Lorde, SZA and more rock Jakarta’s We The Fest 2018
JAKARTA, Indonesia – How on earth did Jakarta-based summer festival We The Fest manage to bring together several of today’s biggest pop acts?
It seemed too good to be true, yet included in this year’s lineup were heavy-hitting, globally renowned names: Lorde, SZA, Vince Staples, Miguel, James Bay, Albert Hammond Jr, Honne, alt-J, ODESZA, The Neighborhood, Eric Nam and more – luring us to book a flight to the Indonesian capital.
The rest of the billing wasn’t any less stellar. The festival featured regional and local acts who played on the main stage and two secondary stages. They proved to be pleasant discoveries across genres that spanned the gamut of psych rock to neo soul – possibly any genre you could name.
Over the weekend of July 20 to 22, Jakarta International Expo hosted the 2018 edition. In spite of Jakarta’s sweltering climate, We The Fest was a neat, polished, and relatively comfortable affair (with great food and beverage options!) that left us to just enjoy the music without a hitch.
We take a look back at the headliners’ performances – mostly on the main stage – during that weekend in Jakarta:
“This is the ‘Talk About Your Feelings Show.’ This is the ‘Get Emotional Show’,” Lorde said, describing her own Jakarta set.
Even as a nearby side stage’s live sound clashed with hers, the Kiwi singer delivered a powerful set that wasn’t just bops and jams. Each song she played for Jakarta was packed with an emotional punch, making her show more than a spectacle: it was cathartic and memorable as imaginable.
As she closed her performance with “Green Light,” she urged the crowd to jump and dance, saying: “I need you with me right now. All of that joy, all of that pain – I need it in your fingertips and in your feet.” Jakarta followed suit, singing along triumphantly. (READ:On second album, Lorde discovers 'Melodrama' of adulthood)
SZA closed this year’s We The Fest with a bang – her performance turned out to be a finale that exceeded expectations.
Following headlines about the neo soul/R&B singer’s vocal cord woes earlier this year, and there were still worrying traces of this. But SZA ran through most of her debut studio album, Ctrl, proving to be a captivating live performer and a warm character as well, as she bantered in between crowd favorites such as “Doves in the Wind,” “Weekend,” and “Love Galore.”
Miguel’s smooth vocals and confident stage presence defined his We The Fest set. He was suave and pitch-perfect.
“[My parents] sent me here to rock your f*cking world,” he told us at one point, making the Jakarta crowd go nuts over him from start (“Criminal”) to finish (“Pineapple Skies”).
He was also a tad rebellious, revealing that he was told not to perform “Do You” (which mentions drugs), but did so anyway, preambling with a short exhortation to be a little unconventional: “My parents always told me to do everything that I believed in – to never let anyone push me to conform to the ideals of what is normal because what the f*ck is normal anyway?”
Vince Staples had commanded the Coachella main stage earlier this year, and with his electric 2017 album, Big Fish Theory, the Californian rapper had some substantial hype preceding his Jakarta debut.
His Day 3 set was a little underrated in terms of crowd size, but the festivalgoers that were there were in for a treat as they experienced his slick and scathing bars, performed in such an electrifying manner, with bangers like “Big Fish,” “Get the F*ck Off My Dick,” and “Yeah Right.”
Korean-American pop star Eric Nam performed at the cavernous air-conditioned This Stage is Banañas on the festival’s second day, but boy, did he turn up the heat inside with throngs of his fans screaming “ Oppa” as he performed flanked by backup dancers.
With Days 2 and 3 of the festival leaning toward pop and hip-hop, Day 1 was dedicated to the rock ’n’ roll side of the sonic spectrum.
English singer-songwriter James Bay performed the penultimate set of Day 1, crooning and strumming through tunes like the rousing “Pink Lemonade” to the somber “Let It Go.”
Honne was an obvious Jakarta favorite, with an overflowing crowd in the main stage area and a resounding sing-along session that ensued throughout their set. James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck, who compose the English duo, gave Jakarta what it wanted, even if they had already performed in the Indonesian metropolis before.
Although The Neighborhood’s energy paled in comparison to the more intense acts that played later on Day 3, their slick R&B and electropop-infused brand of rock could be considered a welcome prelude to the last 3 main stage performers.
The Californian 5-piece even played their mega-hit “Sweater Weather,” a total treat for the main stage crowd.
Albert Hammond Jr
Albert Hammond Jr, best known as a guitarist for The Strokes, didn’t need to sneak a Strokes cover or two into his set to play one of the most memorable opening day sets at We The Fest. As a solo act accompanied by his touring band, he was nothing short of an exhilarating performer.
At one point, he even took the bouncers by surprise when he dove right into the VIP pit and ran across the space in the middle of the crowd, interacting with his fans.
British rock trio alt-J, composed of Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton, and Thom Green has never been your ordinary rock band with their distinct and eclectic sound.
These lads from Leeds also put on a show that was extraordinary and mesmerizing, both musically and visually. Hands down, their stage design was the best in this year’s festival. (IN PHOTOS: alt-J live in Manila)
Nick Murphy (FKA Chet Faker)
Nick Murphy (formerly known by his stage name Chet Faker), with his soulful take on electronic pop, played a set sandwiched in between two rock acts, but with his Thom Yorke-esque croon, he was still a perfect fit.
While newer tunes like “Forget About Me” proved to be earworms, fresh renditions of his “classic” songs such as “Gold” and “1998,” which were made under his erstwhile moniker, thrilled the crowd.
Electronic music duo ODESZA managed an awesome feat: fusing sight and sound into a huge spectacle. Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight coupled their high-octane bangers with stunning backdrop visuals, and although Lorde was a tough act to follow on Day 2, they delivered quite phenomenally.
Ups and downs
As each festival day began mid-afternoon, there were unfortunate clashes between the top-tier acts on the bill and other must-see acts in the indoor stage: for example, Honne and Eric Nam, Lorde and Majid Jordan, and a few more. While it’s possible to split one’s time between these artists, this would mean sacrificing prime spots – and as in real estate, what matters is location, location, location.
Sometimes, pleasant surprises occur, too. When there’s free time, or while waiting for your favorite artist’s set, you could catch a performance from one of the local acts. It’s great to broaden your musical horizons, especially when it’s music coming from neighboring countries.
A burgeoning name in the Southeast Asian festival scene, We The Fest is produced by Ismaya Live and has staged performances from the likes of Dua Lipa, The 1975, Phoenix, CL (of 2NE1 fame), Ellie Goulding, Jessie Ware, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Kooks, Temper Trap, and more since its inaugural edition in 2014.
Will you make next year’s We The Fest your destination? – Rappler.com