Miley Brings Down the House With Janis Joplin’s “Maybe”

Covering Janis Joplin in her home state can be a dangerous move, but if anyone had the guts (and the talent) to pull it off, it was Miley Cyrus. In an energetic set that spanned her Disney days to her recent album, Plastic Hearts, Cyrus also indulged the crowd with a few covers, and none was more awe-inspiring than her incredible rendition of Joplin’s “Maybe.” Cyrus hasn’t been shy about sharing her feelings about the massive life events she’s experienced over the past few years, including the loss of her Malibu home to a wildfire, her 2020 divorce from actor Liam Hemsworth, and the pandemic halting any plans to perform live last year. Taking a moment to reflect on these changes, she addressed the crowd by saying that people have often categorized her as courageous, unapologetic, and someone who “doesn’t give a f—.” She agreed that she could be all that, but also admitted that she’s sometimes sad, anxious, cares too much, and feels boxed in by the image created for her by fans and the media. 

“This next song is one that represents freedom to me—it represents evolution and authenticity and brazenness,” she told the crowd, explaining that she sees Joplin as an artist who also felt the pain of being boxed in. “This song is one that I do for me.” More than the trademark raspiness of her voice, Joplin was known for the power and emotion she conveyed through the blues-influenced music she sang. Cyrus channeled that same intensity up on the stage; she felt every word. She brought down the house, and did Joplin justice. —Cat Cardenas

Brett Goldstein
Brett Goldstein. Photograph by Cat Cardenas

Brett Goldstein Draws Hundreds of Ted Lasso Superfans 

On Saturday of the second weekend of ACL, hundreds flocked to a small side stage, walking away from festival headliners Doja Cat and Modest Mouse in favor of everyone’s favorite TV grump: Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein). Recording a live episode of her podcast, Unlocking Us, motivational speaker and best-selling author Brené Brown joined the Ted Lasso actor and writer for a conversation about the hit Apple TV show and Goldstein’s breakout success playing a gruff British soccer player with a heart of gold. The pair walked onto the stage to huge cheers from the crowd after Austin musicians Carrie Rodriguez and Gina Chavez warmed them up with the show’s chant: “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-f—ing-where. Roy Kent! Roy Kent!”

“Is this weird for you?” Brown asked Goldstein, gesturing out to the audience. “Of course it’s f—ing weird! Look at this madness,” he laughed. The star kept his chat spoiler-free (per some screamed requests from the crowd), but revealed that despite some critical reviews of the second season, he’s proud that the show has stayed true to the writers’ vision. “I think there’s things in it that people may not want [this season], but you have to trust that we did a thing the first time that you liked, so stick with us,” he said, revealing that cocreator Jason Sudeikis has already determined how Ted Lasso will end. Goldstein dug into the show’s creative process, sharing that Brown (who got a shout-out in season two) is a frequent topic of conversation among the showrunners, especially when they’re discussing the vulnerabilities and psychologies of the characters that are at the heart of the show. “I think most of what Ted Lasso is, is taking someone you don’t like and hopefully, everyone has their reasons for why they are the way they are and we try and make them forgivable,” he said. —Cat Cardenas

Phoebe Bridgers at ACL 2021
Phoebe Bridgers. Ashley Osborn/ACL Fest

The Backups Steal the Show . . .

Phoebe Bridgers’s ACL set was a showcase of her strong storytelling skills and her wry, rueful charisma. Her first-weekend performance concluded with “I Know the End,” which typically means an ample amount of screaming and guitar bashing that (some male) critics hate so much. It was hard to leave the show without feeling a little buoyant, especially because trumpet player J. J. Kirkpatrick put on a clinic. His soaring solos made the set all the more distinctive (“I think this is the only time in my career I’ll open for Doja,” joked Bridgers), and his brass bravado was the perfect complement to his melancholic front woman. Even after their sound was unceremoniously cut toward the end of “I Know the End” during their  weekend-two performance for running overtime, Bridgers and Kirkpatrick kept rocking. Elsewhere in Zilker, backup players continued to grab their fair share of the spotlight. On Saturday of weekend one, Austin band Sir Woman took the stage with a sax, a drummer, and two backup singers, each of whom brought some take-me-to-church energy to the fest’s so-called “gospel tent.” And of course, no conversation about backing bands would be complete without mentioning Megan Thee Stallion. Sure, Miley invaded the stage for a crowd-pleasing twerk-fest, but it was Meg’s backup dancers who repeatedly scorched the stage. May Hot Girl Summer never end. —Tyler Hicks

Machine Gun Kelly at ACL Fest 2021
Machine Gun Kelly. Roger Ho/ACL Fest

. . . And So Do the T-Shirts

We’ve already established that ACL 2021 was a hotbed for some bold, admirable fashion choices. But even those who didn’t sport leather boots and latex found a way to make compelling (and often funny) statements. While a 37-year-old mother and mushroom lover was educating me on the virtues of Machine Gun Kelly, a gentleman nearby cooled himself with a folding hand fan that read, simply, “SLUT.” Not far off, a twentysomething guy’s T-shirt asked the question that’s probably on the mind of every fiftysomething guy: “What the f— is ‘bedroom pop’?” My personal favorite was a young woman’s shirt that proudly declared, “This body belongs to Mr. 305,” an apparent reference to the rapper Pitbull. And just in case anyone forgot about COVID (which, judging by the lack of masks, most people did), there were at least a couple of shirts to remind us. One, worn by a young woman likely in her twenties, read, “COVID? She doesn’t even go here.” The other was a sleeveless tank top that its model paired with a George Strait–style cowboy hat, and it summed up the vibe of the festival better than any fashionista could: “Sorry,” read the shirt, “I can’t hear you over the sound of my freedom.” —Tyler Hicks

Megan Thee Stallion at ACL 2021
Megan Thee Stallion.Photograph by Cat Cardenas

Megan Thee Stallion Holds Twerk-Team Auditions 

Houston’s Megan Thee Stallion deserves everyone’s attention at this point. But midway through both her sets, she switched the spotlight to the die-hard fans in the front row, inviting a few to come onstage. “I want my girl with the flower crown on,” Meg, clad in black leather chaps, ordered from the stage in the second weekend. One girl clambered up dressed in a pizza costume.

When Megan called back to her DJ, “drop that s—,” the lucky fans got to work. What followed was some of the most passionate gyrating I’ve ever seen. It looked like Twerking With the Stars, or So You Think You Can Throw It Back.

“Once the music played, I just started throwing ass,” said 21-year-old Khiara Estrada, who seized the moment and twerked in a split as Meg’s “Do It On The Tip” played in the background.  

Megan isn’t the first to have done this at ACL, but this level of fan participation rarely happens with an artist of her magnitude. Her patience was admirable, posing with fans for selfies and letting some shout into the mic. The audience couldn’t stop talking about it afterward. “Wow, she’s for the fans,” I heard the woman next to me say. —Ben Moskow

Remi Wolf performing at ACL 2021
Remi Wolf.Charles Reagan/ACL Fest

Remi Wolf Leaves an Impression . . . 

Every set plays a crucial role in creating a successful music festival—no matter how hard you may have to squint to read the lineup. Twenty-five-year-old newcomer Remi Wolf was the first of many powerhouses to steal my heart during weekend one. Her feet never stopped moving, whether she was jumping up and down or twisting her body to hit the perfect pitch. Wolf hit every single lyric and worked the stage as she made sure to interact with fans on all sides. And as if I couldn’t be more obsessed, the young singer wore a big, fluffy, multicolored hat as part of her festival look, a perfect match for her eccentric personality. —Lauren Castro

The HU
Texas Monthly staffer Josh Alvarez poses with the Hu. Photograph by Darice Chavira

. . . As Does a Heavy-Metal Band From Mongolia (the Texas of Asia) . . . 

The quintessential joy of attending a music festival is discovering music you otherwise would probably have never come across. This ACL Fest, I discovered the Hu, a heavy-metal band from Mongolia, which can be thought of as the Texas of Asia: gigantic, wide-open expanses; a territory controlled by different empires throughout time, including the largest contiguous land empire in human history, the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan; and populated by a proud people with their own kind of cowboy culture—horseback riders who hunt foxes using golden eagles. The Hu uses standard heavy-metal instrumentation along with electric versions of Mongolian string instruments and traditional throat singing, which has a deep, low om-like sound that produces an almost entrancing effect. All of the Hu’s music is sung in Mongolian, and the band members rock out in Mongolian warrior garb. I’m not a metalhead, but after just a few songs, I was banging my head along with some long-haired guys and gals and chanting “HU!” between every song. This wasn’t the Hu’s first time laying waste to Austin; they played a sold-out show in 2019 at Emo’s. —Josh Alvarez

. . . And So Does Charley Crockett’s Whataburger Order