Joelistics began his set talking to a room of seated people, but within 10 minutes it was a completely different story. The Melbournian artist opened with a didactic spoken-word rap – no beats, no music – called “I Am By Virtue”, and it was then that everyone in the room knew it was going to be a special gig. Not only because of his clear verses, or the confidence he displayed as he took to the stage, but because of the content covered and the meaning behind his rhymes. Joelistics is an artist who not only thinks, but makes his audience think too, and it was warming to see the small crowd at Transit Bar recognise and appreciate such a rare performer.
Rhythmically his flow was nothing short of the mark, and it was with practiced hands that he took the mic and filled the small room with his thoughts. “Glorious Feeling” and “Days”, from Joelistics latest release Voyager, lit the room up with excitement, but that’s not to say the rest of his set didn’t either. We were lucky enough to be treated to an old TZU track, and a cover of a cover – Joelistics covering TZU’s cover of You Am I’s “Heavy Heart”. To see Joel Ma bring out an acoustic guitar and sing to us all in such an intimate setting not only displayed his broad musical talent, but changed the pace of his set. It threw things around a bit, and often that can be a good thing.
It would be unfair to say Joelistics sounded like his recordings – he sounded better. Even standing right next to the speaker, it sounded brilliant in the tiny bar, which can be attributed to Ishu, who not only filled a support slot but played the role of sound guy as well. The improvisation from Joelistics and DJ Soup added an extra element of anticipation that soaked into the audience. After bringing out some special items for the set, no one really knew what to expect, but our patience was rewarded by what I’m fairly certain was some truly inspiring freestyling.
It was warming to see Joelistics standing on the edge of the stage, smiling out at the few people who had turned out to see him play. His performance cemented him as one of the most talented hip-hop artists we have. Clear verses, strong rhythms, and a deserved confidence with the mic: Joelistics gave us not only a strong performance, but something to think about as we left Transit to brave Canberra’s cold.