Spike Lee? Judd Apatow? Uh, Stacey Dash? Nope, it was Travis Scott, the rapper behind the massive Billboard Hot 100 hit “Antidote,” who headlined the third night of Billboard’s Winterfest at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. He wasn’t making an actual movie, of course, but he wanted his set to be cinematic. And he succeeded -- even if the 35-minute set was more of a TV episode than a big screen epic.
Scott ran though his brief but notable catalog of trippy trap hits, and most came off even better live. After all, Scott is one of rap’s most energetic performers, and the crowd was ready to match him: It was just the first song, “Pornography,” but one fan had already jumped up on stage, standing next to the rapper and shouting lyrics like a hypeman, before jumping into crowd and riding the raised hands. At other points in the set, Scott gave the mic to fans so they could scream entire verses themselves.
It was just the energy boost the clearly exhausted rapper needed: "I was in Paris yesterday…it actually might have been today,” he mumbled to himself at one point, pausing before waking up and addressing the crowd: “But I took an 11-hour trip around a blizzard to come fuck with y'all in Utah!” (Which might explain why he took the stage 45 minutes late.) After the pickup, Scott delivered the frenetic stage show he’s notorious for: “You get high with me, you come down with me,” he bellowed on “Pornography,” the opening track to his latest album Rodeo. Wearing a plaid shirt and baseball hat, hee stomped up and down while silhouetted from behind by a bright red LED scene that recalled Kanye West’s recent stage setup, a subtle reminder of Scott’s vital contributions to the Yeezus album.
As heard on that LP and his own recent Rodeo, Scott’s stickiest songs have a tried and true formula: horror-show minor-key synth lines, distorted 808s, skittering hi hats, and dark, Auto-tuned vocals cascading all over the place. Scott showed his mastery of it at Park City Live, even without any of the guest vocalists that pop up all over Rodeo — Future, Kanye West, The Weeknd, even Justin Bieber). Numerical bangers “3500” and “90210” were highlights, and Scott’s command to “order more bottles” on “Nightcrawler” was taken quite literally. “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” his ratchet-goes-EDM new single with DJ Mustard, showed why its an likely crossover dance-rap hit that should be ubiquitous in clubs soon.
But the climax, and the inevitable closer to the short set, was paranoid party anthem “Antidote,” Scott’s still rising top 20 hit. Scott jumped into the crowd while confetti and steam machines blasted. “Anything can happen at the night show,” he screamed repeatedly. It wasn’t totally true in this case; we mean, Bieber and Kanye didn’t jump out and surprise the crowd. Instead, Sundance got a strangely fascinating, high-energy show that was a highlight of Billboard’s Winterfest — that did happen, and it was enough.