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Take time offline to destress with amazing experiences like Austin City Limits

Forget influencer culture: Experience events like Austin City Limits for yourself, not just on a screen. – Photo by ACL Festival / Twitter

For most of us, we spend a lot of time on our phones. As we wait on a Rutgers bus or sit through lectures that we’ve unfortunately checked out of, we're watching something former generations didn't have, something we fixate on now: influencers. These influencers seem to have it all — something that, in addition to regular school stressors, can place a lot of pressure on someone to live the perfect life.

But listening to music can be a great escape from this stress. Whether you're listening on your walk to class or attending a concert, appreciating music lifts a massive weight off your shoulders. Travel, even if it isn't the picture-perfect influencer brand of exploration, also gives you an opportunity to learn, grow and relieve stress.

So let me recount how I put those stressors on the back burner for one weekend and let the world soothe and educate me by going to the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Austin City Limits is an annual music festival that has nine massive stages for performers across a spectrum of genres, such as country, pop and punk rock music. The big headliners for the 2022's festival this past October were P!nk, SZA, Lil Nas X, Paramore, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Friday night of the festival's second weekend, I got to see SZA perform. She brought energy and authenticity like no other. She sang hits like "20 Something," "I Hate You" and "Hit Different." What I greatly appreciated were the snippets in between songs where she speaks to the crowd and offers a glimpse at her personality in a non-lyrical format.

SZA mentioned how her latest single was delayed as her perfectionism and dedication to fans held up the video's release. In the end, she was happier releasing a better version that she was satisfied — with which is something that matters to true artists such as herself.

She also brought up a song in the works that is inspired by seasonal depression, which speaks to both her relevance and how much society has improved in how we accept and openly express our mental health struggles.

Two icons of notable reputations took the American Express Stage Saturday evening. One of these artists has held a powerful spot in the music industry for over a decade and will never be forgotten, and another's early success has filled people with joy worldwide. These performers are of course, P!nk and Lil Nas X.

Lil Nas X performed before P!nk, who closed the night out. He performed anthems such as "THATS WHAT I WANT," "LOST IN THE CITADEL" and "INDUSTRY BABY" and went through an outfit change of silver pleated shoulder cuffs exposing the abs to shimmery pink attire.

But the stage design is what really caught my eye. Perfectly coordinated with each song, Lil Nas X had a hell-themed backdrop with a Devil totem taking up the center of the screen as well as a metallic silver male sculpture getting a panoramic view while he played his songs.

The artist also invited approximately 10 fans from the crowd to all to engage in a twerk fest as they were projected on the jumbo screens. This interaction is certainly something those fans will remember forever, and even those who weren't on stage can remember the moment as this was his unique way of interacting with the audience. Lil Nas X made sure to show off the capabilities of all of his dancers by letting them have solos on the stage as he prepped for his final performance, "INDUSTRY BABY."

P!nk stole the heart of the crowd as the Saturday night closer by invigorating the audience’s spirit with her classic hit songs and some covers. She sang other artists' hits such as "River" by Bishop Briggs and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen and also added a little Gwen Stefani to the mix.

She demonstrated her pro-performer status as she handled sound tech issues by gracing the audience with an acapella version of her songs and getting the crowd to sing along. There were even reports that she performed aerial stunts during her weekend one performance.

P!nk stirred emotions of nostalgia and bliss equal to the energy from when her first songs were released way back when. Some of her original songs performed were the upbeat "Funhouse," "Who Knew" and "Raise Your Glass." Seeing artists who played the songs in the backgrounds of our childhood once we've finally come of age just hits a little different compared to seeing new artists now.

When it came to the festival's preparation, Austin City Limits demonstrated high-quality organization to ease the nerves of any first-time traveler or festival goer. The performances were all in Zilker Metropolitan Park, a massive area suitable for holding the floods of people that arrived.

Once you arrived at the festival, the lines through security moved efficiently. Medical services, along with guest services, were clear in sight. There were several hydration stations for festival goers to use as the weather in Austin got up to 93 degrees. There were plenty of local food vendors at the festival, with picnic areas to eat and several bars with a wine station in a tented area.

Then, once the performances concluded, the festival offered free shuttles to downtown Austin and designated areas for ride-sharing app pickups. They were well-staffed and managed to get the lines to the free shuttles moving faster each day and maintained fairness by stopping others from cutting the lines. Safety, community and quality were clearly their priority.

I realize that when you attend events like Austin City Limits, it's not just the artists or the festival, but the whole city at your fingertips for exploration. There was so much creativity at the festival, from the multitudes of small and big performers to the expression of style throughout Austin City Limits and Austin itself. I was in a crowd of people who appreciated similar music, but I also took the effort to see what Austin, Texas has to offer too.

I enjoyed Terry Black's BBQ, swam in natural swimming pools such as Barton Springs and went to shops supporting independent artists. Even as we scroll through our phones seeing experiences like this second-hand, we must not forget amid all the midterms, career choices and social upheaval in our lives. We have to eventually experience these events firsthand for ourselves.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend encourage me to go on this trip and open my eyes to this entire experience. Instead of just scrolling, live: We must be the influencers we want to see — minus the online audience of course (unless that's your thing).


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