"F*** Greg Abbott": ACL Music Festival served heart-stopping performances with a side of political unrest

Austin, Texas – Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival has come and gone, marking the city's first major event to go off without a hitch since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here's how things turned out.

One of the many ACL Music Fest light-up signs at the festival entrance.
One of the many ACL Music Fest light-up signs at the festival entrance.  © Taylor Kamnetz

After having to cancel the festival in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, ACL Music Festival returned to the heart of Texas for the first two weekends of October.

To say that it was wildly apparent just how much live music lovers missed seeing their favorite artists perform would be a gross understatement.

But nothing was quite as glaringly obvious as festival goers' and performers' mutual distaste for Texas politics, specifically the state's abortion ban.

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Many performers took time out of their sets to lead crowds in various "F*** Greg Abbott" chants, with some vowing to donate all of their earnings from the festival to organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Politics aside, ACL proved that its roots continue to be firmly planted in bringing people of all walks of life together over their shared interest and love for live music.

Self-expression reigns supreme

The sun sets upon the flags at Zilker Park during weekend two of Austin City Limits Music Festival.
The sun sets upon the flags at Zilker Park during weekend two of Austin City Limits Music Festival.  © Taylor Kamnetz

Given the number of hurdles that festival organizer Live Nation had to jump through in order for both weekends of the festival to take place, it's quite impressive how seamlessly things went.

This can be partially attributed to those who attended the festival. Given that ACL is deeply rooted in the longstanding expressive and accepting culture of Austin, Texas, it was heartwarming to see so many people dressed however they wanted, dancing in whichever manner they chose, simply living their best life.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US and sent most of the country – and world – into lockdown, those who frequently attended concerts were forced to settle for live performances broadcast on YouTube or Instagram Live videos.

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By not having the option to physically attend concerts, people found themselves stuck in their homes, likely dressed in some sort of athleisure wear, watching their favorite artists perform through a screen.

ACL served as an opportunity not only for live music aficionados to bust out of the four walls of their home, but it allowed everyone from various walks of life to express themselves in fashion-forward ways.

From people dressed up as Teletubbies, hamburgers, and pizza slices, to those wearing '70s-inspired disco attire or strappy leather bodysuits with Doc Martens and chains, festival goers saw it all – and that's just how they like it.

Texas politics take center stage

Festival goers filled ZIlker Park for a weekend of live music in Austin, Texas.
Festival goers filled ZIlker Park for a weekend of live music in Austin, Texas.  © Taylor Kamnetz

While politics wasn't the only topic of conversation at ACL, it was definitely a focal point for many artists both weekends of the festival.

Festival goers for weekend two might have missed out on the first round of politically-charged speeches that took place during the first weekend of ACL, but many artists revamped their words for the new crowds.

The most memorable speeches were given by Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, her brother Finneas, and YouTuber Marc Rebillet, who orchestrated a loop pedal featuring face-melting harmonies that uttered "F*** Greg Abbott" for nearly five minutes straight on Sunday evening.

During his Friday set at weekend two of the festival, Finneas doubled down on his initial promise from weekend one, telling the crowd, "If you know who I am, you know how I feel about all this s***. And I said last week, which remains true, that I'll be donating my whole paycheck from this festival to Planned Parenthood of Texas, and I said something along the lines of telling Greg Abbott to go f*** himself."

The artist's sister, Billie Eilish, mirrored his sentiments during her set on Saturday night, referring to Gov. Greg Abbott as a "dirty old man", before leading the crowd in a middle finger-waving chant of "My body, my choice".

She continued to scream,"That's f***ing right, your body, your choice, motherf******! F*** 'em," which was met with a roaring applause from the thousands of people in the crowd.

Festival organizers finally figured out the longstanding bathroom problem

The ACL Fest sign is lit up atop the rocks in the middle of Zilker Park, creating the perfect photo op.
The ACL Fest sign is lit up atop the rocks in the middle of Zilker Park, creating the perfect photo op.  © Taylor Kamnetz

From a logistics perspective, it seems that festival organizers finally mastered one of the biggest headaches ACL goers have had to deal for over a decade: the bathroom situation.

In years past, it wasn't uncommon for lines at the glorified porta-potties – where fresh air goes to die – to get astronomically long – forcing festival goers without Platinum or VIP wristbands to wait for at least half an hour just to use them.

To the sheer delight of those in attendance, that couldn't have been further from the truth this year.

For a music festival that brings in a couple of hundred thousand attendees each year it takes place, it never made sense that there was only four designated restroom areas for the majority of festival goers, similarly that it never made sense how the festival got away with having three hydration stations for the better part of the last decade.

Whoever made the logical decision to add an entirely new bathroom area and increased the number of hydration stations for free water refills should be given all the gold stars for doing the people's work.

Though Texas continues to deal with political turmoil and divisiveness, ACL served as a reminder to all that Texans are more than their state's politics.

Not only that, but it also proved to many that we have a lot more in common than some might think, and it simply took two weekends of live music to be reminded of just that.

Cover photo: Taylor Kamnetz

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