The best Austin City Limits 2014 headliner: An Austin 360 staff poll

Covering “Baba O’Riley” and going quietly into the night with a meaty, playful but resonant “Star-Spangled Banner” from guitarist Mike McCready, Pearl Jam valiantly closed the 2014 Austin City Limits festival just on the mischievous, neighbor-bugging side of 10:00 p.m. Sunday. Eddie Vedder politely shouted out his co-headliners during his band’s brilliantly sharp set, “St. Vincent, OutKast, Eminem–they’re all very kind people.”

That may be true, but now that we have two weekends of data, we need a definitive, poll-driven rankings of the six headliners. It should be noted that Lorde, Iggy Azalea, and Sam Smith popped beyond their allotted time and stage in the late spring, summer, and early fall window between booking and performing. Each enjoyed headliner-level density. Maybe next year.

I had some of Austin 360’s most dangerous minds (Peter Blackstock, Deborah Sengupta Stith, Eric Webb, Eric Pulsifer, yours truly) rank each headlining act one through six. A No. 1 headliner received six points; a No. 2 five, and so on. The artist with the highest point total wins. The results shouldn’t be surprising.

6. Skrillex, 6 points

“[As] a music festival show, it seemed insulting to spin through so many familiar songs (Beastie Boys’ ‘Intergalactic,’ Salt n Pepa’s ‘Push It,’ Schoolboy Q’s ‘Collard Greens,’ heck, ‘The Circle of Life’ from ‘The Lion King’), as if it was just an oppressively loud night at the Blind Pig. When those time-tested standbys sandwiched Skrillex’s own ‘Bangarang,’ it started to feel presumptuous.” Eric Webb

5. Beck, 13 points

“Eclectic, one might say of Beck’s approach. Schizophrenic, another might suggest. Still, most of it worked on this night. Even when he dramatically shifted from more upbeat hip-hop and pop material eight songs into the set in favor of the much more melodic folk-rock of ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Lost Cause,’ he seemed in his element. About the only wrong turn was an ill-advised attempt at falsetto-style blue-eyed soul in the encore.”Peter Blackstock

4. Calvin Harris, 15 points

“The Sea World after dark light show was unspectacular and droning. Was Harris musical? He reportedly tours with just a flash drive of requisite jams at the ready. But that doesn’t matter. The frequent shots of kids losing their minds with the enthusiasm of a maiden voyage concert left me staunchly pro Harris. At the 30-minute mark he began to drop some of the mellow hits that have made Harris on of the business’s highest paid producers. ‘Sweet Nothing,’ which features Florence Welch, is his most realized, swelling song and here he let it breathe–cutting the audio to let the audience carry the performance.” — Ramon Ramirez

3. Eminem, 20 points

“Eminem is still rapping about his absentee father, Saddam Hussein, Biggie’s unsolved murder, former Kansas City Chiefs coaches, Ricky Martin. He’s still attacking George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and, regrettably, using gay slurs. Unlike OutKast’s brilliant Friday ACL greatest hits highlight reel, the Marshall Mathers Saturday parade was 31 songs of modern rock star. Dressed in youthful black shorts, zip-up hoodie, and cap, Eminem remains a household pop culture commodity, and his stadium show packed sardines around the Samsung Galaxy stage.” — RR

2. Pearl Jam, 23 points

“Jim Moir is in from Scotland to see Pearl Jam tonight for the 36th time since catching his first Jam set in 2000. ‘It’s a good excuse to travel and see the states,’ he said, but added, ‘I wouldn’t do this for any other band.’ While Moir has been waiting all day, he said he has little interest in any of the other bands playing this afternoon. ‘The work is going to be worth it.'” — Eric Pulsifer

1. OutKast, 29 points

“In interviews Andre 3000 has indicated he’s ready to retire, that he doesn’t really get much from performing any more, but he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself in Zilker. And what wasn’t to love? Outkast’s musicality has always has always been at the forefront of the music and playing with a band they would later introduce as lifelong collaborators the layering of sound was incredible, glorious harmonies woven into rich sound beds.” — Deborah Sengupta Stith


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