Highlights of the Texan double-header's second weekend

This year more than ever, the second weekend of the Austin City Limits Festival brought a more relaxed vibe and more room to breathe. Perhaps it was the variety of artists represented on the line-up - for locals, Ben Kweller opened the weekend with his gritty and twangy rock ’n’ roll charm. Peppering his spirited set with a clutch of new tracks, some saw him setting down his guitar and stalking the stage with a wireless mic in hand. But there’s nothing quite like the bare acoustics and crowd sing-along that comes with his heartfelt ‘On My Way’ to really ease the crowd into a festival mood.

For trend-chasers, Bishop Briggs brought all of her big hits with breathless energy that see-sawed from whispers of thanks to shouts of, “C’mon Austin!” If a disco-rock vibe was sought, Jungle was the ticket to the dance floor. The bubbling synths of ‘Heavy, California’ were the figurative lens through which a universal bokeh effect could be seen, and ‘Busy Earnin’’ is a forever-jam that forces asses to shake.

For the introspective, The National’s Matt Berninger changed up the lyrics to ‘Mr. November’ briefly to reflect on the fact that he was having trouble screaming the word “fuck” in the lyrics of the song. And for those seeking the self-proclaimed “greatest boyband in the motherfuckin’ world,” BROCKHAMPTON brought their Wu-Tang-meets-Backstreet-Boys situation to the stage. If that sounds like it doesn’t make sense, go to the tapes. This troupe commands the stage, and on jams like ‘Boogie’, their fans go crazy.

Saturday brought threats of thunderstorms that never materialized, so special guest Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) stayed dry backing up Brandi Carlile’s smoking hot vocals on ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. Her guttural wails and juicy vibrato suited the song to a T, and set off her own kind of storm in the afternoon sun.

Truly, though, Saturdays are for dancing. The one-two-three line-up punch of CHVRCHES to Sylvan Esso to Justice made for a euphoric party vibe, and the humidity left a slick coat of sweat on all attendees.

Sunday, by contrast, was a day for chilling. Shawn Mendes and his legion of young fans sang hit after hit, from ‘Stitches’ to ‘In My Blood’, in an arm-waving trance. Across the field, Vince Staples was amping up fans with older hits like ‘Norf Norf’, newer tracks like ‘Yeah Right’, and his Black Panther contribution, ‘Opps’.

The hype was real, and transitioned smoothly (if surprisingly) to the avant-garde pop of St. Vincent. She remixed tracks to seamlessly flow from one to the next, and matched them with arresting visuals - there were her drummer and synth player, who looked like haunted muppets, and her background videos that leapt from twitchy to slo-mo and measured from one verse to the next. ‘Digital Witness’ and ‘Fear The Future’ stood out, with the latter featuring a memorable dancer on screen wearing layers of white that made her look like a cross between an old woman and melting cupcake.

Finally, Sheffield’s own Arctic Monkeys closed the weekend down with straight-ahead northern rock ’n’ roll. There was a healthy mix of old and new, the jangly march of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and the hyperactive drumming of ‘Brianstorm’ coming up against the deeper cuts from latest LP, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. The guys ended on ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, a sentiment that summed up the entire weekend with a snarl.

Words: Caitlin Teibloom
Photography: Katherine Squier

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