Austin City Limits
Meet ACL Mike, the undisputed champion of the legendary festival
Every year, ACL Fest brings thousands of music lovers to Zilker Park for a three day orgy of music, food, and half-naked, whatever-the-weather revelry.
Arguably, however, no one knows ACL better than ACL Mike, a longtime fan and "unofficial voice" of the festival, who has spent the past ten years helping ACL newbies and veterans make the most of their ACL weekend.
Throughout his experience, ACL Mike has also developed an uncanny proficiency for predicting the lineup long before any announcements are ever made.
After the immediate sale of every last ever-lovin' one of the tickets to this year's ACL happened in one day flat, we turned to ACL Mike to learn more about the methods behind his madness and whether there is any hope for those unlucky folks who didn't get tickets the first time.
CultureMap: Hi, ACL Mike. Can we call you Mike?
ACL Mike: Yes, my name really is Mike!
What do you do the rest of the year then, Mike?
I’m a home-brewer, a gardener, an artist and a lover of smoked meats.
Mysterious and artsy. We like that. And how did your love of ACL begin? Do you remember your first one?
Ah yes, nobody forgets their first, right? I moved to Austin in 2003 and a few weeks after arriving, a friend mentioned they had an extra ticket to ACL Fest. It was the second year of the festival, and after looking over the lineup, I knew it was going to be great. I mean come on, Al Green?! I didn’t make it on Friday — which was my only year not to hit all 3 days — but Saturday and Sunday were amazing. I’ve been coming back ever since.
And of all the millions of acts you've seen over the years, what is the best show you ever saw at any ACL from any of the past ten years?
My favorite ACL Fest show was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2006. An insane lightning storm rolled in during the first 30 minutes of their set. The music stopped, the park mostly cleared out, but we waited. Soon the weather changed, Petty returned to the stage, and for the next hour and a half, played a fantastic set to the remaining brave souls.
Location, location, location. Zilker Park is such a great venue, and living in Austin makes it so easy to attend. I also love that it’s the final summer music fest. I see it as the final party of the summer, the last time to party with your friends in Zilker Park before those two brutal weeks of Austin winter set in. [laughs]
The group that I usually attend ACL with decided to give me the name; I was not part of that conversation. I guess it was about four years back, everyone showed up wearing shirts with my picture with “ACL MIKE” written under it. I literally found out about it an hour before the gates opened. What's funny is, I don’t think I even had an email address back then, but they created all the online stuff and connected me to the social world. So I’m totally connected now!
[Pause] But that would be telling…[Laughs]
I'd have to say that my website and my social media sites are for everyone. I get tons of first-timers and out-of-towners asking me for tips: what to bring, where to stay, who to see. However, I enjoy the conversations and rumor-milling I get to do with other longtime, die-hard fans. I try to make the site reflect the pulse of what’s happening before, during and after of ACL Fest. Of course, 'during' sometimes just becomes a ‘documentary of drunkeness.’
There are fantastic headliners this year, but I’m mostly looking forward to Neil Young & Crazy Horse and The Black Keys. I first saw the Black Keys about 10 years ago in a small club in Denver, and I've been hooked ever since. Aside from the headliners, my favorite artists of the year usually turn out to be the ones I haven’t heard of yet. Biggest surprise, though? Iggy Pop, for sure!
This year, the festival sold out in two days flat. How do you recommend desperate folks get ahold of tickets, it it's even possible?
Oh, it’s totally possible. Most importantly, I suggest talking to people; more than likely you’ll know someone that knows someone with extras. Or talk to me. For the past few years, I’ve been helping buyers and sellers connect via Twitter. My only rule is: Sell at Face Value. I don’t take kindly to scalpers. So if you’re looking for tickets, give me a shout at '@aclmike' and I’ll see what I can do.
I think we can expect more after-parties this year and more amazing Austin food. One thing I’d like to see added, too, is comedy. After all, ACL continues to be one of the best music festivals in the country; it has great music, great fans, and arguably the best venue in the country for a 3-day fest. Why not add something else people love?
This is my tenth year and I’m planning a BIG celebration. Every year I invite people to find me during the event, and this year is no exception. Just look for my big red 'Chillin’ The Most’ flag. Stop by, say hi, take a photo, and see what crazy antics I’m up to at this year’s ACL Festival. See you all in October!
Find tickets, get advice, hear updates or just say 'What's Up' at any one of ACL Mike's many handles: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and... MySpace, too. Why not?