Recap: Austin City Limits 2017 kickoff

Justin Jones

Day one of Austin City Limits brought people of all backgrounds from all parts of the world to the live music capital of the world for acts big and small.

The day started early, with acts officially beginning at 11:30 Friday morning, although some jumped the gun with shows around the city Thursday night.

The views throughout the crowd in the daylight showed many hot, sweaty attendees eagerly viewing hot, sweaty musicians. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness brought an epic performance to the American Express stage and even jumped out in the crowd riding a massive rubber ducky.

Elsewhere, Crystal Castles brought avant-garde flair to the Honda stage. A band that clearly cares about performance, it slowly became more chaotic until lead singer Alice Glass’ green hair and lipstick-soaked face led her to look like the Joker, gracing ACL with his presence.

The bigger names started to play as the sun set on Zilker Park, and The Revivalists’ top-40 hit “Wish I Knew You” rang across the finely manicured grass. Solange Knowles’ show at the Barton Springs stage showed that her family truly understands the art of the performance, dancing and singing with a precision that put the day’s earlier acts to shame.

Then, at the American Express stage, holy lightning struck. Jay-Z played a powerful, politically charged set that lit the massive crowd afire. Opening on “Run this Town,” and continuing with his largest hits, Hov knew what his crowd expected and was there to deliver. Until he wasn’t.

Jay-Z’s newest album, 4:44, is a raw, emotional view into the mind of one of the greatest rappers alive and his thoughts on the world. Arguably, the album’s most popular song is “The Story of O.J.,” which connects modern racism to mid-20th century racism all the way back to slavery. The times may change, his song argues, but the hate doesn’t.

So when his song began to play, the crowd predictably went wild. But when the chorus came, a peculiar thing happened — the crowd became quiet. The impact of the song’s chorus is based around repeated use of the n-word, and the largely white crowd at Austin City Limits didn’t sing along. In a moment of connection and solitude, Jay-Z performed a song that only black members of the audience could sing along with, could connect to. It was a powerful, political moment and the first standout of ACL 2017.