In the Texas Monthly Recommends series, Texas Monthly writers, editors, photographers, and producers offer up their favorite recent culture discoveries from the great state of Texas.

George Strait

Friday, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., Lady Bird stage (both weekends)

Making the country legend a headlining act may be the most out-of-left-field booking in ACL Fest history. It’s also brilliant. King George, as fans know him, has never even flirted with the kind of pop success typically required of headliners. But his sixty number-one country singles amount to the most chart-toppers by any artist in any genre, and he’s succeeded with a real-deal country sound—honky-tonk shuffles, barroom weepers, western swing—that’s even stronger served live; his backing group, the Ace in the Hole Band, may be the tightest touring outfit in country music. So just as somebody who scoffs at poppy funk would come away a convert from an Earth, Wind & Fire show, ACL Fest attendees who think they don’t like country music are about to learn otherwise. But for those who don’t quite know what to expect—they’ll be the ones in the crowd not singing every word—here’s a primer.

His boots are Justins, his jeans are Wranglers, and his hat is a Resistol. That’s been his uniform since he started playing Texas dance halls in the mid-seventies. Most of the band has been with him almost as long, with four players having joined in the mid-eighties, and two—steel guitarist Mike Daily and bassist Terry Hale—having auditioned Strait to be Ace in the Hole’s lead singer back in 1975. Likely show opener “Deep in the Heart of Texas” will be played western-swing style. You’re supposed to dance to that. “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” and “Amarillo by Morning” are rodeo songs, the latter of which might well be the unofficial state anthem; if you need proof that Strait knows rodeo, angle for a look at his belt buckle. He’ll close the night with a surprise (a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me”) and a staple (“The Cowboy Rides Away”). Don’t be shocked if, after that, he leaves the stage on horseback. —John Spong, senior editor

Megan Thee Stallion

Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Honda stage (both weekends)

Meg has made the festival rounds at this point, but she’s coming back to ACL with something to prove. Back in 2019, the rapper was a no-show after missing her scheduled slot. She apologized to her fans and promised she’d make it up to her “atx hotties” soon. She’ll get her chance this time, with a set list brimming with megahits she’s dropped in the intervening two years. In March 2020, she released her third EP Suga, featuring the track “Savage.” The song helped catapult her to a new level of fame. After she became a viral dance sensation on TikTok, Beyoncé came calling and the Houston duo dropped “Savage (Remix)” in April, helping earn Megan her first number-one single and, later, two Grammys. She doubled down on her viral success with the release of “WAP” that August, which became her second number-one single, before finally releasing her debut album Good News in November. Known for her high-energy performances, braggadocious lyrics, and fast-paced flow, Meg will surely deliver some sassy, nasty fun. —Cat Cardenas, writer

Marc Rebillet

Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., T-Mobile stage (both weekends)

Music is his profession, but you could make a case that Marc Rebillet (pronounced Rub-ee-yay) is also the world’s most unconventional motivational speaker. The unflaggingly energetic electronic funk artist known as “Loop Daddy” performs fully improvised shows armed with nothing but a lung-searing voice, a loop machine, an unquenchable passion for making booties shake, and oftentimes a silk robe (which he often ditches) with only boxer briefs underneath. For all his talents (and there are many) the Dallas native’s most alluring quality may be the way he makes you feel. During his shows and wildly popular livestreams, he often commands listeners to perk up and dance happy. Case in point: he recently posted a livestream clip to Twitter with the caption “S— OUT YOUR SADNESS.” He genuinely wants you to live your best life; he often delivers pep talks in the middle of songs that match the gusto with which he performs. But his music alone should make you forget all your troubles and lose all inhibitions. This is the man who can impregnate you with the funk in just two minutes (if not less). It’s practically impossible not to have the time of your life at a Marc Rebillet show, and many times, a large portion of the audience ends up dancing onstage alongside a near-nude Rebillet. The artist remained tight-lipped about what he has in store for his fans at Zilker Park, but he did offer a quick tease: “Prepare for complete and utter chaos.” —Tyler Hicks, writer

Charley Crockett

Saturday, 3:20 p.m. to 4:20 p.m., Vrbo stage (both weekends)

Charley Crockett has many traits—among them, a knack for a lonesome melody, a propensity for sharp pearl-snap shirts, and a life story that feels like it came from a Woody Guthrie song (born in tiny San Benito, grew up in trailer park, learned to entertain on the streets of New Orleans and New York City, wandered the country through his twenties, had heart surgery twice in his thirties). The thing that defines him most is his voice, whether he’s singing his own song or someone else’s. The 37-year-old has made ten albums in six years, and on many he interprets the songs of heroes of his, such as George Jones. Crockett recently did a whole album of tunes by the late James Hand, and when Tom T. Hall died on August 20, listening to Crockett’s version of Hall’s epic “That’s How I Got to Memphis” was just about the best tribute you could pay. Crockett makes the words he’s singing sound real—and makes everything sound lonesome. He’s as comfortable singing blues, soul, and R&B as he is country, and he has found a way to make them all seem natural to him. His latest album, Music City USA, follows a template: a little guitar, a dash of banjo, a few horns, and a lot of reverb. There’s minimalist country, bluesy country, and country-soul that makes you think Arthur Alexander is alive again. It sounds like Texas, Louisiana, and Memphis, but never Nashville, which Crockett makes fun of in the title song. What can people expect at ACL? Well, Crockett says, a lot of songs from the new album. Maybe a song or two by his pal, the late folk-country singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle. One thing you can bank on: “You know I gotta slip in a George Jones deep cut. Or two.” —Michael Hall, executive editor

David Ramirez

Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., BMI stage (second weekend only)

In a way, David Ramirez is the kind of musician about whom you relish saying, “I knew him when . . . ” His gruff aesthetic is the perfect foil to his soulful, often heartbreaking lyrics. Close your eyes, and you can easily see him singing and strumming on a corner downtown, surrounded by people who don’t yet know there is a maestro in their midst. Across six progressively remarkable albums, the singer-songwriter has displayed a clear knack for communicating the sorrows and subtle joys of everyday life, all while blending folk, country, Americana, pop, and gospel. Think of him as Raymond Carver in the body of a traveling busker. His tales stay with you long after the final note. Ramirez is also something of an artist’s artist. At the start of the pandemic, he focused his time and talents on raising money to provide health care for out-of-work musicians. His ACL performance will feel like a local show for the Austinite’s local fans. However, it’s the new fans who are in for the biggest treat. Bookmark his show. That way, you, too, can say, “I knew him when . . . ” —Tyler Hicks, writer

Erykah Badu

Sunday, 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Miller Lite stage (first weekend)
Friday, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Miller Lite stage (second weekend)

A lot has changed since Erykah Badu last played ACL, in 2008, when the pregnant performer did one of best shows of the weekend, locking in with the huge crowd, leading them in singing, dancing, and wondering just what she would do next. It was hot and humid, but no one took their eyes off Badu. She’s fifty now, with three kids, coming off a pandemic that forced her to stop touring, which she had done incessantly for two decades. To compensate, she played to some of her other strengths, such as being a businessperson and entertainment pooh-bah. While Badu World Market sold everything from hoodies to vagina-scented incense, she also set up a streaming company and began putting on her own shows—“The Quarantine Concert Series: Apocalypse, Live From Badubotron.” She improvised with other musicians, rapped and riffed in front of backdrops of flowers and mountains—then changed outfits and did it again. But that was then. Now she’s touring again, with another big band capable of hitting the minimalist soul groove and the maximalist funk explosion, all while the old-school poet recites words of affirmation, anger, and various hippie dreams—then sings loud and clear, just so you don’t forget what a powerful voice she has. Badu has always loved performing; finding that place, through vibe, rhythm, and words, where she and her fans connect and become, in her words, “one living, breathing organism.” It’s an amazing thing to witness. —Michael Hall, executive editor

TC Superstar

Sunday, 2:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Tito’s stage (first weekend only) 

The up-and-coming synth-pop performance group, formed in 2017, consists of lead singer Connor McCampbell and seven other members, including three instrumentalists and four dancers. The band is a regular act in the Austin scene and was nominated for Best New Austin Band at the 2019 Austin Music Awards. The group makes its ACL Fest debut fresh from dropping its third album, As Seen on TV, earlier this month. 

The band is big on the concept album: 2017’s Masc unpacks masculinity and 2019’s R&D captures both sides of a tumultuous long-distance relationship. As Seen on TV is a series of vignettes exploring the pitfalls of consumerism, fame-seeking, and the American work ethic. The album’s front end features synth and brisk guitar lines reminiscent of Duran Duran, the legendary eighties British group that will play on a different stage just hours after TC Superstar wraps up. The latter half slows to a crawl and moves away from punchy hooks. In addition to songs from the new album, expect to hear the group’s most popular song, “Into You” (off R&D), with McCampbell’s soft, breathy voice floating over heavy synths and bouncy reverb drums. If you’re looking for a musical throwback to the eighties, mesmerizing interpretive dance, and strikingly coordinated outfits, TC Superstar is the act for you. —Ben Moskow, editorial intern

Gina Chavez

Saturday, 5:20 p.m. to 6:20 p.m., BMI stage (first weekend only)

Gina Chavez has range. It’s not just her voice, which she sends soaring through the opening lines of “La Que Manda,” or crooning through love ballads such as “The Sweet Sound of Your Name.” It’s also the variety of cultural and musical influences she draws from; the Austin native usually sings in a blend of Spanish and English. In her 2014 album, Up.Rooted, there’s a bit of cumbia, such as in “Miles de Millas,” bossa nova, pop, and folk, such as in “Fire Water.” La Que Manda, a five-song, Spanish-only EP she released last year, strays a bit from her folk roots, but the edgier sound works for her; the EP earned her a Latin Grammy Awards nomination for Best Pop/Rock Album. There’s a little bit of something for everyone to love in Chavez’s repertoire. Her live performances are warm and energetic, and thanks to catchy songs that encourage you to move your feet, it’ll be hard to stand still at her performance. —Doyin Oyeniyi, assistant editor