Column: Top 5 memorable performances from Austin City Limits

Hayley Williams, lead vocalist of the band Paramore, sings during the opening song of their set on Sunday of Weekend One at Austin City Limits 2022. Photo courtesy of Josh McSwain

By Kalena Reynolds | Reporter

Austin City Limits Music Festival is an Austin-based music festival that first took place in 2002, and it includes a variety of musicians from different genres and locations. The festival has included many notable musicians, from The Red Hot Chili Peppers to Foo Fighters, but certain acts have stuck out as more memorable than others. Here is a peek at the five most impressionable shows from the festival’s first 21 years.

1. Miley Cyrus in 2021

Arguably one of the best performers of this decade, Miley Cyrus’ talents shone bright at Austin City Limits in 2021. The musician came out in a sparkling red outfit with bright blue eye shadow that was bound to make a statement. Cyrus performed iconic covers of classics such as “Heart Of Glass” by Blondie and “Bang Bang” by Nancy Sinatra, but one specific cover stood out in this set. Cyrus performed “Maybe” by Janis Joplin as a self-proclaimed “song for herself.” Cyrus’ roaring, growly vocals and her sophisticated female register made for a performance that would take anyone’s breath away.

“This song is one song that, in the middle of this set, I do for me,” Cyrus said. “This song is for me. This song is Janis Joplin’s ‘Maybe.'”

Between Cyrus’ bursting charisma and jaw-dropping vocals, the 21-song set was nothing less than spectacular. Cyrus also included earlier songs from her collection, such as “Midnight Sky” and “Plastic Hearts,” as well as older songs like “7 Things” and “The Climb.” Cyrus’ set lasted over an hour without breaks and ended with “Party in the U.S.A.”

This set is worthy of all the feels as Cyrus explored multiple dimensions of her voice and identity yet managed to maintain crowd interaction throughout the entire performance.

2. Foo Fighters in 2015

Dave Grohl was sitting on a guitar-engulfed throne for the duration of the set at the Foo Fighters performance during Austin City Limits in 2015. The lead singer had recently broken his leg while performing in Sweden after falling off the stage. Grohl could only continue after having a customized throne built that elevated his leg during the set and shot out steam with beaming lights.

The set was a beautiful display of the power of rock ‘n’ roll and the energy it can create, even when the lead singer can’t stand up. The band also had guest appearances from Gary Clark Jr. and Ben Kweller and performed a 19-song set, including their hits like “Everlong” and “My Hero.”

3. The Flaming Lips in 2006

While it’s hard to find any recorded footage of the Flaming Lips set from Austin City Limits in 2006, it will go down as one of the most memorable sets the festival has ever seen. Aside from the iconic music, Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of The Flaming Lips, had an extraordinarily peculiar idea while on stage due to an incident that had occurred with musician Ben Kweller the previous day.

Kweller had experienced a nosebleed on stage and attempted to stop the blood with a tampon thrown on stage by an audience member. The tampon only lasted two songs before Kweller had to leave. The next day, Coyne put fake blood on his forehead and asked audience members to throw tampons at him to help absorb the blood. Throughout the following two songs, the band continued to be engulfed in audience-launched tampons. Following the performance, Coyne created an Austin City Limits poster using his blood as ink.

4. Arctic Monkeys in 2013

The set resonated with high energy as the lead singer, Alex Turner, serenaded the crowd with his sophisticated style and eccentric dance moves. Halfway through the set, the band incorporated Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” into their song “Arabella,” during which Turner grabbed his guitar midway through and rejoined the band to play the guitar solo of “Arabella.”

The band’s famous Brit-rock sound appeared as they played songs from their older albums such as Pretty VisitorsandDon’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.The band also brought out Josh Homme, the lead singer of the band Queens of the Stone Age, to perform the song “Knee Socks.”

5. Paramore in 2022

The famous early 2000s rock band made an appearance at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2022 after a five-year hiatus. The crowd roared as the set started with one of the band’s newest singles, “This Is Why.” The lead singer, Hayley Williams, danced around the stage with her trademark orange-hair head banging to the chorus as fans remained eager and engaged.

The peak of the performance is arguably one of the best displays of William’s vocal abilities. The song features her soaring upper-register chest voice and her incredible lower range. Williams lowered her head onto her mic after the song ended, displaying the emotions behind the music and catching her breath while the crowd cheered until she picked her head back up and introduced herself and the band.

“We wanna see ugly dance moves,” Williams said. “We’re not here for looking right and looking tight. I want you loose — I want you to just look absolutely ridiculous, lose your head, don’t worry about what anyone says or thinks. This is your moment.”