2012 ACL Music Festival in Austin: 10 Must-See Artists

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The annual iteration of the Austin City Limits Music Festival is finally upon us, and Austin is bracing for the influx of amazing musicians and die hard fans that accompany the three-day bonanza. Over 130 bands will be performing this weekend in Zilker Park, across every genre imaginable, as ACL celebrates its 11th anniversary of turning the historic Austin City Limits television program into an international festival.

As with every great music festival, there will be plenty of great local food and art available to celebrate the culture of Texas as a whole, and Austin in specific. Since the last note of Arcade Fire’s finale during last year’s ACL, fans have been preparing for this year, snatching up three-day wristbands and single-day tickets as fast as C3 Presents can release them. This year’s headliners include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and The Black Keys, but make sure to check out some of these other acts I’m looking forward to!


Delta Spirit

My interest in Delta Spirit is a true-blue ACL success story. Last year my friends and I happened to wander into the Delta Spirit performance just as we arrived at the festival. I remembered really enjoying their rock/soul sound and made a point to buy some of their music after the festival. They’ve released a new album in the last year and I was so excited to see they would be returning to ACL.

Performing Friday at 2:15 at the AMD Stage.


Esperanza Spalding

A Grammy winner from Portland, Oregon, Esperanza Spalding fuses jazz, funk, hiphop, and soul into an amazing and unique style that has been building her fanbase since her debut in 2006. Her latest album made it to the Top 10 in the United States and she’s guaranteed to draw a big crowd this year at ACL.

Performing Friday at 3:30 at the Barton Springs Stage.



A winner of international DJ competitions since he was 15, A-Trak is always guaranteed to put on a show. Winning 5 World Championships is a quick way to get noticed, and A-Trak has taken his turntablism to the mainstream, collaborating with a multitude of artists and remixing songs from all genres. But the heart and soul of every DJ is in performance, and A-Trak will provide the ACL crowd with a killer set.

Performing Friday at 5:15 at the Honda Stage.


Big K.R.I.T.

This Mississippi rapper may be the ACL performer I am most excited to see. After releasing mixtapes since 2005, K.R.I.T. started to gain national attention with his Return of 4Eva project and after another stellar follow-up, released his first solo album earlier this year. With comparisons to southern hiphop legends UGK and Outkast, Big K.R.I.T. has a lot to live up to, but his high-end hiphop sounds more than capable. A must-see.

Performing Saturday at 3:00 at the Honda Stage.


The Roots

The Roots have been making their unique, instrument-based hiphop since 1993, and their latest release Undun from late 2011 proves they haven’t lost a step in 20 years. They perform as the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon while continuing to tour and record new music. Their neo-soul sound is timeless, especially in the face of so much electronic influence in modern pop. But don’t think they’re soft, Black Thought is still one of the best MCs alive and is not afraid to speak his mind.

Performing Saturday at 6:00 at the Bud Light Stage.



While Gotye has been recording and touring internationally since 2003, he reached the pop stratosphere with 2011’s “Someone That I Used To Know,” but that song isn’t even my favorite from his most recent release Making Mirrors. Most people will know him for the smash hit, but this is no one-hit-wonder, this Australian is legit and his alternative synth rock sound is perfect for ACL.

Performing Saturday at 7:00 at the Barton Springs Stage.


The Civil Wars

This country/folk duo won two Grammys this year, their debut album flew off digital shelves, and they put a song with Taylor Swift on the Hunger Games soundtrack. Not a bad start. If you’re interested in seeing two real musicians with serious pipes perform some soulful music, then you’ve gotta see The Civil Wars.

Performing Sunday at 4:15 at the AMD Stage.


The Lumineers

One of the latest folk buzz bands (is that a thing?) to gain mainstream recognition, The Lumineers remind me of Kings of Leon, with less arena rock and more Americana. With an appearance at ACL, maybe they will follow the success of KOL and make it big! Definitely worth checking out, so when they are huge, you can say you saw them live.

Performing Sunday at 5:00 at the Austin Ventures Stage.


The Weeknd

When I left ACL last year, I put Weeknd on my list of people I hoped would make the cut for the 2012 festival. When the initial lineup was released, the Canadian R&B singer was nowhere to be seen, but he was added just a few days later. One of the few R&B artists actually trying something new, The Weeknd is a sexually-charged, lush, eclectic blend of trance and hiphop, and his trio of free mixtapes from 2011 is being re-released as Trilogy this fall. He’s gained national attention and is a frequent collaborator with Drake, and will definitely make waves at ACL.

Performing Sunday at 5:15 at the Barton Springs Stage.


Childish Gambino

Donald Glover is a really busy guy, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him listed for ACL this year. Between his role on NBC’s Community and a national standup comedy tour, he somehow finds time to manage his growing rap career as Childish Gambino. He’s had a debut album and several excellent mixtapes, and his edgy lyrics mix with vibrant instrumentals to make a very memorable sound. Lots of people have their own opinions about him, but you should probably show up at his performance and build  your own.

Performing Sunday at 7:15 at the Barton Spring Stage.


These artists are just a small sampling of the mountain of incredible musicians that will be at ACL in Austin, TX this weekend. While wristbands and tickets are sold out, you are guaranteed to find some available on third-party sites, just make sure to be careful and get authentic passes. I’ll be at the festival all weekend, hopefully with enough reception to tweet and Instagram from @djsnakk. Enjoy the festival!

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