May has been a busy month of music for me. A week after I went to the Shabang Music Festival, a friend and I drove to Los Angeles to see Joji’s SMITHEREENS tour. Joji is a Japanese singer-songwriter, rapper, former comedian, and YouTuber. His music is described as a mix between R&B and lo-fi. He performed at The Forum on May 13 for a sold-out audience, an impressive feat for a venue of that size. Follow along as I take you through the concert experience.
There were three artists to warm up the audience before Joji: Ammo, Lil Toe, and Rei Brown. Ammo and Lil Toe gave off similar trap vibes, but both were phallic. One of Lil Toe’s songs kept repeating, “What the f*ck do you mean, you don’t want to suck my nuts?” The audience yelled the lyrics back, but I wish the vocals were less on the nose. I want to read a Genius page and learn something new because the song has a deeper meaning. Although not memorable, Ammo had less vulgar lyrics when it was time for his set. However, I was shocked to see him hump the stage for 30 seconds before returning to rapping.
Last but certainly not least was Rei Brown. His set was enjoyable, and his dancing was subtle but impressive. He had terrific visuals on a screen behind him, mostly depicting images of space and galaxies. It was mesmerizing to look at and fit well with his song “Solar.” He had a great stage presence, and people knew some of his songs, unlike Ammo and Lil Toe. My one critique was that he also had questionable lyrics during his song “EZ.” One line said, “Going zoom zoom, boom boom,” which sounded childish even when singing it. But I loved the song’s jazzy chords and the call-and-response element.
The Main Event
I am a huge Joji fan, so I couldn’t help but take videos for a good chunk of his setlist. The show started with a video of him walking onstage as the stage lights brightened the arena. Joji remained backlit as he stood center stage, creating an incredible silhouette of himself. He started with “Sanctuary,” his third most popular song on Spotify, with 500 million streams. Interestingly, he began with a song from Nectar when his tour was for SMITHEREENS. However, he got to the new album on his third song when he sang “Night Rider.” He kept screaming, “Los Angeles” during the concert, so I told my friend we should take a shot whenever he said it. In his defense, it made the show more personable, but it is a bit overkill at a certain point.
His set design was unique, featuring cubes on different levels that would change colors. The color combinations were beautiful throughout the show, with purple and sunset orange, pink and purple, and yellow and blue. One incredibly cool visual was on his song “Daylight,” where he created a sunset effect with a yellow-orange semicircle behind him. There were also moving yellow and red lights facing the audience, which made it more immersive. He would talk to the audience between each song and introduce his band. He even played two songs from his time on SoundCloud: “Worldstar money (interlude)” and “Plastic Taste.”
EDM Halftime SHow
Although you could tell it was planned, Joji had a “bathroom break” halfway through the concert. He told the audience that he had to piss and then walked offstage. A timer was put on the screen, and they played a peeing sound effect. Once the timer stopped at 51 seconds, the crowd chanted, “Wash your hands,” while waiting for Joji to return. But instead of Joji’s chill songs, a group called Yebi Labs played hype remixes of Joji’s songs. Yebi Labs is Joji’s DJ group that premiered at Head in the Clouds last year. It was so unexpected, but I was happily surprised by this change in pace. It was rave style, EDM music with accompanying pyrotechnics. There were no lasers, but the stage lights moved to the fast-paced beat.
Filthy Frank’s Comedy is Back
For those who knew of Joji before he was Joji, his other persona was Filthy Frank on YouTube. He made comedy sketches on his channel, and his most popular video has 91 million views. While his last video on there was from five years ago, he still has a comedic side to him. On one of the breaks before his next song, Joji had his 75th annual Jack Off competition. I know what it sounds like, but you’ll be surprised. He had eight people dressed up as Jack Sparrow come onstage to see who was the best Jack. The eight Jacks did their best impersonation, and some even brought props, like the infamous jar of dirt. The audience voted for the best Jack by screaming the loudest. The third and last Jack tied for best Jack.
Joji may not be one of those performers with flashy dance numbers, but he has a fantastic stage presence. Hearing “Die for You” was the highlight of my night for sure. You can tell that he sings live, and I love the raw emotion in his voice. The comedic parts in between songs were fun, making him seem more human instead of another unreachable celebrity. If you are considering seeing him, I’d say go for it. His next performance is on June 9th and 10th in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the HIVE Festival. Don’t let Joji become an “Afterthought,” as he will return to California in August. Hope to see you there!