Jai Wolf opens ’00s indie-dance time capsule at ACL Fest 2019
For a producer of such chill music, Jai Wolf has been working overtime at ACL Fest 2019, possibly getting more visibility than any non-headlining artist over the two weekend—other than Lizzo. But seriously, nobody’s going to top that.
Not only has Jai Wolf played both weekends and an evening show, he played twice in the first weekend after being tapped to fill in for rapper and semi-habitual show-canceler Lil Uzi Vert. (No telling yet if Jai Wolf will be working a double again this weekend or if Lil Uzi Vert will actually show for this evening’s scheduled performance at 6 p.m.)
Jai Wolf, the alias of NYC-based producer Sajeeb Saha, was a lone wolf on the stage with a sparse state setup. He mouthed along to the words on pre-recorded guest vocal tracks and moved from foot to foot with the beat with a boxer’s rhythm, punching out icy sounds from a semicircle of synth pads in front of him. Behind him, candy-neon “Tron” landscapes and the occasional music video. In front of him, the air was bitter cold and the crowd was on fire.
“Last week I was wearing shorts because it was so hot, but today it's [expletive] freezing,” Saba said. “But that’s OK. We'll bring the heat.”
And bring the heat he did. Jai Wolf cracked open a time capsule of turn-of-the-decade indie-dance tunes. His “Drive” soundtrack synths drew a surprisingly sizable and active early afternoon crowd on his ACL Fest 2019 set Friday. Was it the cold or the beats? Maybe the masses were pushing in to swap body heat in a random spot that just happened to be in front of Jai Wolf’s stage. And all the dancing and waving of hands? It could be credited to an attempt to keep the blood flowing. But really it was the beats.
Though there are blinding bright visuals and well-timed fire-extinguisher fog blasts on stage, Jai Wolf’s dance party was more M83 than Skrillex, particularly material from his latest album, “The Cure to Loneliness.” It all has that familiar ’80s-via-the-2010s synth-pop sound. Which isn’t intended as a knock. There’s plenty of room for the sound. M83 is making soundtracks for imaginary old-school fantasy video games and Phoenix is doing… whatever Phoenix does between albums. (Reading French philosophy books on chairs constructed out of dollar bills?) And, if today’s show is any indication, there’s still an audience for it.