You know Superlatives, the "Best Of" distinctions in any given high school yearbook? Childish Gambino's Austin City Limits Festival performance could easily swipe more than half of those titles and still collect a few more compliments.
Best (Crazy) Eyes? Got 'em. Most Talkative? Easily, based on the speed at which he can plow through a track alone. Most Athletic? To say he came sprinting out the gate and grooved more than everyone who had hit the festival stages before him would be an understatement. Best All Around? Yes, Gambino's acting background (as the quirky Troy Barnes on Community) does nothing but add to his stage show. He's got presence for days, and the combination of every facet of his performance listed above—his character, his way with words, his ability to mirror the verses he's firing with every facial expression, his incredible dance moves and energy—imply that he's in this, and he's ready. Gambino arrived at ACL Fest with the clear intention to show us that, and his timing couldn't be better as he just dropped a new mix tape last week.
That mix tape, STN MTN, will hold us over until there's a new record (namely his eminent EP, Kauai), though a set full of hits did more than enough to keep the sprawling crowd bouncing like pogo sticks from beginning to end. (He did mention that this was his first time back in Austin since the drop of the mix tape, but hey, it's not like Gambino sprung up and did a last-minute tour following its release: ACL Fest served as his first major stage premiere since releasing new-ish material.)
He favored previous Gambino releases, with "3005" and closer "Bonfire" standing out as tracks that were met with tens of thousands of people hurling his volleys of verses back at him (though obviously without half the bite). The more recent "Sweatpants" had the audience eating out of the palm of his outstretched hand from beginning to end as well. The fact that he had ripped his shirt off shortly before diving into his track from earlier this year didn't hurt.
The first to bring the literal and proverbial fire at the festival, Gambino favored the drama with insane pyrotechnics and a wall of sparks that descended behind him for "Zealots of Stockholm." The licking flames made appearances multiple times throughout the duration of the set.
All in all, Childish Gambino's ACL Fest performance was an updated mission statement, a bit of foreshadowing with a mix tape serving as the fuel for this particular blaze. While Because the Internet continues to satiate fans looking for a Gambino fix, it's clear to see that the rapper isn't resting on laurels but chomping at the bit to serve up new favorites in a matter of minutes.
Best All Around at ACL Fest? Yeah. We see it.