Break a bone before ACL Fest and you have two options: Cancel the gig or put on one of the most exciting sets anyone’s ever seen. Twenty-year-old Yungblud and his hot pink leg cast went for No. 2. It was, to borrow a phrase from the kids, straight fire.
This year’s ACL lineup ended up plagued by podiatric harm. Headliner Childish Gambino bowed out before the fest over a reported foot injury, and rock trio Highly Suspect canceled their second-weekend Saturday set for the same reason. But British alternative singer-rapper Yungblud (real name Dominic Harrison) took the same route as Foo Fighters star Dave Grohl, who shredded ACL atop a throne in a leg boot in 2015.
“Rock and roll, baby,” Harrison screamed as a helper rolled his wheelchair onto the HomeAway stage Sunday afternoon to kick off “21st Century Liability.” “You’re just gonna have to bear with me.”
There was no burden to bear, because neon-wrapped plaster did pretty much nothing to slow Harrison down. The singer explained that he broke his foot in Houston on Saturday, performing his song “California.”
“I just came straight from the (expletive) hospital,” Harrison said. “You guys are keeping me alive baby.”
But, like, what’s the big deal about a broken foot? This, as Harrison continually reminded the heat-beaten, mud-bound crowd, was rock and roll.
“Just because I’m sat down don’t mean you don’t have to (expletive) jump,” Harrison said.
He has a “Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Titanic’ by way of South Yorkshire” thing going on. Ninety-eight percent toothy grin, 2 percent gum-smacking. Harrison kicked his legs like a weather vane caught in a gully-washer, flinging his sweat-soaked Tiger Beat hair in an omnidirectional pattern. The pogo-stick beat of “I Love You, Will You Marry Me” sprang right out of the Barbie-pink stripes wrapped around his body. This was a real chicken-egg situation, but the seat of Harrison’s pants revealed itself as structurally unsound as he splayed his legs in his chair on that number.
Lyrically, Yungblud’s songs sat somewhere on the mall teen rebellion spectrum between Halsey’s Tumblr-ready disaffection and anyone who sings songs for teens that talk about getting stupid. He’s political, though: One song dedicated to President Donald Trump featured a flying middle finger, and his debut album includes songs called “Anarchist” and “Machine Gun (**** the NRA).”
Musically, there was a touch of Twenty One Pilots’ genreless suburban scuzz, but with a hooligan’s sense of humor. Harrison spat rough-hewn rhymes on songs like "Medication" ("You put it in my mouth, I'm gonna bite down/If that ain't normal then the the pope is a right clown"). Sometimes he went full Sid Vicious (well, full Mark Hoppus) on the vocal, sneering lines like "'Cause I'm young, don't wanna die, yet can't afford it." Elsewhere, on the anti-sexual assault song "Polygraph Eyes," Harrison slid into his version of a croon.
The content might not have been a fit for anyone over 30 -- over 22? over 18? -- but Yungblud's talent and Artful Dodger charisma were undeniable. Full Pied Piper, hopping around the stage on one foot while eyes and waving arms followed his every hobble. Lonely on the stage, Harrison brought up a small mob of young fest-goers to join him for the final song. You could see the security staff actively weighing how many kids was too many kids.
Harrison sang about wanting to die for the hype, crucified like Jesus Christ. That’s punk enough, sure. But thrashing an early afternoon festival stage to pieces with a broken foot ranks pretty high up there, too. What’s a cast matter when you’re an unstoppable rock-and-rap ricochet?As Yungblud said: “You guys are sick. Don’t even make a (expletive) difference.”
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