Reflecting on Austin City Limits

Promised policies fell through as soon as the fun started


Julian Magee

Crowd pleaser, Tyler the Creator, puts on an elegant and energetic set as the closing show of Austin City Limits on Oct. 10.

Julian Magee, staff reporter

Austin City Limits Festival, after amassing plenty of controversy regarding COVID-19 safety, took place as scheduled. For people who went, the event was a refreshing return to normality, even if only for a brief weekend. For those who didn’t go, plenty of concern developed regarding the pandemic, and how well ACL staff would be able to enforce restrictions to contain it. How well were they able to, really?

“I’m grateful that ACL happened, but they could’ve been more transparent and realistic about safety precautions in the park.”

— senior Lila Plummer

The first thing I noticed walking through the entrance gates on Friday was a total deficiency of masks. On top of barely any of the attendees wearing them, the entrance staff seemed to disregard the mask mandates too. Needless to say, it didn’t bode well for the less moderated areas of the park. It turned out that there were even less on the inside.

“Masks weren’t enforced at all, which I was expecting,” senior and fellow attender Lila Plummer said about the policy enforcement. “It was unrealistic to present a narrative that they would be requiring them in certain areas. In reality, I only saw a handful of masks the entire weekend.”

“I never saw people enforcing masks,” piano teacher Kate Wiley said. “But as long as people were vaccinated or showed a test, and they were able to maintain distance, it was fine.”

So then, despite the fact that nobody seemed to take the safety policies seriously, how did ACL manage to result in so few COVID cases? Among nearly 450,000 attendees, just 36 cases were linked to the event, a tiny fraction of the spread that came as a result of Lollapalooza earlier this year. The main factor, along with being outdoors, was undoubtedly the decision to require either a recent negative COVID test or a proof of vaccination at the door. This enforcement alone kept the event quite free of any chance of becoming a superspreader event.

I never saw people enforcing masks, but as long as people were vaccinated or showed a test, and they were able to maintain distance, it was fine.

— piano teacher Kate Wiley

While the low spread is certainly a positive, it’s still disheartening to see the staff disregard their own safety rules beyond just public statements of what they will do.

“I’m grateful that [ACL] happened,” Plummer said, “but they could’ve been more transparent and realistic about safety precautions in the park.”

But despite all of the gloom in anticipation of it, ACL was intended to be fun, and it was! There was some great music to listen to! Among all of the performances, a standout to me was Erykah Badu, the queen of R&B, who put on an amazing show despite sadly showing up 30 minutes late. Another was the Black Pumas, who sounded unimaginably better live than they did on their groundbreaking self-titled album. Lastly, I saw The Hu, which is a high-energy Mongolian-infused metal band I never thought I would love until I saw them all the way in the tiny Tito’s stage.”

“Tyler, the Creator and Miley Cyrus were my personal favorites!” Plummer said. “They both put on incredible performances and I had the best time.”

“I enjoyed Greta Van Fleet, Modest Mouse, and George Strait a lot,” Wiley said.

Now that Austin City Limits is over, it’s apparent looking at the cases that the festival went a lot better than many could have anticipated despite the worry about the pandemic, but whether they handled it in the most responsible fashion is up for debate. We can all only hope that this issue isn’t lasting when October comes around again next year.