A Blast from the Past: Surviving ACL

By AFM – September 1, 2013

It’s a brave new world for ACL goers, what with two weekends of outdoor music for the first time this year. In honor of the new format and the festival’s 12th year, we revived AFM’s 2008 tips for surviving the festival, with some updates to reflect what’s going on in 2013. You can also check out aclfestival.com/festival/#faq-festival to find answers to frequently asked questions.

There are only two certainties for the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival: The music will be hot and the daytime temperatures will be scorching. Your calendar may say it’s fall, but here in Austin, there’s still another month of summer. And for some reason, summer seems to wait for ACL weekend to dish out the worst of the bad summer heat.

Though that summer heat is as much an ACL tradition as Asleep at the Wheel, it’s survivable—if you know how. ACLers will tell you the key is to drink and drink some more. But staying hydrated won’t keep you cool. Fortunately, our team of ACL veterans (who survived the ’04 108-degree blast furnace and the ’05 dust storm) is here to help.

Our experienced hands offer some innovative, yet simple ways to keep cool and comfortable so you can make it all the way from the afternoon shows clear on through to the evening headliners on Friday (Depeche Mode and Muse), Saturday (The Cure and Kings of Leon), and Sunday (Atoms for Peace and Lionel Richie).

Keep it Cool

1. Get wet. Absolutely, the most effective way to cool off is to get wet, which can reduce your core temperature by three or four degrees. You’re lucky. The most beautiful spring-fed pool in the country is a five-minute walk, right across the street from the festival site. It’s called Barton Springs and the water temperature is a constant 68 degrees. Take a break, walk across the street and, for a paltry $3, you can relax and chill out in the springs. You can even hear some of the nearby stages while soaking. Can’t get to the springs? Soak your T-shirt (performance fabric is best but, hey, anything works when it’s hot) and pull it on wet. As the water evaporates, you’ll get a cooling effect. Note to ladies: Avoid white, unless you don’t mind the see-through aspect.

2. Ice, ice baby. Fill a cup with ice from one of the concession stands and hold it to your wrists, neck, and other pulse points. Applying ice to the wrists and neck will cool off the rest of the body. If you can’t get any ice, at least hold an ice-cold bottle of beer or soda (or Sweet Leaf tea) against your neck to cool the blood headed toward your soon-to-be fried brain.

3. Make your own A/C. Get another cup of ice and add just a little water. Hold the cup close to your mouth and blow gently into the cup. The ice will cause the air you’re blowing into the cup to chill, which is then forced right back into your face. If nothing else, it just feels good.

4. Wear as little as possible. The less clothing, the less heat can get trapped next to the skin. Two-piece swim suits work well for women (especially if you’re going to take a break at the springs) and, as the evening goes on, you can add clothes to your skimpy ensemble. Men? Shorts suffice. If you want to cover up for sun protection, go loose fitting and cotton—even a white T-shirt has a 5 – 8 UPF (ultraviolet protection factor).

5. Seek some shade. Zilker Park is pretty wide open, but there are shade trees on the periphery of the park as well as plenty of tented areas. The shade might not be significantly cooler but at the very least spending a few minutes between sets (take off your hat, shoes and socks) will get you out of the direct sunlight. There are sprinkling systems set up in some of the shade areas. They’ll help to cool you off slightly. You can also bring an umbrella to create your own shade…though you might want to be considerate about where you put that up.

6. Eat cool. The heat may kill your appetite, but try to eat something healthy at the food court. There’s plenty to choose from, and a crisp salad or fruit bowl might taste best on a blistering hot day—and they’ll help you stay hydrated. (Hint: Watermelon is the best. Pineapple and strawberries work well, too.)

7. Take time out. We don’t care how heat acclimated you are, boogie-ing in the heat for ten hours a day will take its toll. Whenever you have a window for some rest, take advantage of it and leave the festival grounds (provided you have a three-day festival pass). Go to one of the nearby bars and eateries along Barton Springs Road (Uncle Billy’s, Austin Java, Chuy’s, Shady Grove, Green Mesquite, and a few others) that are within easy walking distance, where you can rehydrate and relax in air-conditioned comfort.

8. Avoid sunburn. Skin that’s burned is inflamed, and (again) causes you to lose fluid, which causes dehydration. Protect your skin from ultraviolet rays with sunscreen, and remember to reapply often. Even if it’s cloudy, those UV rays can still cause sunburn, so go ahead and lather up—your skin will thank you.

What to Drink

You don’t need AFM to tell you that what you drink and how much you guzzle will affect your health and enjoyment of ACL. But it’s a music festival and the fluid of choice is clearly beer. Lots and lots of it.

Even though beer is mostly water, the alcohol in it acts as a diuretic, which makes you visit all the wonderful Port-A-Jons set up on the periphery of Zilker Park. The problem is, the more beer you drink, the more visits you have to make to the can—which means two things: You’re missing some great music and, even worse, you are becoming more dehydrated.

A wine buzz isn’t much better. Soda and iced tea are better options than booze, but your best bet for staying hydrated and healthy in the heat of ACL is plain old water. While you can bring in two factory-sealed, one-liter plastic water bottles, your best bet is to bring an empty container (CamelBak, plastic water bottle, aluminum bottle) that can be refilled at the many stations scattered throughout the festival grounds. You can also buy bottled water there, which is better for only one reason: You’re likely to drink if it’s cold. Work to match every two beers with at least 12 ounces of water.

Gatorade is actually the perfect ACL drink. Since you’ll be sweating buckets (which removes water and salt and other electrolytes from your body), Gatorade replaces some of the e¬lectrolytes you’ll be losing while you’re baking in front of one of the stages.


Related Articles