Austin City Limits gives audience access to free concerts by high-quality artists

It isn’t very often one can see great, seasoned musicians onstage — or free, for that matter. “Austin City Limits” is just that.

The PBS-streamed TV series, featuring live music, is filmed in the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. Each season features huge indie hit artists including Robert Plant, Portugal. The Man and Ed Sheeran. The show has housed tons of other stars and recently showed heavy-hitter Florence and the Machine as well as Andra Day.

Be sure to check out the rest of the season with singer song writer Natalia Lafourcade playing Nov. 5.

What makes “Austin City Limits” so special isn’t the fact that they’re “discovering,” anyone. It’s not NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, made for young, new artists. It’s a stage for more seasoned performers — musicians that have already done their time, made the great album, and have found commercial success. It’s essentially not about finding new musicians but basking in the raw talent of great ones. Each episode is intense perfection, regardless of the genre. Audience members watching are going to be entertained because the music is just that good.

The fact that it’s available for free streaming makes it even better. They take great, seasoned performers and put them in one of the most musical cities in the United States, film them, and then broadcast the show for people to watch. Essentially, audience members are seeing great musicians without having to pay for them.

One episode this season featuring Florence and the Machine was a revelation — but she always is. Her powerful vocals and general stage presence are goose bump-inducing. You feel it in your chest when she sings. “What Kind Of Man,” “Sweet Nothing” and of course, “Shake It Out,” were all performed with such passion. It was almost religious in nature as she conducted the crowd with her commanding voice. You almost wanted the whole episode just to be dedicated to her, but Andra Day was the perfect foil to Florence’s general wildness.

Andra Day is a much chiller singer, but still incredibly gifted. She’s a jazzier, slower but still sensual counterpoint to Florence’s performance. “Rise Up” was dedicated tearjerker of a number, and “Gold” was a bluesy good time. Day’s subtle vocals and smoother sound were the perfect to way to the end episode.

Another episode featured Iggy Pop, who kicked off his “Austin City Limits” show with “Lust for Life,” as well as classic “Funtime.” His show was much more rock ‘n roll but still incredibly fun.

“Austin City Limits” is such a great TV program because there is little fanfare or explanation. The artists come on, the show is performed, then it is over. Unlike other televised performances, musicians really sing, really bring their heart, and make the performances memorable. For that reason alone, “Austin City Limits” is essential to check out for anyone passionate about music, because it gives an intimate look at great artists for no cost.

Emera Riley is a junior magazine journalism major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can email her at


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