Yaeji and Jessy Lanza Take Over White Oak Music Hall

Written by Leslie Campos

Photo by Rafael Elorza

Opening the show is a young artist from Canada, Jessy Lanza. She is greeted well by the audience. Out with her comes Jessi on the synths, while Jessy takes center stage. The night starts with “Anyone Around”, a fun and upbeat song. Immediately the crowd starts feeling it, not a stiff body in sight. 

Then transitioning to the next song, comes out Angie, Jessy’s sister, and percussionist. We evolve into a light and dreamy track, “Lick in Heaven” and the crazy amount of reverb on the mic makes it all the more trippy. The screen behind the artists shows a music video of people dancing and clapping to the beat, mirroring that of the crowd. A couple of songs in and I really get the sense that Jessy is just playing around and dancing on stage as if she’s in her bedroom. It’s hard to tell where songs end and start, i’m just here to be a part of this smooth journey. 

The background then turns into a grainy and psychedelic vhs tape type filter showing the singer onstage. As she mentions, “how good it feels to be here”, I concluded that musically this is a great opener for Yaeji. Both artists reside in the same realm of electronic music but live on very different sides. Changing it up, she starts singing an r&b/ hip hop type track. The set is very comforting and easily lures you into a chill headspace, making it a fun place to escape. 

To keep the crowd up, Jessy plays, a super catchy pop track that seems straight out of the 80’s. Here she steps from behind her keyboard to sing front and center to the crowd, a free-spirited performer. Once making her way back, she suddenly slips on an electric instrument of some sort and I start getting flashbacks from band camp. Next thing you know, she’s playing the saxophone and the crowd goes crazy. She brings classical and orchestral wind instruments to the main stage in a super interesting and unique way. Given her musicality, one can tell that this is not done as something gimmicky but as something to truly enhance the music, adding even more depth than before.

Nearing the end of her set, we get into a jumpy and upbeat song, sounding something like an 8-bit video game soundtrack. Getting everyone to clap along, she transitions into an almost techno beat. With the feeling that this turned into more of like a rave, this song becomes my personal favorite track of her set. The crowd starts filling up more and more as Yaeji’s set time approaches. With another dancy track, she showcases her high and clean siren-like vocals that pierce and float over the instrumental. The crowd consistently being incredibly vocal and supportive. As Jessy expresses acknowledgment of her group mates and endless gratitude for the crowd, a final song marks the end of her successful set. 

Photo by Rafael Elorza

A very diverse crowd starts forming, and a wide range of ethnic and different age groups fill the venue. 

Submerge FM” pours out of the gigantic speakers and my heart skips a little when Yaeji comes out and starts her choreography. We go straight into “For Granted”, following the lineup of her debut album, With A Hammer. The choreography feels simple but intentional, and when the bridge hits, she just goes off and dances like crazy almost moshing, clearly having a great time. 

At this point, we see nothing but a mic stand on stage but the visuals with the projection and the lights are so well thought out that it doesn’t feel bare. She calmly commands the whole stage by herself. Greeting us with a smiley, “What’s up Houston?”, Yaeji shares with us the process of starting her album. She discusses not knowing what to do and how in a lot of ways it’s yet to be finished. Letting us in, she lets us know that it’s gone through so many different forms, and through this process, she’s been learning a lot about anger. 

Following this breakdown, she plays the namesake track, as she sits in a chair. Her backup dancer is pushing her around while she “drives”. Yet another dancer emerges and I watch in awe. Maybe it’s my personal bias but the lights during the set I think were a huge highlight of the show. I feel like I’m watching a music video, the artists create so many picture-like moments, and the lights shine perfectly in their faces, and the music is blasting, the speakers vibrating throughout my whole body. (Note to self/everyone else, always brings ear plugs to shows.) 

Yaeji makes a seamless transition between English and Korean in her tracks, making it hard to even distinguish between the two. Yet impressively, even when one doesn’t know Korean, her body and other lyrics are so expressive that you just get it. Everything about the show is so clearly well-rehearsed but still feels new and fresh. I figured out that it’s because of how genuine of a performance they’re putting out. Again, with the set design, it’s super cool how every song has a unique color scheme and feel. And there is a raw energy and great chemistry between her and her dancers, making it impossible to look away. Back to our single prop, our beloved chair with wheels, I fall in love with rapper Yaeji. Given how soft and delicate her voice sounds, I thought that it’d be unnatural to hear her aggressively rapping but she pulls it off so well. Once on the ground, she’s physically expressing her anger by stomping on the ground. All the while, her vocals never falter, showing great breath support despite being well into her set. 

To change it up a tad bit, “Passed Me By” comes on and there’s such good energy to go around. The track slows down what has felt like a lot of emotions. Though the album centers on anger, this almost feels like the acceptance stage of grief. Acknowledging how difficult it’s been but how it will also all fade. It’s truly a pleasure to feel this performance live. As she prances around on “Michin”, I feel as though this is one of my favorite concerts in a long time. It’s not just someone singing on stage but it’s a real production, with calibrated choreography and careful concepts. Everything is done with a backstory and with intention. Anytime Yaeji walks off, the audience is kept entertained by extreme close up and personal acappella recordings of her songs. 

After her second video, she abruptly comes out on stage with THE hammer and ‘breaks’ the screen. A broken down version of “Raingurl” starts playing and once it reaches the regular tempo, the crowd starts raging. Reaching the chorus, the lights are up and the entire crowd is jumping up and down and singing in unison about the ‘mother Russia they have in their cup’. She makes her way off the stage after the song is finished but the crowd isn’t having any of it. They’re roaring and begging for her return, and we she does, we’re blessed with “Done (Let’s Get It”). Once we witness a loving embrace from her and her dancers after and she thanks us for a wonderful night. However, due to the loving and loud crowd, she comes back for a few encores including “One More” and “Drink I’m Sippin’ On”. 

Overall, the show was great, the performances were well executed, there were really no hiccups at all, and the crowd was engaged and passionate. To put it simply, it was a fun time and another exceptional one for the books.

Photo by Rafael Elorza

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