This year marked the 10th anniversary of one of our very favorite events: the Austin City Limits music festival in Austin, Texas. As it has been with each of the previous nine years, this year’s line-up was bursting at the seams with acts big (Kanye West! My Morning Jacket! Stevie Wonder!) and on-their-way-to-being-big (Reptar! Phosphorescent! The Head and the Heart!). We knew it’d be a celebration not to be missed, so we packed up our 2012 Honda Civic (courtesy of Honda, a festival sponsor, and STI) and made our way south for three days of bands, barbecue (we love you, Salt Lick) and big-time fun. For those who missed it, we’re happy to present our best from the fest.

Most New Fans Won
  • Image about Stevie Wonder
Matt Ellis
You may remember Young the Giant from our SXSW coverage, when they wowed us with their chest-thumping live show. Or perhaps you saw them steal the spotlight on the MTV Video Music Awards last month. But if they’d escaped your attention entirely until now, you’re not alone — many of the people in the crowd around us seemed to have no clue who YTG was as their 2:00 p.m. Saturday set started. We told them to stick around and promised them they wouldn’t be sorry. Sure enough, just one song into their cool California set and all doubt had been erased. “They’re so good!” they said, almost in unison. We hate to say we told you so.

Come the Farthest
  • Image about Stevie Wonder
Dave Mead
A few years ago, we met a young man at an Austin bar during SXSW who invited us to come see his band play the following afternoon. We didn’t go, because we’d never heard of the group and everyone at SXSW is “in a band” — there’s no guarantee that any of them will actually be good. Cut to a year and a half later, when that young man, Mark Foster, and his band, Foster the People, took the stage in front of thousands of adoring fans, who sang every word to every song off their debut LP, Torches. We’re sorry we didn’t come see your band play all those months ago, Mark. But looks like you’ve done alright without us.

Most Energetic
  • Image about Stevie Wonder
Matt Ellis
Santigold picked up the pace considerably with her Friday evening set, attacking the audience with her in-your-face hip-hop dance tracks. But the real credit for the adrenaline boost goes to her back-up dancers, a pair of stoic, sunglass-clad ladies who didn’t once stop moving the entire 50 minutes they were on stage. Wardrobe changes happened quickly and often — usually right before our eyes, with a strategic jacket removal here, or a tear-away skirt there. They even showed us they knew how to work lassos when two men in a horse costume trotted onstage. The only thing that threatened to steal their spotlight was the white rubber flattops worn by the band.

Best Excuse For a Nap
  • Image about Stevie Wonder
Matt Ellis
On Saturday afternoon, the skies opened up and mercifully dumped some rain on the 75,000 parched festival-goers, who were grateful for the break from the heat. That’s just when Samuel Beam, better known as Iron & Wine, took to the AMD stage. While we love Beam’s down-tempo, folk-rock tunes, the lullaby quality of his singing, the cooled-off temperatures and the pattering raindrops on our umbrella made us wish we could curl up and take a little tiger snooze. Not to worry, Sam: We fought through the urge and thoroughly enjoyed the set.

Prettiest Lights
  • Image about Stevie Wonder
Cambria Harkey
While electronic wizard Derek Vincent Smith, AKA Pretty Lights, would seem like a lock for this category (and admittedly did have an impressively illuminated set), we’ve got to give the award to Coldplay, whose spectacular light-and-laser show added to the pageantry of Chris Martin’s soaring vocals. If hearing “Vida la Viva” wasn’t going to give you goosebumps on its own, hearing it while the stage pulsated with a mesmerizing violet glow surely made the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention.