It's shaping up to be a big weekend for Austin City Limits. First, the landmark PBS television show that began taping episodes on the top floor of Building B in UT-Austin's College of Communications in 1975 salutes its 40-year history with a two-hour special full of past performances. Airing tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Houston time, that retrospective will probably look familiar to longtime viewers of the program, who will see plenty of ACL's famous fake skyline (where the state capitol building and UT tower are just a little closer together than they are in real life), as well as signature camera shots that linger on the performers a little longer than any other show on the air, ever, sometimes at strange angles like looking up through a snare drum.
Photos courtesy of Oxford University Press Willie Nelson (onscreen) at the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival
What those viewers may not see are many hints of the multimedia cultural octopus ACL has become in the 21st century, albeit in a very laid-back and low-key "Austin" kind of way. Offering a preview of his Bayou Music Center appearance next Thursday, Beck opens the series' 40th season with an hour-long episode that airs Saturday night at 11 p.m., the night after he headlines the first night of the 13th edition of the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park.
Most of what happens during the festival's three days -- and then again next weekend -- will be streamed live on the Internet, while all week long, a number of other ACL Fest 2014 acts will tape episodes of their own at the 1,800-seat ACL Live venue at downtown Austin's plush Moody Theater. Others, like Interpol and Jimmy Cliff, will duck over to nearby cities like Houston for convenient side gigs.