The concept of music television existed long before MTV was created. The award winning PBS series Austin City Limits has been shaping the way we experience music for 40 years.
ACL began with a vision to highlight local music and has grown into an international sensation. Musicians and fans from around the world look up to ACL’s simple – yet sophisticated – take on music. What started Austin on its journey to becoming the “Live Music Capital of the World” remains a pillar in our culture today.
As ACL begins its fifth decade of live music broadcasting, I want to pay tribute to the show’s legacy by examining where it came from and what its existence has meant to local Austin musicians.
In the Beginning, There Was Willie
With today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we don’t tend to be the most observant and we surely don’t ask many questions. Many Austinites might assume the huge bronze statue of Willie Nelson outside of ACL Moody Theater on the corner of 2nd and Lavaca is there to pay tribute to the legendary Texas musician.
But it’s also a tribute to the man who pioneered it all. Yes, Willie Nelson piloted the first ACL episode in October 1974 and the show has been going strong ever since.
Austin City Limits Tapings: Then and Now
I find it fascinating that anything functioned before the Internet. Just think, 40 years ago – heck even 20 years ago – in order to have the a chance to experience a live ACL taping, you had to walk down to the KLRU studio on campus to physically put your name on a list.
Yes, in person, on campus. For 36 years, ACL was taped in the modest 700 capacity studio in Communications Building B.
Today, it’s much easier to sign-up for an ACL taping. Partly because of the Internet. And partly because the show moved to the beautiful 2700 capacity Moody Theater in the heart of downtown Austin in 2011, giving more fans the opportunity to attend shows.
All you have to do is wait for upcoming tapings to be announced and enter your email in a drawing. Since there is no set taping schedule, there may be three tapings in one month and nothing the next month, making it difficult to know when to enter a drawing. If you follow ACL’s every move on social media, your odds are better.
The tapings for the 40th anniversary season have ended, but you can catch the 40th season broadcast on PBS through February 2015. Taping for the 41st season will begin in spring/summer 2015, so mark your calendars.
Austin’s Own Help Celebrate 40 Years of ACL
Although Austin City Limits has expanded to highlight national and international musicians, the show still keeps local Austin artists in mind.
This was evident in ACL’s 40th anniversary season premiere which aired October 3, 2014. National artists rocked right alongside local legends Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen, and newcomer Gary Clark Jr. during an amazing musical celebration.
Local psychedelic rockers White Denim also made an appearance during the 40th anniversary season with their first ever ACL taping in August 2014.
They were followed by ACL veterans and hometown heroes Spoon in October 2014. Amidst tireless performances in between ACL music festival weekends, Spoon’s taping marked their fourth ACL appearance and their first time at the new downtown location. Lead singer Britt Daniel spoke with nostalgia of their first appearance in 2002 and the influence ACL had on his career. For me, it’s that connection between Austin musicians and Austin City Limits that makes certain tapings magical.
They say you never forget your roots. Austin City Limits certainly hasn’t forgotten theirs.
If you missed the 40th anniversary live tapings, the broadcast season is not over and you can still catch White Denim and Spoon on PBS early next year. And if you missed the 40th anniversary season debut show, DVDs will be available for purchase just in time for the holidays on December 2, 2014, so you too can experience the 40th year celebration at home.
@jpino9 wants to know:
Have you had a chance to catch a live taping? Which one?