The Best Acts to See Every Day at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2021 (2023)

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We've got recommendations of both major and up-and-coming artists that you can't miss.


Sadie Bell

Published on 10/1/2021 at 10:57 AM

The Best Acts to See Every Day at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2021 (1)

One of the things Austinites pride themselves on the most is the fact that they are undeniably from one of the greatest music cities in the world. There's iconic venues, music legends that hail from the city, it hosts events like SXSW, and of course, there's the seminal major music festival Austin City Limits, the three-day event runs over the course of two weekends in Zilker Park and pulls together a lineup featuring both legacy acts and some of the biggest names in pop, hip-hop, and indie rock.

Just about every music fan has been eager to experience live shows again, and Austin residents can definitely attest to that. With an event as big as ACL, though, it can be tough to decide who to see. So after you figure out what bites from local vendors you're going to munch on and get your vaccine or negative test requirements squared away to gain entry, we've rounded up a helpful guide of some of the names you should be sure to check out at the event when it goes down October 1-3 and the following weekend, October 8-10.

(Video) Khruangbin on Austin City Limits "People Everywhere"

Who to see at ACL Festival on Friday

The small font act to see

1:45-2:30 at the VRBO Stage
It can be a haul to get a festival shortly after the gates open, but then you end up missing some of the best up-and-comers on the bill. Claud is one of those. Take it from Phoebe Bridgers: The singer-songwriter was one of the first signees on her label Saddest Factory. They are simply charming with indie pop diddies that make for easy listening (that is, until the tender lyrics start to pull on your heartstrings).

One of the most genre-defying acts

2:30-3:15 at the Honda Stage
Do you figure yourself somewhat of a pop punk kid, but you also have a taste for rap? Joseph Edward Mulherin's project as nothing,nowhere was one of the first artists out of the "emo rap" wave that took off several years ago, and nostalgic TikTok teens and former MySpace scenesters alike should check him out. His lyrics are emotive and he fuses his hip-hop production with guitars for a sound you simply have to rock out to.

The set you'll have the most fun at

Megan Thee Stallion
6:00-7:00 at the Honda Stage
It was just a couple of years ago that Megan Thee Stallion was trying to make a name for herself by hustling in the Houston scene—and now she has hit after hit at the top of the charts. It's been inspiring to watch from afar, and if you check out her set, you'll absolutely understand her undeniable star power. Her tracks are lively and fun, and few can move like her—some "real hot girl shit." That early evening performing slot is far too early for the rapper—give it a couple years and she'll be headlining.

The biggest conflict of the day

Moses Sumney and Tkay Maidza
5:00-6:00 at the Miller Lite and T-Mobile Stages
Moses Sumney and Tkay Maidza have two of the most alluring voices at ACL, so you may want to make an effort to try to catch a portion of each of their sets. Both artists have a bit of international influence—Sumney having lived in Ghana for a period and Zimbabwe-born Maidza having grown up in Australia—and their sounds are totally original. Sumney stuns with a contemporary take on folk that moves it into soulful territory, and Maidza resembles both a pop star and underground rapper, performing inarguably cool bars in her sweet voice over shimmering production.

(Video) The Chicks Austin City Limits Music Festival 2022 Full Set

The set that'll take you back in time

Miley Cyrus
8:00-9:30 at the Honda Stage
Miley Cyrus was basically meant to perform live. Whether with her shock-factor, hip-hop-influenced album Bangerz, her experimental Dead Petz turn, or recent rock record Plastic Hearts, she always makes big, bombastic songs and has the charisma to own them on stage. As she's still promoting her last release that's full of stylish rock, you can imagine she'll be channeling Debby Harry at the fest. She's also known to whip out a handful of exciting covers, from the Pink Floyd to Metallica, so she'll basically make you feel as if you're at a stadium rock show in the '80s.

The Best Acts to See Every Day at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2021 (2)

Who to see at ACL Festival on Saturday

The small font act to see

girl in red
2:20-3:20 at the Lady Bird Stage
Maybe you've heard a thing or two about great indie pop coming out of Scandinavia. girl in red has been one of the genre's biggest breakouts in recent years. The stage name of Marie Ulven Ringheim, the singer blew up among Gen-Z just a couple years ago because young fans were drawn to the way she so earnestly talks about mental health and queer relationships. This year's debut if i could make it go quiet sees her move towards a pop-rock sound, so see her and channel your inner angsty teen.

The set you'll have the most fun at

Remi Wolf
: 3:20-4:20 at the T-Mobile Stage
Remi Wolf is like if Lisa Frank stickers were personified as a recording artist. The Palo Alto-bred singer makes bright, bold pop that's only further enhanced by her soulful voice. She's also a big goofball in the best way, so there's no doubt you'll have a good time at her afternoon gig.

The act to get you in your feelings

Phoebe Bridgers
4:20-5:20 at the Lady Bird Stage
So, you've had a good day enjoying some danceable music, and now you're ready for a good cry. Enter Phoebe Bridgers, who—as her fans might tell you—will destroy you emotionally with her somber folk rock. She's been supporting last year's acclaimed album Punisher at a handful of festivals this year, so come to see her band playing in skeleton costumes (as that was the record's promotional schtick), but stay to hear her poetic words about strained relationships and hopes for a better tomorrow.

(Video) Brandi Carlile — Austin City Limits Festival (2022)

One of the best rappers today

Freddie Gibbs
5:20-6:20 at the T-Mobile Stage
Whenever Freddie Gibbs releases a record or hits the stage, it's a masterclass in rap. His collaboration with producer The Alchemist, Alfredo, earned a Grammy nomination and was one of the most widely acclaimed of last year. He raps in his deep voice quickly over easy rock and gentle soul, all of it effortless.

What's likely the wildest performance of the day

Doja Cat
6:20-7:20 at the Lady Bird Stage
There's few artists in the pop stratosphere who are both as innovative and as much of a troll as Doja Cat. Her music videos are often nonsensical, she tends to wear outlandish costumes, and few are as ridiculous online as she is. Meaning, she's bound to bring energy to the ACL stage. The rapper-singer is out of this world in terms of her music, too: This year's Planet Her touches on so many sexy disco and rap-fused sounds. With all of her viral hits, get ready to break out your TikTok dance moves.

The Best Acts to See Every Day at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2021 (3)

Who to see at ACL Festival on Sunday

The small font act to see

White Reaper
2:30-3:30 at the Honda Stage
There may not be too many indie rock acts on the ACL lineup this year, or many festival lineups this season for that matter, but you can always count on White Reaper to get you amped. The Kentucky natives call themselves "the world's best American band"—and one song of their set and you'll absolutely believe that moniker. Their songs are fast-paced, uproarious, nostalgic rock, begging you to open up the pit.

The rising songwriter worth knowing

Cautious Clay
3:30-4:30 at the Miller Lite Stage
Cautious Clay is as dreamy as they come. His smooth voice is swoon-worthy, the tracks he produces himself are atmospheric, and he sings love songs that will have you writing Notes app poems and making diary entries again. The Brooklyn-based up-and-comer has already collaborated and lent his talents to the likes of the Johns Legend and Mayer, and deserves his own spotlight. Check out his set, and there's no doubt you'll fall for him.

(Video) Billy Strings on Austin CIty Limits "Away From the Mire"

The rapper you need on your radar

Polo G
4:30-5:30 at the Honda Stage
Looking for a rap upstart to check out? Make sure it's Polo G. The Chicago-based artist came up in the drill scene and has since captivated his audience with extremely emotive music that doesn't shy from exploring his own mental health.

The biggest conflict of the day

Erykah Badu and Tierra Whack
When: 7:30-8:30 at the Miller Lite and the VRBO Stage
It's a damn shame Tierra Whack and one of her favorite artists, the great Erykah Badu, are on at the same time. The R&B icon's influence is clear in rapper Tierra Whack's sound with hints of soul, so fans should catch some of Badu's set before heading over to see her ingenue. Whack is a bit more whimsical, rapping in an almost cartoonish style and always with a trippy beat. Whoever you see, they're sure to be transfixing.

The act with one of the best albums of the year

Tyler, the Creator
8:30-10:00 at the Lady Bird Stage
Indie rap icon Tyler, the Creator has consistently pushed the genre forward since he debuted, but that hasn't stopped some rap devotees from questioning if he was moving away from the sound entirely with his recent, more melodic albums. He put those questions to rest with CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, one of the best rap records of 2021, which goes hard but still carries hints of reggae and jazz. It would be a blast to see those tracks live in his headlining set. Tyler always has a hold on his fans, so the crowd should go wild and be spitting his bars right back at him (if they can keep up).

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She's on Twitter and Instagram.


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