ACL Fest 2016: Tory Lanez obliterates crowdsurfing standards

Toronto’s Tory Lanez made it through one song before ditching the brown jacket. He’s an attack-minded bully breed rapper who uses his entire frame to elicit jumping. But he’s also a song-and-dance crooner. He writes hollow, commanding bangers and wears gold chains with royal purpose.

It’s a pop prototype you’d invest in–high school kids in replica jerseys rock with him, and their hulking spirit will knock the phone out of your hand mid-tweet. Their girlfriends huddle together and dance.

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Concert goers put their hands in the air during Tory Lanez’s set at ACL 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

To cement the energy, Lanez’s DJ infused his Friday afternoon Homeaway stage set with familiar radio rap. Fetty Wap and Chief Keef to warm up the audience, ’90s covers of classics like Ginuwine’s “My Pony,” a righteous remix of Drake’s “Controlla.”

Lanez performs brash dirtbag rap that commemorates cheating. He wants to hang out backstage and hook up. He wore a “Sandlot” T-shirt, and took a breather 15 minutes in to take off his jewelry. Then another mid-set break 30 minutes later.

That’s because Lanez is a crowdsurfing expert, who walked across his legion of kids within striking distance of the “no chairs” ACL border.

“Are y’all trying to have some fun?” he asked. “I know I’m up here performing all these classics.”

Dude’s been a fixture here in town–rocking high-profile South by Southwest gigs at the Pandora and Spotify stages in March, and mythical rap party the Illmore.

“In this moment we are family,” he said, having concluded his surf and plopped among his supporters like a fan a good 25 feet from the stage. “I’m not going to the stage. I want to stay right here with the family.”

It was an extended, defiant gig that evolved the standard rap concert where artists karaoke over canned tracks. Same thing to be sure, but you can do a lot when you put your heart into it.

Lanez also has the hits–some fixtures on rap radio like “Say It,” which he didn’t bother to perform; others on deck like “Everyone Falls In Love” and epic trap bangers like “Diego.”

He wrapped up the set in a tank top and ball cap. He may have heartbreak appeal, but he’s a blue-collar everyman with a punk soul. And that’s why he nearly fulfilled his campaign pledge to surf all the way to back. If he was only a little bit more famous, the set could have been a hazardous overflow. Maybe next time.


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