Although Travis Scott’s Sunday night Austin City Limits Music Festival finale wasn’t monumental in the same sense as Paul McCartney and Metallica’s respective Friday and Saturday night headline sets (each of them has decades on him), it did mark a personal milestone for the 26-year-old Houston-bred rapper-singer.
“Wow, this is crazy,” said Scott mid-show while surveying the tens of thousands who’d just lit up their phones on command to illuminate melodic banger “Skeletons.”
Obviously, it wasn’t lost on him that it’s an honor to close out even a single weekend of the 17th annual festival — the original plan for Weekend Two’s Saturday closer before Scott inherited Childish Gambino’s dual Sunday spots — in front of an audience nearly as massive as Macca’s, with a victory lap still on the horizon.
That feat not only afforded Scott the most prestigious platform of his 10-year career, but also reaffirmed that these days at ACL Fest, hip-hop booms louder and burns hotter than most of the fest’s rock acts. His production certainly featured higher decibels and more pryo than the previous two nights’ headliners combined.
Despite swirling rumors about special guests — including Drake (for his parts on chart-topping single “Sicko Mode,” tonight’s closer and one of six off Astroworld) or the unlikely pair of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and John Mayer, who joined Scott Oct. 6 for two songs on Saturday Night Live –– Scott held his own, save for one riveting moment when a fan joined him onstage to sing on “Goosebumps,” absolutely nailing every line each time he was handed the mic.
The entirety of Scott’s performance exuded confidence and implacable vigor, but it clocked in at a scant 55 minutes (he started five minutes late and ended fifteen early), resulting in plenty of audible grumbling from fans as they moved toward the exits.
For that reason, it felt less like a headlining set than Arctic Monkeys’ showing across the field, which included a three-song encore in addition to 18 career-spanning cuts. Even more worthy of true headliner status, however, was Janelle Monáe.
“Can the vagina get a monologue?” she inquired with an assertive crotch grab before “Django Jane,” proceeding to continually channel her late mentor Prince throughout an unrelentingly energetic, brilliantly choreographed-and-costumed performance heavy on material from third studio album Dirty Computer, which features the Purple One’s musicianship and production throughout. The way Monáe visibly hyped and stunned her audience during “Make Me Feel,” vocally giving Beyoncé a run for her money and often uncannily emulating her fallen mentor’s alien-smooth moves, the single resounded as the chief candidate to become her own veritable “1999.”
Other instances of incontestable increases in star power: British wall-of-sound-post-punk outfit Shame, whose decidedly face-melting main stage kickoff marked only their second U.S. fest appearance; Elle King, backed by horn players and auxiliary singers who added gusto to old tunes and hinted at a largely more robust (gospel and Motown-influenced) sound on impending sophomore full-length Shake the Spirit (due Oct. 19); and Phoenix, who rounded out their Ti Amo tour here with one more galvanic dance party featuring frontman Thomas Mars standing triumphantly atop the crowd to conclude the show, the final exclusive of an overall first-rate ACL Fest Weekend One.