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Childish Gambino's 2019 performance was so crowded, it was nearly impossible to see the stage. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

After a year-long hiatus, Austin City Limits is returning to Zilker Park—the festival's iconic central Austin location. But after 18 years, some residents are ready to see the festival move to a different part of town, lamenting another year of traffic, losing access to their favorite park and corporate greed.


Longtime Austinite Robert Reeves, a lover of live music who spent years working on the Vans Warped Tour, has been living in the city since 1992. Reeves said he wants ACL out of Zilker Park, not just to save a few minutes driving on the weekend, but also to keep Austin local.

ACL is run by C3 presents, an Austin entertainment company. However, in 2014, 51% of the company was acquired by Live Nation, a Beverly Hills-based company. While C3 puts on the festival, Live Nation has a big say on how the show is run.

"It is no longer the showcase for Austin and Austin talent," Reeves said. "You don't get credit for being homegrown Austin when you're no longer a homegrown Austin company, when you're catering to people outside and you're causing problems for the residents here."

Reeves is not the only resident who feels this way. Austinites took to Twitter and a recent Towers survey to share their displeasure with the festival's location.

The problem, Reeves says, is that the festival no longer supports the community. C3 has donated more than $35 million to Austin Parks and Recreation over the years. But Reeves thinks Live Nation needs to give back more to the community if it wants to use it.

"It's not how much we think something is worth, it's how much the other person thinks it's worth," Reeves said. "Look, I love ACL, but I've got to tell you, it has lost its way. Regardless of how much value (ACL) adds to Zilker Park, it's a park, whatever. If we told Live Nation to fuck off… they would have to take a charge on their next earnings report to Wall Street, their stock would plummet."

Reeves acknowledges that ACL was a huge economic boom during its inception but says that Austin has more economic freedom now. On top of that, Reeves said residents of Barton Hills, Rollingwood and Bouldin Creek neighborhoods have had enough of the traffic, rental problems and commotion.

Juiceland is one of the businesses to benefit from business ACL brings in. (Nick Amoscato/CC)


"It takes inventory out of the real estate market, which in turn raises prices," Reeves said. "There's assholes in LA that have mansions in Malibu at Live Nation because of this."

Reeves' argument: Live Nation needs ACL more than Austinites do. So if not Zilker Park, where should the festival be held?

"Not my fucking problem," Reeves said. "If you're not changing, you're dying."

Few businesses in the area share the same opinion—ACL is a huge revenue driver. Barton Springs Juiceland Manager Kaley, who declined to give a last name, said the two weekends are the best shifts of the year.

"Employees will make over $100 in tips a day, it's the best time for us," Kaley said. "We didn't have ACL last year and we're still fine but that being said, it is definitely something that I think everyone around here looks forward to. It really drives up revenue for us and Chuy's and Juliet (Italian Kitchen)."

Beyond that, Kaley, a lifelong Austinite, said ACL just wouldn't be the same festival if it was held elsewhere.

"Quite frankly if it wasn't at Zilker Park anymore, it wouldn't be ACL anymore," Kaley said.

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