Twenty years from now, I’m only going to remember two things about my first Austin City Limits Music Festival: boxed water and the heat.
The temperature gauge didn’t breach the 90s, but, with the humidity and so many people in one place, it felt like the worst of summer. I tried desperately to make “#hotbodieseverywhere” trend on Twitter, because that was the foremost thing on my mind.
Kendrick Lamar’s concert was the hottest of them all. Lamar, the only rapper at ACL, as well as one of the most current headliners, drew a large crowd very early.
About 20 minutes before Lamar came out, when his roadies were setting up, the crowd stood up and surged forward. What followed was the closest, most tightly-packed crowd possible in an outdoor space. Was it fun? Yes, but only because I was focusing on Lamar, and not the woman next to me holding a cigarette dangerously close to my hair.
Besides that, the other sets I saw were flawless, if a little bland. I blame the heat for sapping the energy of the earlier performers.
The Silversun Pickups, who played a fun set, were covered in so much sweat it was visible from the middle of the crowd. When they paused between songs the first words out of lead vocalist Brian Aubert’s mouth were, “It’s freaking hot!”
The evening acts were reserved for the headliners. I saw Depeche Mode and The Cure almost out of a sense of respect rather than actual excitement.
Depeche Mode was electrifying, if a little confusing. Their song “Precious” was accompanied by a montage of cute dogs on the stage screen.
The Cure’s show was polished and enjoyable. They got everyone up and dancing, which helped combat the sudden chill that arrived Saturday night.
I raised an eyebrow when I saw Lionel Richie filling the final time slot on the Sunday schedule. While he was one of the most successful artists on the slate, he honestly hasn’t been relevant to modern music in quite some time.
The list of bands already looked like an ’80s flashback. Of the three headlining acts whose albums I might have shared with my parents, Richie was the one I was least excited to see.
But my boyfriend and I decided that we’d rather go to his show than sit through Thom Yorke minus Radiohead.
To say that I was surprised by him putting on the best performance of the weekend isn’t enough. He blew me away.
His infectious enthusiasm and humor brought out one thing that had been scarce all weekend: Smiles.
Somehow, after one of the hottest, most exhausting weekends of my life, Lionel Richie managed to make me smile as the entire crowd joined in for the chorus of “All Night Long.”