Getting real: Jessie Reyez takes audience on a ‘first date’ at Outside Lands

Outside Lands/
Outside Lands / / Courtesy

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As Jessie Reyez announced to the crowd gathered around the Twin Peaks stage on Saturday, she likes to treat her concerts like first dates. If this is true, then the 27-year-old singer-songwriter is not afraid to reveal her most intimate beliefs to a virtual stranger — or, in the case of her performance on Saturday, to hundreds of virtual strangers.

Though part of the music scene for more than a few years, Reyez rose to prominence in 2016 with the widespread success of her single, “Figures.” Since then, she has released an EP, Kiddo, and a smattering of singles.

The artist drew primarily from her singles during her appearance, each of which she used to further familiarize viewers with her values. “Body Count,” she explained, revolves around loving who you want to love and “dodging” unwanted advances — a music video in the background overlayed video clips with flying eggplant emojis, making it seem as if those on film were subverting the speedy vegetables.

As a preface to “Gatekeeper,” she discussed the pressures she faced to sexually please powerful men when beginning her career as a musician (in addition to the song, Reyez also created a short film about this experience). It was a moving statement of unwillingness to bend to expectations that have so long remained the norm.    

Even without Reyez’s commentary, her trademark squeaky, forceful vocals and large stage presence earned her the raucous approval of onlookers after each set. In a particularly moving moment, Reyez spoke about coming to terms with her self-perception. “I like being ugly because then if they love, I know that they love me for real,” Reyez chanted, head raised toward the sky and eyes brimming with tears.

Reyez also did not hesitate to bring attention to a politicized — and, for her, quite personal — issue: immigration. The child of Colombian immigrants, Reyez gave a shoutout to all the immigrants and children of immigrants present.

For those in attendance, Reyez’s set brought to life the reputation she has built for herself, not only as a Latina singer carving her niche in popular music, but also as an activist unafraid to combat sexist policies.

“Whatever you pray for,” she advised viewers in what she deemed the concert’s most important takeaway, “don’t fuck up when it comes into your life and it doesn’t look how you think it will.” Though Reyez’s path to that Outside Lands stage has not been linear, her prayers, for one, seem to have come true in a very tangible way.

Ryan Tuozzolo covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @_rtuo.