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ACL 2017 Speculation And Rumors: Beyonce Edition

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The lineup for this year’s Austin City Limits Festival threw us all an unexpected curveball when it was revealed last week. Actually, the curveball came about 10 hours after the early morning announcement, when a respectable by so-so lineup topped by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance The Rappers, The Killers, and Gorillaz got a major boost with the addition of rap megastar Jay Z at the top of the bill.

With that, the festival has enough star power to have a chance of continuing its 10-year sellout streak. We’ll find out what the public thinks in the coming five months, but here are some thoughts, observations and things to think about the 16th edition of ACL Fest.

Why The Late Add?

In the hours after Jay Z was confirmed as the top billing star music fans all over Austin began speculating what went down. The most common theory is that the early lineup reveal failed to cause the expected rush of sales for three-day passes that went on sale the same day, which prompted festival organizers to break out the checkbook and write out lots of zeroes after the words “Pay to the order of Sean Carter.” Of course there’s no way to know officially what happened, but the festival now has another juicy piece of lore in its books.

Is Queen Bey Buzzing?

💙Inaugural Wearable Art Gala in support of WACO Theater Center 💙

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The addition of Jay Z on a lineup that already featured Solange Knowles means we’re tantalizingly close to a Beyonce family revue. But there are some obvious roadblocks since (A) the woman is on the verge of delivering twins and four months isn’t much time to recover and deliver the kind of performance Beyonce probably expects of herself. And (B) her cancellation from April’s Coachella festival due to her pregnancy could means she’s legally prevented from playing a competing festival until she makes good on that appearance next year. But still, an impromptu drop-in cameo with the hubs or sis is a tantalizing possibility.

Precious Snowflakes, And All The Feels

One of the most played out gripes among music fans as destination festivals have become widespread in the past half-dozen years is that all the festivals look similar. And yeah, there’s definitely crossover when entertainment conglomerates like AEG and Live Nation are owners of most of the country’s major festivals. ACL’s sister fest Lollapalooza – both are run by Live Nation-owned and Austin-based C3 Presents – repeats Chance The Rapper, The Killers, The XX, Run The Jewels, and The Head And The Heart near the top of the lineup, but it feels petty to gripe that our local big-name fest isn’t a totally unique snowflake unlike anything else out there.

Stars Wanted

#tbt @awolnation // #ACLfest

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That said, I’d get on board with some legislation – no matter who sponsored it – to enact a 10-year moratorium on the Red Hot Chili Peppers as headliners of any festival in the U.S. We’re only five years removed from the California band’s last stint atop the ACL lineup, and it feels like we’ve reached the point where absent a Bruce Springsteen booking, a White Stripes reunion or U2 deciding to hit the festival circuit the cupboard is sort of bare when it comes to truly special headliner draws. Other candidates: Taylor Swift, Fleetwood Mac, Adele, The Dixie Chicks, Beyonce, a Dr. Dre-led hip-hop revue that in some way approximates an N.W.A reunion.

The SXSW Boost

Bookers for ACL Fest and many other festivals across the country say repeatedly that performing as an official artist at South By Southwest is pretty much a must-have to be considered for a possible festival booking. The thinking being that earning a showcase spot shows an act has the connections and focus to develop into a possible draw, or is at least has the goods to draw a crowd while playing in an open field. This year’s big winner in that regard appears to be dramatic indie-popsters The Lemon Twigs, who rode a wave of kudos and buzz out of the March event and now have a summer and fall full of festival dates all over the U.S. and abroad.

Let’s Hear It For The Locals

We’ll no doubt have plenty of festival preview picks and recommendations over the coming months, but for now let’s give a “high five!” to the Austin acts included on this year’s lineup. Chances are you already know Spoon, The Black Angels and festival mainstays Asleep At The Wheel. But you might not be familiar with younger, emerging artists like gifted singer songwriter Carson McHone, country crooner Paul Cauthens, indie punks Annabelle Chairlegs, Pharrell Williams-in-training R&B savant Mobley or textured synth-poppers Capyac. There are others, of course, but those are the names that jumped out at us and seem ready for a possible boost from getting in front of thousands of sun-baked music fans in Zilker Park.