Ever since they burst on the scene a couple of years ago, Odd Future reenergized hip-hop with a youthful punk energy rarely seen throughout the past decade.  A strong crop of young rappers has emerged since that time period, and many of them possess a similarly energetic spirit.  Out of all of them, Action Bronson might just be the most punk rock.

Early on in Bronson’s early-afternoon set at Coachella, the rapper stood next to a crowd of people, grabbed a fan’s sandwich and bit into it, holding his mic to the side.  The beat blared in the background as he commented on the food and grabbed blunts and cigars from audience members.

When he finally started rapping again, he did so in the crowd.  Not on top of the railings and leaning into the crowd or crowd-surfing like many of the acts at the festival, but literally in the crowd, walking slowly from the front towards the back while surrounded by a crazed mob of fans.  After performing a couple songs in that manner, the singer walked (yes, again, literally walked… slowly) backstage, high-fived some people, then sauntered back onstage for his next song.  Even though he was barely rapping, the crowd was hooked.

Back on stage, Bronson was shirtless.  “I’m sorry to subject you to this,” Bronson said, pointing to his large, tattoo-covered belly before explaining that he lost his shirt somewhere in the crowd.

Someone threw a tiny, sweaty white shirt on stage, which Bronson donned immediately.  It looked like a Kid’s XS on Bronson’s body.  Someone else threw a shirt, which Bronson put on his head.  He then ripped the first shirt off his chest.

During one point in the set, Bronson introduced one of his friends, also an Albanian chef from Queens.  The man looked like he was about to deliver a guest verse, but he simply raised his hands and nodded.  At least he got some publicity for his restaurant.

Towards the end of the set, after completing his verse from A$AP Rocky’s “1Train” beat, Bronson explained that he was tired of rapping.  He then challenged the many rappers that were watching from the side of the stage to come out and spit a verse so that he could take a break.  At first, no one took Bronson up on his offer.  Bronson threw playful jabs at the reluctant MCs until Mike G eventually emerged from the shadows to deliver an impromptu verse that proved he’s as capable of rapping as the other, more famous Odd Future members.

Two of those other members, Domo Genesis and Hodgy Beats, eventually gave in to Bronson’s pleads for another rapper to deliver a verse.  Unfortunately, this prohibited the eager fan in the audience from joining the stage (Bronson had just called the fan onstage when Domo and Hodgy walked out).  Hodgy initially annoyed the crowd by repeatedly explaining that he was high rather than rapping over “1Train.”  The two rappers eventually had to cut the beat and deliver an acapella version of one of their songs that’s already been written and recorded.  Point Mike G.

While all of this was going on, someone alerted Bronson that his time was almost up.  He then drove into his song “Bird On A Wire.”  Riff Raff joined him on stage for his verse, and the crowd exploded into a massive mosh pit.  Bronson’s amazingly outlandish performance might not totally prove that punk is back, but the combination of white rappers and mosh pits at music festivals does bring something else to mind. Bronson is one of the few acts that honestly might have a completely different performance during Coachella Week 2.

Not only does Bronson have one of the most entertaining live hip-hop sets of any modern rapper, but he has BARS too.  The rapper can rap with the best of ‘em (Ghostface comparisons are accurate but, when you listen closely, Bronson’s imagery and boasts might just be better).  The man is a rapping machine; it’s no wonder he was out of breath by the end of his set at Coachella.  And it’s great to know that when Bronson’s tired, a crew of young rappers with similar skills are there to back him up.

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