Could ACL be the Next ACL?

Three reasons why Auckland City Limits might be more Austin than Austin City Limits.

By Lauren Picon, Texas Tech University


Even if you live in Austin, you’re going to need a plane ticket if you want to go to 2016’s most hyped ACL Festival, because it’s not going to be in Austin.

Once only famous for its Lord of the Rings vistas, Maori tattoos and shake of the finger at Odd Future, the Kiwi nation is adding another notch to its cultural belt—Auckland City Limits Festival.

This is a pretty big deal, as the only other ACL in the world is in Austin, which means that Auckland beat out every other hip city in the world that starts with an “A” for this opportunity, so better luck next year, Addis Ababa.

Introducing Auckland City Limits (This is not a Joke)

Auckland City Limits will hold its inaugural fest in March 2016 at the Western Spring Stadium – where icons like Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, David Bowie and KISS have performed over the years, and you’re invited to join for a mere $99 (not including airfare, sorry).

This news is particularly important to your author, as Auckland is where I took my first steps as a foreign exchange student in 2014 when I studied abroad in New Zealand, and I haven’t been the same since then.

Auckland is an urban playground where cool people wink knowingly at each other as they walk the sidewalks wearing trendy clothing and speaking in their romantic coo of an accent. As soon as I arrived, I began to feel like I’d been missing out on something my whole life.

And while it’s tempting to think that no ACL could ever compare with Austin’s CL, there are a few factors weighing in Auckland’s favor. So, if you’re somehow obscenely blessed with the need to choose between the two, here are a few reasons why Auckland City Limits Music Festival might be better than Austin’s.

Intimate Vibrations

Because of the festival’s small size, you can expect that Auckland Fest will be rich with the kind of camaraderie that you can only find in disparate groups of like-minded people who’re brought together by a higher purpose. Not only will the crowd bond over being the first crowd, but the music doesn’t have to evolve from underground and local to headliner and international like most music festivals.

Auckland City Limits gets to piggyback off of Austin City Limit’s established credentials, and as a result, already expects more than 40 musicians to perform.

They’ve announced fifteen performers this month, a few of whom are Kendrick Lamar, The Naked and Famous and The National.

But, lineups alone don’t sell tickets: look at ACL—Early Bird passes sell out before the artists are even announced. Festival-goers are looking for an experience as well as a set list, and Auckland Fest offers an experience that Austin City Limits never can: It’s small. And because it’s under the radar, attendees won’t have to deal with the hassle and discombobulation that comes with packing 450,000 people into a park, which might sell a few Early Bird passes itself.

And along with this kind of intimacy comes unique opportunities. For instance, the first night at ACL in 2014 I was flirting with a guy in line and we were hitting it off, but our future together was cut short as I had to bid him an abrupt adieu (I was about to miss my MetroRail). We went our separate ways and I never saw him again. Maybe in Auckland, festival love will fare a little better.

Something New

Travel expands horizons. Eat, Pray, Love. You’ll Miss 100 Percent of the Shots You Don’t Take. You’ve heard it all, and it’s all cliché, but it’s true: Auckland City Limits will make you step out of your comfort zone and that’s always good. You’ll be sharing an experience (ACL) that can bridge the cultural gap between you and thousands of Aucklanders, which means you might actually come away with a few meaningful relationships.

Plus, Auckland was chosen because of its similarity to Austin, which means you’ll probably have more in common with the festival-goers than you might think. As a result, since both festivals are going to have similar music and similar people, you’ll be able to feel both completely in and completely out of your element, which is a pretty hard experience to recreate.

Keep Auckland Cool

In addition to local artists performing at the festival, there’s also going to be Aucklander food, art, souvenirs and nightlife, which means that while Aucklanders get to experience ACL for the first time, you get to experience Auckland for the first time. It’ll be more special for you, because while Aucklanders are happy to see what ACL is like, you’re going to be comparing and contrasting Auckland versus Austin City Limits.

Charles Attal of C3 Presents, the company that produces the Austin music fest each year, has called Auckland the “sister city” of Austin. Auckland locals are often hip and laid-back, and the country itself is known for having a healthy work-life balance. In fact, Auckland was ranked 3rd in the world for quality of life.

This might be because of the breathtaking landscapes make people want to be outdoors which produces excessive endorphin highs, or maybe it’s because the Kiwis love to drink (a lot) and are drunkenly filling out overly-positive surveys. Whatever it is, you have to go there to find out.

All you have to do is search flight tickets online, buy an ACL pass (buy me one too), submit your request off from work and you’re there. If anything is preventing you from executing this elegant 3-step process (a lot of things probably are), you can keep updated with the festival and lineup to see upcoming announcements.