The lineup for Austin City Limits Festival generally doesn’t come out until early May, but now that lineups for the big three spring/summer festivals, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza have been released, we can begin making educated guesses about who might show up in Zilker Park in October.
Let’s start at the top. Last year, Jay-Z was the big ACL Fest headliner. Could we the other Carter, Beyoncé, who headlines Coachella, this go round? It would be a bold move, one that would shut down naysayers who panned last year’s ACL lineup as underwhelming. It would also sell the fest out instantly. The Carters’ joint “On the Run II” tour plays Houston and Arlington, but not San Antonio or Austin and it wraps on October 4, the day before ACL Fest weekend one kicks off. But Bey’s elaborate performance set up is difficult to recreate in a festival setting and do we really believe ACL organizers are going to shell out the massive amounts of cash it would require to convince Mrs. Carter not to go home and chill with her kids after a grueling tour? Not really.
Bonnaroo and Coachella headliner Eminem, who drew one of the largest crowds we’ve ever seen at ACL when he played the fest in 2014, seems like a much surer bet. Tickets are still available for Lollapalooza headliner Jack White’s May 2 show at the Austin360 Amphitheater, but he still seems like a likely candidate for the ACL 2018 lineup. At first glance it would seem like the Weeknd, who headlines Coachella and Lollapalooza, would be out because he headlined ACL in 2015, but he played Lollapalooza that year too, so a reprise of Abel Tesfaye’s brilliant, but somewhat creepy, seems very possible.
The lovely indie rock of Bon Iver, who hasn’t played the fest since 2009, will likely serenade Zilker Park, and perennial ACL faves the National and Vampire Weekend are both available in October and would be solid, but safe, choices. After playing Coachella, St. Vincent fests her way across Europe, but she’ll be back in time for ACL and the first lady of Top Dawg Entertainment, Sza, plays the amphitheater with her crew (including Kendrick Lamar) in May, but could easily return in October to make her ACL debut. After the fest came under fire for a lack of Latinx artist representation last year, booking Miguel, who did a surprise pop-in at South by Southwest last week and has a sold out show at Stubb’s in April, would be a big draw and a good look.
David Byrne, who plays Coachella, has a tour that hits Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, but skips Austin. He seems like an obvious choice for one of this year’s legacy artists. Miranda Lambert doesn’t show up on any of the other big festival lineups, but over the past several years ACL has booked at least one mainstream country artist and Lambert’s summer tour hits Houston and Dallas, but not Austin, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the lineup.
Because the ACL lineup keeps getting younger, we also wouldn’t be surprised to see America’s favorite new boy band Brockhampton, 16-year-old SXSW breakout Billie Eilish and El Paso pop superstar Khalid in the mix.