Around this time two years ago, Indonesia’s entertainment industry was left helpless as the COVID-19 pandemic swallowed the country. Movie theaters and concert stages were devoid of their biggest income – the audience.

The pandemic is by no means over, but the current health situation has progressed to the point where people feel a little safer being together again. And so, the Indonesian entertainment industry and audience have gleefully welcomed the return of offline gatherings this year.

But no return has been so seemingly awaited as the 2022 Joyland Bali music festival. Postponed since 2020, the Jakarta-based festival finally had its debut in Bali on March 25 to 27 with top-billing musicians on the line-up and a wide array of entertainment, including film screenings and stand-up shows. The Jakarta Post was invited to join in the festivities.

The extensive venue of the Bhagawan Park in Nusa Dua, Bali, showed off the serene Nusa Dua beach as its backdrop with Bali’s traditional architecture accentuating the space.

Big audience, big performances

The first day of the festival went with a bang thanks to the surf rock band The Panturas and the electronic group Agrikulture with Rock N Roll Mafia on the main stage. Pop’s big names like Yura Yunita, Nadin Amizah and Danilla also serenaded the audience, the latter giving the fans a taste of some dangdut tunes.

Indie band Lomba Sihir made the crow​d dance hard before retro-pop outfit White Shoes & The Couples Company closed the first night. With never-ending stamina, the legendary group also had a small sing-along in th​e

Guinness Booth corner two days later.

“Those who are tired of the main stage, come here now!” cello player Rick​y said jokingly to the crowd’s cheers.

The second day saw a variety of pop and hip-hop contemporaries get more personal with the audience, with fans loudly singing along to soloist Kunto Aji’s songs.

“The live interaction was very heartfelt, I really enjoyed it,” Kunto said to the Post on March 26. He was grateful for the closeness that an offline show provided. “The fans – their stories and interpretations – are what make these songs come alive,” he added.

Meanwhile, Medan rapper Basboi, at his first-ever festival, had fun explaining his roots to the audience before jumping in.

Operatic Singer-songwriter Isyana Sarasvati belts out her latest tunes while playing the keyboard at Joyland Bali 2022 on March 27. JOYLAND BALI

“I felt very happy, very blessed,” Basboi told the Post. “Hopefully, festivals as big as this become the routine, not just in Bali or Jakarta but also in other regions across Indonesia,” he added.

The field became full to the brim as Indonesia’s pop diva Raisa belted out some of her biggest hits in the evening.

The second day saw some of its wildest sets from harder-sounding bands. Yogyakarta experimental band Senyawa delivered apocalyptic screams and growls from vocalist Rully with industrial noises coming from instrumentalist Wukir. Later on, the return of revered Bandung rock band The S.I.G.I.T. brought the audience bouncing with heavy guitar riffs and frontman Rekti’s screaming vocals.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Kumaha? [How are you?]” Rekti said. Later, 2000’s indie rock band The Adams came on stage, performing nostalgic hits for the crowd.

Cloudy skies appeared on the third day of Joyland, but the performers kept up the same energy, with the musical group SoulFood providing the funk and two of Indonesia’s leading indie-pop bands Bedchamber and Grrrl Gang opening to large cheers from the audience.

“I was a bit nervous because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, right?” Grrrl Gang frontwoman Angee told the Post on March 27. But bassist Akbar added that seeing “people coming back again to festivals was such a joy”.

The audience was packed as they came when soloist Isyana Sarasvati appeared on stage. Donning a goth outfit and make-up, Isyana performed the classical-slash-progressive-rock pieces from her 2019 album LEXICON. Despite taking off her pop persona, she never shied away from joking around with the crowd, something she is famous for.

“I always try to give my best on stage,” the singer/songwriter told the Post before the show. “Each audience has a different energy. And thankfully, I’m quick to adapt.”

Unfortunately, rain started trickling down during the set of singer/songwriter Pamungkas, who made the audience swoon after Maliq & D’Essentials’ fun set. And when the disco duo Diskoria came on, it poured heavily. But many weathered the rain with umbrellas and raincoats. Almost the entire field was still full of people singing and dancing to songs like Reza Artamevia’s “Berharap Tak Berpisah” (Hope We Aren’t Apart) and Naif’s “Air dan Api” (Water and Fire).

Grassroots’ dominance

Even as the crowds were standing outside, the booming sound from the Lily Pad area’s Ambruk Stage and DJ Sets were felt throughout the day. Those who wanted to rave descended the stairs of the wantilan (Balinese pavilion) on the left side of the park.

Collaborating with Ravepasar’s multi-discipline initiative, the brainchild of electronic duo Gabber Modus Operandi, the Lily Pad underground stage was filled with high-energy electronic and industrial bops that allowed the crowd to lose themselves.

“We want to [see] our grassroots talents here, because they are part of the global [movement],” one-half of Gabber Modus Operandi, Ican Harem, said to the Post.

And Ravepasar’s curated artists proved themselves as such. The underground room was set alive with vicious rap from Bandung rapper Krowbar, the endless dance beats from keyboardist Herman Barus, and the laser-flashing gabber music from the initiative’s creators themselves. Also fresh off his Biennale Jogja XVI set last year was the Wamena musician Asep Nayak, bringing wisisi music (West Papuan traditional music) to the audience’s delight.

“A lot of my friends are learning the [genre], but they’re not here so I’m serving as their representative,” Asep told the Post on March 25, wishing his friends could be invited in the future. “I don’t want to be alone in future festivals,” he saiMovies and stand-up

Joyland’s entire set went beyond music. On one side of the main stage was the Cinerillaz area where people could watch short films during the breaks between artists. The shorts varied from festival award-winning films like Dear to Me and Laut Memanggilku (The Sea is Calling Me) to the long-awaited live performance film of the White Shoes & The Couples Company.

Jazz and soul group Maliq & D’Essentials entertain the capacity-crowd who sing along to their hits at Joyland Bali 2022 on March 27. JOYLAND BALI

“These films are curated to serve as the performer’s opener [on the main stage], in a way,” film programmer and curator Alexander Matius said to the Post on March 26, explaining the festival’s synergy of music and movies.

On the other side of the stage was the Shrooms Garden where stand-up comedians performed. Renowned comedians from Marshel Widianto to “Cing” Abdel Achrian showcased their materials and filled the crowd with laughter.

The audience was in constant movement from one stage to another. Some sat across the food and beverages stands while others tried out various skills from clay-making to tote-bag-drawing in the White Peacock area.

G20 promo

Music aside, the festival became a reminder of Indonesia’s presidency in the 17th summit of the intergovernmental Group of 20 (G20) forum, which will take place in Bali this November. This was reinforced by the arrival of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his team of ministers as well as the National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo.

Sitting with Raisa and comedian Cak Lontong on the mini circular stage near the booths, Jokowi talked about the great comeback of music festivals and G20’s importance for Indonesia.

“This G20 is a group of big countries with a big gross domestic product, so we should be proud of being in it and now being the G20 president,” Jokowi said.

The talk continued the following day with State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Erick Thohir mentioning Indonesia’s readiness for the G20 summit.

But the government officials did not stop the audience from enjoying the music. Jokowi strolled through the site when he arrived on March 25, enjoying Yura Yunita’s music with the crowd, showing that this was about the grand return of live music, after all.