15 Artists to See at Austin City Limits 2021

Can you believe that ACL is the fourth festival we’ve covered (at some capacity) in 2021? It’s been a long time coming, considering we attended…oh…zero festivals in 2020.

This is my (Kristin) first time attending Austin City Limits and my first time visiting Austin. I was supposed to cover South By Southwest in March 2020, but we all know what happened there! Some questions I have going into the festival next weekend: how will people in Texas of all places handle covid? Will people be wearing masks? How thorough will workers be with checking vaccination cards and negative covid tests? Though these are questions I’ve been trying to find the answers to since I went ot Lollapalooza, every festival is different. I would assume it will be similar to Lolla however, because both festivals are produced by the same event company, C3 Productions.

Austin City Limits spans six days and features over 100 artists on the lineup: many are set to play both weekends, some only play weekend one and some weekend two. Below is a list of 15 acts we (Kristin and Cailey) think you should see, some in W.1 and some in W.2. We’ll be attending the first weekend. Stay tuned for more coverage and be sure to follow the playlist when you scroll to the end of the article!

Claud, Weekend 1 & 2: VRBO, 1:45-2:30
Genre: Pop
For fans of: Does the name Claud look familiar? If not, we aren’t doing our jobs correctly, considering how often we’ve covered their music on this website: most recently an album review (here) and a show review before that (here), to name just a couple examples.

Claud is currently touring with Bleachers and was the first artist announced as a signee on Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory records. They also released music with Clairo, Cautious Clay, and others last year: safe to say they’re having quite a successful rise over the last 18 months or so. – Kristin

Jxdn Wants To Be Pop-Punk's Poster Child - MTV

JXDN, Weekend 2: Honda, 2:30-3:15
Genre: Pop punk
For fans of: Machine Gun Kelly, MOD SUN

JXDN is one of the few TikTokers that actually make good music. He’s so good, in fact, that he caught Travis Barker’s eye and was signed to his label DTA Records earlier this year. I don’t think he’s necessarily found his own sound yet, but all of the tracks he’s put out so far are high energy and honestly addicting. His stage presence perfectly matches the energy of his music, so it’s bound to be a great set. I hope Machine Gun Kelly—who enlisted JXDN as a tour opener—joins him for “WANNA BE.” But will also be so jealous if that happens because I thought that’d be the case at his Lollapalooza aftershow. 

JXDN may have just started out in the industry, but he makes me excited for the future of pop punk and I’m looking forward to seeing how he grows as an artist. – Cailey

Carolesdaughter, Weekend 1: BMI, 3:15-4:00
Genre: Alt Pop/Rock
For fans of: Destroy Boys, Machine Gun Kelly

If you go to Carolesdaughter’s Spotify page or website, you can see her upcoming tour dates with artists like Coheed and Cambria, The Used, Machine Gun Kelly, and JXDN, so it’s safe to say she’s solidified her space in the alt pop/punk/rock/whatever you want to call it landscape. With over 2 million monthly listeners and over 95 million plays on her biggest single, “Violent,” Carolesdaughter (born Thea Taylor), has had quite the life story, despite only being 18-years-old. After her last trip to rehab for drug problems, she made a promise to herself to pursue music, and now she’s here. – Kristin

Machine Gun Kelly, Weekend 1 & 2: Honda, 4:00-5:00
Genre: Pop punk
For fans of: Blink-182, YUNGBLUD

Despite his controversial comments about Slipknot this past weekend at Riot Fest, I still think checking out Machine Gun Kelly’s set is worth it. Say what you want about him, but he’s an incredible performer that truly gives it his all on stage. His energy is unbeatable and you can really feel it in the crowd. While I’m admittedly a bigger fan of his pop punk stuff, I like that he does a blend of his newer and older tunes for longtime fans. 

Given his headlining slots at other festivals, I’m surprised at how low he is on this ticket but I’m sure it’ll be a great set nonetheless. Plus, he may or may not do a cover of one of arguably one of the best emo songs of all time.  – Cailey

Tkay Maidza, Weekend 1: T-Mobile, 5:00-6:00
Genre: R&B, Hip Hop
For fans of: Doja Cat, Tierra Whack

The first time I heard Zimbabwean-born, Australian musician Tkay Maidza, it was smack dab in the middle of quarantine. Maidza’s first single of 2020, “Shook,” became a staple on my workout playlist, listening to it so often that it ended up getting the 23rd spot on my most streamed songs of 2020. Maidza has had a decent amount of success in Australia and in Europe, supporting artists like Troye Sivan, Charli XCX, Years & Years on various tours, but I’m super curious to see what her breakthrough into the US market is going to be like, looking ahead into 2022. I’d like to catch her set at ACL, but I’ll likely be checking out Moses Sumney instead. Maybe I’ll go halfsies? – Kristin

Moses Sumney, Weekend 1 & 2: Miller Lite, 5:00-6:00
Genre: Electro Soul
For fans of: James Blake, FKA Twigs

Moses Sumney’s 2020 album, græ, landed in 7th place on our list of the best 50 albums of 2020, so I think it’s pretty obvious we’re including him in our highlights of the ACL lineup. Sumney didn’t start performing his music in public until he was 20-years-old, and just four years later, his work caught the eyes of many major US labels while performing in Los Angeles.

I saw a bit of Sumney’s performance at Pitchfork Music Festival back in 2018, and that was before I was familiar with any of his music. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to hear some of the stuff I actually know this time around. Taken from Mitch’s write-up on græ:

Listening to græ is like watching Moses Sumney bloom before our very eyes, coming to terms with a full, naked range of emotions and irreconcilable human contradictions. This is a twisting, emotional album, with a vast array of multitudes – undoubtedly one of the year’s best. ” – Kristin

tunesday – jade bird interview • music • frankie magazine • australian  fashion magazine online

Jade Bird, Weekend 2: T-Mobile, 12:05-12:50
Genre: Folk
For fans of: First Aid Kid, Faye Webster

23-year-old British musician Jade Bird is back, touring in the US this fall and later in the UK to support the recent release of her sophomore album, Different Kinds of Light. Bird, another artist I’ve been following for quite some time now, made her debut at Lollapalooza in 2019, and it was honestly one of the best vocal performances I’ve ever seen in my life. I only saw her perform an acoustic set, so I guarantee her performance with a full band and a real stage will be one not to miss. – Kristin

Leyla Blue Calls Out Misogyny and Injustice with “F*** Yourself” – The  Hidden Hits

Leyla Blue, Weekend 2: BMI, 1:35-2:20 
For fans of: UPSAHL, Christina Aguilera
Genre: Pop

The first time I heard Leyla Blue, my friend had texted me a link to a song called “What A Shame,” expressing her shock and surprise to hear such pettiness in the lyrics of the song (in a good way). This was back in 2019, and though I’ve heard a couple songs by Blue since, I didn’t realize just how much she had blown up on the internet, thanks (mostly) to the power of DSPS. Blue, who’s only 20-years-old, has only six songs released, but has over 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Blue, who grew up listening to 2000s early pop artists like the Queen Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, seems to be emulating both of those celebrities in her music: her vocal bravado is very Christina-esque, her lyrical aesthetic similar to Britney. I don’t believe she has a ton of live performing experience under her belt quite yet, so someone let me know how her set goes on weekend 2. Please? – Kristin

Frances Forever, Weekend 1 & 2: Honda, 12:50-1:35
Genre: Pop
For fans of: Tessa Violet, The Regrettes

If your TikTok “for you page” is anything like mine, then Frances Forever dominated it for months last year with their dreamy hit “Space Girl.” The track has the perfect feel-good vibes and, let’s face it, we all needed some of that this past year. Their dreamy surf-pop sound is the perfect way to kick off this fest. It just makes you feel good. I bet it’ll be a laid back set that really sets the tone for the rest of your weekend (or two). 

They’ve been involved in music their entire life, but decided to pursue it professionally after attending Berklee College. A little fun fact for you—and I may be biased because I’m a Mitski fan—but they picked their stage name as a play on their first name and an homage to her song “Francis Forever.” What more could you want in a performer—talent and an incredible taste in music. – Cailey

Holly Humberstone unveils new single “Scarlett” - Style Music News

Holly Humberstone, Weekend 2: Lady Bird, 12:50-1:35
Genre: Pop
For fans of: The 1975, Maggie Rogers

When I found out Holly was performing at ACL this year, but during the weekend I wasn’t attending, I was definitely bummed. But it’s okay now, cause I got tickets to catch her show at The Roxy after Weekend 1 of ACL. I’ve been following Humberstone for awhile now, and it’s crazy that she hasn’t fully broken through in the US in the way that I think she has a the potential to. It’s probably because of COVID, but better late than never, right?

Holly’s music reminds me deeply of The 1975’s earliest stuff, which makes sense, cause she’s toured with them in the UK, and I believe she has sighted them as influencers to her music. Humberstone’s debut EP drops in November. – Kristin

girl in red, Weekend 1 & 2: Lady Bird, 2:20-3:20
Genre: Pop
For fans of: Clairo, Sir Chloe

girl in red is a musical genius in the way she makes you want to yearn over someone you can’t have and dance at the same time. I get that’s the case with most bedroom pop artists, but she’s truly mastered the craft. Not to be dramatic but hearing “we fell in love in october” for the first time single handedly got me through my first serious break-up. 

The intricacies of sexuality, relationships and heartbreak aren’t the only things girl in red writes about. Her debut album “if i could make it go quiet”—namely lead single “Serotonin”—is brilliant in the way it brings awareness to mental health issues without making the actual melody upsetting. She lets her fans know she relates to their struggles while cheering them up. It’s bound to be an incredible set. – Cailey

Remi Wolf, Weekend 1 & 2: T-Mobile, 3:20-4:20
Genre: Pop
For fans of: Omar Apollo, Jelani Aryeh

Remi Wolf’s soulful voice coupled with the fusion of elements from bedroom pop, funk and other genres creates a truly unique sound. While she just started releasing music in 2019, she’s been involved with music for years. She had her start on American Idol in 2014 while she was a senior in high school. I can only imagine how beautifully her passion translates to a live performance. Also, I love how all of her major releases seem to follow a common theme: dogs. Her debut EP was titled “You’re A Dog” followed by “I’m Allergic to Dogs!” and “We Love Dogs!” She recently announced her debut album “Juno” named after — you guessed it — her dog is set to be released this fall. What more could you want in an artist? – Cailey

Allison Ponthier is Merging Indie and Country the Way Only a True Texan Can  | Dallas Observer

Allison Ponthier, Weekend 1: T-Mobile, 12:15-1:00 
Genre: Country pop/folk
For fans of: Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves

By the final day of any festival I attend, it’s nearly impossible for me to get my ass to said festival grounds to catch artists before 3pm, but I absolutely will be in Zilker to catch Allison Ponthier to open the last day of Weekend 1. Ponthier, who’s an artist we’ve been basically hyping up for months now, is currently touring with Lord Huron, and this set is one of the few (if not the only one) where Ponthier’s playing a set unattached to Lord Huron. I’m super excited to catch her performance and am hopeful she’s going to pull a decently size crowd. Also, I’m calling it now that Ponthier’s going to be at Kacey Musgraves status in a few years’ time. – Kristin

Interview: KennyHoopla Is Redefining Alt-Rock Nostalgia - Output

KennyHoopla, Weekend 1 & 2: T-Mobile, 1:45-2:30
Genre: Pop punk
For fans of: POORSTACY, MOD SUN 

KennyHoopla makes me excited for the future of pop punk. He’s another one of Travis Barkers’ protégés—but what young star isn’t nowadays?  I think it’s the perfect set to wrap up your final weekend at ACL—especially if you want to keep a pop punk theme running. You could hit his set, then JXDN and finish it up with Machine Gun Kelly.  His music is infectious and I can only imagine his live performances are too. I caught a second of his set at Riot Fest and was shocked at how good his vocals were live despite bolting around the stage. – Cailey

070 Shake: Artist You Need to Know - Rolling Stone

070 Shake, Weekend 1: Tito’s, 4:30-5:30 
Genre: Dream Pop/Hip Hop
For fans of: Blood Orange, JPEGMAFIA 

070 Shake is a New Jersey-based artist that has one of the most unique voices in hip hop. She’s a part of the collective 070 and has released a mixtape with the group called “The 070 Project: Chapter 1,” but has released plenty of her own music as well. Her first EP “Glitter Play” came out in 2018 and her first album “Modus Vivendi” was released last January. “Guilty Conscience” is arguably the best song of her discography and it’s been on repeat since it was released. 

I had the chance of seeing 070 Shake open for The 1975 back in 2016 and it’s been incredible seeing her grow as an artist. There are no words to describe how encapsulating her onstage presence is. Her passion can be felt through the mic as she engages with the audience, and I can’t even imagine how much stronger it is now that she’s matured even further as a musician. – Cailey

1 comment on “15 Artists to See at Austin City Limits 2021

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