Concert Reviews

Last Night at 35 Conferette: Big Boi Brings The Outdoor Stages To A Joyous Close

Big Boi
8:10 p.m., Main Stage One

After a brief word from festival founder Chris Flemmons, in which he thanked the crowds and organizers for helping the festival finally reach its goal of being a completely walkable deal in downtown Denton, Atlanta rapper and festival headliner Big Boi -- half of the most inventive group the hip-hop world has ever seen in Outkast, and a solo performer riding high after the massive acclaim dolled upon his formal solo debut, 2010's Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty -- walked out onto the festival's main outdoor stage, welcomed by riotous applause and cheers, with dusk having finally settled upon the North Texas college town.

He wasted no time in pleasing his crowd: After launching with "Daddy Fat Sax" from Left Foot, Big Boi's 80-minute offering say nary a break from the palpable momentum seen at his set's start.

And, really, how could there have been one? By performing hit after hit from both his solo catalog (including his half of 2003's Grammy-winning Speakerboxxx/The Love Below) and his career with Outkast, he hardly gave the crowd a chance to catch their breath between their shouted rap-alongs. Credit the fact that Big Boi isn't your conventional live hip-hop performer; his insane lyrical execution and crisp body movements make for a greater visual spectacle than most hip-hop shows. But also credit the fact that Big Boi is also a well-heeled showman.

He shouted out the last time he played Denton -- back in the '90s, by his recollection, when Outkast was touring in support of Southerplayalisticaddilacmusik -- and knew quite well how to pander to his audience. At one point in his set, seemingly on a whim, he shouted "The stars at night, are big and bright!" into his microphone.

You can surely imagine exactly how the crowd reacted.

But, after the crowd clapped and responded lyrically in kind to the rapper's ploy, it became clear that this wasn't just another performance. Big Boi was being given a true hero's welcome -- and he knew it.

"I always wanted to do that shit!" he exclaimed with glee upon the completion of his "Deep In The Heart of Texas" bit. And he'd continue to do so throughout the night -- like, say, when the crowd actually through sacks of weed onto the stage upon his request.

You can't blame the crowd for feeling exuberant about the moment: This was indeed every bit the performance the audience had been hoping it would receive. From "Rosa Parks" to "So Fresh, So Clean" to "Miss Jackson" to "The Way You Move" to "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdag)"  to "Shutterbug" and everything in between, there wasn't a hit left untouched by this set. More impressive was the sound quality; as Big Boi stalked the stage, clad in an Atlanta Braves cap and with various chains swinging from around his neck, the audience was bowled over by the impressive bass levels of the outdoor system.

Big Boi, even, was impressed: "The energy in this courtyard is crazy!" he said at one point, generously referring to the Wells Fargo parking lot in which this show was talking place as a courtyard.

The point had been made, though: Big Boi's set had indeed transformed the lot, just as this year's 35 Conferette had successfully transformed downtown Denton. And this indeed proved a fitting end to the weekend's festivities.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman

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