When I heard Jai Wolf was going to perform here on May 30th, I could not contain my excitement. This show, thrown by Relentless Beats, was held at the Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. His album, released early April this year, was aptly-named ‘The Cure to Loneliness’. His tour, titled the same, would take place across the US and overseas as well.
I had stumbled across his music on Spotify, and was immediately drawn to his songs. Jai Wolf’s sound is extremely unique. He mixes a blend of old-school musical elements, mingled with hip-hop and pop. The result is simply exquisite.
The line to get in was long, but moved fairly quickly. Outside, people were mingling and talking over drinks and the occasional grub. I noted people dressed mostly in regular clothes, but also spotted some rave wear in the audience, bodysuits, fishnets and the like. To my amusement, I even spotted a guy in a banana costume. The event was, to my relief, packed with just the right amount of people. I had just enough room to dance.
I arrived there early but had just missed the first opener, Midoca. The second opener, Giraffage, clad in white, played an interesting set. He played lots of throwbacks: rap, hip-hop and a wide variety of genres mixed with electronic ones. Not only that, he even threw some heavier, bassy tracks in his set. He also played Sage the Gemini’s ‘Gas Pedal’ mixed with Owl City’s ‘Fireflies,’ and the result was unexpectedly good. Around me, I could hear gasps and reactions of surprise and shock from people to this mix. He then played a bright, happy song, kind of a faster-paced version of Toto’s ‘Africa.’ An uptempo version of Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A 1000 Miles’ had everyone singing loudly along with one another.
Giraffage was such an unpredictable DJ. Indeed, he kept the audience on our toes. What would he play next? The lights, in shades of purple all over the venue, was a splendid sight to see. His last song was a future bass song, a fast-paced tune that had everyone bopping.
A brief intermission followed Giraffage’s set. The crowd buzzed, restless in anticipation for Jai Wolf to appear. A song started playing, the perfect start to his set. It was grand and symphonic, beautifully fitting to his tour’s theme: ‘A Cure to Loneliness.’ He appeared, all in black with a black cap. He had an electronic drum kit, along with other music gear set up on stage. Behind him was a backdrop full of stunning visuals, perfectly moving in time to his tunes.
After saying a quick hello to us, he started playing. Some of his songs, very eighties-esque, were melodies full of nostalgia, akin to M83’s ‘Midnight City.’ They reminded me of happy, carefree summers: driving down highways with the top down, hair blowing in the wind, feeling as free as a bird. He played on his drum kit, his rhythm making the crowd move.
As he launched into a live version of Odesza’s ‘Say My Name,’ the crowd went wild and sang along to every word. The visuals behind him were a swiftly-moving backdrop of scenes in nature. You could tell he loved the audience’s energy as he asked to sing the chorus with the song. Then the melody changed, and to my surprise, it was a remix. Not only that, but a future bass one at that, with grand horns. It gave me chills down my spine. Moving quickly to a bright, fast-paced, poppy song, he had the crowd dancing happily as they chanted ‘ooh ooh, ooh ooh.’
Some of his set was a little darker and heavier in tone, but still wonderfully complex. His visuals were simple, yet seemed fitting with his music. The lighting would change to the mood of his songs, strangely beguiling. His slower songs were mournful and melodic, as the crowd murmured with emotion. Jai Wolf really knew how to get in everyone’s feels. As his set neared the end, he said to us,
“Thank you, Phoenix. I’ve gotten so many requests to come here and have finally did. You guys did not disappoint.”
His gratitude to us as an audience felt heartfelt and sincere. He then played one of his hit songs, ‘Starlight,’ full of melodic echoes and longings. At first, he left the stage, but the crowd kept chanting for him to come back. Finally, he acquiesced, and appeared back for his final song ‘Indian Summer.’ This song, the one that shot him to stardom in June 2015 was the perfect track to end his set.
His music was really a journey—of happiness, of laughter, of sadness, of joy. Jai Wolf’s sets contain the essence of youth: innocence and freedom.The name of his album and tour is perfectly fitting to his style of music. His melodies are equally wistful as they are beautiful. His music speaks to the longings of the soul. If you haven’t seen Jai Wolf before, I recommend catching one of his sets in future. Indeed, you will not be disappointed.