The epic highs and mumbly lows of KennyHoopla's ACL Fest set
The DJ shouted from the top: "Are you with us, Austin?"
Yeah, but was KennyHoopla with us?
For a few songs there Sunday at Austin City Limits Music Festival, it was touch and go. The Ohio-born, Wisconsin-based punk performer came to the fest armed with a discography full of goes-hard, windows-down emo anthems. The audience was ready to hit it; people knew the words, which is really all an artist can ask for.
But when KennyHoopla, real name Kenneth La'ron, came on stage, his hype man was asking for something the main attraction wasn't giving. La'ron wore giant shades and a "S--- Happens" hat as he alternately stood in place with his shoulders down or laconically shuffled from one side of the T-Mobile Stage to another. The song "silence is also an answer//" is a high-energy anthem ("She's white dress and I'm Ferris Bueller" is a truly great lyric), but La'ron's voice crackled out at the mic.
Three songs in, it seemed like KennyHoopla might have been doing an Andy Kaufman-style bit at ACL Fest. Finally, when "sore loser//" came around, we got some yelling, and then ye olde windmill arms. And with "smoke break//" the hardcore heads got the one-arm-behind-the-back jumping mic yells that they came for.
"I don't feel too good today," La'ron told the audience after a trip to the pit, adding "I'm gonna give it my all." Fair enough.
(However: That's probably not the ideal thing to hear before a DJ tells the crowd to open up for a mosh pit and the performer dives in the middle of thrashing fest-goers and their droplets. What is Zilker Park if not a petri dish at this point?)
Without a doubt, the high point of the set was "how will i rest in peace if i'm buried by a highway?//" Surging with Bloc Party vibes and propelling fest-goers into the clouds, it showed what a KennyHoopla show could be at its unhinged best.
La'ron kept telling the audience how grateful he was to be there. OK, there were more mumbles, which was maybe part of the package. His energy dipped and rose throughout the set, too, which made the 45 minutes a test at times. One of the weirdest ACL Fest we've seen in a couple years.
But man, those songs go.