You knew it was an Austin City Limits Music Festival late night show from the OutKast cover: Austin’s own Max Frost followed suit with the festival trend toward honoring that headlining rap duo as he opened for Fitz and the Tantrums at Stubb’s on Wednesday night.
The evening gig benefitting Waller Creek Conservancy was one of few in the lineup to feature a non-festival act like Frost. Whatever the origin of the booking, the match between opener and headliner was a good fit sonically. Frost, possessing a meticulous charisma, worked up a considerable sweat as he whipped up a frenzy of blues and soul inspired pop, including the aforementioned spin on Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s “Roses.”
Of course there were hometown hero vibes: “It’s good to be back in my home city,” Frost said almost from the get-go. He even knew to provoke the crowd into louder screams by accusing them of being from Dallas. A classic, yet effective, trick.
There was no denying Frost’s immense musical talent. On songs like “Nice and Slow” and his radio hit “White Lies,” the singer alternated between fast and elastic guitar work, cowbell clanging, and the most nimble bass lines you ever did hear. On set-closing “White Lies,” Frost ended up with two instruments strapped around his neck. Maybe it didn’t serve much of a musical purpose, but it was a great visual. Frost’s band, too, were energetic and adept pros, particularly an expressive, raise-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care drummer. The only thing missing was a sax solo (don’t worry, the Tantrums delivered one in the early moments of their set).
Overall, Frost came across like a professional, if a slightly humorless one, in the sense that this set was strictly business time. With few smiles, maybe one quip, many furrowed brows and plenty of furious fingers, he made a great case for stage presence meaning more than charisma. Frost mined sex appeal out from sheer hard work.