AUSTIN, Texas — They weren’t expecting a particularly large number of attendees for the first Austin City Limits Music Festival in September of 2002. Promoters had hoped 25,000 would show up, but 43,000 came – and an annual Austin tradition was launched.

Now, 17 years later as ACL gets underway this weekend, it is one of Austin’s – and the nation’s – premier music events.

KVUE took a look back at the early years of ACL – including the infamous “dust bowl” and “mud bowl.”

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As far as music festivals go, it was a modest affair in 2002 – just 67 bands and a one-day pass for only $25.

Sure, there have been complaints about crowds and traffic and noise in nearby neighborhoods, but festival attendees have witnessed some of the most memorable music performances of our time.

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It’s a boost to the local economy. Organizers say that since 2006, ACL has added nearly $2 billion to Austin's economy.

There have been a few changes over the years. In 2012, the festival was moved from September to October, and ACL was expanded from one weekend to two in 2013.

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And so, with the start of ACL year 17 on this Friday, it’s more music and more proof – as if it's needed – that Austin truly is the Live Music Capital.


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