We haven’t ventured too much into the emotional impact of live music on the blog yet, but I can speak for both Eden and Joe when I say that there’s something cathartic about seeing and experiencing music live.
Last weekend I went to my first music festival, Austin City Limits. Why had I gone 20+ years of my life without going to a music festival? Well, safety and security for one, financials for two and perhaps most important, there wasn’t a lineup that had THAT many artists I wanted to see. Until ACL came along and my Austin native pal Han told me she wanted to go.
The ACL lineup stood out to me because I had learned to love so many new artists during quarantine. Whether it was TikTok deeming Doja Cat the internet queen or Phoebe Bridgers releasing the quintessential album to the apocalypse in Punisher, it felt like everywhere I turned people were making music that captured the full extent of the human experience.
Now, I have to admit that when I bought tickets for ACL, I was incredibly optimistic about the pandemic. I had just gotten my second Moderna dose and things were swinging in a good direction. But what followed was a rollercoaster of uncertainty called the Delta variant that made me question the financial investment of going to a music festival (in Texas btw, where case counts were higher). I still don’t know if it was a good idea tbh, but I did it and I’m living with the decision. Also, I had a ton of fun! I gotta admit though, I’m feeling very much like Spongebob after he breaks his butt and decides the isolation of being indoors is better.
But back to the music. One big thing I learned while at the festival was that while there were so many artists I wanted to see, it was hard to make it work for all of them.
For one, getting to the festival was no easy feat. Flight delays and the fact that my left contact broke as soon as I got to my friend’s cousin’s AirBnB made us get to the festival grounds about halfway through Machine Gun Kelly and Bleachers’s set. I did want to see Bleachers but honestly, I’m seeing them at the Palladium tonight so I wasn’t butthurt about missing their set at ACL lol. I also want to mention I wanted to see Claud (they’re actually opening for Bleachers so yay me), FINNEAS, Frances Forever, Girl in Red, Surfaces, Jack Harlow, Holly Humberstone, Tate McRae, and Cautious Clay but ya girl was tired and wanted to avoid being in the sun. I’m sure I’ll get other opportunities to see and get to know these artists more.
Secondly, sometimes you couldn’t stay for an artist’s entire set because you wanted to see another act on a further stage so you had to budget your time. I ran into this when I was watching Doja Cat and really wanted to go see Dayglow who was probably a 20 minute walk away. I was able to grab dinner and a drink before Dayglow’s set which was so needed but yeah, I’m a little bummed I missed most of “Need To Know” and “Say So.”
Thirdly, sometimes two acts that you really wanna see are playing at the same time. That one sucks the most honestly. While Doja Cat was playing, Modest Mouse was a stone’s throw away playing. That’s where my limited knowledge of economics kicked in and I had to think about trade offs. On one hand, I love a few Modest Mouse songs very much but on the other, I like a lot of Doja Cat songs and thought she’d be an exciting performer. Besides, I was already at the stage that Doja was playing in because Phoebe Bridgers had just played (ooh I gotta vent about that performance). I ended up choosing Doja Cat because I figured I would have more fun with my friend. Also, while I was walking to Dayglow from Doja I serendipitously stumbled across the beginning of my favorite Modest Mouse song “Float On.” You can call me basic but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that “Float On” has gotten me through some rough times. It’s a go-to.
Another thing I learned at the festival was that not everyone enjoys music the same way you do, but the way you experience music in the crowd is a sacred thing. The artists that I chose to see had me in a very musically vulnerable place because I really had been waiting a couple years (or more in some cases!) to see them. I want to dive into each of them.
Megan Thee Stallion
My friend Han and I were the most excited to see Megan Thee Stallion because no one throws a hot girl party like she does. Megan is THE HOT GIRL — like she literally coined “hot girl summer.” Her music has been crucial to me growing my confidence, owning my sensuality as a woman, and just reminding me that I’m young and I should be having fun. Seeing her made me fall even more in love with her. She really leaves it all on the floor and carries herself with the bravado that an icon does. I really wanna see her again because #1 she’s a fantastic performer and #2 I NEED MORE SPACE TO DANCE WHEN I DO. I’m a firm believer in having a weekly dance party to Megan for a confidence boost so I’m bummed that I had to be in a sea on unruly people to do it at the festival. Oh well, it was still the epitome of hot girl shit.
I was SO pleasantly surprised by Miley’s set. Obviously I grew up with her, but really once upon a time I wanted to BE her. Like thank God there’s no photographic proof of how I dressed up as Hannah Montana (blonde wig and all) in 4th grade for Halloween. I never got to see her live when I wanted to be her but her set really made me see how much RANGE she’s had in her career and we gotta give her her flowers. She has her teen pop hits in “7 Things” and “See You Again” then her experimental and party anthem phase in “23”, “We Can’t Stop”, and “Dooo It!” and then her country and rock phase with “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”, “Malibu”, and “Plastic Hearts.” I had so much fun during her set and just moments of awe in the way that her voice has gotten to the perfect rock n roll growl. Ugh I hope she releases the cover she did of “Baby” by Janis Joplin, it was gorgeous.
Remi Wolf was a good time even though we caught maybe half her set. She’s got such a unique sound and I love how she writes songs about things you wouldn’t think about. My favorite moment of her set was when she played a new song called “Sexy Villian.” Like dude, what a VIBE. Also, after hearing “Photo ID” and “Liz” go viral, dancing to them in the midday Texas sun was so fun. She actually released her album today and I’m pumped to give it a listen because her voice is NEXT LEVEL.
I was so excited to see Phoebe because her heartbreakingly beautiful songwriting has made space for me to vulnerable so many times over the last year. That’s why I was so annoyed by two things that prevented me from fully enjoying the performance. One, there was some random guy that CLEARLY saw me having a moment during her set and tried to start a conversation. I literally had to tell him in the most uninterested tone “yeah, her music is really important to me.” At least he got the hint lol. Two, and perhaps the most frustrating, during the climax of her final song, “I Know the End”, somebody pulled the plug on Phoebe and the band. I was really looking forward to seeing the climax of this somber song so I could scream with the crowd as they did their rockstar thing. But oh well, I still got to sing and cry to “Motion Sickness”, “Moon Song”, ” ICU”, and “Savior Complex” like I needed to.
I knew Doja was gonna be a good time. It was surreal to see her perform all these songs I’ve heard a billion times on TikTok. I was the most excited to see her do “Get Into It (Yuh)” and “Tia Tamera” and she DID NOT DISAPPOINT even if she said she was feeling a little under the weather. I appreciated the little drum solo break she did, it was so badass. I love her music because it’s just chock-full of clever wordplay and it exudes playfulness. I’m SO HERE FOR IT. Special shoutout to the guy that was screaming all the lyrics near me. I love being around superfans at concerts; they make me feel extra hyped.
As I mentioned earlier, I left Doja’s performance early to run over and see Dayglow. Honestly, it was my favorite performance of the festival because everything was just perfect. It was Saturday night, the sun was going down, food and bathrooms were nearby, I had enough space to dance it all out, and on top of all that, they’re a native Austin band! This is AUSTIN City Limits right?! I had grown familiar with Dayglow earlier this year when I listened to his new album Harmony House and fell in love with “Close To You” and “Medicine” from it. Like literally during the spring, I listened to “Close To You” at least 20 times a day. It’s just SO GOOD. Diving a little more into his discography really gave me the modern nostalgia indie rock music I had been longing for. Special kudos to them for doing a cover of my favorite 80s song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears before launching into his last song “Run the World!!!”
Billie is electric to see live if you ever get the chance. I got to see her at We Can Survive in 2019 and I was so impressed by her. Since then she’s become a Grammy-winning superstar with countless bangers it seems. As I mentioned in our summer recap, I’ve really been vibing with her newest album, Happier Than Ever. She played so many of my favorite songs from that album like the badass “NDA” with the transition to “Therefore I Am” which is ICONIC, the gorgeous “Halley’s Comet” which speaks to my fear of intimacy while having a crush a little too well, and “Billie Bossa Nova” which y’all know I love from our summer recap. Seeing her end with “Happier Than Ever” was the epitome of catharsis, I think everyone in the crowd felt that. Saturday night really ended with a BANG.
Sunday ended up being a way more chill day since we had gone so hard on Saturday. I got a nice easy Sunday morning with brunch and a tour of downtown Austin before going to the festival late afternoon. We saw Karol G before going to the silent disco and honestly, that capped the festival in the most fun way.
So yeah, that was my first festival. A crazy fun cathartic weekend and I’m honestly still recovering from it lol. It was full on 90 degree summer in Austin and windy + below 70 when I returned to LA (aka our normal fall). My seasonal allergies are making me paranoid about having miss rona. BUT, I want to commemorate this memory with a playlist of all the music I got to vibe to + songs from those I didn’t get to vibe to. I also wanna highlight a song from each artist I got to see their full set because I needed to have a moment with their music for one reason or another.
Thot Shit – Megan Thee Stallion
From the moment I was packing for the trip to right after she performed it, “Thot Shit” was STUCK IN MY HEAD. Being on your “thot shit” is really such a vibe because it encompasses all kinds of wealth. I love how this is Megan’s version of flaunting success because not only does she talk about financial wealth, her haters, and awards (“I’m the shit per the Recording Academy” is such a FLEX) but she shouts out how she’s graduating college this year. I love that SO MUCH. She’s a sweetheart, a boss, THE hot girl — WE STAN.
Nothing Breaks Like a Heart – Miley Cyrus
I love this sad disco country song and I honestly forgot how much I loved it until she played it. It compliments Miley’s raspy rock voice so well and nods to the genres she does best: country, rock, and pop. The lyrics in the chorus “this world can hurt you, it cuts you deep and leaves a scar, things fall apart but nothing breaks like a heart” are so loaded and it just transforms this song into a gem.
I Know the End – Phoebe Bridgers
When I hear the recording of this song, I think of how desperate I was to leave the toxic job I had last year. This song represented the desolation of hitting that career dead end, how much I needed to go, and what it felt like to finally leave that situation. It was honestly crushing to see the performance of it but the mic’d up parts felt so cathartic. I really think of how far I’ve come since the dark place I was in this time last year when I hear this song. It’s just such a masterfully crafted song. Soak in it like you’re meant to.
Bottom Bitch – Doja Cat
This song was FULLY stuck in my head after Doja’s set. I forgot it sampled “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182. I love how Doja Cat plays around with different genres as a backdrop to her singing and rapping. It’s just proof of how she disrupts the expectations of what a female rapper/singer has been. Doja Cat fucking rocks.
Medicine – Dayglow
A BOP — THIS IS A BOP. When I got home from the airport on Monday night, I was relaxing on YouTube found out Dayglow had a series breaking down the production of his songs and I absolutely loved it. Watching the episode he did for this one honestly made me love it even more, which I didn’t think was possible. This song hits me hard because I’m realizing that I really am not made to be medicine for anyone. As a recovering people pleaser, it’s an anthem of standing my ground when I sense people making me feel bad for not being more accommodating. Ugh at least those growing pains have a bop for it.
everything i wanted – Billie Eilish
This song breaks my heart every time I listen to it. Somehow it reminds me of the past, present, and future. In regards to the past, it reminds me of all the times I felt like I should’ve been happy. I was actually depressed when I got promoted in my last job, when I was dating the last guy I dated, and while I was getting a “much needed break” while working at home in the first part of the pandemic. I had everything I wanted but I still felt so empty. Seeing this song live made me realize how much the chorus still hits me in the present. It’s as if I hear the loving voice of God telling me that I’m not alone in fighting my shapeshifting self-esteem demons and how they’ve affected my confidence and relationships. It’s just a timeless love song of hope amidst darkness that really did warrant that Grammy for Record of the Year.