Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
AT&T Blue Room
Not since Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs or perhaps even the Smiths has a band been so adept at portraying the various pitfalls and emotions of modern romance. The catalogue of Montreal-based band Stars, featuring members from the Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, plays like a teenager’s diary, full of stories of unrequited and lost loves, set to a gorgeous indie-rock backdrop.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
No band comes into ACL with more buzz than MGMT. The Brooklyn two-piece, filled out with three other musicians for live sets, released one of the best records of 2008 with Oracular Spectacular. Expect to see it on many critical top-10 lists when December hits.
Friday, 5:30 p.m.
AT&T Blue Room
Hot Chip is the party to start the weekend off right. The U.K. five-piece makes heartfelt music to dance to and single-handedly launched a hundred indie-electro club nights around the world with the hit “Over and Over.” That song came from the excellent LP The Warning, chock-full of electro-driven anthems such as “And I Was a Boy From School,” “Colours,” and “No Fit State.”
— Johnston Farrow
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Sharon Jones is a 52-year-old former prison guard with a long history as an obscure backup session singer. The Dap Kings are Brooklyn-based R&B obsessives who brought a vintage touch to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. When Jones’ authenticity collided with the band’s studious devotion to the form, they created retro-soul magic.
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Erykah Badu certainly has regard for her R&B roots, but the Dallas native is too eccentric and restless to ever fit into a musical category. That’s actually one of her great strengths, and it made this year’s overdue album New Amerykah Part One (Fourth World War) a crazy, exciting, and sometimes infuriating mess. Hopefully, she’ll grace the ACL audience with “Tyrone,” one of the great kiss-off anthems off all time.
Iron & Wine
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Like Badu, Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam is an artsy, inscrutable bohemian from the American South, but his palate tends to be acoustic folk rather than R&B/hip-hop. Over the years, the bearded one has paid the bills as a film professor, and he’s rightly lauded as one of indie music’s most poetic wordsmiths. In recent years, he’s collaborated with Calexico and introduced some desert-jazz touches to his understated sound.
— Gilbert Garcia
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
Neko Case’s siren voice is constructed almost entirely from country-music quirks: Imagine Dolly’s Amazonian diaphragm pushing Loretta’s throaty growl through Neil Young’s cocaine nostril. OK, now try like hell to forget it; that would be a monstrosity. Maybe this is where that cliché “beyond description” comes in.
Mates of State
Friday, 5:15 p.m.
Austin Ventures stage
This year’s Re-Arrange Us marked the complete metamorphosis from the Mates’ google-eyed organ pop to a smoother keyboard-driven variant, but more importantly, keyboardist Kori Gardner and drummer Jason Hammel are still ever so much in love, and their singularly unspectacular voices still find transcendent harmony through sheer romantic will. Sucks to be single here.
Friday, 8:15 p.m.
Now, as a music critic, I’m supposed to claim to hate these guys, but pretentious jerks like me dissed fellow guitar humpers Floyd and Zeppelin, too. De-Loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute are as close as they come these days, and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala will put on the show that Saturday’s headliner Robert Plant could’ve managed 30 years ago with Jimmy Page.
— Jeremy Martin
Friday, 2:30 p.m.
For those music fans not connected/lucky enough to catch Vampire Weekend at their SXSW 2008 showcase, ACL is your first chance to see if the prep-rockers live up to the blogosphere hype. I’m betting the answer is yes. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty early slot, but their quirky afro-indie-pop is tailor-made for a sunny (but hopefully not too sunny) afternoon at Zilker Park.
Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
AT&T Blue Room
Roll out the red carpet: Okkervil River returns to their hometown on the heels of yet another critically lauded album, The Stand Ins (a sequel to their even-better 2007 album, The Stage Names). As great as Okkervil sounds on disc, they’re a complete revelation on stage — Will Sheff and his crew pump the band’s novelistic songs full of energy, power, and fun (even the ones about celebrity
Friday, 6:30 p.m.
In a perfect world, David Byrne would be ACL’s headlining act (no disrespect to the Foo Fighters ... I think), having been a guiding force in music since his days as a psycho killer with the Talking Heads. His dips into world music begat bands like Islands and the aforementioned Vampire Weekend, but he’s still artistically relevant as ever, having just released Everything That Will Happen Will Happen Today with fellow pioneer Brian Eno.
— Chuck Kerr
ACL 3-day passes are long gone. Get single-day & VIP passes, plus maps & the full schedule at aclfestival.com
ACL like an Austinite
Casual is the key word in Austin, so act like us locals and wear comfortable shoes and a carefree smile — in some places the clothing in between is optional. (See Below.) Planning ahead for transportation is imperative as cabs are a rarity during peak festival times, and walking home over the hills around the park is treacherous after nine hours of drinking and dancing on what feels like the face of the sun.
Hit craigslist.com to buy, barter, or beg for parking spots, extra wristbands for procrastination-prone friends, and even places to crash. Capital Metro (capmetro.com) will also provide free shuttle service from Republic Square (Fourth and Guadalupe) where it’s slightly, slightly easier to find a spot.
Beat the heat of the day by cooling off in Barton Springs, or for a real adventure visit Hippie Hollow at Lake Travis and try channeling your inner nudist.
Inside Zilker Park, obviously pace yourself and stay hydrated, but remember: resting on a blanket spread out at the front of the stage and lounging during dance sets is not only very uncool, it’s dangerous.
Aftershows are a toss-up, but if you do decide to go downtown, refuel cheap and quick at street vendors like Best Wurst and Kebabalicious. Keep in mind there’s also a UT football game on Saturday (rescheduled due to Hurricane Ike), so prepare for total traffic meltdown.
— Jessi Cape
ACL’s Potential Break Out Acts
While ACL Fest routinely showcases notable acts like Foo Fighters and Bob Dylan, it has also in recent years served as a coming-out party for on-the-cusp bands like the Killers and Ghostland Observatory. On that note, here are some of the “under the radar” acts ready to hit big this year.
City and Colour
Saturday, 4:40 p.m.
Dallas Green, lead singer of Canadian hardcore act Alexisonfire, explores his softer side with this acoustic-based indie project. Earlier this year, City and Colour released the folksy Bring Me Your Love, which measures up against any indie release from the past calendar year.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Austin Ventures stage
This Austin-based funk/soul group dazzled the crowd while headlining the recent Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival with an array of pulse-pounding, James Brown-like tunes. For those who yearn to dance, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears got what you need.
Sunday, 11:15 a.m.
Texas-born and -raised, Wills made quite the impression playing several shows at South by Southwest earlier this year. With a troubadour’s spirit and folk/Americana songs to match, Wills’ latest effort — Fly — is, simply put, a thing of beauty.
— Clint Hale