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Confused bees, '90s babies and improvised grooves: Erykah Badu plays ACL Fest

First things first: Time in the Badu-niverse does not work the same way time in the rest of the world does. Consequently, a tightly structured event like Austin City Limits Music Fest is not necessarily the best place to catch the neo-soul queen. 

More:With Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus and Megan Thee Stallion, women rise to the top at ACL Fest

A huge crowd gathered for her 7 p.m. set on Friday. And, then, we waited. Colored lights played off puffs of smoke that wafted around the stage as anticipation built. 

Erykah Badu plays Friday, Oct. 8, at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Finally, at 7:23 p.m., her band took the stage, clad in red and blue striped polo shirts and shorts (rompers?) that under the red stage lights occasionally made them look like cartoon prisoners. For a few minutes, the drummer and the percussionist traded riffs. 

Then a video about bees came on the jumbotron. It explained that studies have shown that radiation from cell phones confuses bees, and because humans will never surrender the convenience of cell phones, bees might go extinct. (According to the internet, research on this is mixed, but we are not here to ponder the long-term health of bees.)

Finally, at 7:30 p.m., Ms. Erykah Badu took the stage to thunderous applause. Wearing her animated villain top hat and a fringed coat of many colors that fluttered around her, she stood between a pair of drum pads and hammered out a rhythm while riffing on "Hello."  Behind her, a chorus of four backup singers joined in. In case anyone hadn't already figured it out, it quickly became apparent that this was no ordinary festival set. 

Most artists have pre-determined set list with corresponding light cues. Erykah Badu is not most artists. Instead, the whole set seemed improvised. Badu began abstracting passages from "On and On" and her rock solid band joined in and vibed with her. 

More:Erykah Badu might be an actual living goddess. Catch her whole set at ACL Fest Weekend 2.

There's an orange striped cat on Ms. Badu's T-shirt. Is it Garfield?

She segued into the song's sequel "...& On" before quick mixing into "Love of My Life." 

She ran down a list of her aliases, declared she was our Nubian for the night and let us know that her core philosophy is "To Each His Own."

A decade by decade role call of the audience revealed that the majority of the crowd were '90s babies. 

" '90s babies have come in to disrupt things," she said, noting that they are ushering in a "redo," a "reboot." 

She explained that she had a child in 1997. 

"I've been waiting for y'all to grow the (expletive) up," she said, before excerpting "Appletree." 

Side note: At some point she took off the coat of many colors. There was an orange striped cat on her T-shirt. We believe it was the lasagna-loving comic strip feline Garfield. No, really. 

After dropping a bit of "Window Seat" and testing the crowd's Texan cred with the opening bars of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" (the crowd passed, obviously) she played "Didn't Cha Know." 

Finally, as the clock ticked closer to her 8 p.m. end time, she told us to "believe in the magic that's inside your heart."

"Believe in yourself because I believe in you," she said.

And then she was gone.