Friday in the early rounds of ACL Fest 2018, Cuco rap-sang about his Honda CR-V, Post Malone-style. Backed by a six-strong posse of mellow and gangly burnouts — who also held instruments — he fit into his heartthrob shoes while youths sang, clapped and jumped.
The Los Angeles-based 20-year-old is good on the internet. But he’s figured out the live thing, too: Have two onstage keyboard players to highlight the dank chillwave elements of his introverted pop; hire a good rhythm section. One of his keyboardists (“my boy J-Quest”) busted a pretty good rap on “Summertime Hightime.” Cuco played fiery trumpet solos on four songs.
Four years ago, the artist born Omar Banos played with Ableton programming software and found something. His self-aware, earnest pop songs mix ponderous Spanglish with a nod to teen memes. His lyrics want to slide into your DMs, but not in a creepy way. He’s funny on Twitter.
This morning he tweeted about anxiety, with a wink: “I don’t know how to turn a scream of agony and an entirely empty unmotivated tired sad emotion into a physical action so unless someone wants to launch me off the earth from a double crane slingshot imma sit here and suppress everything.”
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At the HomeAway stage, he was less verbose, saying it was his third time in Austin and that it was “tight.”
Indeed: Here he gets a captive, mass-market audience. Cuco recently told NPR that he was tired of being pigeon-holed as a Latin artist, though he’s also played politically tinged shows in support of immigrants. He has the sentiments of someone who understands a good Mexican wedding: bring out the mariachis after midnight, just before the pozole, to make the floor simultaneously slow-dance and ugly-cry.
Sometimes there were signs of just how new this “being famous” thing is to him. Donning a gold chain, beanie and black T-shirt, Cuco fidgeted with his arms like a teen about to catch a Pokémon. He satisfied the ill-advised suburban stoner instinct to dabble in reggae, covering Marcia Aitken’s “I’m Still in Love.”
But the dude showed that he has expansive ideas and loves to mine his playlists. Like a true American, Cuco listens to punk, ska, rock en español, Atlanta rap and Frank Ocean to drop flavorful soft-serve.
“Raise your hand if you wanna get turnt?” the drummer asked at the end, before trap-tinged “Lucy.”
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