The Jakarta Post
Mighty good: New Zealand singer Lorde presents her two hit songs “Sober” and “Homemade Dynamite” on the main stage of We The Fest 2018 at the Jakarta International Expo (JIExpo) in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, on Saturday. Lorde’s performance at the festival drew attention because it was her first time to perform in Indonesia. (JP/David Caessarre)
In the pantheon of modern pop music, there are very few pop stars who match the uniqueness and grace of Lorde.
Her superb 2017 sophomore album Melodrama has proven to be a masterpiece of pop, taking 21-year-old New Zealander Ella Yelich-O’Connor to new artistic heights with her lush production, honest vulnerability and naturally gifted ear for what sounds great. It is the Hounds of Love of this era.
There was, therefore, no doubt a degree of symbolism when she stepped out onto the stage to Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill” on her Saturday-night headline set at Jakarta’s annual We The Fest music festival.
Appearing genuinely humbled by the reception and the huge crowd, Lorde grinned widely throughout her entire set, which consisted mainly of cuts from Melodrama.
“I’m so happy to see that all of you want to hang out with me this Saturday night! No one usually wants to hang out with me on Saturday night!” she told the crowd in one of her many interactions.
Who wouldn’t want their night to be colored by “Perfect Places”, “Team”, “Supercut”, “Green Light” or the ubiquitous “Royals”?
Backed by a troupe of dancers that only elevated Lorde’s graceful movements and voice on stage, there was not one weak moment in a set filled with songs about vulnerability.
At some points, Lorde seemed amused as the hyped-up sound from the festival’s outdoor Another Stage bled into her otherwise mellow set. “What a party going on over there! [My music] isn’t really party music, it’s too emotional [laughs]. We’ll just sing them out, okay?” she told the crowd before going into Melodrama gem “Liability”.
The main stage never later returned to the highs that Lorde had taken it to.
Even American electronic duo ODESZA, which closed Saturday’s main stage, could not match the excitement, despite performing its upbeat dance music, which in truth has been disappointing in recent releases.
This year’s stellar lineup of artists such as Lorde, SZA, Vince Staples and Miguel signifies the festival’s further growth into a globally established brand.
The three-day festival, which ended on Sunday, was chock-full of quirkiness with things like (brand-sponsored) trampolines, heavily costumed characters ripe for photo ops, a movie-screening room and even a makeshift skatepark coloring the festivities. But in the end, it was the music that triumphed.
Saturday also saw the trap-style performances of Medasin, the mild vanilla-disco of HONNE, Singapore’s radio-friendly group The Sam Willows, the strutting South Korean wunderkind Eric Nam, as well as stellar performances from some of Indonesia’s bigger indie bands like Barasuara, Efek Rumah Kaca and metal titans Seringai (it was incredibly satisfying to see Seringai conjure up the first circle pit and active moshpit at the festival).
Local acts Polka Wars, Petra Sihombing and Pijar set the tone at the indoor stage on Friday, bringing the atmosphere down to a cool level ahead of “the chaos” that was soon to come.
The chaos came in the form of a packed set by rising rapper Ramengvrl and her Underground Business Club collective. Flinging fake money all around, the hype stayed up from start to finish as the rapper went through tracks such as “I’m Da Man”, “Decide” and her most recent hit, “Ca$hmere”, all songs whose success is down to the power of viral media and the internet.
Ramengvrl’s set attracted almost as many people as Friday’s main stage act Albert Hammond Jr., who put on a stellar rock show that was full of class, humor and high-powered entertainment.
Known mainly as a guitarist for seminal New York rock band The Strokes, Hammond’s set successfully proved he does not need The Strokes in order to captivate.
Mainly playing tracks off his new album, Francis Trouble, Hammond was an interactive whirlwind who frequently dived down to crowd level. The best moments of his set were always when he began to play guitar.
Some of Hammond’s solo guitar parts, as in “St. Justice”, sound very, very Strokesian. Hell, even his opening song “DVSN” has the structure of an Is This It demo. But then again, it is easy to forget that the kinds of bluesy, treble-y licks and riffs that color The Strokes’ music are truly distinctive of Hammond Jr.
His set was followed by an OK set from Australian crooner Nick Murphy who has expanded his previously minimal instrumental structure into an expansive live band. British pop-soul singer James Bay followed suit, mellowing out the entire night further with crowd favorites such as “Down by the River” and “Let it Go”, both of which are frequently heard on Indonesian radio stations.
British indie rock band Alt-J closed Friday’s festivities with a midnight slot, bringing its try-too-hard quirky math rock to Indonesian shores for the second time following its 2017 appearance in Bali.
The festival’s Sunday lineup consisted of the longest-awaited acts, as R’n’B stars SZA and Miguel as well as incendiary rapper Vince Staples took the stage.
But after all the frenzy is said and done, closing the weekend festival with SZA’s heartfelt anthems to female self-empowerment and self-worth was a great feel-good move and perfect closer, as the women in the crowd definitely left her set feeling that they always deserve better.