Preview: Austin City Limits Festival 2011

The crowd at the 2010 ACL Fest, under a big Texas sky. (Photo by Ashley Garmon/ACL Festival)

At this very moment, thousands of people are likely making their way to Austin, Texas, to attend this weekend’s big ol’ Austin City Limits Music Festival. It’s the 10th anniversary of the revered event, which is now regarded as one of the Big Four U.S. music festivals alongside Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.

Besides being easier to pronounce, Austin City Limits festival is perhaps the most idiosyncratic: just take a look at this year’s roster – Coldplay, Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Arcade Fire, and about 130 others ranging from indie darlings (Fleet Foxes, The Head and the Heart, My Morning Jacket) to classics (Randy Newman, Wanda Jackson, Mavis Staples, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Del McCoury Band) to good ol’ Texas favorites (Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll, Asleep at the Wheel).

Unlike most other festivals, ACL puts its three-day passes (about $185 per ticket) on sale before any acts are announced. And even though tickets usually sell out in a short time, there was a bit of grumbling this year about how the headliners lacked a bit of “wow” factor for the 10th anniversary year. I don’t know how you could say that about Stevie Wonder or even Kanye West, but point taken on Arcade Fire (although after their Grammy win earlier this year for The Suburbs, they’re still pretty hot).

Speaking of hot, that’s another thing this year’s festival-goers have to look forward to. Texas has suffered its hottest summer ever, and although there are not likely to be 100-degree temperatures this weekend it’s still gonna be pretty warm. The state is still in a historic drought, and a number of communities just outside of Austin are still on fire.

So ACL Fest organizers have taken the unusual step of announcing there won’t be any smoking allowed this year, because of the extreme fire danger. Good luck enforcing that one. And there are going to be fundraisers for wildfire victims, more water stations, “green” promotions – so, good for everyone.

Our intrepid Austin correspondent made a last-minute decision to sell (not scalp) her two 3-day passes and purchase a one-day ticket for Sunday ($90) so she can worship at the feet of Arcade Fire. So we won’t be providing daily updates – maybe just Sunday if we have any coverage at all. We will instead be watching the first-ever ACL fest webcast, which promises live video of selected performances including Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, etc.

Austin City Limits festival official website

ACL festival webcast channel (with complete webcast schedule)

KGSR radio in Austin (will feature live backstage interviews and performances – you can listen online)

Download free ACL 2011 sampler from iTunes

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