*May 10, 2013 update*
The 2013 Austin City Limits lineup was announced earlier this week featuring headliners Depeche Mode, The Cure, Muse and Kings of Leon. Recent favorites including Phoenix, Atoms for Peace (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, producer Nigel Godrich, Mauro Refosco, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joey Waronker of R.E.M.) and The National will also be performing.
This year, the festival is expanding to a two-weekend format (October 4 -6 and 11-13) much like the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. Weekend one three-day tickets have sold out, but VIP and Platinum (both weekends), as well as three-day, weekend two tickets are still available on the ACL website.
Each year, thousands of festivalgoers head to Zilker park in Austin, Texas to experience Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) for three days of live music, food, and inevitably, crowds. Some of the featured performers this year included Stevie Wonder, Randy Newman and Alison Krauss along with big-name acts like Coldplay and Kanye West.
One way to mitigate some of the hassle is to attend the festival with a VIP pass. This year, 3-day VIP passes sold for $850 on the ACL website with unlimited VIP Grove access, which included:
- Gourmet Happy Hour daily with guest chef tastings
- Complimentary catered food servings throughout the day
- Complimentary beer, wine, water and specialty drinks
- Mini spa treatments from Austin’s Viva Day Spa
- Shade and relaxed seating in the VIP Grove (no stage seating/viewing)
- Air conditioned restrooms
- VIP Parking Pass (with purchase of four VIP passes)
We attended the festival as VIPs this year. Some thoughts and observations:
The VIP Grove is an area just to the side of the main entrance populated with large oaks, creating shady patches to spread out a blanket and relax. The shade alone is worth the extra money. Shady areas should be plentiful in parks, but this is Texas, and shade is prime real estate. Some of the only shaded areas in the entire venue are carefully roped off for those with VIP, media or artist wristbands. And when the sun is beating down and the regular bathroom line is 10-12 people deep, VIPs have direct access to their own air-conditioned bathrooms.
The main highlight of the VIP Grove is the happy hour. Running from 3:30- 5:30 PM, gourmet Austin restaurants set up booths that serve bite sized treats adapted from their usual menus. This year, highlights included a delectable lime and coconut sundae from Foreign & Domestic and chilled cucumber gazpacho and cold octopus salad from El Arbol. Also of note was a juicy pulled pork sandwich doled out by the executive chef from Congress/ Second Bar & Kitchen. The Grove also features a number of thoughtfully placed Adirondack chairs in which to enjoy the excellent food and drink.
One complaint: the “complimentary” food and refreshments can only be enjoyed in the Grove. This makes it needlessly difficult to coordinate with large groups who have regular passes. Also, the happy hours never extended until the advertised 5:30 pm hour because they simply ran out of food.
Another minor gripe: VIP status usually goes hand in hand with exclusivity; however at ACL this is not exactly the case. The Grove is primarily full of families and children who seem to be benefiting from corporate sponsorship perks. The real exclusivity is in the Media and Artists Groves (and the coveted “friends of C3” badge will get you behind just about every door or stage in the venue).
If you have a relaxed schedule (where the food and drink are as important as the music), and you are looking for creature comforts amongst heat, crowds and lines, then we certainly suggest the ACL VIP pass. Next year’s festival takes place the weekend of October 12-14. For sit-down evening performances, we highly recommend a visit to the new Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater in Austin’s chic 2nd Street District. We have a number of recommended properties in Austin, including The Driskill and the Hotel Saint Cecilia.