So, how awesome was ACL? (Correct answer: AWESOME.) Here at CultureMap, we spent the weekend seeing as many bands as possible, sampling tasty treats and writing plenty of reviews for all of you. If you were too busy having fun at the fest to stay on top of our coverage, fear not: we've collected our top posts here for your easy perusal. Check out our reviews, interviews, photos and guides from ACL 2011 (and let us know what your fest favorites were).
ACL in Photos
Our intrepid CultureMap photo editor, Jessica Pages, heads onto the field to get some shots of the music, the crowds and plenty of madness.
Cowboy and Indian's Daniel James and Jazz Mills on band dynamics and the feel of the fest: "To say that Cowboy and Indian—an oft-shifting collective of musicians producing dreamy, bluesy tunes with a satisfyingly vintage feel—are an Austin-based band isn’t wrong, but it’s not the whole story."
Twin Shadow's stylish sadness: "Their debut Forget was produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, but you'd never know it from the music within, which channels early solo Morrissey and The Psychedelic Furs'Mirror Moves (with just a dash of chillwave) to pitch-perfect effect, showcasing an artist recalling youthful triumphs and tragedies with both nostalgia and regret."
Ruby Jane: How she will surprise this year's ACL audience: "It’s not often you find a 16 year-old playing their own set at a music event as big as the Austin City Limits Music Festival. It’s also not often that a 16 year-old has been making music since she was 2, has played alongside some of music’s all time greats, has taken the stage at the Grand Ole Opry and has a head on her shoulders that keeps it all in crystal clear perspective."
Elbow: U2 and Jay-Z love them. You will, too: "If you've not listened to Elbow, they've name-checked Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis as sonic touchpoints, and a fawning press have often compared (or lumped them in) with their UK 'literary rock' peers like Doves, Radiohead, and I Am Kloot."
An Horse on ACL plans, Aussie roots and tour life: "Indie duo Kate Cooper and Damon Cox—better known as An Horse—are winning over the hearts of hipsters and have received a lot of more mainstream attention with their sophomore album, Walls."
Sweaty, swaying dance party: Pretty Lights kicks of ACL with Nas and Run DMT: "These aftershows, unofficial second gigs for festival bands, have become increasingly popular over the last few years and now act as a stable for up-and-comers—or, as we call them at ACL, headliners-in-waiting."
Electric Touch brings a Brit-punk inspired dance party: "ACL is all about punctuality, but the bands tend to adapt, packing sets with a density of power normally reserved for Texas chile."
Big Boi rocks a heat-soaked—but still down to dance—festival crowd: "Big Boi came out determined to show a stylishly commanding presence, and the speed with which the crowd threw their hands in the air and waved 'em like they just didn't care was proof that he'd succeeded."
James Blake's reverb-heavy hits: "Friday at ACL, Blake faced the challenge of bringing his music to a large audience of talking, drinking festivalgoers, many of which were likely hearing him for the first time."
King Kanye takes the throne: "As the show begins, choreographer Yemi Akinyemi’s dancers take the stage—you might recognize some of them as those exotic ballerinas from last year's avant-garde "Runaway" video—while West is covertly toted into the middle of a crowd inside of a giant red trunk."
Austin's own Hayes Carll, modern Americana troubador: "Carll's skill as a songwriter have led to a catalog of tunes from the past decade that are identifiable for a growing audience. These are the kind of songs that will become your companion on the road: you can relate to the reality and laugh at the subtle humor infused into most, if not all, of his tunes."
Iron and Wine offer a rainy jazz odyssey: "Maybe it was the rain—sorely needed, of course, but hilariously ill-timed to coincide with the festival after so many dry months—or maybe it was the 11 musicians on the stage, each of whom seemed to belong to a slightly different band."
J. Roddy Walston & The Business mix rugged rock and honky tonk: "Every track of their explosive set is—to get lost in metaphor—shoved into a roadhouse, force-fed a shot of whisky and told to fight the nearest guy to the jukebox."
Fitz and the Tantrums and Skrillex dance it out: "The L.A. sextet probably doesn't like being called “retro” or "revivalists," though it's easy to see why they would fall into that swath: style plays a big part in the whole package, with frontman Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick strutting around like some John Waters extra, dapper maroon suit and grey skunk streak accenting the soulful 1960s ballast of co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs."
Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings deliver a soulful set: "With only two bodies on stage—armed with acoustic guitars and the boots on their feet—Welch and Rawlings provided one of the most pared down, but soulful, ACL sets I’ve seen."
The Belle Brigade's talent rings clear at ACL: "There is something magical about familial harmonies. Combined with the energy that brother and sister Ethan and Barbara Gruska and the rest of The Belle Brigade brought to the Honda Stage Saturday, the mix of multi-layered tunes and endearing stage presence made me an instant fan."
Empire of the Sun, headliner-in-waiting: "Luke Steele, the band’s front man, used a myriad of vocal effects and multiple costume changes to keep even the most dedicated fans on their toes throughout the show."
The Head and The Heart bring sunshine and harmonies: "The band were impressed with the turnout, simply stating: "I like Texas. Wow!" From the early notes of "Coeur D'Alene," there were handclaps, easygoing harmonies, and a general sense that this was the right way to start one's final day of the festival."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. reps their motor city pride: "After a raucous set at the Legion House the night prior, one would have expected a languid, half-hungover appearance. However, DEJJ came out firing, turning the Honda Stage into a playpen for smart glitch pop, layered Beach Boys-themed harmonies and enough wardrobe changes to make your head spin."
Joseph Arthur, Sunday's diamond in the rough: "Playing unaccompanied, Arthur filled the stage with an electric guitar and his own voice (and a couple of canvases for painting), serving up the evocative sort of zag-where-you-thought-they-might-zig songwriting that he's built his career on."
The Antlers: "There’s no gripping, overarching back-story on Break Apart, which comes as a bit of a relief for those still stuck with an emotional hangover from the subjects presented by Silberman's haunting falsetto on Hospice."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: "Because who says that in order to do serious work, you have to be so down about it?"
What not to wear: Learning from first day mistakes at ACL: The always-stylish Megan Runser spots hits—and misses—and offers some friendly suggestions.
ACL sunglasses and flag fashion: Two of the best ways to express yourself at ACL? With your own high-flying fest flag, or some sporty sun protection. Here's a few of our faves.
Fashion vs function: Outfits to help beat the heat: "Sure, I’d love to bust out my favorite pair of nude stilettos because they elongate my tree trunk legs (fashion), but the reality of standing on my feet all day elicits a strong desire to instead borrow my grandmother’s orthopedic kicks (function)."
Food + Drink
Top picks for Sunday grub, from truffles to poboys: "Not only does C3 bring out the big bands for the fest, they also bring out the big name restaurants. This provides the perfect opportunity to sample high-end cuisine without breaking the bank."
Best bets for conquering your ACL snack cravings: "This is for the newbies, who may not quite understand that this mob-scene may be laidback in pure Austin style; but, when it comes to food and beer, you’ve gotta play it smart, or you’ll end up missing the best part."
How two food trailers that started the trailer food revolution ended up at ACL festival: An homage to Mighty Cone and Torchy's Tacos
What are you drinking at ACL?: "Have you wondered what all of the rock stars drink back-stage? Lucky for you, I’ve got the inside track."
Isn't she crazy—I mean, lovely? One fan endures one hell of a day to be front and center at Stevie Wonder: "Saturday, when the gates opened, Gray bolted through the park with her brown blanket in tow, heading straight toward the Bud Light stage. There is one person Gray wants to see during ACL: Stevie Wonder."
Tiny tunes adventures: Austin Kiddie Limits rocks for the little ones: "ACL knows that, when it comes to preserving Austin's music reputation, we gotta teach our children about good music early."
10 years of pure festival joy—ACL delivers: "It's one thing to create an event that's kind of fun and makes people money; it's another thing to create a festival simply because you are a huge music fan and want to do it right."
Ryan Bingham needs a cough drop and Cee-Lo is offensive: The ACL lineup according to my mom: "I played my mother excerpts from this year's headliners' most famous songs. Our conversation went as follows:"
Insider tips to avoid ACL gridlock: Our guide to avoiding festival fuss (tips apply to any big-time downtown event—traffic! *shakes fist angrily*).
Call me! Text me! Tweet me! How not to get lost: Avoid getting lost in the crowd at packed events with these no-brainer communication clues.