By Lizzie Manno
The first day of Austin City Limits Music Festival was an absolute scorcher—both in terms of the exceptionally hot weather and the sizzling performances. Nearly every act commented on the heat, but shockingly, none seemed fazed by it. To combat the heat, festivalgoers chugged water and carried around handheld cardboard fans in various shapes—lemons, beer cans, and a massive head of Michael from The Office (but to be fair, I don’t think that last one was meant to be a fan). American Express, who also sponsored the festival’s biggest stage and was the official partner of ACL’s cashless wristband payment system, offered fans several opportunities to relax and cool off.
For both weekends of the festival, American Express are offering benefits for cardholders who register for cashless payments. All festivalgoers received access to the first level of American Express Experience, which offered an air conditioned lounge with various activities and giveaways on the first level. The second level Card Member Club was a card member exclusive, offering a great view of the American Express stage along with a rooftop bar decorated with repurposed musical instruments.
Dragonflies were spotted hovering all over the Zilker Park festival grounds along with a small plane pulling a banner that read, “Andrew has a boner.” Though given the fact that the plane flew around all day, let’s hope it didn’t last that long or else Andrew’s probably in the hospital. Another recurring theme was Beto O’Rourke stickers, pins and t-shirts galore with several organizations onsite, registering people to vote. Though we live in dire times with deep rage and division, day one of Austin City Limits was a much needed kick of serotonin.
Besides the obvious musical reasons, David Byrne and his band get a special mention here for wearing impeccable, matching suits in the 90 degree Austin sun. With his customary grey-suited troupe, Byrne serenades the crowd while clutching a plastic human brain, but it’s all par for the course. Playing solo hits as well as Talking Heads classics, the set was nothing short of a spectacle with a group of a dozen or so other musicians (dancers, percussionists, keyboardists, etc.) all playing wirelessly and in a seamlessly choreographed fashion. The group’s symbiotic relationship was more than impressive. Songs featured funky African-inspired rhythms and idiosyncratic flourishes that we’ve come to know and love from Byrne. Bryne closed with a rousing cover of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout,” which gave off a tropical marching band vibe and a revolutionary spirit as the song’s lyrics commemorate the names of minorities who were violently killed.