Sometime after Detroit rapper Danny Brown finished “Smokin & Drinkin” (and drinkin’, and smokin’), I got a closer look at the balloon floating above the moshpit of sweaty dudes. It was an inflated condom, and it was clearing really top-notch altitudes.
An ignoble aircraft, but come on, what better iteration could there be of Brown’s down ‘n’ dirty zaniness as a letifmotif? And I don’t even feel bad using the word leitmotif in a review of a show that name-checked Jean-Michel Basquiat, River Phoenix and John McEnroe. Brown’s madcap, idiosyncratic brand of rap can read like a deck of Trivial Pursuit cards in lyric form. It also reads like a shopping list for a Harmony Korine character.
And on Sunday at Austin City Limits Music Festival, it always, always felt like an unrelenting sunstroke hallucination. It was, to use the parlance of the day, lit.
Beats straight out an Aphex Twin tribute stretched to acid-trip lengths and bounced off of Brown’s nasal, Urkelcore flow. The man spits like he’s flossing his teeth with his rhymes, even after he’s fixed his famously kooky smile. You better believe Brown can pull crowd hysteria out of lines like “She running from my d*** like it’s a bull and she the matador.”
As Brown channeled the spirit of watching “Trainspotting” for the first time, his ACL Fest crowd, baked by the sun and perhaps other things, ate it all up like an Adderall washed down with alcohol. (Don’t email me. It’s a line from the song.) A roiling Charybdis of bros carrying Camelbaks swirled in the middle of the Honda stage throng, moshing ever harder through “Dip” and “25 Bucks” and “Really Doe.” Since Brown took just as much pause during his set as the heat took from pounding the park, it was an unrelenting, pulse-throbbing sight to see. Things got a little bloody.
Brown’s early Sunday set seemed at first like it could be a weird fit for a rapper whose vibe feels more like a 3 a.m. bong pull than an after-church lunch at Olive Garden. But with tongue out, his rock-and-roll hand up and his zippy sprints across the stage, the artist made the day his.
The immortal words of Black Sabbath began the sweltering, early afternoon set: Haaaaas. Heeeee. Lost his mind? If he has, Brown took a bunch of folks with him.
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