From the trenches: The real star of ACL is restrooms that don’t stink

I’m as skeptical of “corporate” festivals as anyone willing to accept how unsustainable festivals likely are without an influx of big business bucks, but I also appreciate the perks and will give credit where credit is due: ACL Fest killed it in the bathroom department.

ACL's Golden Throne. (Photo by Austin 360 Staff.)

ACL’s Golden Throne. (Photo by Austin 360 Staff.)

If we assume most of your ticket price went to rope in Radiohead and Kendrick, I’m going to guess a healthy chunk of it went to upgrading the standard fest facilities. And it was a worthwhile expenditure.

Consider the average festival’s situation de baño: long lines to get a few seconds in a sun-roasted plastic box that smells like nightmares with a hint of warm death. It amounts to a bathroom experience that can be, well, crappy. While the ACL Fest 2016 bathrooms may still be little more than modular plastic potties, the units and their placement feels slightly more considerate of patrons. The new toilets are more in line with an airplane bathroom than like being trapped in a trunk with rotting roadkill. And the biggest breakthrough of all? Toilets that flush! There also seemed to be staff dedicated to clean up and T.P. stocking, ensuring things are as non-horrible as possible.

Bathrooms at Zilker during ACL Fest are divided into male and female camps behind chain link fences. By late afternoon, there are still Iines, unavoidable when providing pop-up plumbing for a population rivaling small cities, but queues move faster than previous years thanks to a smarter use of real estate. Bathrooms are smaller than standard Porta-Potty dimensions (but are large enough) and allow for more toilets per square foot than ACL Festivals past.

Even better (from the boys’ bathroom side of the house) there’s now an option between standard private booths and space-saving troughs, arranged along long gray plastic walls. The downside, as called out by a fellow male bathroom user, is the privacy-free elbow-to-elbow arrangement and potential for neighbors… raining on your parade via, let’s say “splashback.” But for a quick in-and-out it all dramatically trumps the standard setup.

It’s a dirty job but someone had to do it, and the folks behind ACL have done a better job than most. So have another drink and toast to many festivals to come with bathrooms that don’t totally stink.

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