Although ACL has been over for a couple of weeks, the performances are still something that crosses my mind. Here’s a full list of who we saw:
- Bishop Briggs
- Sir Sly
- Greta Van Fleet
- Manchester Orchestra
- The National
- Paul McCartney
- The Wombats
- Japanese Breakfast
- Brandi Carlile
- Blood Orange
- St. Vincent
- Janelle Monae
- Shakey Graves
- Sylvan Esso
It was a marathon, to say the least. But, one I was more than happy to run through. I’d say every act was great. I felt like some were in the wrong venue and would’ve been better to see in more intimate settings (Bahamas, The National, Blood Orange, etc). However, there were a few that stood out — blowing away even the headliners (who were just as great as they’re known to be).
This is a girl whose voice I can’t stop thinking about. This generation has birthed a new era of “pop” star that fuses genres together unlike any “pop” I experienced growing up. When I think of Bishop Briggs I think of absolute strength— power. Her opening track was The Way I Do. From the moment the song started, the wind blowing in my hair, the unforgiving sun pounding on my skin — I was immediately reminded of why we were at ACL, to begin with. It was to see people like her. It was to feel the way musicians like this can make you feel. I felt every ounce of her performance in my skin. She was energetic, charismatic, and empowering. When she performs you can’t help but feel ignited. Then the song stops and her meek voice expresses how eternally grateful she is to be there. You almost expect her personality to be more dominant, but it’s not. Making you wonder “Where the hell did that voice come from?” Between songs and expressing eternal gratitude, she cried as she told us about how insane it was for her to realize she was at ACL performing for all of us. Watching a musician realize special moments they won’t experience again in that actual moment is incredible. We shared that with her as she continued to play the rest of her set which was power track after power track. If she comes to a venue near you, go see her. It’s a must.
Greta Van Fleet
I missed these guys when they came to Omaha a few months ago. Everyone talked about how phenomenal they were, and I thought to myself, “They were probably good, but that good?” I quickly found out that yes, they are indeed that good. This band of brothers transported my little hippie heart to the days my dad talked about in the 70’s of love, music, and freedom — days I’ve only dreamed about. It happened from the minute they stepped on stage and Josh Kiszka belted out the opening wail from Highway Tune. I scanned the crowd and we were all on the same page with ridiculous grins stretched from ear to ear on everyone that I could see. They stretched their songs out to showcase how much of a jam band they can be. The performance quality of their set exceeds the quality of their music, which is something that is insane for me to think about because they are exceptional musically. Greta Van Fleet is a band made for festivals. You almost forget where you are for a second from the feathers, long hair, bell bottoms, and fringe vests down to the love in the crowd. You could almost believe you were living that moment in another time and another place.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve always liked Chvches but wouldn’t call myself a serious fan. However now, I’ve listened to them every day since seeing them live. Laura Eve Mayberry is commanding. Donning makeup that reminded me of Natalie Portman in Black Swan, mic to mouth and the other arm straight to the sky she stood silently as the reverberation of the music came to life in the background, the wind swirling around her. I was immediately drawn in from that moment, and she hadn’t even started singing yet. As a group, Chvrches are masters of show. Standout moments for me were when they performed Miracle and when they encouraged us to yell a collective and cathartic “f*ck” in solidarity after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed. I get the feeling this is a group that could play a huge outdoor stage, an intimate indoor venue or an arena, and no matter what you’re going to have a good time.
This queen. That’s all I kept thinking. The quality of the show that Janelle Monáe puts on is empowering for women, sure. But, what I was surprised by is how many men I noticed who also felt openly empowered. This is a musician and a performer who is so good she spans a multitude of different audiences. With just an hour gig we saw multiple costumes, set changes, backup dancers and elaborate staging. It was incredible. If she was able to pull off a lot in a short amount of time, I wondered what it would be like if you had a full night with her. In addition to the fantastic artistry of her performance, she’s a musician and human that radiates love and wraps herself in experience. This is a ride she takes you along. There was a moment where she looked to the sky, took a deep breath, and encouraged us all to breathe in the moment we were living together because it was one we’d never live again. It’s moments like that between a musician and a crowd that creates memories that last a lifetime. We came to her set for the music but ended up walking away with so much more than that.
Alejandro Rose-Garcia. His voice was electric. His set was electric. He played on the Barton Springs stage (which is one of the smaller stages of the fest) and it was the most packed I’d seen it all weekend. People were waiting before and after the previous act just to save their spot for his show. And, rightfully so. For what little we saw of him, I was impressed. As a musician, he does it all. And, more than that he does it with a finesse and an allure that makes it impossible for you to take your eyes off of him. Shakey Graves is another act that I’d go see again and again and again.
So, there you have it. Again, everyone was great in their own way. However, these callouts above were the real standouts for me. Thinking about going to ACL next year? Check out my survival guide. Have you seen any of these bands before? Let me know what you thought about them in the comments below!
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