ACL: Rock’s Hidden Gem

Music festival bums, take heart. When the last concert of Summerfest came to a close a week ago, it may have seemed like the only thing left of the summer was to peck away at the fourth of July’s surplus of hot dogs and commence your vigil awaiting the announcement of next year’s Coachella lineup.

But wait. The music of Summer ‘07 has not ended, at least not yet. The summer’s most under-the-radar festival is still ahead of us. And you can still get tickets.

And arguably, it’s the best music festival in the country.

This year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) is September 14-16, at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. It’ll be hot (in the past, temperatures have soared to 107) and muggy (in southeast Texas, the atmosphere is basically the Gulf of Mexico disguised as air), but for anyone willing to sweat out the Texas hospitality, the festival offers a stellar lineup in a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere.

Headliners this year include Bob Dylan & His Band, Bjork, the White Stripes, Wilco, Arcade Fire, the Killers, and the Arctic Monkeys. Other artists include Ben Kweller, Damien Rice, the Decemberists, and Amy Winehouse. And lest you forget you’re in Texas, ACL also features a number of roots rock, country, folk, and bluegrass bands, including country-rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed, maverick Robert Earl Keen, banjo jazz master Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Steve Earle, and alt-country pioneer Billy Joe Shaver. All together, 130 bands will play on eight stages during the three day festival.

One of the best things about ACL is the relaxed atmosphere. For those skeptical of attending a rock festival in Texas, remember that we’re talking about Austin, not Texas. Austin is like
Haight-Ashbury located in Soviet Russia. Texas’s capital is laid back and friendly, and sports as many hippies as Seattle (though in Austin they’ll probably wear cowboy hats and refer to Willie Nelson by his first name). Because Zilker Park is huge, the festival is a little less crowded than other major festivals, and attendees are allowed to bring chairs, blankets, and just about whatever else they want.

First held in 2002, ACL is as an offshoot of the popular public television program of the same name. Produced by KLRU (owner of the program) and Capital Sports & Entertainment, the first year’s festival was only two days but drew 42,000 people. Realizing they’d struck gold, ACL’s producers quickly went to work organizing the next year’s festival, which they expanded to three days. In 2004, just the festival’s third year, 75,000 people attended the Saturday show. Since then, a 65,000 cap has been placed on each day. Last year, both Saturday and Sunday sold out.

All the three-day passes have been sold already, but you can still get single-day tickets by going to their website (


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