The best acts of Austin City Limits Festival weekend one

Reya Mosby and Sage Dunlap

With the previously bustling Zilker Park clearing out for the start of a new week, Austinites come together to recover from weekend one of Austin City Limits, which kicked off the festival on a grand note. Artists curated cinematic production with narrative-driven sets, made political statements and played out great music into the fields of Zilker Park. From soul music to alternative pop, the Daily Texan compiled a list of the best acts from the first weekend of ACL. 

Jazmine Sullivan

R&B legend Jazmine Sullivan delivered one of the best performances for the first half of the festival, marking her status as a can’t-miss artist for next weekend. Incorporating old and new fan favorites such as “Bust Your Windows” and “On It” made for a dynamic, well-rounded showcase of Sullivan’s discography. 

Sullivan provided an incredibly energized and vocally demanding performance, with her band even giving her a break to lead the crowd in dancing and rapping to female rap hits like “Act Up” by City Girls. The Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter offered audiences at Zilker Park some of the weekend’s strongest live vocals, gracing listeners with her powerful raspy belt and intricate, yet effortless runs.

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X showcased a stunning, theatrical performance, raising the bar for all future ACL performances this year. The performance invigorated audiences throughout its duration, with exciting moments such as a dance break to Beyoncé’s “PURE/HONEY,” multiple costume changes and bringing fans onstage to dance to an unreleased song.

With the performance split up into three acts — “rebirth,” “transformation” and “becoming” — Lil Nas X loaded his performance full of grandiose imagery, including a large set of blue butterfly wings and a fake golden horse decorated in the Coach emblem. Lil Nas X also incorporated ingenious musical moves that enhanced the overall set, putting twists on his well known pop and hip-hop anthems by switching up beats and restructuring songs entirely.

Omar Apollo 

With his suave stage presence and buttery vocals, Omar Apollo executed a stellar sunset performance for his ACL debut. With the sun fading, an orange glow coated the 25-year-old singer-songwriter, setting the perfect warm, ambient backdrop for the romantic R&B set. 

Flaunting around the stage, Apollo confidently showcased his impressive vocal range, belting out fluid riffs and effortlessly transitioning to a delicate, soulful falsetto. Apollo heavily leaned on audience interaction, leading the enthusiastic crowd in multiple sing-along sections. Apollo’s smooth vocals and stage presence made for a standout ACL debut. 


The headliner took to the ACL stage with a flashy, nautical-themed performance, conveying the vulnerability of her music through sea swells and oceanside storms. From atop a looming lighthouse, SZA performed a series of songs predominantly from her 2017 album Ctrl

SZA’s sophomore album remained a fixture of last decade’s popular music well into its fifth anniversary this year. Her ethereal vocals and extravagant performance art worked to accompany her alternative R&B sound. She even teased an upcoming album, to which the crowd responded with frenzied cheers of excitement for SZA’s highly anticipated followup to her 2017 success.

Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast’s warm, joyous return to ACL established a sentimental connection between the band and their Sunday evening crowd. Lead singer Michelle Zauner consistently made her fondness for Austin known — even calling the city home to her “most charmed musical experiences.” 

The band’s whimsical blend of retro-ambient pop left listeners swaying to Zauner’s honey-coated vocals, especially during “Tactics” and “Slide Tackle.” Sharing brief glances and moments of tenderness with her husband and bandmate Peter Bradley, Zauner and the rest of Japanese Breakfast brought a sweet sunset performance to ACL.