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Kacey Musgraves Shines at ACL Fest

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What’s more magical than Kacey Musgraves singing “Golden Hour” at golden hour? 

By Courtney Runn, Photos by Pooneh Ghana for ACL Fest 

Scheduling Kacey Musgraves to sing “Golden Hour” at golden hour was the perfect decision; scheduling her back to back with Lizzo across the park was not. Despite immediately sprinting as the last notes lingered, Musgraves’ fans showed up decked out in cowboy hats and ready to sing along with their glam cowgirl queen. 

“Damn, it feels good to be home,” Musgraves said as she surveyed the thousands of people in front of her. 

Since her last ACL Fest performance in 2016, Musgraves released her third album Golden Hour, won a Grammy for Album of the Year and gained a new audience along the way. Her 2016 show was at an early Sunday afternoon time slot with a happy but relaxed crowd. This weekend, fans rushed to the front an hour before she went on to claim their spots and high-school students who would have been in elementary school when Musgraves released her first album screamed along to her lyrics.  

Her Grammy win solidified her place in the national music conscious. Even if your ears haven’t been blessed by her rich vocals, you have heard her name or scrolled past her face as a meme on Twitter. In an industry that doesn’t offer much space for women, Musgraves has risen to the top and proven she can stay true to her western roots while testing the limits of the genre’s—or, more aptly, its demographic’s—conventions.  

Her first two albums skew heavy on the experience of growing up in small-town Texas, her first radio hit “Merry Go Round” a poignant ode to feeling stuck in a rut and leading the life expected of you. On Golden Hour, Musgraves mines deeper, marrying her adept songwriting with more universal sentiments of growing up and falling in love. The result was a slew of awards and a national audience. In 2018, she went on tour with Harry Styles and in her post-Grammy glow became a social-media darling. 

Pre-Grammys, she would have needed to include “Merry Go Round” on every set list; on Sunday, she didn’t even play it. She didn’t have to; her fans knew every word of every song she sang. Mugraves lived up to her hype, confidently owning her hometown stage. She played to her new audience, sticking to songs off her latest album plus covers of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”and Brooks and Dunn’s “Neon Moon.” 2019 Musgraves is polished and sleek, stilettos replacing cowboy boots and a rhinestone middle part in lieu of a cowboy hat, but she still has her Texas twang and sass. 

“How many of y’all are going to see Lizzo?” She asked early on in her performance to screams. It turns out that was 100 percent not going to happen with a Lizzo crowd growing by the thousands while Musgraves sang. According to her Instagram story, Musgraves might have been the only one from her stage to make it to the rapper’s set, watching backstage and posing for pics afterward. 

Possibly the best moment of Musgraves’ hour-long set was when she led the crowd in a call-and-response “Yeehaw.” In a now viral video from her Coachella performance earlier this year, Musgraves yelled, “When I say ‘Yee,’ you say ‘Haw,’ ” to an audience that didn’t follow instructions, hawing before she yeed. This weekend she tried again, and Austin didn’t let her down.  

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