Kacey Musgraves at Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 6, 2019. Photograph by Cat Cardenas

Kacey Musgraves’s “Yeehaw” Chant, and Other ACL 2019 Highlights

Texan stars dominated the annual Zilker Park festival.

The first weekend of this year’s Austin City Limits Festival kicked off with some of the world’s hottest artistsand sweltering temperatures to match. Veteran acts like Guns N’ Roses and The Cure drew in big crowds, but it was the festival’s younger performers, like Billie Eilish, Cardi B, and Childish Gambino, that made huge statements with their innovative sets. Texans also received top billing at this year’s festival, including stars like Gary Clark Jr., Kacey Musgraves, and Lizzo, who represented their home state with panache. Here are some of the best moments from an unforgettable (and unforgettably hot) weekend.

Jenny Lewis Singing About Meeting “the Devil Down in Austin”

Jenny Lewis has a career that—between her solo albums, her work with the pioneering early ’00s indie rock band Rilo Kiley, and her 2016 side project Nice As Fuck—is now 11 albums deep. That makes her an artist who can easily hold down the pre-headliner slot at ACL, and she reached back through her varied career in the hour before Guns N’ Roses took the stage on Friday night, with a focus on this year’s On the Line. Given the depth of her body of work, when she reached for that album’s “Party Clown”—a track that doesn’t appear on setlists from most of the performances she’s been doing on her current tour—to sing about how “I met the devil down in Austin,” it felt like a special nod to the relationship she has a city she’s been to plenty of times in her career (including a headlining slot at ACL Live earlier this year). Every time she comes back, Austin is lucky to have her. —Dan Solomon

Childish Gambino’s Experiential Set

The last time I witnessed Donald Glover perform was almost a decade ago, after he launched his musical project Childish Gambino as a joke. Watching him headline day two of the fest felt like seeing the rapper grow into his fully-realized self in real time. Glover immediately addressed what he wanted from the performance at the top of his set, telling the audience: “I’ve got two rules for my show… one, if you came just to hear your favorite song and record it, go home now—I came here for church. Two, keep your phones down… this is an experience. This is for us.” Glover then went on to sing the upbeat jam “Summertime Magic,” along with other hits like “The Worst Guys” and “Boogieman.” In between his heavy psychedelic funk songs, complete with a gospel choir on backing vocals, Glover preached. “There’s a lot of shit happening in the world… your city… your family… your life,” he said. “But we have each other. We are all one. I know that sounds hippy-dippy, but Austin’s kind of a hippy-dippy place.” —Arielle Avila

Jenny Lewis at ACL on October 4, 2019. Photograph by Cat Cardenas
Lizzo at ACL on October 6, 2019. Sydney Gawlik

Lizzo Fans As Far As the Eye Could See

Leave it to Lizzo to make you forget that you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people during the hottest ACL since 2006. The rapper, singer, and flautist was one of the festival’s most anticipated acts, easily commanding a crowd of tens of thousands that the Miller Lite side stage didn’t stand a chance of containing. Dressed in a Creamsicle-colored bodysuit, she belted out hits like “Jerome” to a swaying sea of phone lights, reveling in the crowd of “Lizzbians” cheering at every word and twerk from her and her Big Girl dance team. In between songs, she shouted out affirmations of self-love to the crowd, and proudly proclaimed her Texas roots. Lizzo has been a star on the rise for the past three years, but at ACL, she cemented her status as a queen. —Cat Cardenas

Getting Sad With Weyes Blood

Some artists aren’t really made for the middle of a sunny afternoon, and Weyes Blood—the stage name of Natalie Laura Mering—is definitely that kind of performer. Midway through her set (where she was dressed in a custom embroidered pantsuit, an outfit that only added to the incongruity of her playing on a scorching mid afternoon) the singer asked the crowd at the BMI stage: “Are you guys ready to get sad?” before launching into the 2016 ballad “Seven Words.” The song—a haunting callback to dark 70’s folk—reached a small but rapt audience that was indeed extremely ready to get sad. For a moment, you could believe that a bright Friday afternoon was a dark bar somewhere in Los Angeles at 2 o’clock in the morning. That’s a transformative power that only truly special artists possess.—Dan Solomon

Tame Impala’s Psychedelic Star Power

A couple of songs into Tame Impala’s set, the band’s lead singer, Kevin Parker, cheekily asked the audience: “You all really don’t want to see Guns N’ Roses? You all really want to see… me?” In recent years, the Australian psych-pop group has become one of the biggest breakout groups of the 2010s; and their ACL set, which coincided with the legendary Guns N’Roses’s headlining Friday night set, showed off their ongoing ascent with hits like “The Less I Know the Better,” from their last album Currents, and “Elephant,” from 2012’s Lonerism. The band’s throttling performance, combined with their kaleidoscopic visuals, was a perfect way to close out Friday night in a city that shares a heavy spiritual connection with psychedelic rock. —Arielle Avila

Cardi B Name-Checking “Mesa Que Más Aplauda”

Fans were starting to get restless as the minutes dragged on after Cardi B’s scheduled 8 p.m. performance time. Eventually, the self-proclaimed “Trap Selena” finally made her big entrance thirty minutes late. The rapper’s hit-packed set revived the crowd as she performed in an electric pink leopard-print bodysuit, working up a sweat twerking, bouncing, and spitting bars upside-down and between her legs. Noticing several Mexican flags in the crowd, Cardi played to the Latinos in the audience, throwing in a quick reference to the popular hit “Mesa Que Más Aplauda” before heading into her bilingual smash “I Like It.” Making up for her tardiness, the rapper performed a tight 50-minute set, working the crowd, and announcing that her ACL set would be one of her last performances before she starts recording the highly-anticipated followup to her debut album. —Cat Cardenas

Weyes Blood at ACL on October 4, 2019. Photograph by Bolora Munkhbold
King Princess at ACL on October 4, 2019. Photograph by Bolora Munkhbold

King Princess Solidifying Her Inevitable Rise

King Princess’s debut album won’t be out for a few more weeks—but in a late afternoon set on Friday, she earned all the hype that a young star could hope for. Over the course of an hour, she showed off the range of her material—opening with a soft piano number that might have led newcomers to think they were seeing a Regina Spektor-like balladeer, before transitioning to a certified rock banger with meaty, Zeppelin-esque riffs, and then eventually the pop material that’s turned her into someone who can play the big stage at ACL a couple hours before sundown. The set was the first official performance of her Cheap Queen tour, and while there was an element of settling into the material—most of her touring sets won’t involve playing in 95 degree weather during the hottest part of the day, after all—the future superstar claimed the stage like she was ascending to the throne. —Dan Solomon

Kacey Musgraves’s “Yeehaw” Call and Response

Kacey Musgraves had one of the toughest gigs of the festival: performing an hour before Lizzo on the opposite side of Zilker Park. Still, the Texas native is a consummate performer who made the most of her golden hour set, singing songs off her Grammy-winning record along with a few fan favorite covers, like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” until the sun started going down. Dressed in a rhinestone-covered three-piece set, Musgraves twirled around the stage and commanded an audience of cowboy hat-clad fans who helped the country singer redeem herself after Coachella attendees famously disappointed her request for a “yeehaw” call and response. Musgraves said she was headed to watch Lizzo perform right after her set, telling her crowd: “Y’all better fuckin’ run. Kick off the cowboy boots!” —Cat Cardenas

The Cure Pressing Rewind

Despite some similarities—they both share a goth-y aesthetic—the crossover between the crowd for Billie Eilish, who played ACL’s Honda main stage just before The Cure, was minimal. The Cure, whose first single was released 23 years before Eilish was born, drew a crowd that was mostly there to sing every word to songs that were recorded thirty-plus years ago. (The band hasn’t released an album since 2008, and played only one song recorded after 1993.) But what a catalogue that is. The band played a set heavy on hits from its 1989 masterpiece Disintegration, performing seven of the album’s 12 songs, peppering the rest of the set with a mix of greatest hits, fan favorites, and the occasional rarity (“Burn,” from the soundtrack to the 1994 movie The Crow) or deep cut (“Just One Kiss,” an early ’80s b-side the band performed in the U.S. for only the second time in its storied history). There were other artists who had a bigger buzz surrounding them, but nobody else who got so many people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond feeling like they were in high school again. —Dan Solomon


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