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First show in Austin: Joy Oladokun wins over ACL Fest crowd

Joy Oladokun performs Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, on  the Ladybird stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Facing into an unexpectedly bright sun on a day that turned out not to be rainy but was thick with humidity, Joy Oladokun and her five-piece backing band must not have been all that comfortable as they played the first set on ACL Fest's largest stage Friday afternoon. If they were sweating, though, you sure couldn't tell from their performance — cool, confident, strong and assured.

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In her late 20s, Oladokun is an Arizona-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter whose parents immigrated from Nigeria. An easy point-of-reference for her music is Tracy Chapman, whom Oladokun has credited as a childhood inspiration. But Oladokun clearly has developed her own distinct style and personality, judging from a well-received hourlong set that was her first-ever Austin gig.

Joy Oladokun and her band perform Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, on  the Ladybird stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Her next show in town will be on Sunday, when she gets a coveted opportunity to tape the "Austin City Limits" TV show. That's a big score for an artist still relatively early in her career, but as she ran through a dozen well-crafted and emotionally resonant songs to a few hundred early arrivers at the weather-delayed fest, it was easy to see why the esteemed program booked her.

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Oladokun conversed casually and gracefully with the audience, telling them about what motivated some of her songs. "I'm a lesbian, and I also grew up in church," she announced matter-of-factly midway through the set, explaining how her experiences have shaped her worldview and her music. "I don't think God gives a (expletive) who you kiss, but I think he cares how you treat them."

Highlights included the immediately catchy opener "If You Got a Problem" and, fittingly titled for the fest's weather, "Taking the Heat," which she said she wrote for fellow musician Mac Miller, whose T-shirt she was wearing onstage. She bravely weaved in a couple of very well-known covers: Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Prince's "The Cross," both rendered masterfully and creatively, thanks in large part to her impressive bandmates.  

"I want to do my damnedest to put on a good show," Oladokun told the crowd as she tuned her guitar after the first song. Mission accomplished, Joy.