Every year, as September turns to October, the eyes and ears of the entertainment world turn toward Zilker Park. Now in its 17th year, Austin City Limits Music Festival turns the Great Lawn into a cultural and musical epicenter. It’s 46 acres of food, drink, activities, installations, shopping, and–most prominently–incredible live music performances.
While headliners like The Cure, Billie Ellish, Lizzo, and Guns ‘n Roses dominate the billboards, the bottom of the lineup poster is where the magic of discovery happens. Like every year, Austin bands and artists will be well-represented in 2019, both in the early hours and prime time slots.
Here’s a roundup of every Austin musician performing each weekend, all worth arriving early for. Remember friends, listen local!
Like years past, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist with all of the Austin artists playing both ACL Fest weekends. Enjoy!
Austin Artists Playing Weekend One: Oct. 4-6, 2019
Asleep at the Wheel
Friday, Oct. 4 from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. @ Honda Stage
Opening the festival in classic country style, Asleep at the Wheel continues its long-standing tradition on the first Friday of ACL Fest 2019. Sparkling, upbeat outlaw country that’s stood the test of time, old school favorites like “Miles and Miles of Texas” and “Route 66” never sour regardless of how many times I’ve heard them. Come early to experience these local legends.
Friday, Oct. 4 from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m. @ T-Mobile Stage
Hip hop, R&B, and soul tightly wound into a power coil of unstoppable groove and energy, Alesia Lani combines sultry swagger and honest feelings in equal measure. Emotionally, this lady has range. “Along the Way” reassures a nameless partner that developing a connection takes time, while “Intentions” shoots down unscrupulous suitors who say all the right things in an Isley Brothers-style jam.
Experiencing this dynamic R&B queen is like taking a sunshine shower. Show up early and drink it all in.
Saturday, Oct 5 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @ Vrbo Stage
How have I never heard of this band? Self-described as “cosmic country,” Stone Wheels mixes classic honky tonk, ’70s-era bop, and swirling psych in ever entertaining ways.
My favorite tune is “Long Way Home,” an impossibly catchy tale of wrong roads taken with wonderful results. “Raise a Glass” explores the head trip side of the group’s sound in a moribund cheer, while “Good Luck” conjures up thoughts of the Kinks if they dabbled in boogie woogie.
Opening Saturday with energy and excitement, Stone Wheels deserves your early arrival.
Saturday, Oct 5 from 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. @ Tito’s Stage
With over a million listens on Spotify, the Austin indie rockers of Night Cap took the streaming world by storm with their 2017 single “Everest.” With a slow build of soaring vocals, Kings of Leon guitar work, and confident stomp, the tune rightly earned a place on several playlists and radio station rotations.
The band’s newest single “The Dance” ups the tempo and funk in a body-shaking groove track reminiscent of local contemporaries Mamahawk. Sun-kissed with ear candy and backboned by sumptuous double-tracked vocals, the track further cements Night Cap’s reputation as a musical force here and abroad. A must-check-out.
Otis the Destroyer
Sunday, Oct. 6 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @ Vrbo Stage
Furious rock and roll I’ve spent pages praising over the years, Otis the Destroyer’s Sunday opening slot will shake the earth and rattle the trees. From lead vocalist/guitarist Taylor Wilkins’ exceptional shredding to Clellan Hyatt’s heart-pounding drumming, Otis distills raucous rock into a tightly formed package of standout songcraft.
Choice tracks include the ebb and flow of “Red Witch,” local classic “Gravity Something,” and the latest single “Cool Evil,” the title track off the group’s latest EP. “Cool Evil” cruises along an ever-shifting dynamic of smack-in-the-face guitars and low-key groove. A pulse-pounding start to the ACL day.
Austin Artists Playing Weekend Two: Oct. 11-13, 2019
Jane Ellen Bryant
Friday, Oct 11 from 1 to 1:45 p.m. @ Tito’s Stage
Beautifully soulful country/pop sent to the heavens through soaring, expressive vocals, Jane Ellen Bryant is a musical powerhouse. Fan favorite “Lover” expands from tender folk guitars to intense declarations, while “Still Can’t Forget You” sways from plaintive mourning to bombastic defiance in the span of four minutes.
Her latest EP, 2018’s “Let Me Be Lost,” shifts her sound from country/folk troubadour to the world of rock/pop. The pounding back beat and effect-coated guitars of “Attention” are pure Gwen Stefani, while “Take Me As I Am” smolders under a haze of synth and low-key rhythm.
But never fear, long-time fans. Bryant is still cemented in her sensational voice and country roots. Growth is always good. When you’re as talented as this artist, it can be great.
Pike and Sutton
Friday, Oct 11 from 1:15 to 1:45 @ T-Mobile Stage
Veterans of the Austin music scene since the early ’90s, vocalist Patrice Pike and guitarist Wayne Sutton’s first band, Little Sister/Sister Seven, helped define the late ’90s to early 2000s Austin rock sound.
Almost 20 years later, the duo reemerges as Pike & Sutton with a record, “Heart is a Compass.” The title track places Pike’s rich vocals front and center among a crawling groove, while the latest single “Take A Stand” bristles with old-school Austin rock mixed with the pair’s lovely two-part harmony. Great music by two ATX stalwarts.
Wesley Bray & the Disciples of Joy
Saturday, Oct 12 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @ Tito’s Stage
Hands to the air praise music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those in need of a mid-weekend revival, the Disciples of Joy are your ticket to a blessed Saturday. Regardless of your religious leanings, gospel is the bedrock of a great majority of American music and this family of Jesus-loving performers sing and play with passion.
The Disciples are an ACL staple, so swing by the Tito’s Stage, grab some ACL Eats, and prepare for an uplifting start to your festival day.
Saturday, Oct 12 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @ Vrbo Stage
Austin’s ACL Music Fest Saturday is defined by our city’s growing hip hop scene. Blackillac, comprised of Austin MCs Zeale and Phranchyze, kick off the day with intricate rhymes that have a distinctive southern lean.
From the sleepy swoon of “Wave 2021” to the infectious banger “6 Ringz,” this lyric-slinging duo is world class. The latest single “Shoebox” is a drowsy triple shot of wordplay fire thrown atop a bedrock of speaker-rattling sub bass and tweeter tickling hi hats. With collaborations like Blackillac repping Austin hip hop, the future is bright for a scene we’ve been sleeping on for far too long.
Abhi the Nomad
Saturday, Oct 12 from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. @ Tito’s Stage
When the first single to Abhi the Nomad’s debut full-length “Marbled” first hit my inbox in 2018, my jaw hit the floor. Since then, I’ve been fanboying this ultra-talented wordsmith as tracks like the sorry-not-sorry anthem “Sex n’ Drugs” and the upbeat, sun-kissed summer jam “Somebody to Love” racked up millions upon millions of Spotify streams.
This year, Abhi dropped a trio of singles. “House of Clocks” lays his trademark organic flow across a simple yet effective trumpet-specked beat, and “Me No Evil” presents a defiant admission of personal flaws framed in a tight guitar and bass beat.
My favorite of the three is “BFTL.” Combining Abhi’s musical approach and clever rhymes, the track bumps with pops of grunge guitars and percussive slap. Do yourself a favor and rush the Tito’s stage to catch a glimpse of this legend in the making.
Sunday, Oct 13 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @ Vrbo Stage
Of all the Austin artists playing ACL Fest 2019, Kady Rain holds a special place in my musical heart. A pop music princess with songs worthy of Top 40 rotations, Kady and her writing partner Ben Bazzrea craft summer jams laced with heartfelt emotion and genuine fun. Outside of instant classic and nationally-renowned “Rad Moves,” songs like last year’s nostalgic ode to mischievous adolescence, “Bad Kids,” cement her as more than a one hit wonder.
As proof, the latest single “Lovestruck” is an instant hit. Soaring with the energy and adventure of a GPS-less road trip to the middle of somewhere, the track captures the head-spin dizziness of young love through a hella-tight Katy Perry-like sparkler. Watch the current queen of Austin pop continue her reign on the ACL stage.
➡️ Keep reading: Kady Rain Reigns as Austin’s Pop Music Queen
The Gospel Stars
Sunday, Oct 13 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @ Tito’s Stage
Practitioners of local gospel since 1985, The Gospel Stars continue to deliver outstanding worship music to believers and non-believers alike. With four full-length albums, thousands of tour miles, and music luminaries like W.C. Clark as collaborators, the Stars continue to give praise and inspire generations of fans. It’s Sunday for crying out loud. Bless yourself with some high-quality gospel to start your ACL Sunday.
Sunday, Oct 13 from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. @ Tito’s Stage
Describing Ley Line’s musical approach is an exercise in futility. My best advice is to listen and get lost in this one in a million sound. If I had to take a stab (and I have to–it’s my job), I’d label Ley Line’s music as a blend of well-traveled world music influences woven into a tapestry of Latin flavor, gypsy folk, and extraordinary four-part harmony.
The brand new single “Oxum” exemplifies the complexity and beauty of Ley Line’s core sound. A cozy quilt of Spanish guitar, roots percussion, and spine-tingling vocals, the song is an instant elevation of anybody’s mood. World music often gets the short end of the stick at ACL Fest, so take the time to experience this exceptional quartet for yourself.
➡️ Keep reading: Multilingual Group Ley Line Bridges Cultures Through Music
Austin Artists Playing Both Weekends
The Barton Hills Choir
Friday, October 4 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. @ Austin Kiddie Limits
Saturday, October 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 12 @ Austin Kiddie Limits
Mainstays of the adorable Austin Kiddie Limits for years, The Barton Hills Choir melts hearts with beautiful voices and unmatched enthusiasm. Comprised of talented 3rd through 6th graders from Barton Hills Elementary School, this troupe of youngsters brings well-worn classics and modern hits to life with joy, and energy. Come for a “Sir Duke/California Dreaming” medley, stick around for a spot-on Grateful Dead cover. Bring your kiddos and enjoy!
School of Rock
Friday, October 4 from 2:30 to 3 p.m. @ Austin Kiddie Limits
Sunday, October 6 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. @ Austin Kiddie Limits
Friday, October 11 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. @ Austin Kiddie Limits
Sunday, October 13 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. @ Austin Kiddie Limits
Who holds the record for most performances at this year’s ACL Fest? Our own School of Rock! An incredible music program designed to be a training ground for the next generation of Austin musicians, live performances at ACL Fest continue to be the capstone of this amazing organization. Watching young musicians perform at one of our biggest festivals and get unmatched on-stage experience will be a highlight of your Sunday. Kids worth supporting and cheering over and over again.
Black Pistol Fire
Friday, October 4 and 11 from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. @ Miller Lite Stage
Classic southern guitar rock in the vein of The Raconteurs, Black Pistol Fire sets stages ablaze with fiery, electric live performances. Songs like the storming sing along “Lost Cause” and the Jack Black-soaked groove rocker “Suffocation Blues” are prime examples of this duo’s chops and unmatched energy.
Case in point. Watch this live rendition of “Speak of the Devil,” marvel at Eric Owens’ ability to play the keys and drum simultaneously, and try not to jam in your seat. Take it from personal experience: it’s not possible. A band of remarkable power guaranteed to draw a crowd at ACL Fest 2019.
Gary Clark Jr.
Saturday, October 5 and 12 from 6 to 7 p.m. @ AMEX Stage
During my second year in Austin, I bought my brother a selection of Austin music for Christmas. Among Moving Panorama’s first album and a random DJ whose name escapes me, I included Gary Clark Jr’s watershed “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.” Since then, we’ve been major fans, tracking his career from gigs at Stubb’s to songs on DC movie soundtracks.
For the uninitiated, Gark Clark Jr’s sound ranges from blues/funk to rock-a-soul and everything in between. Here’s your survey course. Start with the smooth and sultry “Cold Blooded” off “Sonny Boy,” then ease into “The Healing” off his live record for a taste of Clark’s guitar-playing prowess.
From there, pop on the Prince-tinged “Pink Cadillac” off critically-acclaimed 2019 record “This Land.” Dig the album’s politically-charged title track and watch the SNL performance that broke Twitter.
A local boy turned national sensation playing ACL’s biggest stage in a prime time slot. We old school fans couldn’t be prouder.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Who are you stoked to see at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2019?