15th annual ACL closes out with a bang

Elizabeth Hlavinka

Another successful ACL weekend has come and gone. While smaller bands were given a chance to showcase their new releases, the headliners and big names were what set this weekend apart. 

Flying Lotus was the first to wow crowds Friday. Sharing a birthday with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Flying Lotus started celebrating on stage with a bottle of tequila. After a few songs from his new album and some obscure, avant-garde jazz tunes, he asked the crowd for one final thing before he left: to sing “Happy Birthday” to Thom.

Radiohead lived up to high expectations, putting on a show that met the audience at every song. They kicked things off with “Burn the Witch,” then seamlessly transitioned into some older songs from In Rainbows, OK Computer and The King of Limbs, where Thom Yorke came into his element. His vocals moved several fans to tears with songs such as “Nude” and “Fake Plastic Trees.”

While Friday’s highlights were alternative rock bands, Saturday’s were the kings of hip hop.

DJ Z-Trip set the tone for LL Cool J’s performance by playing a mix of old school rap hits, such as “Just A Friend.” A true lady’s man, “Ladies Love Cool James” even brought a young girl on stage, leaving her with a few words of advice before guiding her back to her seat: “You can be anything you want to be.” 

Kendrick Lamar built off of Cool J’s boom-bap performance, unifying old school and new school hip hop, and amping the crowd up with plenty of hits from To Pimp a Butterfly and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, as well as songs from his self-titled 2009 album release, testing the crowd to see how many were “true” fans. The audience gained momentum from the band’s jazz grooves, piercing electric guitar and steady bass from the DJ. 

Earlier that day, Saint Motel put on a spectacular set. Performing with a brass section and saxophone, lead singer A/J Jackson exercised his strong and clear vocals with songs like “Puzzle Pieces” and “My Type.” 

On Sunday, things turned mellow. Bands such as Atlas Genius and Pete Yorn took to the stage but failed to bring the audience out of their shell. Later in the afternoon, Young The Giant really brought the heat, livening up the crowd.

While some acts before a headliner may feel as though they only serve as openers, everyone at the Samsung stage was there for Willie Nelson. Matthew McConaughey even made a guest appearance to introduce Nelson. His old school country performance gave the crowd a break from hip hop, indie or rock performances abundant at the festival. 

But the folk ended there. Years ago, LCD Soundsystem announced they were breaking up — but it’s 2016 and the band is more alive than ever. Frontman James Murphy brought stellar vocals, backed by hooking bass lines and hypnotizing percussion on songs such as “I Can Change” and “New York, I Love You.” Whether the members of the crowd were lifelong fans or newcomers who stumbled upon the set as they were exiting the park, they couldn’t help but do one thing: dance.