The man audiences had been waiting for had slyly prowled on stage in an unassuming dark hoodie, and there was a pause. The mic turned on. “Check, check.” His voice cut through the momentary silence, his hood dropped and JPEGMAFIA’s devotees rushed toward the stage. They crushed the poor, bruised fanatics who had waited hours for the opportunity to see him up close — who now found themselves uncomfortably jammed against the stage, still reaching out and doing everything within their power to touch the artist. Like the white foam of a raging tide, hordes of internet music nerds and forum browsers shifted back and forth, to-and-fro, as if they were being directly pushed and pulled by their enigmatic idol.
That’s part of what draws fans to his performances. JPEGMAFIA has a visceral influence on his fan base which was put on display by the mostly teenage, entirely young Bay Area crowd at the New Parish on Oct. 16. The venue was visibly sold out, the floor mashed full of belligerent suburbanites with their bellies full on one drink too many, obeying the commands of their idol as he too freed all of his pent up frustration — addressing topics like overnight fame, keyboard warriors and the pressures of living as a millenial. Maybe it’s JPEGMAFIA’s shrewd wordplay or his relevant subject matter, but one thing is for certain: He brings a raw, personal intensity that awakens the instinctual excitement in his fans, enabling seemingly tame, unsuspecting kids to let loose.
Beginning with JPEGMAFIA’s opener Butch Dawson, the crowd was ready to party, toting finger guns and singing along to the catchy hook of his standout song “Trigger.” For this track, Dawson decided to switch things up, offering a fan in the audience the chance to be his hype man for the song. A tall boy, referred to by Dawson as “Woozy,” peeked out of the crowd with his arm raised high above the swarms of fans. He joined Dawson on stage, doing everything he could to overstay his welcome. Eventually he was booted off so Dawson could finish his set.
Without knowing much about the man his fans call “Peggy,” you could tell what JPEGMAFIA stands for from the stage he chose to perform on. It was minimal. There was nothing but a table draped in classy black cloth, a simple laptop with no fancy DJ software or mixing board. Instead, it was just Apple Music, from which he played all the songs for the night — and JPEGMAFIA. Everything had a purpose, in the same way each stammer in his beats or seemingly random sample in his music has a purpose. JPEGMAFIA takes the little he has and does the most with it — he’s not a fan of gimmicks, decorations or the smoke and mirrors. Instead, he draws solely on his spastic energy and fan interaction for as long as his body can handle it. If his fans were going to sweat, he was determined to sweat harder.
When two fans decided they were going to stage dive during the clipped screams of “Real N—,” he responded by diving four times throughout the night. While the fans were moshing to the mechanical banger “Puff Daddy,” he hopped around the metal floor as if it were piping hot. When suburban hipsters, denim-clad and pants cuffed, belted the earworm chorus of “Free the Frail,” one of the breakout tracks from the album he is currently touring, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, JPEGMAFIA serenaded them back with beautiful crispy auto-tune, putting his all into every word for the sake of his fans.
Toward his set’s end, without prompting a fan shouted for JPEGMAFIA to play his morose, lo-fi cut “Rainbow Six” from the album Veteran. Obeying the fan, “Peggy” indeed ended his set with the crowd favorite, proving his dedication to his fans and reminding the crowd that he was just like them not even two years ago. With his Oakland show, JPEGMAFIA showed his remarkably loyal supporters a good time and humility, truly giving his all to those who give their all to him. After his long, dense show he decided to stay behind even longer to meet fans and sign autographs at the merchandise table — further proving that everything he does, he does for his fans.
Highlights: “Beta Male Strategies,” “Real N—,” “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies,” “Grimy Waifu,” “Puff Daddy” and “Free the Frail.”