In a sunset Austin City Limits performance Friday, South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord essentially embodied your Aunt Fran from Kansas’ EDM nightmare come to life. Let’s run down the visuals that would make Frannie reach for her heart medication:The pair of giant, inflatable, Caspar the Ghost-looking characters proudly brandishing massive phalluses as they stood guard at the front of the stage Said well-endowed ghosts’ technicolor cousins who danced across the screen in a Saturday morning gone to hell cartoon sequence The way rapper Yolandi’s icy mullet frames her terrifying black hole eyes and rapper Ninja’s face tatttoos Ninja carrying Yolandi around the stage on her shoulders while she rocked a full body furry suit that seemed to depict a pig midway through slaughter. Ninja dropping his pants to reveal a pair of boxer shorts emblazoned with what might have been a deranged comic book cat, a very rude greeting and a helpful suggestion about how to interact with his nether regions. Ninja pulling down said boxer shorts for a full moon, primate-style act of aggression, then rocking the rest of the song with his butt crack on full display. Animations of innocent looking Valentine’s candy hearts bearing slogans like “U like boobies” and “Stoopid Rich” during Yolandi’s bizarro world love song “I Fink Your Freeky” Nightmare-inducing animations of floral creations thst morphed into sinisterly-toothed orifices DJ Hi Tek doing shirtless, interpretive dancing while wearing a deformed face mask dominated by huge buck teeth
“This is the weirdest (expletive) I’ve ever seen,” said the twenty-something dude in the audience behind me, summing up the general reaction of the sizable quadrant of fest-goers who were drawn to the set out of curiosity more than anything else. It’s also quite possible that it summed up the general reaction of of a lot of the kids who were rocking hard to the body-shaking grooves.
With Yolandi’s manic helium flow working as a foil to Ninja’s ruffian rhymes, the success of Die Antwoord’s gleefully obscene, EDM-infused shock rap is one of modern music’s weirdest phenomenons. Their music is abrasive, their aesthetic a deliberate assault on decency. But you can’t say they don’t sell it. You also can’t say there’s no heart in their show.
Yolandi spent most of the set bouncing the stage like some kind of deranged pixie cheerleader, yet her turn on the oddball love song, “I Fink U Freeky” was weirdly sentimental in a way that was almost touching.
Ninja broke out of his aggro demeanor to crowd surf, not once but twice. The front section of the crowd was nuts throughout and even a pair of middle aged ladies standing on a New Orleans Jazz Fest blanket halfway back were rocking out.
They bungled an encore, pretending to leave (and prompting most of the crowd to book off to the next set) before they came back to take it out with an ecstatic rendition of the “Enter the Ninja.” But as EDM has become a dominant sound at ACL Fest, it made perfect sense to have them take the fest from day to night on Friday.
It wasn’t for everyone, but no one could say they didn’t make an impression.
Bonus: Dug up these amazing “When they were normal” pics in a late-night internet blitz after the show.