Drake’s fifth annual OVO Festival, held in his hometown of Toronto, expanded to two days for the first time this year. But for the first of two nights on Sunday, OVO was less about Drake (who was set to headline the following night) and unbilled appearances from his many A-list friends. Instead, it was more about celebrating OutKast’s reunion tour, which made up the bulk of the night’s programming (Drizzy was spotted backstage, however.)
The festival did kick off true to form, with a surprise opening set from rising SoCal rapper YG, who hit the stage around 7:40 p.m. Though he repped his ‘hood with a bright red “Bompton” logo on his hat, he also showed Toronto some love by rocking a Blue Jays jersey. “Toronto, you got love for the West Coast? Make some mothafuckin’ noise,” he cried before launching into his recent hits and guest verses like “Make It Clap,” “My Hitta,” Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz” and Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell ‘Em.”
But after a short, sweet 20-minute set, anticipation mixed with curiosity was high. Even the onstage DJ hinted at the night’s progression before bringing out YG, teasing, “We got a lot of surprises tonight.” Who might show up next? After a lengthy hour-long set up, it turned out to be Big Boi and Andre 3000, kicking off the night’s headlining set at an unexpectedly early hour of 9 p.m.
Fresh from making the latest festival rounds in Lollapalooza some 24 hours prior, and Montreal’s Osheaga Festival the night before that, OutKast arrived in typically chipper spirits. Of course, in the case of the oft-strained creative relationship between Big Boi and Andre 3000, that means they were happy to be working their respective fan bases with little acknowledgement of each other beyond the usual trading of verses from their vast 20-year catalog. Now in their fourth month of playing festival gigs together, you’d think they could at least muster a high-five every once in awhile, right?
Expected chilliness aside, the OVO crowd came amped for the hits (frequent festival opener “B.o.B.” was once again called upon to kick things off, with “Gasoline Dreams” and “Rosa Parks” quickly trotted out), but didn’t quite keep up the same energy for the deeper cuts. Halfway through the downtempo “Aquemini,” for example, Big Boi had to interject a “Toronto, y’all still with us?” just to make sure his and Andre’s rather meandering performance hadn’t killed the buzz before the halfway mark had even arrived. Luckily, “Ms. Jackson” was on deck next, and immediately the vibe was restored.
Andre seemed particularly aware of the generation gap at OVO Fest, at one point telling a group of female dancers brought to the stage for “Hey Ya!” how “y’all were probably 10 when this came out,” with equal parts humor and resentment. Because OVO boasts a median age a good five to 10 years younger than the indie rock-skewing festivals OutKast have been playing this season, a little more effort to engage the millennial crowd always went a long way. Even Big Boi had to trot out a fake British accent on several occasions to ask, “Are you having a good toyiiiime?”
The 90-minute set hit all the usual notes of OutKast’s other festival victory laps this summer. But considering it was on the first night of a festival typically full of one-of-a-kind moments and collaborations, it felt out of place to watch something so relatively routine. Certainly, the majority of the crowd probably hadn’t had the opportunity to catch OutKast at other festivals, so the novelty was hardly lost on everyone. But for those who had, they had to get their surprise fix from the latest message on Andre 3000’s rotating lineup of jumpsuits. Tonight’s message? “ok, hand over the cure and stop playing.”