UPDATE: We aren’t likely to see the official lineup for Austin City Limits Festival until next month, but as fall tours are starting to take shape, we’re getting a sense of which artists will be kicking around our part of the world with open tour dates during the festival. Here are a few artists on our ACL-watch radar.
Scottish electro-pop act Chvrches announced a string of fall tour dates that find our favorite synthesizer pixies moving from Milwaukee on Oct. 4 to Birmingham on Oct. 8, leaving them wide open and in the South during weekend one of the festival (Oct. 5-7). Then they have a NOLA gig on Oct. 11 followed by a Nashville gig on Oct. 15, an itinerary which seems well-suited to an Austin stop-over during weekend two (Oct 12-14).
Speaking of Scottish bands that might play ACL Fest, ’90s rockers Garbage also announced a set of new tour dates on Monday. The band is doing a limited tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1998 album “Version 2.0” in October. The dates don’t line up quite as well, but they’ll be in Las Vegas on Oct. 5 and Tempe, Ariz. on Oct. 7 with a free Saturday on weekend one. On weekend two they move from Dallas and Houston to Tulsa with a free date on Sunday, Oct. 14. Not sure if we’ll see them on the full bill, but a late night show seems likely.
Oh, and since we’re on the subject of 20th anniversary tours, the most important album released in America in 1998 was Lauryn Hill’s monumental “Miseducation.” She embarks on a tour to support the album this fall that includes dates in Houston and Dallas, but not Austin. Her tour wraps on Oct. 5 in St. Louis, giving her plenty of time to dip back into Texas for our benefit. And before you grouse about how Lauryn Hill couldn’t make it to a fest on time, just remember that time in 2015 when she triumphantly delivered the final closing set of Fun Fun Fun Fest. She hit the stage five minutes early.
Finally, since this has turned into us rattling off a list of amazing female artists that we want to see at ACL Fest, let’s not forget that Janelle Monae, who’s been steady breaking the internet for the last couple months with a string of fantastic singles from her new album “Dirty Computer.” The album drops on Friday with an accompanying 45-minute “emotion picture” premiering on MTV and BET on Thursday.
EARLIER, MARCH 26: The lineup for Austin City Limits Festival generally doesn’t come out until early May, but now that lineups for the big three spring/summer festivals, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza have been released, we can begin making educated guesses about who might show up in Zilker Park in October.
Let’s start at the top. Last year, Jay-Z was the big ACL Fest headliner. Could we the other Carter, Beyoncé, who headlines Coachella, this go round? It would be a bold move, one that would shut down naysayers who panned last year’s ACL lineup as underwhelming. It would also sell the fest out instantly. The Carters’ joint “On the Run II” tour plays Houston and Arlington, but not San Antonio or Austin and it wraps on October 4, the day before ACL Fest weekend one kicks off. But Bey’s elaborate performance set up is difficult to recreate in a festival setting and do we really believe ACL organizers are going to shell out the massive amounts of cash it would require to convince Mrs. Carter not to go home and chill with her kids after a grueling tour? Not really.
Bonnaroo and Coachella headliner Eminem, who drew one of the largest crowds we’ve ever seen at ACL when he played the fest in 2014, seems like a much surer bet. Tickets are still available for Lollapalooza headliner Jack White’s May 2 show at the Austin360 Amphitheater, but he still seems like a likely candidate for the ACL 2018 lineup. At first glance it would seem like the Weeknd, who headlines Coachella and Lollapalooza, would be out because he headlined ACL in 2015, but he played Lollapalooza that year too, so a reprise of Abel Tesfaye’s brilliant, but somewhat creepy, seems very possible.
The lovely indie rock of Bon Iver, who hasn’t played the fest since 2009, will likely serenade Zilker Park, and perennial ACL faves the National and Vampire Weekend are both available in October and would be solid, but safe, choices. After playing Coachella, St. Vincent fests her way across Europe, but she’ll be back in time for ACL and the first lady of Top Dawg Entertainment, Sza, plays the amphitheater with her crew (including Kendrick Lamar) in May, but could easily return in October to make her ACL debut. After the fest came under fire for a lack of Latinx artist representation last year, booking Miguel, who did a surprise pop-in at South by Southwest last week and has a sold out show at Stubb’s in April, would be a big draw and a good look.
David Byrne, who plays Coachella, has a tour that hits Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, but skips Austin. He seems like an obvious choice for one of this year’s legacy artists. Miranda Lambert doesn’t show up on any of the other big festival lineups, but over the past several years ACL has booked at least one mainstream country artist and Lambert’s summer tour hits Houston and Dallas, but not Austin, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the lineup.
Because the ACL lineup keeps getting younger, we also wouldn’t be surprised to see America’s favorite new boy band Brockhampton, 16-year-old SXSW breakout Billie Eilish and El Paso pop superstar Khalid in the mix.