Weekend one of the 2016 Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) featured some of country music’s best and brightest artists. From honky-tonk to Western Swing to the slick modern sound, the lineup showcased the many roots and branches of the genre. Country music has always been key to ACL’s artist roster, but this year felt like it was keeping it country just a bit more than usual — and we’re so glad it did. Here are some of the best country moments we saw during the first weekend of the fest.
Country music’s biggest star took the massive Samsung on Sunday evening as the sun went down over Zilker Park. Stapleton drew a massive crowd, and it’s no surprise why. At first glance, his stage show appears bare bones, but don’t be fooled — he packs a serious punch. Joined by his wife Morgane, Stapleton and company tore a set of gritty Southern rock and country. Highlights include Stapleton’s new song, “Outlaw State of Mind,” and “Hard Living.”
Although a miscommunication between the festival and her team caused a 20-minute delay, Maren Morris’ set was more than worth the wait. The native Texan brought a massive (and patient) swarm of fans to one of the smallest stages at the festival. As she ran through a majority of the tracks from her debut full-length release Hero, her stellar vocals and entrancing stage proved her staying power. Plus, her infectious singles “80s Mercedes” and “My Church” supplied one of the loudest sing-alongs of the day.
Asleep at the Wheel
At its heart, ACL is an Austin festival. So what better way to kick off the show than with one of Austin’s mainstay country groups, Asleep at the Wheel? On Friday, Ray Benson and company delighted the crowd with a set of Texas swing music. If you’re back in ATX for weekend two, you can catch them from 12:15-1 p.m. on the Honda stage.
Margo Price, the new Queen of Honky Tonk, played an impressive set of her 70s-inspired country and rock and roll. She got the crowd moving on their feet with songs from her album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and a few choice covers. Highlights include Price’s version of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X” and a blistering cover of Jerry Reed’s instrumental “Swarmin’.” Price also announced to the crowd that she’d get a tattoo of Texas music legend Doug Sahm later that evening, and then paid homage to the legend with a cover of his classic, “Give Back the Key to My Heart.”
There are few mainstream country artists as publicly proud of their home state as Kacey Musgraves. During her rousing afternoon set, it was obvious she couldn’t be happier to be playing to a Texas crowd. While running through a jam-packed set that included “Biscuits,” “Dime Store Cowgirl” and a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” she made time to joke and interact with her loving audience. “This is obviously the city that follows its arrow the most,” she proclaimed before rolling into her anthemic hit “Follow Your Arrow.” She wrapped things up with a lively cover of “These Boots Were Made For Walkin'” that had thousands of onlookers happily scootin’ their boots in the dusty grass.