Women in Music 2018

St. Vincent, Brandi Carlile & More Encourage Austin City Limits Festival Crowds to 'Fight the Power' on Day 2

Erika Goldring/WireImage
Annie Clark of St. Vincent performs on day 2 of Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on Oct. 6, 2018 in Austin, Texas. 

Among a roster of superbly diverse performers at the 17th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival’s first of two Saturdays (Oct. 6), two distinct storylines established the day’s historic importance.   

The first revolved around Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. After the news broke in the early afternoon hours, artists began asserting their reactions via varying degrees of direct commentary. Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile -- returning to Zilker Park in support of sixth studio album By the Way, I Forgive You -- was one of the first to address it with notable frankness during her set on the Honda stage.   

“Today I learned that progress is not a one-way street,” she said. “[Because of] what we’ve done today to the Supreme Court … we shouldn’t think what we’ve done is final.”    

As a preface to “The Mother,” Carlile -- who is gay, married and the mother of two children -- then divulged that she’d been forced to sign in the “father category” when filling out her daughter Evangeline’s birth certificate, adding that she hoped the “somber song” would help people “get together the third of November and vote to change our country for the better.”  

On the same stage, Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry offered a solution (“in honor of Metallica”) to possible feelings of discontent by suggesting “a moment of f--k … to suppress the rage” rather than a moment of silence before launching into “Miracle,” one of five tracks from recently released third full-length Love is Dead featured during the Scottish trio’s 13-song setlist. The scenario played out as one might expect: with tens of thousands simultaneously dropping the F-bomb at aggressive volume.

“I feel better,” she chirped afterward, revealing that “that’s why we make dance music,” so fans can “cry or dance, or do both at the same time as I do.”

Two more of the day’s powerhouse performers -- the inimitable Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, and Sabrina Ellis, frontwoman of Austin power pop-rock outfit Sweet Spirit, who made their incontrovertibly commanding ACL Fest debut on the BMI stage -- likewise spoke out in distinct ways.

The former came candid yet non-specific. Clark greeted the crowd by inviting them to “fight the power” before fifth album title track “Masseduction,” while Sweet Spirit artfully called out the patriarchy’s sexual transgression’s via the lyrics of new single “Touch”: "You’re the president, I’m the broken heart / God knows every story needs a start / I’m the modern queen, you’re the president / God knows every story needs an end / Whip out your genius if you love it so much / Whip it out, let’s have a touch." 

They were accompanied by an ensemble of backup dancers wearing POTUS masks, including Trump, Nixon and Clinton.

Meanwhile, following standout sets from Curtis Harding, the Breeders and Blood Orange,  Metallica’s performance manifested with momentousness for the same main reason as Paul McCartney’s Friday night finale: the San Francisco metal mavens had never previously played consecutive weekends at a major U.S. festival, so this fest debut marked history in the making. To boot, theirs was unquestionably the heaviest headliner booking in ACL Fest’s nearly two decades.

To that end, Metallica’s set -- which, in contrast to Macca’s nearly total attendee takeover, established a practically even patron split with French DJ duo Justice across the field on the Honda stage -- resonated masterfully and potently. It featured few change-ups from their typical fare, save for the relative prominence of cuts plucked from chart-topping 10th studio album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (singles “Hardwired” and “Atlas, Rise” served as openers while “Now That We’re Dead” and “Moth Into Flame” arrived later among the quartet’s ‘80s and ‘90s gems).

That said, drummer Lars Ulrich’s post-“Enter Sandman” parting tidbit insured feelings of special significance for Austinites in particular.

“Metallica rolled into Austin in 1983 and played a club called [sic] the Nightlife,” he said. “We’ve played the Frank Erwin Center a bunch, Stubb’s, the f--king X-Games … and let me tell you something. Metallica is just getting started, motherf--kers! Thank you for the 35 years of love, Austin.”

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of Billboard's 2018 Austin City Limits Music Festival coverage, including reports on Travis Scott, Arctic Monkeys, Janelle Monáe and more.

Festivals 2018