Agree or disagree, as of this article, ACL Fest 2021 is on and ready to rock. As always, this world class event features some of finest artists from Austin. While most of the lesser known names require early arrival, seeing a local artist play on a massive festival stage is a sight to behold. Here’s your ultimate guide to our local heroes playing one of the biggest festivals of the year.
As always, I’ve created a Spotify playlist with music from all of this year’s ATX artists. Click here to give it a listen.
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Friday, October 1st
Asleep At The Wheel
The day Asleep at the Wheel fails to open ACL Festival with their signature brand of dancehall country, Austin will die a little bit. If you haven’t seen Austin Artist Ray Benson’s band of down home musicians live and in person, you are missing out on a crucial piece of local music history. Get in early and dig an Austin legend.
1:00 -1:45 on the Honda Stage
A resplendent expression of sun-soaked positive vibes, Audic Empire’s been blessing stages for well over a decade. Their latest single, “Let the Sun In”, laces it’s Saturday afternoon reggae upbeat with guest verses/vocals by Baby Bash and Keara Alyse while the message of “Come and Toke It” is – well – self explanatory. While you’re not permitted to bring in the sort of substances that pair well with Audic Empire’s sound, you’ll be tempted.
1:00 – 1:45 on the Tito’s Stage
Primo The Alien
More than a throwback to the days of The Human League and New Order, Primo The Alien takes well worn sounds and weaves them into music fresh, exciting, and new. Her biggest hit, “My Delorean”, is an electro-wave jam soaked in 80’s synth and propelled by Primo’s palpable desire to start over while her latest single, “Do It Again”, is a dramatic relationship post-mortem soaked with electronic percussion, cosmic synth, and urgent, emotional vocals. A talented songwriter who uses synthwave as a medium as opposed to a nostalgia trick, Primo The Alien transcends a genre full of strobe-light pretenders.
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Saturday, October 2nd
Once considered Kelsey Wilson’s Wild Child side project, Sir Woman’s become a musical force of its very own. Her latest single, “Party City”, is a bouncy 70’s soul bop celebrating the forward momentum and easy-does-it joy of spending time with someone you love. Listening to Ms. Wilson’s effortless vocal curl around a funky bass line and biting horn pops is pure musical candy.
1:00 – 1:45 on the Tito’s Stage
The last time Gina performed at ACL Fest, she performed on the Tito’s stage in the early afternoon. This year, she has an early evening spot on the 3rd largest stage in the park. It’s been fun watching her rise from a local Latin songstress to Tiny Desk concerts and headlining gigs around the globe. Her latest single, “Juntos Together”, stiches sparse shakers, Mexican accordion, and various Latin percussion into a bouncy jam worthy of steamy dancehall evenings. A must listen set on one of Austin’s biggest stages.
5:20 – 6:20 on the BMI Stage
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Sunday, October 3rd
One of the torchbearers of the new ATX hip-hop movement, Deezie Brown’s tight flow and head knocking production keeps the flame alight. His latest collaboration EP, “Geto Gala (Chopped and Slowed)”, is a collection of slow burn, chill anthems featuring the talents of Mr. Brown, Jake Lloyd, and the titular Geto Gala. The drowsy “Sum’n to Say” is an album highlight, but pray Brown performs “I Want It All” during his early afternoon ACL Fest set. Sure to wake the crowd up and enable hype mode for the day’s events.
12:15 – 1:00 on the Miller Lite Stage
If hip hop’s not your thing, swing to the VRBO stage for the indie rock sway and strut of Shooks. Combining indie rock sensibilities with a post punk twang, Shooks generates earwork hooks glazed with a subtle psychedelic haze. “You Know I’m Right” features a straight-forward guitar rift that allows lead vocalist Marlon Sexton (yes, that Sexton) to inject emotion galore through his wandering, evocative tenor. And hell yeah, they’re catchy as all get out. Check them out either at ACL Fest or any other means necessary.
12:15 – 1:00 on the VRBO Stage
With love and respect to all the local artists preforming this year, TC Superstar convinced me to cover Weekend One. A group full of depth, fun, self awareness, and pure joy, TC is my happy candy. From early dance gems like “Denial” and “Toyota Corolla” to their lush and poignant “R&D” LP, TC Superstar is proving they’re more than a quirky hook. And their latest record, “As Seen on TV”, is a triumph of smile inspiring jams with “Waste My Time” becoming my early favorite. A binge worthy act worthy of arriving early to see.
2:15 – 3:00 on the Tito’s Stage
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Friday, October 8th
Riders Against the Storm
Musicians, MC’s, activists, and defenders of social causes from Black Lives Matter to local artists rights, Riders Against the Storm isn’t a simple hip hop group. They are a cultural movement. For decades, Chaka and Qi Dada have used their talents to not only create landmark records but push Austin’s social conversation forward with a heart for peace, unity, and love. The title track off their latest record, “Flowers for the Living”, is a buoyant and uplifting call for joy in a world at a loss for it. Required viewing / listening.
1:30 – 2:15 on the Tito’s Stage
Evocative and brutally honest in both lyrics and flow, The Teeta is an A tier Austin MC. With tracks like the slow burn “come up” anthems “Summersaults” and “Get Yourz” to the slick wordplay of “Forex”, this ATX wordsmith layers droning trap beats with tights lyrics that feel raw and real. It’ll be cool watching The Teeta practice his craft on the BMI stage.
3:15 – 4:00 on the BMI Stage
Balancing chill vibes with catchy, genre bending pop hooks, Hinds is a band worth paying close to attention to. “Good Bad Times” is a multilingual bop that evokes spending time with loved ones on cool spring afternoons while “San Diego” is a delightfully messy romp. The DIY spirit is strong with this four and the result is intoxicating.
3:15 – 4:00 on the VRBO Stage
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Saturday, October 9th
I’ve been speaking a good deal of sugar about Mike Melinoe over the last year and it’s for good reason. An impressive MC of talent, swag, and style, Melinoe pumps out bangers with startling efficiency. “Telsa” is still one of my favorite tracks from last year, 2020’s “Costco” is a rapid fire scorcher, and his latest single, “Lost Prophets”, bumps with a retro mid-90’s beat, providing a silky landing spot for Melinoe’s signature flow. Get there early, get blown away.
12:05 – 12:50 on the VRBO Stage
The Tender Things
Need some country in your life? Grab lunch, mosey over to the nearby Tito’s stage, and get your dance on to The Tender Things. “Sister Elizabeth” is a boot scooting boogie of the highest order while “How You Make a Fool”, off the 2020 record of the same name, injects a touch of Southern blues to a cautionary tale of how not to approach life and its many choices. Cool, smoothed out country in a classic vein.
1:00 – 1:45 on the Tito’s Stage
Last year, Sloan Christian Struble, also known as Dayglow, was a bubbling-under-the-radar pop producer looking for a hit. Today, he’s an ATX darling on the level of the Black Pumas and Gary Clark Jr. And it’s for good reason. His skyrocketing single, “Can I Call You Tonight”, shimmers with a infectious indie groove while “Hot Rod” evokes the motions of long drives to destinations unknown via a cerebral, tongue-in-cheek smile. His latest single, “Close to You” off this year’s “Harmony House”, uses sparkling synth and an upbeat 80’s beat to tell a story of smiling through longing and regret. Love Dayglow and I’m confident you will too.
7:20 – 8:20 on the VRBO Stage
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Sunday, October 10th
Ashamed to admit, I didn’t quite get Zach Person until I saw him live. During an early summer Black Fret event at The Long Center, Person torched the stage with a stomping brand of rock-a-blues that made me a believer. “Can’t Stop Running” immediately sparks comparisons to Gary Clark Jr while his new single, “Remnants” is a daring six minute opera that begins as a smoldering ember and grows into a 5 alarm fire of guitar wizardry and pure soul. Join me in the church of Person in a few weeks at the BMI Stage.
12:00 – 12:45 on the BMI Stage
Butter smooth R&B MC with a decidedly modern edge, BLK ODYSSY will bring a touch of swag to the early Sunday lineup. “HANG LOW” burns with sultry vibes like a D’Angelo tune while “BIG BAD WOLF/SOBER” turns toward the serious in a tale of addiction and poor choices in the vein of Kendrick Lamar. A complex yet highly entertaining artist worth arriving early for.
12:00 – 12:45 on the VRBO Stage
Another artist I’ve written many complimentary words about, Superfonicos continues their rise to ATX Latin elite. Their latest single, “El Adios”, is a scorching samba number while “Cumbealo” screams heat, passion, and positive energy in a quick step cumbia. Call me crazy, but if this sensational group isn’t playing ACL Live alongside Grupo Fantasma within a few years, I’ll be sorely disappointed. Run, don’t walk, to the BMI stage for this mid afternoon treat.
3:30 – 4:30 on the BMI Stage
An artist of range and depth, David Ramirez is one our local luminaries and for good reason. Propelled by the sensitive and touching folk/country hit “Harder to Lie”, 2015’s “Fable” hit national recognition. Since then, from headlining appearances at major festivals to Austin Music Awards, Ramirez is cementing his reputation as an ATX staple. His latest single, “Normal” is anything but. A personal and biting testimonial track that begs repeated listens, the song might his best work in years. More than enough to catch his Sunday ACL Fest set.
5:30 – 6:30 on the BMI Stage
Austin Artists at ACL 2021 – Both Weekends
It’s not a stretch to call The Black Pumas the biggest ATX success story of the last five years. Maybe ten. For all of Gary Clark Jr’s success, nobody’s experienced the meteoric rise to prominence like this Eric Burton / Adrian Quesada collaboration. Their latest single, “Wichita Lineman”, continues their trend of finely crafted blues/rock. If you’re one of the millions who dug their self titled debut, you’ll need to be in attendance to experience Black Pumas live and in person.
6:00 – 7:00 Friday on the Lady Bird Stage (both weekends)
The audio equivalent to an erupting volcano, Missio’s thundering electronic sound projects power and emotion in equal measure. While my adoration of their debut record “Loner” is well documented, they’ve done nothing but keep the quality high since 2017. Their latest EP, “Skeletons: Part 3 (Instrumentals)”, is a fantastic companion piece to 2020’s stellar “Can You Feel the Sun”. Come for the soaring title track, stay for the beautifully discordant “Wolves”. Loved Missio when I saw them at SXSW a few years back, love them even more four years later.
5:20 – 6:20 Saturday on the VRBO Stage (both weekends)
This is going to be a-mazing. I’ve been lucky enough to experience Nane in small venues and this Latin/funk/soul fusion band lifts souls to the rafters. Seeing them on ACL’s biggest stage will be a mind bending experience. From newly minted classics like the rollicking party jam “Blue Velvet” and the sultry “Always On My Mind” to their most recent single, “Seventeen”, these ATX rock-a-funkers are legends in the making.
1:00 – 1:45 on the Lady Bird Stage (Friday, October 1st)
12:00 – 12:45 Sunday on the Miller Lite Stage (Sunday, October 10th)
Check out our Local’s Guide to ACL Fest including what to pack, what to wear, and other pro tips on making the most of your time at ACL!