Early is a relative term at Austin City Limits. After 10 hours of bearing the heat, walking from stage to stage and paying $8 for warm beer, a festivalgoer is bound to be pretty tuckered out. Tendency is to stay at home in the air conditioning, casually enjoy breakfast and arrive at the festival ground in the late hours of the day for the headliners.
But I urge you not to make that mistake. Don't let exhaustion keep you from seeing some of the best bands of the festival, which are almost always hidden in the first three hours of each day's lineup. Crowds are smaller, there are no lines for the porta potties and the bands genuinely appreciate your presence. So grab a couple breakfast tacos to go and get down to Zilker Park early. You'll be glad you did.
Miniature Tigers - 11:20 a.m. Friday
Indie pop rock bands are always better after a few lone stars, so you're going to have to chug if you want to be adequately prepared for Miniature Tigers. Don't be a "Rock N' Roll Mountain Troll" like a track from the band's most recent album suggests and get to the festival on time for once.
An Horse - 12:20 p.m. Friday
This duo from down under has a sound similar to successful musical pairs Matt & Kim and Tegan & Sara; only with less piano and more pop. It's Australian surf rock. I have no idea what the hipster scene is like in Brisbane but An Horse have been sent forth to represent.
Wild Beasts - 1:10 p.m. Friday
Innovative while still being accessible is a challenge for many artists in this digital age and Wild Beasts aren't afraid to toe the line, especially because they like to keep things mellowed out. Think along the lines of a subdued Dirty Projectors or Grizzly Bear.
Reptar - 1:20 p.m. Friday
I already extolled Reptar's virtues yesterday in the matchup dilemma but wanted to emphasize how lively and inventive these guys are. You are guaranteed to have fun at their show, where else do you get an assurance like that?
Fool's Gold -2:30 p.m. Friday
Quite easily ACL's most interesting combination of genres: Fool's Gold merges western pop with African rhythms. Add a touch of 1980s pop music and you've got a funky collective that has been known to treat fans to extended jam sessions.
Francisca Valenzuela - 3 p.m. Friday
This isn't early unless you had to sneak out of work, in which case I applaud your efforts. Francisca Valenzuela reminds me of a Latin blend of Regina Spektor and Lykke Li. Her most recent album has been released in her native Chile but hasn't made it to the U.S. yet so expect some never-before-heard deep cuts.
Federico Aubele - 11:45 a.m. Saturday
Down tempo, chill wave, dub reggae, tango... Federico spans so many different genres it's hard to keep them all straight. When he mixes in sultry, smoky Argentinian vocals it transforms into an international hit.
The Kingston Springs - 12:30 p.m. Saturday
Another repeat recommendation from yesterday's article, which should go to show how much I believe in these cats. Speaking of cats, apparently drummer Matthew DeMaio is a fanatical catfisherman? More on that later, until then, enjoy the youngest band at the festival and their bluesy garage rock.
Cowboy and Indian - 1 p.m. Saturday
It's always good to support the locals. Cowboy and Indian have deep roots in Austin: guitarist Jesse Plemons starred on NBC's Friday Night Lights and lead singer Jazz Mills got her start as a vocalist in T-Bird and the Breaks. The band mates take turns on the microphone so you'll get a mix of gruff and sweet on top of country folk-inspired guitar riffs.
Daniel Lanois' Black Dub - 3:15 p.m. Saturday
It's hard to be under the radar when you've worked with U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the like, but Daniel Lanois' most recent project is experimental to the point of being strange. It's a musician's band, and a perfect "early" set for the late risers who overdid it on Friday.
Yellow Ostrich - 11:45 a.m. Sunday
Riding the wave of popularity behind their brand new EP, Yellow Ostrich is forward-thinking indie rock accented by inventive vocal harmonies. If this were SXSW the buzz would be swarming, instead the band got pegged with a lousy Sunday morning slot. Don't miss out on seeing this band before they get popular.
Mariachi El Bronx - 12:30 p.m. Sunday
It's safe to assume the only place most people have ever heard a mariachi band is at a Mexican restaurant. That changes with Mariachi El Bronx. English lyrics playfully sang over south of the border instruments is a nice juxtaposition.
Little Hurricane - 12:20 p.m. Sunday
Self-produced, garage-inspired, dirty blues. There are so many instruments on stage you'd expect a bigger band but this duo does it all on their own, and they do it well. Certainly doesn't hurt that the drummer, who goes only by "CC," is a mega babe and knows how to whale.
Graffiti6 - 12:30 p.m. Sunday
No need for Red Bull. Graffiti6 has fun, energetic music that will get you up and moving practically against your will. The London-based band takes infectious pop music to the next level and has no remorse for getting their catchy tracks stuck in your head for days.
Courtney Jaye - 2:30 p.m. Sunday
The last day of a festival is tough. Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint. You don't want to bonk early and miss Sunday's headliners so find a spot in the grass, lay down and let Courtney Jaye's seducing voice recharge your musical battery. You woke up early the past couple days, you deserve it.
Follow Mark R. Collins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Markswords