Big Boi—the less reclusive half of Outkast—really brought it at the first day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, emerging as the frontman of an explosive seven-piece band, rocking an Atlanta Braves ballcap, camo cargo shorts and a thick gold chain.
In other words, Big Boi came out determined to show a stylishly commanding presence, and the speed with which the crowd threw their hands in the air and waved 'em like they just didn't care was proof that he'd succeeded.
By the time Big Boi delivered the first of the set's Outkast hits—2001's "So Fresh, So Clean,"—he had even the most hip-hop averse listener in the palm of his hand. It's hard to argue with a pair of trumpets, two drummers, guitar, drums and a DJ manning a pair of turntables, you know?
Live hip hop, especially of the "this is the best party you've ever been to" variety (which Big Boi practices) thrives on audience interaction, and the emcee fulfilled his obligations to receive it. He took requests and delivered manic, high energy hits like "GhettoMusick" and "Bombs Over Baghdad" like he was determined to front ACL's best rock band, too.
In fact, that energy is what really made Big Boi's set special: After a Friday afternoon that steadily heated up (despite a pleasant early rain) and which featured performances from more contemplative acts like Ray LaMontagne, James Blake and Brandi Carlisle, it was great to hear somebody take the stage with an overwhelming amount of energy.
Big Boi more than just rapped—he invited dancers on stage (if they were prepared "to get crunk"), he asked the audience to pick his next song and he mined his exceptionally deep catalog of both solo and Outkast hits. If he brings this sort of performance to the stage every time he's in Austin, he can play here twice a week for the next year and we'll be there every time.
Electric Touch shows its grittier side
Some bands are just plain happy to play a festival. Hometown Austin post-punk heroes Electric Touch are such a band, feeding off both an infectious 10th anniversary giddiness and the first raindrops central Texas has seen in many months. The Austin-by-way-of-Nottingham quintet played ACL on Friday, choosing tracks mostly from their eponymous debut, harboring the dance-punk tendencies of similar acts like Friendly Fires and Arctic Monkeys.
Yet, Electric Touch's grittier side reared its head, speaking to a youth huddled around vinyls from Shane Lawlor's native England. The Kinks and Sex Pistols emanated through the band's bolder tracks and on this opening day of ACL; Electric Touch was nothing if not brazen.
"Are you with us?" Lawlor asked, somewhat rhetorically.
He panted briefly before jumping back into a swift 45-minute set. ACL is all about punctuality, but the bands tend to adapt, packing sets with a density of power normally reserved for Texas chile.
During one of several buzzing interludes, Lawlor paid homage to his musical peers, blending a track from fellow ACL-ers Foster the People with Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." The band rifled off rampant versions of "Don't Stop" and "Magnetic," turning the stage to springs with tireless bouncing.
And when the sweat came on so intensely that towels were required, Electric Touch unplugged a bit and turned out emotive ballads like "Alone." With Lawlor hunched over the keyboard and belting hoarsely, he bared a striking sonic resemblance to Axel Rose.
"They say this is the music capital of the world," Lawlor stated mid-set. "Let's prove them right today." With a heavy nod, he jump-started another full-bodied number.
The band's youthful, relentless nature fit well in the overall scheme things. Every opening day of Austin City Limits requires the proper kick-off—one built around high energy and fist-clenching rock.
And while Electric Touch should exist in or at least near the punk section of your local record store, the band's cleanliness and poppy leanings came to the fore during their afternoon set. Much to their credit, that's what need be done when you are competing with over 100 bands and four other stages. In the end, the band's smooth avant-punk beats and calculated thrashing drew fans in like a moth to a flame.
Mark Stock contributed the review of Electric Touch.