The night was still fairly young and sultry, yet the city felt ever so inviting as we approached the location of the concert: PhilaMOCA. PhilaMOCA remained an enigma to me for the better part of my youth, as I missed many of the great show that came to that venue because of a miscellaneous personal conflict. It felt as though the building had said this upon my arrival: “Where have you been ?” And just whom was I to see that night? One JPEGMAFIA, who I had thought the same thing towards: “Peggy, where you been at?” Luckily, that all became answered upon his booking of this terrific show at the PhilaMOCA this past Tuesday.
JPEGMAFIA’s opening act, local Philadelphia rock band Joy Again, warmed up the crowd with their blend of emo, indie, and funk. They were the better of the opening acts that I had seen at a show in a while—as they maintained great energy, innovative songs and excellent performances together than any other had in recent memory. Unfortunately, they are a band that is much better live than on record, so they are a local band you will not want to miss anytime soon. They were an odd fit to open for an experimental rap show, but you must trust me, somehow it worked fabulously.
When Joy Again left the stage, I had grown weary of just how intense Peggy’s set would be—it gave me the urge to run up to the upper level and relieve myself. Unfortunately for me, I heard a loud cheering from the crowd as I failed to finish prior to Peggy’s entering the stage. I made it down on time for his performance, as he was only practicing with soundchecks. However, this soundcheck turned into soundcheck 2.0 with an soundcheck performance of his collaborative track with Denzel Curry, “Vengeance.” The crowd went absolutely bonkers, and it gave me the basic idea of how the remainder of the set would be like.
The opening track to his latest album “Veteran,” “1539 N. Calvert,” followed as the proper set opener. The crowd maximizes its previous efforts by doubling up on themselves, managing to push me all the way to the front and constricted between the monitors and the people behind me. Next proceeded the next couple songs on the record, including the calmer jam, “Thug Tears.” Well, calmer on record, anyway, despite JPEGMAFIA screaming the vocals. All the while, no matter how low-key the track was, the crowd continued to break 100,000 sweats to maintain a strong mosh pit. I was all for it- after all, how could I resist, considering how great the tunes were?
JPEGMAFIA ran through a number of lesser known tracks, including the highlight of the evening, “I Cannot F*****g” Wait Until Morrissey Dies,” protesting the legendary singer’s racist t-shirt concept, featuring late African American author James Baldwin as well as racially suggestive lyrics that Morrissey had written. The song’s performance got everybody on the side of Peggy, when it came to their collective stance on Morrissey: “F*** him!” But the real cherry on top of this evening was the performance of his most beloved track, “Baby I’m Bleeding, causing me to completely collapse on the base of the stage. The entire show managed to tire the performer himself completely out—a feat that didn’t seem entirely possible considering the level of energy he displayed throughout the show.
The best part of the night? The realization of just how great of a person JPEGMAFIA really is through his offer of a personal photo with the man himself to anyone who wanted one. My friend and I even got exclusive word of a future collaboration with a secret artist… none of which I know for sure is declassified, so I will share no specifics in print (sorry). If you ever catch me in person, feel free to ask me about it and anything else about the show. I would be happy to share anything with you, because as my first hip hop show, I have a feeling future shows will struggle to top it. If you ever catch a JPEGMAFIA show coming to the area, I advise you act fast on those tickets, because with the rate of growth he is experiencing, many more people will act faster than you in the future.
Gabe Sagherian is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. ✉ GS889554@wcupa.edu.