“Who is that? Do y’all hear that?” Andre 3000 asked his Honda Stage audience as co-headliner Beck bled over from the Samsung Galaxy Stage across Zilker Park.
“Turn us up,” Big Boi said.
Weekend one of Austin City Limits found a loose and enthusiastic Andre ribbing about sports (“Austin are y’all Cowboys or Texans?”) and bringing grandstanding kicks to live versions of songs from his solo LP “The Love Below.” “She Lives In My Lap” was downright vaudevillian in its dramatics. “Prototype” was richly musical, sold on his falsetto, and like most of Beck’s “Midnite Vultures” album—just the right amount of absurd. But Andre is a complicated dude, and his boredom with the OutKast banner is basically the reason the band has spent the last decade largely dormant.
I think we got cranky Andre last night, as evidenced by his band shaving 13 minutes off the set and wrapping up at 9:47 p.m.
Like last week, the atomic spectacle of opening the OutKast reunion with “B.O.B.” and then “Gasoline Dreams” and then “ATLiens” and then “Skew It On The Bar-B” enjoyed enthusiasm reserved for bands that tour with The Lumineers. But whereas last week people seemed consciously happy to be at an OutKast show, Friday’s salty populous of entitled and detached brats made the experience unavoidably tense. How is the hook to “Gasoline Dreams” not moving the needle?
Don’t everybody like the smell of gasoline?
Well burn mother****r, burn American Dream
Don’t everybody like the taste of Apple Pie?
We’ll snap for your slice of life I’m tellin’ ya why
I hear that mother nature’s now on birth control
The coldest pimp be looking for somebody to hold
The highway up to Heaven got a crook on the toll
Youth full of fire ain’t got nowhere to go
It’s one of the most harrowing, anthemic choruses ever put to wax. Friday night at Zilker, however, youth mostly complained about people jostling past them for position between checking their phones. That’s why this was so difficult—I think the guy that opened for OutKast at the Austin Musical Hall in 2001, Ludacris, put it best, “Move, get out the way.”
OutKast isn’t yet a niche nostalgia festival mainstay. Big Boi was a competent ACL solo act just three years ago. I maintain that no other hip-hop entity is better. Hell, I won’t be 30 for another five months. In any case don’t’ complain about people stepping on your blanket during the opening rush for OutKast real estate. Don’t make a face when the brown dude next to you screams “f*** the police” because he is singing along to a song and holds a great deal of institutional respect for local authorities in real life. Police-related headlines are suffocating; it is a healthy release.
I talked to a guy from El Paso last week that left work late Thursday and drove through the night so he could meet a Craigslist wristband merchant at 9:30 a.m. The road trip was planned around OutKast. Both ticket scalpers I chatted with Friday said that OutKast was helping to drive their costs—one had a single-day pass for $160, the other had a three-day pass for $350. Early Friday, a gentleman in a black OutKast shirt desperately asked incoming patrons if they were selling an extra. I mistook him for a scalper, and he was rightfully indignant. My on-site and informal straw polling was one-sided for Team OutKast. Even an elderly couple standing in front of me during Jimmy Cliff broke party lines with their Beck-endorsing daughter, “Nah I think we’re going to check out that OutKast.”
If the OutKast crowd was dense and static, Beck’s had wiggle room to comfortably mingle. I caught “Sexx Laws,” a delightfully quirky pseudo-funk gem about doing weird stuff with “Sports Illustrated moms.” I loved “Debra’s” r&b shtick about courting a JC Penny employee, and taking her to Glendale in your Hyundai. “Where It’s At” has emerged as his go-to closer these days and that’s probably appropriate. But the R. Kelly “Trapped in the Closet” banter, and Sugar Hill Gang cover were smug and on the wrong end of the appropriation spectrum.
Or maybe I was just projecting because the notion that Starbucks rocker Beck got the bigger stage (although he did finish his set at the budgeted 9:30 p.m. slot, making OutKast the true closer) over the fleeting, vital hip-hop reunion was wrong. There are event planning logistics, contract issues, and demographics data that render my complaint moot, but it’s still inherently hogwash. Especially when you could stand along the Honda Stage rail and hear Beck blasting from across the park between OutKast songs.