10 more non-headlining moments from Weekend Two of ACL Fest 2023
As if no time had passed, Austinites returned this past weekend to the Austin City Limits Music Festival for its second and final weekend of 2023.
Most people are not so lucky as to attend both weekends, but those who do feel the difference. Weekend Two is often less hurried and more sentimental. The excited mystery of Weekend One wanes; people come armed with recommendations and expectations; and many artists recap fond memories of the last week in the unique city.
Our collective highlight, surely, was getting through the weekend safely. It's never a given, but Austinites have shown with their attendance that live music and reasons to gather are perpetually vital to life here.
Amid many inspiring, encouraging, or just entertaining moments, here are our top 10 highlights for Weekend Two. We encourage a YouTube or streaming rabbit hole whenever possible — many of these performances have been recorded during other festivals.
A new batch of festival fashion trends
Unless you’re regularly attending raves, there aren’t too many opportunities to dress up in sparkly, skin-baring ‘fits, so ACL is always a special time for fashion. (More on that in a photo gallery this week.) Last year’s trends persisted to some degree, but the outfit recycling was at a minimum. This year, women opted for tons of patchwork — upcycled, or more likely just pretending to be — and there seemed to be rhinestone fringe on every otherwise minimalist hem. Men, however, mostly kept with the status quo. Prints for a festival? Groundbreaking. More interesting: prints that don’t repeat, more paisley, and lots of mushrooms. — Brianna Caleri, Austin Editor
A well-rehearsed triumph by Bob Moses
Following up the prior week's immaculate set, Bob Moses is the epitome of “practice makes perfect.” After more than a decade of performing, the Canadian duo can do — and play — no wrong. While their entire set sounded incredibly clean, there’s something about their seductive and Grammy Award-winning hit “Tearing Me Up” that really hooks the head-bobbing audience. They played the hit early on in the hour-long performance; perfectly placed to catch the attention of unsuspecting passersby. However familiar festival-goers were with Bob Moses, they seemed to agree that they’re a well-matched fit for Austin’s local music scene. — Amber Heckler, Network Writer
Raye's pop-up jazz lounge
Lest we forget, we are talking about an outdoor festival in casual Austin, Texas; But one jazzy set by English singer-songwriter Raye really turned up the shmaltz. The R&B singer, best known for her recent hit “Escapism,” brought a band in tuxedos to deliver a pining set full of subtle vocal acrobatics and classy brass arrangements. Rather than just performing, Raye seemed to host this unique dance and soul set. She was talkative (as she vulnerably pointed out), but sincere, offering advice as an independent artist with a No. 1 hit in the U.K. "I have a feeling that might be the best show at ACL," optimistically declared a festival-goer hustling to her next Friday evening show. — BC
Sober options, good times
Staying sober at a highly crowded, overstimulating music festival can be difficult. Thankfully, ACL organizers factored that into their planning with the addition of “Bar None,” an alcohol-free cocktail bar and trailer. Non-drinking festival-goers could enjoy three different mocktails (for $12 each), or grab a can of Gin Bloom, Rambler Sparkling Water, or Liquid Death Mountain Water. For more targeted support, festival group Sober Park held meetings during both weekends, and nonprofit This Must Be The Place handed out free naloxone (also known as Narcan), as a safety tool combatting opioid overdoses. — AH
Labrinth does what others can't
English singer-songwriter Labrinth — best known for dramatic, spacious hits featured in Euphoria and social media clips of “epic” things — was one of the popular answers to the staple festival question, “Who are you looking forward to seeing?” He wasn’t initially on my list, but he achieved what Cigarettes After Sex and even Kendrick Lamar couldn’t, in my eyes: keeping a still, austere stage presence interesting. With theatrical silhouettes, dynamic lighting, and a choir, Labrinth cycled through an earth-shaking setlist with grace and an artistic touch. — BC
Ben Kweller keeps coming back
Dripping Springs-based singer-songwriter Ben Kweller is just as cool and casual onstage as he is off of it, even while donning a hat, jeans, and jacket in the near-80 degree sunshine. His relaxed demeanor made for an endearing mid-afternoon performance, warming the crowd up for a very different act up next, Rina Sawayama. One of my personal favorites (as a Dripping Springs native) was a completely solo rendition of “On My Way,” from his 2004 album of the same name. Kweller accompanied himself on guitar, which made it sound much more intimate for his audience. — AH
Rina Sawayama brings the drama
Speaking of the rising pop star…anyone who’s seen a music video by Rina Sawayama knew they were in for drama this Saturday, but the stage show was even more than many hoped for. Opening with dancers frolicking in white sundresses, moving through a simulated hurricane, and acting out emotional turmoil with staged lovers and a boxing coach, this was at times more a play than a concert. But Sawayama’s strong voice was exciting to listen to, even if a listener wasn’t keeping an eye on the stage. The spitfire queer icon also called out the state of Texas for suing Planned Parenthood, as an introduction to “STFU!” — an honor that was previously reserved for Matt Healy of The 1975, who later headlined the same stage. — BC
A danceable set by Little Simz
British-Nigerian rapper Little Simz is a force to be reckoned with, and brought her all on Sunday, her final date on her North American tour. From the ground-shaking, chest-vibrating bass in “No Merci” to the rhythmic Afrobeats hit “Point and Kill,” Little Simz left the audience wanting more, song after song. (We're hoping this and Amaarae's set means more Afrobeats are coming in future lineups.) She even got the sun-kissed crowd to do a fun little two-step during the final song in her set. The funky band didn't just sound great; they looked cool grooving in matching oversized white shirts and black ties. — AH
There are about as many reasons to see live music as there are people who see it. One prevailing motivator is hearing the music develop in real time, so lots of bands took their time letting things unfold. Mt. Joy, a common live show favorite, played laid-back Southern-inspired folk rock tunes, including a cover of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” that cured some of my UTOPiAfest FOMO. Dope Lemon brought some psychedelic, almost ambient rock from Australia, including the surprising-but-welcome addition of sitar and tabla. M83 took it all home in one of the final time slots for the festival, with their euphoric, mostly instrumental, and semi-electronic hits — but the MVP was touring drummer Julien Aoufi, who kept things organic on an acoustic drum set.— BC
Madison Cunningham gets a year older
Madison Cunningham maintained a heartwarming presence (and voice) while nursing a hangover the day after her 27th birthday. She may still be young, but her thoughtful songwriting has always betrayed an old soul — in a few moments, she was even Joni Mitchell-like. Her hypnotizing humming and harmonizing had the crowd mesmerized. Introspectively tuning her different guitars, Cunningham represented an ideal start to the easygoing final day of ACL, especially when the sun was only just starting to beat down on concert-goers. — AH
Although another year of ACL Fest is in the books, this is just the start of festival season. Save those Levitation flyers, kick back at the Austin Film Festival, and get excited for the Austin Food and Wine Festival. We'll see y'all out there.