If you haven’t heard of Action Bronson, here’s the pitch: he’s a 315-pound, chain-smoking Albanian rapper from Queens. When he raps, he raps every word he’s written with the agility of a much smaller, fitter man — I’ve seen human GAP Ad Childish Gambino skip entire sentence fragments — and he tears it up. His first mix tape was called ‘Bon Appetit….Bitch!!!!!’ with that many ellipses and that many exclamation points. Also, his name is f**king “Action Bronson.” Are you sold yet?
When I got to the Lustre Pearl it was maybe a quarter-way full of your standard SXSW types (of which I am one, don’t get me wrong). San Francisco’s DaVinci was on stage trying to get them into it, and it wasn’t happening. DaVinci is solid — the only thing I can say bad about him is that he was wearing a Florida Marlins hat. He left, and the crowd sorta went “wooo” and meandered over to the food truck to get tacos.
Then Action Bronson took the stage, and one heavyset guy in the crowd (who was apparently ahead of the curve on this) started losing his mind. Midway through the set, the rest of the crowd followed suit. If you’ve ever wanted to stand between a dancing 7-foot tall guy and a hipster girl wearing chain mail on her head bobbing back and forth like one of the Peanuts on Christmas, this was the show for you. Bronson murdered it, even if he had to take a minute at the beginning of the show to hunch over and cough up a lung. Hey, things happen.
A few more cool things about Bronson:
1. He loves to name is songs after random dudes, including legendary pro wrestling chump Barry Horowitz. This one is called “Larry Csonka.” In it, he rhymes “Louganis” with “that anus.”
2. He was joined on stage briefly by MTV RiFF RAFF, who is a) out of his goddamn mind, and b) called “MTV RiFF RAFF” because he appeared on one episode of ‘From G’s To Gents.’ When MTV finished up, he pulled Bronson to the side of the stage to take fan photos with him. That’s amazing on so many different levels.
3. The performance was accompanied by a weird screen in the background that played looped footage of not only obscure old anime and CGI mech fights but Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. I don’t know if the production guy was trying to tell them to “finish it” or what.
Action Bronson is one of those guys you don’t want to miss at South By. And if you do, try this game: every time you hear a Drake track on the radio, type “Action Bronson” into YouTube and listen to that instead. You won’t be sorry.