When COVID knocked out SXSW back in March of this year, I was crestfallen. Seven months later, my sadness seems petty, but at the time, it was crushing. And as we all know, everything else live music related fell along with it, including the other marquee music event of the year, the Austin City Limits Festival.
Luckily, the ACL Festival team refused to stay down and crafted a weekend long virtual event that both pays homage to the past while keeping an eye towards the future. All without the need for masks, social distancing or even tickets.
A Blast to the Past
This year’s event will run from October 9th to 11th exclusively on YouTube. The virtu-show starts at 7 p.m. each night and will feature iconic performances from past festivals. From last year’s headliners Billie Eilish and Gary Clark Jr to Phish and LCD Soundsystem in 2010, a decade’s worth of ACL Fest memories will be on offer.
But it’s not all “re-runs” of classic ACL Fest moments. Determined to keep the lineup current, the festival will feature a variety of new content and recorded performances featuring some of Austin’s finest talent. One of the coolest examples of old meets new is an animated video of Willie Nelson’s 2016 ACL Fest performance of “On the Road Again” presented by Texas Monthly.
New Content with a Local Flair
Like the in-person event, this year’s edition leans heavily on both local talent and organizations. Yearly sponsor, Austin Parks Foundation, will showcase local artists performing in unique locations around Austin:
- Melat from the Zilker Botanical Gardens.
- Jackie Venson from Pan Am Neighborhood Park.
- Los Coast from Zilker Clubhouse
- Otis the Destroyer from the Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skatepark.
Another long time sponsor, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, hosted a series of brand new performances from the Black Pumas, Mobley, and Paul Cauthen which will be broadcast throughout the weekend. And as they do every year, Tito’s will match all donations to the Austin Parks Foundation up to $10,000 made during ACL Fest 2020.
More Than Just Music
Anybody who’s been to ACL Fest will tell you the weekend is more than epic live music. It’s a gathering place, an innovation showcase, and sometimes a social call to arms. ACL Fest 2020 continues this important piece of the festival puzzle in this year’s virtual format.
In the conversation department, Salesforce has partnered with ACL Fest 2020 to create the Make Change initiative. Matthew McConaughey will host two sessions, one starring tennis legend Andy Roddick and a group of community focused entrepreneurs while the other will center on providing educational assistance to underserved high school students. While these smaller sessions often get swallowed by the music, please make a point to attend these enlightening and important sessions.
Other sessions and partnerships include:
- Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to changing the American electoral landscape by ensuring everyone is registered and empowered to vote.
- The Equal Justice Initiative, committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishments in the American penal system.
- The All Together ATX Relief Fund, a joint partnership with Austin Community Foundation and United Way for Greater Austin designed to combat the economic impact of COVID-19 on already vulnerable neighborhoods.
New Location, Same Energy for ACL Fest 2020
And the list of awesomeness goes on and on! When many festivals packed it in and said, “see you next year” when COVID struck, the Austin City Limits Festival team dug in and found a new way to celebrate. While it won’t be the eight stage, 400,000 person extravaganza we’re used to, this year’s virtual edition is a thoughtfully curated and planned event that does more than make the best out of a challenging situation. ACL Fest 2020 uses the limitations to create something different but equally impactful.
Enjoying some of the best moments of ACL’s past from the comfort of your couch for free sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening. Try to do so at least once this weekend!
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Do you have a favorite ACL Fest performance? Tell us about it!