88rising’s Head In The Clouds Goes Big Brookside At The Rose Bowl
LOS ANGELES, CA- On November 5th, 2021, the first night of Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival 2021, a “crowd crush” resulted in the deaths of, as of November 17th, 2021, 10 people. Hundreds more were treated for injuries. As the first-hand accounts, reports, and lawsuits come in, it would appear that there were multiple points of failure at this music festival that resulted in this tragedy. Needless to say, this was the topic of conversation for many who were waiting in line to get into 88rising’s Head In The Clouds Festival held at the Brookside At The Rose Bowl.
I have to admit that my level of apprehension about attending a music festival, my first since Covid reared its nasty head, and in light of learning that people had literally had their life’s breath squeezed out of them in an unregulated, packed crowd, had me concerned about my general safety and well being. On a scale of 1 to 10, I can honestly I was feeling a 5. But I figured that I’d simply keep my wits about myself and make sure that I wasn’t putting myself in any compromising positions.
It was a beautiful day for a festival, and 88Rising curated one hell of a lineup for its two-day extravaganza.
If you aren’t familiar with 88rising, it’s a company that was founded in 2015 by Sean Miyashiro & Jaeson Ma and focused on music management. Since its inception, it has evolved into more than a management company, but and has successfully developed a record label, video production, and marketing company.
What makes 88rising’s business model unique is that they focus on Asian American and Asian artists, and with the recent rise of international pop acts like BTS and Blackpink, they couldn’t be in a better position to capitalize on America’s seemingly unrequited infatuation with anything Asian. Their Head In The Clouds festival made its debut on September 22, 2018, and was more hip-hop and R&B centric featuring artists from both the United States and Asia. It was, as far as I know, the first major Asian-centric music festival in the United States.
This year’s Head In The Clouds festival market it’s third outing (2020’s festival in Jakarta was canceled due to the pandemic), and its lineup really covered a broad range of musical genres. From indie/alt Rock (Japanese Breakfast, BeaBadoobee) to punk (The Linda Lindas) to R&B (Bibi, Niki, UMI) to Hip Hop (Rich Brian, DPR Live) to lo-fi trip-hop (Joji) to folk (Luna Li), this line-up literally had something for everybody. With only two stages, and set times that hardly overlapped, you could technically catch a little bit of every performer’s performance throughout each of the two days.
And even if there was a part of the day where the music didn’t appeal to you, there was plenty to do around the festival grounds to keep you occupied. Sponsored booths gave you the chance.. as long as you were willing to wait in line… to win free Head In the Clouds schwag, or play some Dance Dance Revolution against a friend. Cool art installations served as the perfect locations to take Instagram-worthy photos and if you had some extra money to spend you could purchase festival-branded designer goods that are sure to become collectibles in a few years.
As I crossed the festival grounds over the two days, any concerns that resided in the back of my mind about festival safety gradually dissipated. Though there were tens of thousands of attendees on the festival grounds, it never felt crowded or claustrophobic. It also didn’t hurt that the weather was wonderfully pleasant; the perfect southern-California sun added to the general sense of calm and ease.
What also gave me a sense of ease was the fact that the festival staff was very proactive making sure that patron safety was addressed through the festivities. At the front of the stage, where some fans had basically camped all day to get the best spot to catch their favorite artists, free bottles of water were handed out to anybody who need one. It became a bit of a sport between sets tossing bottles out to outstretched hands that were 10-15 rows deep.
Announcements were also made between sets when it appeared that certain parts of the crowd became too congested for comfort. Thankfully, when the voice through the speakers asked the crowd to take a step back, the crowd did it en masse without complaint or snarky comment. Even several artists made it a point to remind the audience to keep an eye out for each other during the day. The fact that both the staff and talent had the audience’s well-being top of mind was reassuring.
That’s not to say that the festival’s medic team was left with nothing to do. At a festival of this size, there is bound to be a handful of people who sprain an ankle …. drink too much … lose it on drugs… it’s a numbers game, no event this big finishes with a perfect record. In fact, I actually helped a girl get medical attention when she passed out and her boyfriend was yelling for help. Security was easy to locate, and one of those medic gold carts rolled through shortly after security called for it.
The inevitable hiccups notwithstanding, I’ve got to give it up to the production team for this festival. From the outside looking in, this festival went about as smooth and as easy as it could. Sure, there could have been a few more lights in the darker parts of the festival grounds, and some walkways, particularly on the GA side of the barrier that separated GA from VIP, could have been kept clear, but those things did little to take away from grandeur and impact that this Festival had.
As an Asian American man, I absolutely loved seeing such a culturally diverse crowd in attendance. All cultures and all ethnicities were represented in the crowd, and while a majority of the attendees were Asian or part Asian, they were ALL types of Asian.
And to see so many Asian artists on the stage performing for tens of thousands of music-loving fans with various kinds of grace, power, and confidence made my heart swell with pride. These were big-time performances, with big-time stage production, and big-time musicality, proving to me that as long as the 88rising can keep curating this kind of high-caliber line-up, Head In The Clouds can only get bigger and bigger brookside at The Rose Bowl.