ACL Review: Danny Brown

Detroit rapper reigns over the mosh pit

Overheard early Sunday afternoon at the Honda main stage: “I’ve never seen a rap show with a mosh pit.” This, clearly, constituted a first-timer at a Danny Brown show.

Photo by Gary Miller

Almost immediately after the Detroit rapper took the stage for a scorching 3pm set time, hordes of (mostly) dudes began hurling themselves into each other. Brown oversaw the scrum from the stage, sticking out his tongue and holding up one hand in the rock-on symbol. No one could have been more pleased with the chaos orchestrated from the stage.

Brown’s beats alone inspire the frenzy. High-octane cuts like “Smokin & Drinkin” are enough to set a house party on fire. The energy, though, that’s what fuels his live performances.

During “Dip,” he did an exaggerated jog back and forth across the stage, barking his lyrics to the crowd and holding up the mic to let them finish the lyrics for him. It’s an impressive level of engagement for an act whose only other player is on the turntables behind him.

Even when the beats’ cadence slowed for cuts like “25 Bucks” and “Pneumonia,” Brown managed to battle through a common pitfall for performers with a similar setup: boredom. Brown, no matter the song, offered no less than his full attention to the set. The audience felt it.

That’s the reason, more than anything, that the MC has been successful in his live iterations. He can’t lean on a live band or any backup dancers, nor does he need them. As closer “When It Rain” finished up, Brown stood centerstage once again, tongue out, hand up, lording over a still-roiling mosh pit.

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Danny Brown, ACL Fest 2017