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The Best Non-Headliner Acts of ACL 2018

There are two kinds of festival-goers in this world: Folks who go to see the big names, the Top 40 headliners, in a huge arena with all their friends; and the folks who know there’s much more to festivals than the main stage.

ACL is known for sourcing fantastic talent and rewarding local sounds, but they also respect the greats — 48-year-old Asleep at the Wheel is the only band to have played the fest every single year of its operation. There’s a lot of gold to be mined in the lineup for 2018, so let’s dive in.

Here are some of our top picks for smaller acts for both Weekend #1 and Weekend #2 of this year’s ACL Fest.

Neighbor Lady

Weekend #1, Sunday at 11:15 AM CT

Comprised of Atlanta singer-songwriter Emily Braden, guitarist Jack Blauvelt, bassist Merideth Hanscom, and drummer Andrew McFarland, Neighbor Lady cites “Fleetwood Mac, Wilco, Patsy Cline, and Jenny Lewis” as their main inspirations for their soaring female vocals and indie/surf-y guitar sound. They dropped a new album this May called “Maybe Later,” a 7-track jaunt that leans on Braden’s vocals and feels just right for summer weather.

ACL Fest writes: “Haunting vocals paired with dreamy Americana rock, [Neighbor Lady] attracted attention in June 2016 with the release of the single “Consider Me Mean”. Neighbor Lady’s momentum is indebted to their blend of powerful psychedelic indie-rock set to Braden’s tender and soaring vocal melodies, creating a sensation both comforting, yet heartbreaking in the same moments.“

The band also lists “dogs, hot dogs, and reverb” on their interests on Facebook, so we’re willing to check them out based on that alone.

RF Shannon

Weekend #1, Friday at 11:15 AM CT

At times meditative and soft, at times straight blues, RF Shannon’s first full-length album Trickster Blues harkens to a Western landscape of yore. The band’s website says it only took four days in Marfa to demo the album, and they recorded the whole thing over two days in Lockhart, Texas to yield a “raw and profound insight to [a] raw sonic & lyrical landscape.”

Superfónicos

Weekend #2, Sunday at 12:15 PM CT

You know how there’s always that one band at ACL that literally stops you in your tracks because everyone near their stage is full-on dancing? We’re betting money that you’ll fall prey to the sway when you hear hometown heroes Superfónicos at work. The 8-person Austin ensemble flirts with the junction between Colombian funk and Caribe soul, what they describe as a “musical mestizo that is ever-changing but deeply rooted in Caribbean flavors.”

The Nude Party

Weekend #1, Sunday at 1-2 PM CT

It’s a festival, so the “clothing optional” rule is pretty much assumed… but North Carolina’s The Nude Party takes it to another level. Their raucous 60-70s sound jangles with piano and guitar riffs, and they’re sure to be a lunchtime festival favorite.

ACL Fest writes: “Bonded by isolation, house party debauchery, a religion based on pushing the limits of bad taste, and a precocious predisposition towards the Kinks, the Animals and the Velvets, they have burgeoned into a rock and roll act to be reckoned with. As the hysteria at their local shows steadily increases, so does their reputation with local law enforcement, forcing them daily more to seek employment anywhere but home.”

Jackie Venson

Weekend #1, Saturday at 12:45 PM CT

Trained as a classical pianist, Austin’s Jackie Venson didn’t pick up a guitar until after she’d graduated from the Berklee College of Music. For anyone that’s heard her screaming electric solos, we hear you: it’s absolutely bonkers that she’s so talented. Venson was raised on music (she comes from a line of musicians) and has soul flowing through her veins. She was one of our picks for most impressive Austin women rockers earlier this year.

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