ACL Day Two Recap: Kendrick captivates audiences, concluding a hip hop-heavy Saturday

Elizabeth Hlavinka

Friday’s highlights were alternative rock bands, but Saturday’s were the kings of hip hop.

Best: Kendrick Lamar did it again this weekend, amping the crowd up with plenty of hits from To Pimp a Butterfly and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, but also playing songs from his self-titled album released in 2009, testing the crowd to see how many were “true” fans. The crowd gained momentum from the band’s jazz grooves, piercing electric guitar and steady bass from the DJ. The visuals projected onto the stage included President Barack Obama dancing with Ellen Degeneres and a pair of eyes, scanning the crowd for the majority of the set.

DJ Z-Trip set the tone for LL Cool J’s performance by playing a mix of old school rap hits, such as “Just A Friend.” LL’s set transitioned smoothly, and the crowd — ranging from high schoolers to middle-aged men and women — loved every minute of it. A true lady’s man, Ladies Love Cool James even brought a young girl on the stage and gave her his necklace. He gave her a few words of advice before guiding her back to her seat: “You can be anything you want to be.” The crowd was awed.

Saint Motel put on a spectacular performance. Lead singer A/J Jackson’s vocals were strong and clear, even piercing at the peak of songs like “Puzzle Pieces” and “My Type.” Performing with a brass section and saxophone, the band’s sound was full and clear. It’s a good thing a strip of the crowd had been blocked off by barricades — Jackson used this as his own race track, running sprints back and forth throughout the audience.

Worst: ScHoolboy Q’s performance was flashy and theatrical. But while he brought high energy to the set, the show wasn’t backed by a solid band, his vocals were subpar and there wasn’t much crowd participation. Flames, dancers and water sprayed onto the crowd kept them entertained, but the musical performance did not, making it feel as though the only purpose of his performance was to hype up the crowd for Kendrick.

Conor Oberst’s performance failed to stand out, producing a sound that blends in with many indie rock artists. Piercing through his sound were bass lines and crowd cheering from other stages, distracting the audience from Oberst’s set.

Today, LCD Soundsystem and Mumford and Sons conclude the festival. Today’s performances should showcase bands from a greater variety of genres.