The first weekend of Austin City Limits 2022 was a celebration of music while reflecting the recovery from the pandemic that crippled the world. While the buzz about leading headliners like SZA, Flume and Red Hot Chili Peppers were steady and a given to draw huge audiences, it was the anticipation for the recently reunited Paramore, who had just kicked off their fall tour a few days earlier, that garnered all the chatter and huge crowd. There were plenty of emerging artists who gained recognition online and were performing their first ACL, who also attracted much attention at the festival including Pinkpantheress, Omar Apollo, Genesis Owusu, Claire Rosinkranz, Danielle Ponder and Isaac Dunbar. The weekend weather was much more tolerable than past years, with highs only reaching the low 90s and Friday even saw overcast skies throughout the day, which made it very comfortable.

Day one highlights were led by Nation of Language, whose throwback synth-pop sounds were dancey and had the early crowds swaying and vibing. Meanwhile, pop artists Noah Cyrus and Gayle drew a large audiences, the former having showcased new music from her latest album ‘The Hardest Part’ that was released last month and the latter, who’s built up a lot of momentum and a growing fanbase after breaking through late last year. Australian artist Genesis Owusu was an exciting artist to see perform, as there were many songs from his debut album, ‘Smiling with No Teeth’ that were built for the live interpretation and exceeded expectations. The energy was high as French artist L’Impératrice drew a huge crowd to the Barton Springs stage and had everyone dancing throughout their set. During the same time, recent breakout artist Arlo Parks was solid with her soulful vibes and calming presence. Having gained a large audience for her music over the pandemic, especially during the initial phase while her song “Supalonely” went viral, New Zealand artist Benee was confident and entertaining throughout her set that featured much of her debut album. Winding down the day, Omar Apollo and SZA were getting audiences into their feelings as their songs brought many singalongs and swaying to end the first day.

As with many festivals, the Saturday lineup was chock-full of exciting and lively performances while the Austin sun was beaming down and brought the weekend’s warmest temperatures. Scottish act Walt Disco was fun and delivered an entertaining set filled with the vintage sounds of 70s and 80s glam. Emerging artist, spill tab brought an energetic and thoroughly lively set that saw many passerbys stop and stay to check out the Los Angeles-born artist. The energy was seen during the set for Charlotte Sands, whose career is steadily growing, after having performed at Riot Fest last month and is currently on her own headlining tour. The Nashville-based artist was one of the few rock-based artists of the day and her vocals were a major standout, making her a rising artist to keep an eye on. Performing at her first ACL, Samia was emotive and warm in her delivery that translated her recordings beyond expectations, including a cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. Huge crowds turned out for Wallows as expected, and the band delivered a wildly fun set as fans danced, jumped and screamed along to the songs. The same could be said for the just as passionate fans that were at the Honda Stage for Conan Gray, whose profile has continued to grow over the last few years. Once the late afternoon hit, the first of four dance-based artists took Austin City Limits to another level as SOFI TUKKER hit the Miller Lite Stage and drew an audience that was seen well past the normal limits. The duo had a fun and entertaining tennis-themed set inspired by their latest album, ‘Wet Tennis’ that included multiple dancers join them on-stage while many in the audience were seen jumping and dancing along. Lil Nas X followed with an even bigger set filled with costume changes, theatrics and dancing that even saw audience members join in at the American Express Stage. Diplo’s set at the Miller Lite Stage was predictably packed and got sweatier as it got darker with the audience dancing non-stop and chanting during many transitions. With Flume at the nearby Honda Stage, many kept the party going and simply moved over to keep the party going. The stage was set up immaculately and with various guest appearances by singers Laurel and Kučka as the audience would mosh at many points throughout the set where the beat would drop.

The start of the third and final day of ACL was highlighted by Danielle Ponder, whose powerful voice and emotion was befitting to a smooth buildup for what was to come. Her set featured songs from her debut album, “Some of Us Are Brave”, which has garnered rave reviews and Ponder’s live interpretation of the songs proved them worthy. Nineteen-year-old artist Isaac Dunbar is another emerging artist, whose set was light and fun, while Dunbar commanded the stage like a veteran. His setlist was comprised of dancey tunes that peaked many people’s interest as they were walking by and stopped to listen. Many fans were eager to see another young act in Claire Rosinkranz, whose fun and lively stage presence had the audience dancing and many phones out recording songs like “Don’t Miss Me”, “Frankenstein” and her viral hit, “Backyard Boy”. Locals turned international stars, Spoon delivered a solid set filled with familiar tunes that had many swaying along, especially during “I Turn My Camera On” and “The Underdog”, along with newer songs like “Wild”. Lead singer Britt Daniel was in fine form and his voice was on point throughout the set. Dance-driven sets were lead by the likes of Magdalena Bay and Big Wild, with the former delivering a thoroughly entertaining set filled with lots of dancing and vibing. With the built-up anticipation for the return of Paramore, the American Express Stage was jam-packed with fans that extended past the food vendors hoping to be able just hear the set. Kicking things off with their new song “This Is Why”, lead singer Hayley Williams was in fine form while the band showed they hadn’t missed a beat during their extended time away. Songs like “Brick By Boring Brick”, “Decode” and “That’s What You Get” had the audience jumping and singing along while Williams herself was doing the same on-stage. Although the set was about an hour, the band definitely left fans wanting more as there was only so many songs the band could perform. Kacey Musgraves, who last performed in 2019, took to the Honda Stage to end the night with many fans who had come from the Paramore set and put on an outstanding set filled with familiar songs starting with “star-crossed” and “good wife”, while the swaying and singalongs were evident during “Golden Hour” and “Space Cowboy”. Following the latter with “High Horse”, Musgraves shouted-out Ted Cruz during the line “cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz, every time they open their mouth, Ted Cruz”, which elicited cheers and she went on “I said what I said.” On the other side, Red Hot Chili Peppers played a virtual greatest hits set that was sprinkled in with a few new songs, highlighted by the loud singalongs to “Can’t Stop”, “Scar Tissue” and “Californication”. Missing from the set was their breakthrough “Under the Bridge” but there were many other songs in the set that made up for it that it was hardly missed.

The vibe of this year’s Austin City Limits was truly celebratory as fans were carefree and let loose to check out as many artists as possible. With many new artists given the platform to showcase their music, many proved they will return to larger stages at ACL in the near future. Another theme observed was something many bands noted, which was the sense of gratitude to be able to perform and enjoy the live music while living in the moment, as one of the major lessons learned during the last few years have taught us. ACL 2022 may have gone by in a flash but it was an experience that many will appreciate and won’t soon forget.