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Festival review: Joji dazzles crowds with out-of-this-world performance at Head In The Clouds

Headliner Joji closed out the concert with slingshotted gifts and brought earlier performers on stage, ending the two-day extravaganza in Pasadena. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

By Tara Oldenburg

Nov. 8, 2021 1:51 p.m.

If Rich Brian was the moon in the Head In The Clouds sky, Joji was its sun.

The celestial singer floated onto the stage straddled by images of grainy nebula and burning suns, bringing warmth and life to cold and fatigued concertgoers. As the last performer of the two-day extravaganza, the controversial singer who had led a rocky career on YouTube before playing music full time laid his energy on the stage as the crowds mustered the last of their vocal cords to scream lyrics back to him.

Just after the sleek opening sounds of “Sanctuary,” Joji invited his keyboardist to a freestyle where he chanted, “This is off the top of my head, I’m gonna have a nut, … all types of nuts.” But losing faith in his improvisation halfway through an 8-count, the singer cut the freestyle short to perform his Diplo collaboration “Daylight” in his signature nasally yet haunting tone.

While keeping conversation to a minimum between songs, many fans closest to the singer shouted comments that were picked up by his mic, allowing him to respond between lyrics instead of in the silence between songs. After a few songs, the singer sporadically addressed various topics such as his Uber trip and the fans’ fatigue while catapulting various shirts and stuffed animals into the crowd.

“It’s slingshot time!” Joji said. “I bear gifts. I pissed myself in the Uber the other day and it was embarrassing, and I don’t want you guys to be embarrassed too. You guys have been here a long time, and I want to make sure you’re taken care of.”

While visuals that resembled damaged film and clips of his music videos provided a compelling visual narrative to the performance, distracted conversations started among crowd members in the long periods of silence, during which Joji slingshotted stuffed animals and other items into the crowd.

Strutting across the T stage and lifting an unidentifiable black cloth into the air, the headliner gently questioned audiences with “Your Man,” one of the most passionately sung songs by audiences from the night. Joji’s casual stage presence had several concertgoers laughing as he interrupted many of his songs to yell, “I love you bitch” into the crowd, making for an oxymoronic, yet personable, headliner experience.

Faking out the audiences with two false endings, Joji signed off with a short, “See ya” before coming back onto the stage for a stripped-down, almost acoustic version of “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK.” Exiting once more only briefly, the performer swapped his nasally crooning for heady and clear vocals in the bass-heavy, full version of the song while teasing a return to the stage.

“I’ll be back soon,” Joji said.

But still, that wasn’t the end for concertgoers as Rich Brian, Lil Cherry, Warren Hue and other powerful performers from the weekend took the stage to finish strong with the hits of the festival. Prancing from both sides of the stage, several of the performers said their heartfelt and passionate goodbyes to fans who had spent nearly a total of 16 hours listening to their collective live performances.

The unexpected intrusion to finish the night was warmly welcomed by concertgoers looking for the final fix before closing out the weekend. Screaming lyrics to “MUKKBANG!” by Lil Cherry and GOLDBUUDA, audiences seemed to have been waiting for a final moment to release the last of their energy. After a few songs, the artists receded backstage, and this time around, the screens went black permanently – but not before crowds’ joyful cheers and conversation filled the festival grounds.

After all, three endings are better than one.

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Tara Oldenburg
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