Words by Christopher Swain | Image by Shaina Sheaff
“How many of you have seen me perform before?” With hands pressing to the sky, loud whistles and cheers echo throughout the packed crowd hugging the front the stage. “How many of you are here because your boyfriend or girlfriend dragged you here to see me?” A grin appears while acknowledging those who have supported him throughout his musical career. “I’m Astronautalis… Hey Denton… You know… I’ve never lived in Denton, but I’ve been arrested here.”
Oaktopia’s second presale event of the year went off without a hitch. Most of the evening was spent 1-in, 1-out at the doors of everyone’s favorite Denton outdoor venue, Harvest House, as the event was sold out. Local acts S. Good & The BoomBachs opened for the Minneapolis based rapper.
Andy Bothwell, commonly known as Astronautalis, is not the traditional cookie-cutter rapper whose music follows in the traditional style of hip-hop. Here stands a one man army who has built an empire on personal struggles, political views, and emotional wordsmithing. With a DJ in tow, Astronautalis started his set with material off of his long awaited new album. Unlike his previous albums, the new track was very fast-beat, electro-pop, and bass driven. The crowd? Nothing short of fully energetic and wild. As the opening track felt more of an amuse-bouche to a 10-11 course meal, Andy followed with oldie but personal crowd favorites: “Thomas Jefferson”- which has nothing to do with Thomas Jefferson, “Skeleton (Everybody’s Favorite),” and my personal favorite, “Dimitri Mendeleev.” As the night wore on, older songs were entwined with new material. Each performed with the same charismatic, heart-felt way as the one prior.
For those unfamiliar with Astronautalis, it’s not just his emotional charged tunes that captivates and keeps his fans at his side; it’s his freestyle. This is the moment of the show where crowd participation is highly encouraged as the audience is asked to shout out topics not previously covered. The result? A man whose wife gave birth around the times Astronautalis performed in DFW, salamanders, redheads, Nickelback, Donald Trump’s Wig, and Ayn Rand. Pretty typical Astronautalis freestyle list, if you ask us.
Think Eminem meets Johnny Carson – but much better. Usually accompanied by a band or a beat, the freestyle was more of a Spoken Word rhyme scheme instead of a freestyle rap. Though unlike any traditional freestyle rap, each topic was methodically woven into a “This Is How I Feel About The World” segment similar to the genuine, emotionally driven songs he creates.
The remainder of his set concluded in two more songs of his newest album. The first sounded somewhat similar to the opening song, synth-popped and melodic. The closer: a loud, bass pounding track that had the entire crowd in a boisterous uproar. There was dancing – a lot of dancing. As an avid fan of all of his previous material, I’m certainly eager for the release of his latest album.