It doesn’t get much more Austin than the ACL Music Festival. From the anything-goes fashion, to the overwhelming friendliness, the delicious local food, the ever-changing weather and yes, the amazing music, ACL Festival is what Austin is all about.
And, though the festival has gotten bigger and more commercial over the years, festival organizers still make every attempt to keep things local. And we love that.
Here are the most Austin things we experienced at ACL Festival 2023.
The headliners are always a crowd favorite but local artists getting their moment in the spotlight is what makes this festival so Austin. These were some of our favorite local artists this year: Ben Kweller, Jane Leo, Asleep at the Wheel, Die Spitz, Katy Kirby, Font, Jimmie Vaughan & Tilt-A-Whirl Band, and We Don’t Ride Llamas!
Speaking of headliners, they had a lot to say about Austin. Thirty Seconds to Mars singer Jared Leto mentioned that his Grandma lived in Texas, so he and his brother spent time in the Lone Star State as children. He’s been here several times over the years to perform but also for various acting projects.
Former One Direction member turned The Voice coach, Niall Horan started his set by saying how much he’s always wanted to play ACL. Stating that over the years he’s heard from many friends how great the festival is and he’s glad to finally be playing it. He went on to joke that he knows it’s hot but we’re used to it and he’s not so if he faints we should pick him up. He’s lucky he wasn’t here a few weeks ago!
Mumford and Sons closed out Sunday night of the festival and mentioned that they love ACL and it’s the only festival they’ve headlined three times! They also kept things local by having the Austin High and Huston-Tillotson band and choir perform with them. They even took to Instagram to thank them for coming out saying that the future of Austin is in fine, fine hands!
The Celebrity Fans
Celebrities are just like you! As in past years, we spotted many celebrities enjoying the music, including a few regular faces on the Austin scene. This year we spotted locals like Zachary Levi, Austin Nichols, Lindsey Morgan and, of course, Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey seems to be everywhere these days. He was seen at an Austin FC game, the Red River Showdown in Dallas and then still made time to pop up on stage during the Thirty Seconds to Mars set. In case you don’t know, the band is fronted by Jared Leto who starred in Dallas Buys Club with McConaughey.
Venus Williams was also seen enjoying ACL this year, dancing along to Breland’s set on the first day of the fest. And if some of you thought that the guy with blue hair on stage with Ben Kweller looked kind of like Christopher Mintz-Plasse, AKA McLovin, that’s because it was!
Shazam star and Bastropian Zachary Levi was seen watching the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and taking selfies with fans, we even ran into him after the festival on Friday night at The Loren. And Austin native Austin Nichols is not only a regular ACL attendee but this year he filmed a video for the festival with Ben Kweller, which you can watch below.
The Eats and Drinks
In addition to dozens of local restaurants serving up food at the ACL Eats area, cocktails were served in GA for the first time ever this year. While there were plenty of spirit brands to choose from we’re always happy to see Tito’s on any menu, especially at ACL! Almost all of the food is local and delicious so you really can’t go wrong. Also, new this year was ACL Sweets, an entire area dedicated to all things dessert. ACL Sweets included local favorites like Tiny Pies, Amy’s Ice Cream, Bananarchy, and more. Want the best of both worlds? If you ordered an espresso martini in the Tito’s VIP area, it came with a little sweet treat: a chocolate vegan donut from Fat Cats Austin.
The Festival Gear
If anyone needs to add to their festival get-up, there are plenty of options on hand to keep festival-goers looking ATX-tra special. Local shops in the artist village include Austin FC, Gem Bones, Vinca, Clover + Maven, American Drifter and more.
The Family Fun
We spotted so many families enjoying the festival, and not just in Austin Kiddie Limits. In fact, we had more than one conversation with parents who brought along their toddlers, hoping to help craft their musical preferences for years to come. Now that’s so Austin!
The Drone Show
This year’s fest included a drone light show on Friday night that had all eyes on the sky. Dozens of drones displayed multiple images to the backdrop of the Austin skyline. The show ended with the ACL Fest logo in lights. The show was also a great distraction from the fact that headliner Kendrick Lamar was delayed by over an hour. He got there in time to perform a very brief set before his mic was abruptly cut off.
If you think it couldn’t get more Austin, you’re wrong. Add in the rhinestone pickup truck in front of the iconic ACL sign, the false fall weather, DJs popping up to play sets all over town and the Sunday drag show and you’ve got yourself a classic ACL fest! Austin might be constantly changing but we hope ACL continues to keep it local and keep it weird for many years to come.