The 50-something-year-old man next to me is smoking a joint while four college-age female hippies dance in a circle while a white-hat wearing, beefed-up broseph chugs from an oversized hurricane glass while two black women in their mid-30s dance like no one's watching while two (two!) couples grind each other to the point where one could make a reasonable case for an Obscenity arrest.
This is a Big Boi show in 2013.
The OutKast rapper called himself the "festival killer" in a Fuse interview after his set at Beale Street Music Festival. And judging from the Benetton ad that is today's crowd, he's dead on. The hour-long set blended OutKast classics like "Ms. Jackson," "Player's Ball" and "B.O.B" with selections from Daddy Fat Sax's two solo albums for a show that eschewed dynamics for a continuous party vibe.
Backed by a DJ and live band, Big Boi's that rare rapper that can engage a crowd simply by standing on stage and rapping. During "Apple of My Eye," one girl fearfully crowd surfs toward the front because, well, why not? The rapper knows what the crowd wants, and upbeat, fluid tracks like "In the A," "Ghetto Musick" and "General Patton" were catnip to an audience beaten down by rain, mud and unseasonably freezing temperatures the night before.
Killer Mike pops up toward the end of the set to perform his "Ready, Set, Go" remix, OutKast's "The Whole World" and Big Boi's "Thom Pettie." But it turns out to be the warm-up for the 15 girls brought up on stage from the crowd for "I Like the Way You Move." Hip hop purists have scoffed at this song, lobbing accusations of "sellout" and, worse, "pop music." But live, it's a show highlight, as the festival killer bridges the 50-year-old toker, hippies, frat boys, "pure" hip hop lovers and grinders together. At least for a hour.