From the moment JPEGMAFIA took the stage at Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House last Saturday, Sept. 15, shirtless and wearing a blue bandana, the energy soared. The crowd rushed forward, leaving those in the front with only room to jump. Playing a short, high-energy set to a sold out venue of adoring fans, JPEG’s “The Reverse Christopher Columbus Tour” rocked Adams Morgan.
Joy Again, who has been traveling with JPEG for the entirety of the U.S. and European tour, opened the show. Though an odd fit for the indie rock-emo band to open for an industrial, Death Grips-influenced rapper, both artists hold true to DIY ethics and appeal to an alternative audience. Joy Again played as a five piece and ended their set announcing, “T shirts for sale somewhere…if you’re interested in that,” keeping in line with a combined disinterested and piss-all attitude. A section of the crowd enjoyed the performance and showed genuine interest, but a larger cohort choose to sit in the back and bond over shared interests like Tyler the Creator and Joey Purp.
When JPEGMAFIA took the stage, he immediately begin his set with hits, and continued playing only his most popular songs for the next 30 minutes. He did not reach deep into his catalogue, but simply gave the fans the songs they knew and would be happy to hear. “Real N***,” “ALL CAPS NO SPACES,” and “Curb Stomp,” among other top tracks, ensured that every fan heard their favorite song. However, the live performances veered from the recorded versions as he embodied the spirit of a hardcore band by screaming his words into the mic, using rap as a secondary communication device as most verses were shouted not rhymed. During choruses, the crowd’s love for the music was on full display, and they shouted along with every word.
The crowd was composed of stereotypical Anthony Fantano fans, and despite JPEG’s aim to “reverse gentrify every city” on his tour the audience was almost exclusively white, male, and in their early 20s. The significance of the Reverse Christopher Columbus is a chance for JPEG to go “around the world gentrifying every city one by one”. These ideas came together in the most exciting and powerful moment of the show: a racially charged freestyle rap against police brutality that was received with huge cheers by the crowd.
During one intermission, JPEG announced that Freaky was in the house, which was met with wild applause. Freaky then took the stage for a special rendition of “I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump.” He rocked his receding hairline, with his remaining hair tied into a bun and ripped off lyrics like “I might vote for Donald Trump, just to say I did it. I might blindly fall into a group of friends full of bigots.”
The show was defined by the energy of the crowd and JPEG’s stage presence. JPEG regularly interacted with the fans, pausing between every song for funny bits, monologues of genuine appreciation, or playful jumps off the stage to sing in the middle of the floor. When he did this, fans did not swarm, but left room for the artist to perform. In a touching moment between songs, he acknowledged how happy he is that people have started listening to his music because two years ago he would “perform to nobody.” He said that he chose to play in a smaller venue because he wanted to be with the crowd and love everyone.
As the show wound down, JPEG got off the stage and headed to the merch table, where he stood and hugged every single fan who crowded around hoping to touch him, showing that he has nothing but love for every single audience member who has come to support him. JPEG’s shows are filled with energy and the small intimate venue ensures that these shows will leave fans with lasting memories.