Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Marco Denzer

The 2015 ACL Festival returned to Zilker Park in Austin, TX for Weekend One, which featured performances by Foo Fighters, The Strokes, Tame Impala, Alabama Shakes, Walk the Moon, Gary Clark Jr., Shakey Graves, Father John Misty, Rhiannon Giddens, Glass Animals, and many more.

Unlike on the East coast, ACL attendees enjoyed sunny, hurricane-free skies as they stage-hopped from one big thing to the next. And so with Weekend One in the books, we lovingly recount the ultimate festival highlights straight from America’s live music capital.

Ladies and gents, here’s the best of the fest…


Future Rock Gods – Royal Blood
Giving new meaning to the term ‘drum n bass’, British rock duo Royal Blood charged right into their afternoon performance on Friday with the blistering single, “Figure it Out”. The pair kept their unhinged energy going throughout the set – Kerr mercilessly thrashed along to his monster riffs while Thatcher hurled drumsticks into the pile of jaws that lay dangling at their audience’s feet. During Royal Blood’s late-night ACL show at Emo’s, Kerr egged on his fans, “Nobody’s parents are here…we can do whatever we want”.

Flashback Friday – Billy Idol
Frosted platinum hair. Chipped black nail polish. Heavy leather jackets in 90 degree weather. Yes, it was Flashback Friday at ACL, because Billy Idol brought glam rock to Zilker Park for one hour only. All those 80’s era MTV hits made the cut, from “Dancing With Myself” to “Eyes Without A Face”, “White Wedding”, and “Rebel Yell”. Idol may be pushing 60, but he can still sweat, sweat, sweat his way down memory lane.

Future Headliner (Please?) – Tame Impala
Now that we all agree that their new album, Currents, is a smash, can we start giving these guys top billing yet? Everyone else seems to get that psychedelic songs like “Elephant”, “Cause I’m A Man” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” are best enjoyed under the stars (and under the influence), but instead Tame Impala performed under a blazing, unforgiving Texas sun. Next year, let’s give these guys a headliner’s welcome. C’mon, they brought those fancy rainbow lights and distortion pedals all the way from Australia.

Best Guest Appearance – Foo Fighters
We’ve been following the Foo Fighters on their Break A Leg Tour all summer long, so when Dave Grohl arrived at ACL atop his rock n roll throne, it almost seemed like old news. Sure, it was a thrill to see the band play a ‘greatest hits’ set that included “Everlong”, “Learn to Fly”, and “My Hero”, but the true highlight was all thanks to a very special guest. Austin’s own guitar hero Gary Clark Jr. made the show a little sweeter when he emerged to collaborate on the Sonic Highways tune, “What Did I Do? / God As My Witness”.

Undercover Sex Symbol – Father John Misty
When you experience Father John Misty live and in the flesh, this Bohemian jester who writes snarky songs (see his latest LP, I Love You Honeybear) somehow transforms into a hipster Casanova. Was it his slicked-back man bun? Was it the deep deep V neck under his suit? Was it the way he salaciously swings his microphone wire, or how he falls to his knees in fits of musical passion? Whatever happened during his ACL set on Saturday afternoon, it felt like pheromones were shooting right through the speakers.

Biggest Insurance Policy – Twenty One Pilots
The masked men behind Twenty One Pilots must have one hell of a deductible. Together they hit the Samsung stage on Saturday, hosting a high-energy set featuring songs like “Polarize”, “Tear in My Heart”, and “Car Radio”. Then, with the band’s manager presumably popping Xanax backstage, lead singer Tyler Joseph proceeded to scale the side of the stage, up towards a Texas flag that towered about three stories above the crowd. (Then we left, so we hope he’s okay.)

Lady Boss Award – Alabama Shakes
How many other female-fronted rock bands are killing it like the Alabama Shakes are lately? This year lady boss Brittany Howard and her band showed up to ACL with a trio of back-up singers and some incredible new material from their 2015 record, Sound & Color. Her voice as powerful as ever, Howard led the Shakes through soulful numbers including “Dunes”, “Miss You”, and the single of the summer, “Don’t Wanna Fight”. We don’t know about you, but we’re thinking Howard 2020.


Best Backup Plan – The Strokes

“Keep it down, we’re trying to work up here”, Julian Casablancas muttered in between songs as the crowd at the Samsung stage howled themselves hoarse. The audience had good reason to emote – in a very rare U.S. appearance, The Strokes closed out Weekend One with a set full of fan favorites like “Last Night”, “Reptilia”, and “Heart In A Cage”. And all through the 90 minute show, Casablancas had no shortage of one-liners. “Can I get more Weeknd in my monitors?”, he later asked, jabbing at the festival’s schedule of competing time-slots. If this rock n roll thing doesn’t work out, maybe the front-man can live out his twilight years on the comedy circuit.

Thanks ACL, see you next year!


TheWaster.com | ACL 2015