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Welcome To Austin: Preparing For 2017 ACL Music Festival
Looking across a skyline of high-rises, it seems strange to say that Austin still feels like a small town.
Even with a metro area of population of more than 2 million, and recent data pointing to it being one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Austin has managed to maintain the vibe of a vibrant close-knit community.
In downtown Austin, 6th Street has a reputation that well precedes it. It's been called "Dirty 6th" and "the Bourbon St. of Texas," but last night was surpassingly tame. Walking down 6th the night before the first day of the 2017 Austin City Limits Music Festival, I was struck by the number of venue names I recognized. There's Stubbs, the Lizard Lounge, Maggie Mae's.
After years of reading coverage from ACL and South by Southwest and booking dinners and after-parties in my previous life working for record labels, I feel like I know these places — even though I am seeing them for the first time.
The streets are closed off, and pedestrians meander from venue to venue, perhaps drawn inside by a jangling guitar and an earnest singer, or maybe ushered inside by one of the energetic doormen who jump in front of you from time to time to make sure you know you that this is where the drinks are cheapest and coldest, and the music will be the loudest.
Pick a bar or restaurant at random, and you might find a full rock band slinging out jams for a packed floor, or a solitary player with an acoustic guitar who's somehow found a way to work covers of Gnarls Barkley, Bruno Mars, *NSYNC, and Amy Winehouse into a coherent and strangely enjoyable set. Austin is a place where you can walk the streets without a plan, and wind up with a night full of stories.
This morning, the city seems oddly calm for a large metropolitan area that’s about to host a major three-day, two-weekend music festival. But then again, this is old hat for Austin. This is the live music capital of the world. Stopping in a coffee shop, I overhear a trio of police officers calmly swapping crowd control stories from after last call the night before — nothing crazy, just another night in the city.
Our team arrives at ACL early, excited to walk the grounds and set up our press tent for a day full of interviews with the amazing artists booked to rock the festival stages over the course of the weekend.
At the Miller stage near the media center where we’ve camped out, the first band tunes up and starts playing, The Wild Now. It's not even noon yet, but there’s already a packed crowd gathered and ready to rock. I find myself as excited as the crowd of early-risers to see what ACL has in store for us this year.
We've got a full weekend of coverage — and maybe a surprise or two — all planned, so make sure to check back on Saturday and Sunday and get your fill of the Recording Academy's unique take on this year's ACL Music Festival.