The eye-popping line-up of Joyland was a who’s who of Indonesia’s indie and pop music scene – and yet there was still one unexpected guest up the Bali festival’s sleeve. As Yura Yunita rounded off her afternoon set on its first day, Indonesian president Joko Widodo showed up at the venue Taman Bhagawan – unannounced and accompanied by some of his cabinet ministers, including Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno. The singer dedicated her song ‘Harus Bahagia’ (‘Gotta Be Happy’) to Jokowi, who gamely grooved to the beat.
The president’s presence at Joyland sent a message to any remaining doubters: offline music festivals are back, and this one was in government officials’ good graces. The next question was: would Joyland provide the celebration expected of the first large-scale music festival after the advent of COVID-19?
That was where the headliners came in. It was a given that artists would relishing the joy of performing again to the madding crowd, but the headliners seemed especially amped up to prove that two years of isolation did not atrophy their showmanship muscles. The rising rapper Basboi showcased his 2021 debut album ‘Adulting For Dummies’ with the help of Matter Mos, while Danilla Riyadi perfected her recent sonic transformation by shaking her booty to ‘Kudikan’ (‘Scab’) and rocking a punk version of the originally jazzy ‘Senja Di Ambang Pilu’ (‘Twilight on the Verge of Sorrow’).
Hard rock quartet The SIGIT’s high-energy performance re-ignited crowd surfing, particularly during ‘Black Amplifier’. Isyana Sarasvati made use of her Joyland slot to demonstrate the heavy metal exploration she has been teasing since 2020’s ‘UNLOCK THE KEY’.
When it came to singalong moments, nothing worked more better than beloved pop throwbacks. Raisa practically had the entire crowd as her backing vocalists when she took on Kahitna’s classic ‘Mantan Terindah’ (‘Beautiful Ex’), and Maliq & D’essentials brought Joyland back to the aughts with their past catalogue, including the fan favourite ‘Untitled’.
While all attendees were expected to wear masks and provide evidence of full vaccination, physical distancing was off the table – though to be fair, it was understandably difficult not to squeeze into the crowd and hug each other once the keyboard chords of Pamungkas’ romantic hit ‘To the Bone’ blasted through the PA.
There were, inevitably, a few dud moments along the way. Things turned slightly awkward when White Shoes & The Couples Company completely botched the lyrics of their 2021 single ‘Folklor’ (‘Folklore’), their vocalist bashfully reasoning that it had been a while since the last time they performed at a festival as huge as Joyland.
Both Kunto Aji and Nadin Amizah suffered from audio glitches during the early songs of their set, though they eventually managed to recollect and redeem themselves: the former with the crowd-pleaser ‘Rehat’ (‘Rest’) and the latter with the feel-good ‘Bertaut’ (‘Connected’). Monsoon rain nearly forced Joyland to end with a whimper, but DJ duo Diskoria’s synth-heavy twist on Reza Artamevia’s 2002 magnum opus ‘Berharap Tak Berpisah’ (‘I Hope We Don’t Split Up’) prove magical enough to turn a muddy field into a climactic dancefloor.
Not all the action at Joyland was reserved for the main stage. The smaller Ambruk stage was positioned on a lower ground of the festival venue and accommodated far fewer punters, but its claustrophobic atmosphere felt particularly advantageous for Bali-based Gabber Modus Operandi. Accompanied by dancer Siko Setyanto, the electro-noise DJ duo turned what felt like a basement into a headbanging hellscape for attendees who were looking for edgier fare.
While the music acts were busy re-learning how to entertain a crowd of thousands, Joyland’s comedy acts were focusing on airing material they couldn’t possibly take to mainstream Indonesian media. Rising stand-up comics Oza Rangkuti and Marshel Widianto, in particular, took no prisoners as they riffed about sex, religion, politics and misinformation. There was also a scheduled screening of some of Indonesia’s quirkiest short films, though the viewing location was mostly occupied by concertgoers looking for a breather and a quick nap than actual cinephiles.
It was not for nothing, after all, when promoters Plainsong Live stated in their press release that they were aiming for rich and progressive entertainment with this year’s Joyland. On top of a geographically diverse line-up, booking pop juggernauts such as Pamungkas and Raisa in the same programme as indie darlings like Grrrl Gang and Bedchamber resulted in an eclectic festival experience.
Will the Indonesian music festivals coming after Joyland be able to reach the same heights? They should bring their A-game, especially now that we have finally earned the right (and the approval) to enjoy music at its wildest.