Austin City Limits through the eyes of a press pass

I almost felt guilty telling anyone I had a press pass for Austin City Limits. But after I put on my green and blue wristband, I couldn’t stop staring at it. ACL is one of the biggest events of the year in Austin, and here I was, not only getting in for free, but actually getting to cover it as part of the press.

How could I not humble-brag?

I had waited four months to find out if I was approved to represent Hilltop Views as press during ACL, and when I finally found out, it was around my birthday. Needless to say, it was a pretty good gift. And it only got better. This is my re-cap of an interesting weekend as a member of the press during ACL 2014. 

Day One

My car didn’t start that morning, so I was delayed, and I finally made it out to Zilker at around 3 p.m. I got there on my own and walked into the press lounge, only to be greeted by a lot of people who looked older, more professional and had bigger camera lenses than the one on my beginner DSLR. Initially, I was intimidated. But there was that green and blue band on my arm with the word “MEDIA’ printed on it. And I got over it. I was one of them.

I was in.

“In” included a bunch of tents with free food, beverages and media including local radio stations and larger outlets like Fuse. I marveled over the ACL water that came in cans instead of bottles. I snacked on crazy organic beef jerky. I ditched the tent and spent the rest of the night watching performances by artists like Sam Smith and Outkast, both of which did not disappoint at all. 

Day Two

This was the greatest day of my ACL experience by far.

As soon as I got to the press lounge that afternoon, I noticed a little lady sitting by the tree doing henna tattoos. That is where I met Nisha Agrawal, a lovely henna artist who has been doing henna art for decades and runs a business called Henna Arts in Austin. When I approached her to see if I could get a henna tattoo, she was preoccupied tattooing a shy blond with a short crop and matte tortoise sunglasses.

I sat down and watched her finish designing tattoos on the girls hand. She moved on to work on my left hand, and as I was sitting patiently trying not to move, it hit me that the blonde girl with sunglasses was Charity Rose Thielen, the singer and violinist for one of my favorite bands, The Head and The Heart.

You better believe it took all my willpower not to fangirl.

Nisha and I started talking about how you can tell when someone is an artist by their “look.” We were staring at some guys with skinny jeans and blazers that had artist wristbands. Nisha mentioned that she didn’t know if any of the people she had tattooed were famous, and that’s when I said,

“Well she’s famous. She’s a singer, for a band called The Head and The Heart.”

Thielen looked up and I almost felt bad for blowing her cover, but I couldn’t not say something. She had gone unnoticed by the people around us, and the fangirl in me was bursting at the seams. She was shy and sweet, and she just smiled and said yes, that was her.

Somehow, I ended up in a photo with Nisha and Thielen, an awesome reminder of a crazy coincidence. I can’t stop staring at the awesome artwork on my hand and thinking about how cool and spontaneous that moment was.

I got to see The Head and The Heart shortly after that, where Thielen and the rest of the band killed it. Then I walked around catching a few songs by Iggy Azalea and Lana Del Rey. Feeling fatigued, I headed back to the press lounge to grab a free water can, when I saw him.


I can’t tell you how many Juanes songs I know, or how many times my family and I have listened to him throughout the years. I can’t tell you how many times my brother played his songs on the guitar. And there he was, standing right in front of me, taking a picture with another equally excited fan.

As soon as he said goodbye to the fan, I swooped in. I blabbered something about my parents being huge fans and how my dad would go crazy if I sent him a photo of the two of us. Juanes laughed and obliged, and we took a quick selfie.

And that is how I took a quick selfie with Juanes himself.

I saw Juanes perform after that, and he was great. I knew every word to every Spanish song. Years and years of fandom poured out in that crowd and I almost couldn’t keep my camera still.

I stuck around for the beginning of Eminem’s set, but I was drained from a long day at the festival. I also don’t know any of Eminem’s new songs. As I was heading towards the exit, I ran into a group of girls who could not be older than 12. They were all jumping up and down, mouthing every word to Eminem’s song. I heard the guy behind me say, “Did you see those little girls?” to his friend. I went home. 

Day 3

Getting out of bed was so hard. I made it out to the festival to hang out at the tent and I saw Zedd and the beginning of Calvin Harris’ performances. By the third day, the press tent was less lively, and I’m thinking everyone else was as drained as I was. Three days out in the sun walking around from stage to stage and an array of emotions wear a person down.

So, that was my press experience at ACL, or at least my favorite parts. It’s as cool as it sounds: there’s free music, free food, free everything. There’s better chances you’ll get to see someone famous. There’s people around you doing the same thing, who are going to go home and write stories and reviews much like yours, and as a college student striving to pursue this professionally one day, I am just very grateful to have been “in” this weekend.