We already know that our state is replete with musical talent, but whenever the first two weekends of October roll around, Austin City Limits is a reminder of just how many musicians, from the up-and-coming to the legendary, get their start in Texas. This year the locals on the lineup make country, cumbia, electronica, R&B, and genres in between. Make time in your festival schedule for our favorites—luckily there’s no overlap, so you can catch them all.
Tanya Tucker (Saturday, October 7, 5 p.m.)
The native Texan, who graces the cover of our October issue, returned to the spotlight after a decade with her Grammy Award–winning 2019 album While I’m Livin’ and the documentary about its birth. Now, as they await Tucker’s induction this month into the Country Music Hall of Fame, longtime fans will get a chance to listen to the celebrated icon who rebelled against Nashville’s sexual mores while charting a fifty-year career. But we hope she finds some new listeners, too: before showing up, give her breakout 1972 album Delta Dawn a listen and then throw on some of her later hits, like “Texas (When I Die).” On festival day, wear your cowboy boots. —José Almazan
Grace Sorensen (Sunday, October 8, 1:30 p.m.)
Before she was an up-and-coming artist in Austin, Grace Sorensen twirled her way across stages as a ballet and hip-hop dancer. The R&B and hip-hop tracks that floated around her during rehearsals and shows evolved to become her main focus. She released her debut single, “Tell Me,” as a junior in high school. Three years later, at a benefit concert at the Circuit of the Americas, she opened for Diana Ross.
Her sound combines silky vibrato reminiscent of Ari Lennox with the simplistic guitar or finger-snapping rhythms of Summer Walker. But Sorensen makes a name for herself in the way she meshes traditional R&B sounds with borrowed elements, such as the gritty electric guitar she lays down on “Digits.” If you’re looking to vibe out or kick off an afternoon groove, Sorensen’s stage is the place to be. —Elisabeth Jimenez
Cigarettes After Sex (Sundays, October 8 and October 15, 7:15 p.m.)
If you’re on TikTok, chances are you’ve come across “Apocalypse.” This song has been making the rounds for a while now, becoming a favorite for couples videos, sad stories, or just making everyday moments more dramatic. The virality may have propelled the El Paso–born band forward, but with nearly 19 million followers on Spotify and a world tour on the way, its success is due to more than just social media. It only took fifteen years to happen.
Greg Gonzalez started the indie shoegaze band in 2008, but, like many of its songs, the band has moved slowly, only releasing its debut album in 2017. Now the 41-year-old Gonzalez is striking a chord with a younger generation.
In addition to songs about heartbreak, such as “Opera House,” expect some more optimistic tracks, like “Falling in Love.” But regardless of the set list, brace yourself to feel the feels. —Ana Davila Chalita
We Don’t Ride Llamas (Friday, October 13, 1:40 p.m.)
Add an eerie spunk to Friday the thirteenth with the music of this Afro rock sibling band. With upbeat earworms, like WDRL’s “Venus & Mars,” and mellow beats, as on “Blueberries,” there’s something for every listener in this Austin-based band’s catalog. Heavy percussion and deep-cutting strings slice like a hot knife through buttery smooth lead vocals, bringing new dimensions to classic R&B chords.
While the band took home a 2022 Austin Music Award for best metal band, it rejects the cages of genre, creating a sound so singular and alluring that it caught the eyes of two different Smiths—Morrissey and Willow. After opening for Steven Morrissey, lead singer of the indie rock band The Smiths, at Riot Fest and then joining alt R&B princess Willow Smith on her sold-out tour, the Llamas have proven they can kick it with any crowd. —Fiza Kuzhiyil
Nemegata (Saturday, October 14, at 12 p.m.)
Kick off ACL’s second Saturday with the retrofuturistic soundscape of powerhouse trio Nemegata. The Austin band weaves reverberations rooted in cumbia and Andean melodies into its sixties- and seventies-era African, Caribbean, and South American psychedelic guitar and synth sounds. The music is a mix of inspirations and influences that the band describes as an “Afro-Indigenous Colombian odyssey.”
The sound is experimental, but it’s easy to feel the rhythm and soul once the music hits your ears. If the edgy and upbeat “Si Landero Fuera a Marte” or “Cumbia en Marte” aren’t in your rotation yet, they will be after you see them. Or at least they’ll be in your cool uncle’s rotation of cumbia songs. —E.J.
Rattlesnake Milk (Saturday, October 14, 1:15 p.m.)
Hailing from Plainview, this four-man group, with its haunting guitars and gothic stories replete with wicked wanderers and hometown legends, evokes the Panhandle’s desolate, windswept landscape. Take the song “Highway Blues,” from the self-titled 2020 album, in which a narrator, following the death of his father, charts a crime spree that leads to a murder and, eventually, his own execution, all atop a creeping two-step rhythm and a spectral guitar. Already making waves on the local honky-tonk circuit, Rattlesnake Milk’s unique sound and approach to country music is sure to surprise those who are not too fond of the genre, and delight folks who are. —J.A.
Caramelo Haze (Sunday, October 15, 3:15 p.m.)
Beto Martínez, Alex Chavez, Victor “El Guámbito” Cruz, and John Speice, musicians with multiple Grammys between them, come together to form Caramelo Haze. The supergroup recorded its debut album, NOESTÁSAQUÍ (You Aren’t Here), right here in Buda. The result is a sound that’s special to our corner of the world.
The aptly named band combines melt-on-your-tongue, sticky-like-caramel chords with reverb and experimental electronica. On Sunday of weekend two, samba, tango, waltz, or conga to this set—it doesn’t matter how, as long as you’re dancing into these candy clouds. —F.K.