There are two kinds of festival-goers in this world: people who show up for the headliners and the folks who know there’s much more to festivals than the main stage. ACL is known for sourcing fantastic talent and rewarding local sounds, but unless you do your homework, it’s easy to miss some of the best sounds in the morning slots. There’s a lot of gold to be mined in the 2018 lineup, to be sure. Here are a few of my top picks for smaller acts for both weekends of the fest.
October 5-7th, 2018
October 5th · Friday at 11:15 AM
At times meditative and soft, at times straight blues, RF Shannon’s first full-length album Trickster Blues harkens to a Western landscape of yore. In one fell swoop, they spent four days in Marfa to demo the album, and then recorded the whole thing over two days in Lockhart, Texas to yield a “raw and profound insight to [a] raw sonic & lyrical landscape.”
Think LDR but dudes. For real, RF Shannon’s website pulls a full Lana with moody reverb and imagery, plus some half-hearted poetry: “TRICKSTER BLUES ARE A THING, MORE THAN A FEELING, LESS THAN A THOUGHT.”
October 7th · Sunday at 11:15 AM
Comprised of Atlanta singer-songwriter Emily Braden, guitarist Jack Blauvelt, bassist Merideth Hanscom, and drummer Andrew McFarland, Neighbor Lady cites “Fleetwood Mac, Wilco, Patsy Cline, and Jenny Lewis” as their main inspirations for their soaring female vocals and indie/surf-y guitar sound. They dropped a new album this May called Maybe Later, a 7-track jaunt that leans on Braden’s vocals and feels just right for summer weather.
ACL Fest writes: “Haunting vocals paired with dreamy Americana rock, [Neighbor Lady] attracted attention in June 2016 with the release of the single “Consider Me Mean.” Neighbor Lady’s momentum is indebted to their blend of powerful psychedelic indie-rock set to Braden’s tender and soaring vocal melodies, creating a sensation both comforting, yet heartbreaking in the same moments.“
The band also lists “dogs, hot dogs, and reverb” on their interests on Facebook, so I’m willing to check them out based on that alone.
The Nude Party
October 7th · Sunday at 1 PM
It’s a festival, so the “clothing optional” rule is pretty much assumed… but North Carolina’s The Nude Party takes nudity and janglepop to another level. Their new self-titled album dives in with piano and guitar riffs, and I haven’t been able to stop listening. It’s addictive.
ACL Fest writes: “Bonded by isolation, house party debauchery, a religion based on pushing the limits of bad taste, and a precocious predisposition towards the Kinks, the Animals and the Velvets, [The Nude Party] have burgeoned into a rock and roll act to be reckoned with. As the hysteria at their local shows steadily increases, so does their reputation with local law enforcement, forcing them daily more to seek employment anywhere but home.”
October 12-14th, 2018
October 12th · Friday at 1:15 PM
It’s one thing to have an EP picked up by Atlantic and featured appearances on tracks with Booker, Noname, and Smino; it’s a whole other level when you do all that before graduating from high school. Ravyn Lenae was discovered while attending Chicago High School and her early-2000s atmospheric R&B has been making waves ever since.
October 12th · Friday at 12:45 PM
19-year-old self-produced Cuco is a Chicano tenderheart writing spacey lo-fi tunes about summer love and getting high. He’s ironic and Internet-y in an earnest teenage way that feels right on time for the garbage fire that is 2018.
Barely two years after he began tinkering with Ableton Live Lite after school, Cuco has found a young and passionate audience for his music, which combines earnest Spanglish love lyrics with an inscrutable deep-meme millennial sense of humor to create a persona that is at once carefree and emotionally involved — the way teenagers are. His brand of dream pop takes cues from jazz and hip-hop, combining homemade drum packs and loops with self-taught keyboard, trumpet, guitar and his sing-talking cadence to create twinkly lullabies. His most popular track, "Lo Que Siento," is the kind of song you sing along to with your friends in a McDonald's drive-through at the end of a night out.
Flor De Toloache
October 14th · Sunday at 2:15 PM
If you’re looking to fall in love, watch out: this all-female Grammy-winning mariachi ensemble takes their name from the deadly Toloache flower used primarily in brujeria for love potions (and poisons). Their spell-binding sound relies on powerful vocals and instrumental finesse, but it’s the spirit and vibrance of this group that really puts them in a league of their own.