesome folks are also responsible for Lollapalooza, Chicago’s esteemed annual music bash.

2.) ACL was inspired by a PBS TV show.

coldplay ACL 2011 big break bands

Coldplay at ACL 2011. Photo: Flickr user Robert Scoble, CC licensed

Look, you need to get this straight. The original Austin City Limits (notice the lack of “Music Festival” in the name?) is a weekly music performance television show broadcast by PBS. According to the concert series’ website, they’re actually “the longest-running music program in television history” and “the only television show to have been awarded the Presidiential Medal of the Arts.” They’re also pretty proud that TIME Magazine recently called them “one of the 10 most influential music programs of all time.”

3.) At ACL I, wristbands were $25 per day.

ACL Austin City Limits Music Festival ticket wristband 3-day pass weekend

Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, CC licensed

Believe it or not, way back when ACL was just a wee little baby music festival in 2002, C3 Presents charged $25 per wristband for each day of musical delights. That’s a huge difference from the current rate of $100-until-they-sell-out-and-then-you-have-to-buy-marked-up-resale-wristbands.

4.) C3 Presents totally threw the first ACL together at the last-minute.

zilker park ACL Fest auditorium shores

Photo: Flickr user amy gizienski, CC licensed

C3 Presents didn’t have much time to put the very first Austin City Limits Music Festival together in 2002. However, C3’s team was somehow able to harness their considerable festival management talents to make everything happen in a matter of months. True, they made some mistakes, but they’ve since streamlined ACL Fest into a magnanimous music-making (and money-making) machine and they introduce fresh, innovative improvements each year!

5.) This is ACL’s 15th anniversary! Yay!

austin city limits live music festival austin texas atx banner arch 15th anniversary 2012 2016

Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, CC licensed

2016 marks ACL’s fifteenth successive year! This of course means that organizers plan to install a giant guestbook in Zilker Park for festival-goers to sign and take obligatory selfies in front of. Apparently, you’re supposed to tag your photos #ACLFest and #Guestbook!

6.) ACL has had it’s fair share of disasters.

ACL fire flood rain storm cancel disaster

Smoke from one of two fires at ACL 2007. Photo: Flickr user Paul Harrison, CC licensed

No large-scale event is without its unique complications, but ACL has experienced some straight up crazy disasters over the years — many of them weather-related. 2005 is known as the “Dust Bowl” year because Texas’ long-reigning drought made Zilker Park so dry that folks couldn’t breathe through all the dust kicked up by crowds.

In 2007, not one but two unrelated fires broke out on festival grounds, injuring four people; one involved a propane tank and the other was apparently the result of a wiring issue in a speaker stack. And finally, in both 2009 and 2013, ACL Fest crowds were hammered with torrential rains.

7.) If you rent an ACL Fest Locker, you get a universal phone charger.

ACL Fest Lockers mobile charging locker storage personal security chair check

Photo: Flickr user amy gizienski, CC licensed

It’s true. Rent an ACL Fest Locker for one ($18) or three ($45) days and you’ll get your very own 8″ H x 12″ W x 18″ D storage space equipped with an internal universal cell phone charger. Three words, Austin: TREAT. YO. SELF.

8.) “Rage sticks” are allowed, but your kids’ red wagon isn’t.

totem rage stick flag way-finding allowed prohibited items wagon

Photo: Flickr user karlnorling, CC licensed

Tucked away in ACL’s list of Allowed & Prohibited items, you’ll discover two rules that confuse us when they’re considered together. Apparently, “totems, rage sticks, and flags under 12 ft. tall are allowed for way-finding among friends,” but your cute little girl’s little red wagon? Strictly prohibited!

Crazy, right? Just don’t stress too much about what you can and can’t bring. We’ve got you covered. And if you forget something at the actual event, ACL’s #Bodega will probably stock whatever you need.

9.) ACL’s officially gone international.

night concert zilker park live music ACL Fest

Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, CC licensed

This October, the world will mark ACL Fest’s international debut — as Auckland City Limits Music Festival — at Western Springs stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. There’ll be 40 artists and a bunch of local vendors for this first installment. Sounds like a party!

10.) ACL is all about supporting local artists, food vendors, and nonprofits.

acl art market acl cares acl eats bites food court

Photo: Flickr user Anna Hanks, CC licensed

People attend ACL Fest for the music, but the festival also supports Austin’s vibrant art, food, and nonprofit scenes through their ACL Art Market, ACL Eats, and ACL Cares programs. When you decide to take a break from head-bobbing with your favorite bands, stroll through those areas (here’s a handy map) and give a little love to some of our local artists, food vendors, and charitable organizations. That’s ACL Cashless money well spent.

Well, there you have it, kiddos. You have been educated and are now ready to enjoy ACL to the fullest this year. Be smart out there, Austin!


Featured photo: The Weekend at ACL 2015. Roger Ho, courtesy of ACL Fest