FULL DAY 1 REVIEW OF ALL THE TALENT WE CAUGHT AT 88RISING’S HITC 2022
LOS ANGELES, CA– When I arrived at Brookside at the Rose Bowl, there were already crowds of people waiting in line at the entrance. I arrived at around 1:30 pm, but I met festival-goers who had been waiting since 8 am, which proved to me how dedicated 88rising’s fanbase is.
I was looking forward to catching as much music as possible, so once I got into the venue, I stayed at the main stage for the majority of the day. I had a great experience being at the front and seeing all my favorite artists up close and personal, but due to the stages being far away from each other and the set times overlapping, I wasn’t able to catch everyone.
The festival’s first act was Hojean, a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been familiar with Hojean since 2019 when he released “Memory,” so I was ecstatic that I could watch him live at Head In the Clouds.
Compared to many other artists in the indie, R&B music world who portray themselves as mysterious and quirky– Hojean has created a reputation for himself that is authentic, genuine, and honest. He truly shows his gratuity to his fans– which was very clear in his Head In The Clouds performance.
I was fortunate to watch both Hojean’s soundcheck and his final performance– he was very interactive with the audience, asking them which songs he could perform and posing for any photos and videos. His performance was very raw, and you could definitely see that he had a hand in everything, from the setlist to the visuals he made himself.
He performed my favorite song, “Over 85,” and also his new single, “You Ain’t Gotta,” which he released 2 days before his performance. I was also surprised to hear an unreleased single, “You Ain’t Gotta,” from his upcoming ep– Swing.
I’m a bit disappointed that he did not perform “You Feel Like,” but I’m looking forward to seeing Hojean shine on “The Inside Tour,” which starts in New York on August 28. Watching him sing and interact with the crowd, I understood why Hojean’s connection with his fans ran so deep. You could feel Hojean’s authenticity in his stage presence and lyrics. I think that if he continues to showcase his sincerity and vulnerability, Hojean will make it far, and I look forward to seeing his growth as an artist.
Surprisingly, one of my favorite acts from day one was Milli, a rapper, singer, and dancer from Thailand. I wasn’t super familiar with her before this year, only getting to know her recently through her collaboration with Changbin of Stray Kids and R. HERO, “Mirror Mirror,” and her work with 88rising. I previously watched her performance with 88rising at Coachella, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet, her energy and charisma blew me away, and I really enjoyed her performance even though I didn’t know many of the songs before attending.
Milli got her start on stage when she competed on the Thai TV show The Rapper 2, where she was praised for her electricity and exotic acting and singing style. She definitely brought her electricity to the festival when she ran out on stage wearing a cloud-inspired headpiece singing “Not Yet!”
This was only Milli’s second time in LA, but she was extremely confident, and her energy was infectious. She brought out all her dance moves– one of my favorite moments of her set was when she jump-roped with her dancers during “Sad Aerobic,” and she interacted with the crowd, giving speeches that expressed her gratuity for being able to perform in LA.
Even though it was hot and the sun was scorching, the crowd was hyped on Milli’s energy. I loved how much fun Milli was having on stage, and I could tell that others felt the same, especially the security guards. I was able to talk to them a little bit in between performances or when they weren’t busy, and many of them agreed that Milli was one of their favorite performers of the night. Even though she’s only 158cm, Milli’s performance made a huge impact. I can’t wait to see what she continues to do with 88rising behind her.
One of my favorite EDM artists is Dabin, so when it was announced that he would perform at this year’s Head In The Clouds Festival, I was ecstatic. Dabin, who’s originally from Toronto, Canada, is known for his melodic style with elements of dubstep. I had previously seen him on his “Between Broken” tour in March, so I was looking forward to seeing him again in a festival setting.
And Dabin never disappoints. He had a great mix of his own music– “Alive,” “Starbright,” and “First Time”– while also incorporating other remixes and songs to hype the crowd up. One of my favorite moments of the night was when he mixed “Toyko Drift” into Ray Volpe’s “Lazerbeam.” When the beat dropped, the crowd went wild.
Even though nobody was singing live, Dabin’s use of visuals and pyrotechnics was top-tier, making his performance just as engaging and fun to watch. I loved his use of Final Fantasy and anime visuals, especially during his remix of “Gurenge” by LiSA– Demon Slayer’s opening theme song. He also performed live with his guitar, showcasing his skill as a producer and an artist.
One caveat that I did want to mention is that I wish he played later in the day. The daylight did not do his visuals justice, and if it were darker, he would’ve been able to add projections, lights, and lasers, which would have elevated the experience. Nonetheless, Dabin’s performance was great– and I’m hoping that 88rising invites him back for a nighttime performance that will truly showcase his full potential as an EDM artist.
There was some serious R&B/Soul talent on the Double Happiness stage throughout the weekend and the Vietnamese-American singer Thuy brought the heat. This was my first time seeing her perform live, but based on the size of the crowd that she was able to draw for her mid-afternoon set, clearly, I was in the minority.
Originally from the Bay Area, Thuy has since relocated to Los Angeles to pursue her musical dreams, and based on her 2,369,776 monthly listeners on Spotify (as of September 2022), it would appear that she is well on her way to making her aspirations a reality.
With the sun slowly creeping its way into the west, Thuy’s sultry sounds had the crowd swaying to and fro in a mellow bliss. Setting and keeping a mood is a hallmark of a powerful performer, and Thuy was able to simply set souls at ease, even if everybody was sweating under the relentless rays of the sun. Her delicate yet agile voice just melts your heart.
She melted my heart when she gave her fans a little something extra and performed her newly released single “Playing Tricks”. That song about a hopeful love despite nagging doubts, and the way it was performed, really resonated with me (click through the photo to see video from the live stream of her performance). Ain’t no tricks here. I’m definitely a fan of Thuy and her artistry.
One of the festival’s most anticipated performances was CHUNG HA, a K-pop soloist. Born in Seoul, South Korea, CHUNG HA was raised partially in Dallas, Texas, which is where she learned English. She rose to fame as a contestant in the first season of Produce 101, a K-pop girl-group survival show, where she placed fourth and was subsequently placed into I.O.I. Following I.O.I’s disbandment in 2017, CHUNG HA has been releasing solo music ever since.
CHUNG HA’s performance at Head In The Clouds follows the release of the first part of her second studio album, Bare and Rare. As someone who has been following CHUNG HA since the release of “Snapping,” it has been incredible to see her growth as an artist and an honor to see her in person.
After opening her set with “Snapping,” CHUNG HA shared her nervousness with the crowd, not knowing if anyone knew any of her music. However, she was soon proven wrong because many fans threw roses, flowers, and posters on stage. She treated fans to her signature songs, “Gotta Go” and “Rollercoaster,” but I was surprised to hear her perform “Killing Me,” which she had never performed live before. and I was so impressed with her choreography and live vocals, especially during “Sparkling”– it is so difficult to sing and dance simultaneously, and her songs are so energetic, but you could definitely tell that her mic was ON.
Aside from the songs she performed, CHUNG HA was one of the most interactive performances of the night. She took pictures with the crowd and even stopped in the middle of her set (twice!) to autograph fans’ albums (a video of her signing a fan’s album has accumulated over 52 thousand likes on Twitter as of September 2022). No wonder the crowd went absolutely insane.
The only scheduling conflict really irked me was Deb Never and Audrey Nuna’s joint performance overlapping with Jay Park’s set. I am a really big fan of each of Deb Never and Audrey Nuna’s solo repertoire, but their recent collab, the tracks “sardines” and “multigrain” really had me pumped up. I loved the powerful alternative rock edge that the two infused into their collab, and I crossed my fingers that the two would be performing the tracks before I had to run over to the main stage to photograph Jay Park’s performance.
Deb Never started the performance with her solo material, and after my three songs in the pit, I took a slow stroll back across the festival grounds hoping that I’d at least catch a song or two of either Deb performing with Audrey to Audrey solo. Of course, as soon as I stepped out of the pit, Audrey jumped on stage to perform “multigrain” with Deb. Although, “multgrain” clocks in at under 2 minutes, the women got their fans catching the performance and a jolt of adrenaline to the base of the skull. The hype in the crowd was undeniable and watching people lose their collective minds was a pretty dope thing to catch.
Although I had to miss almost all of Audrey’s “solo” performance, I took solace in the fact that I was lucky enough to catch her full set a few years back at Head In The Clouds last year which reinforced my desire to hear more Deb Never/Audrey Nuna collaborations in the future.
Give me a cha-cha beat boy! My favorite performance of Head In The Clouds– BY FAR– was Jay Park, an American rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, dancer, and entrepreneur of Korean descent. The announcement of Jay Park on the lineup created a lot of buzz, since the last time he performed in the United States was in 2019. Known as the “scene stalwart” of Korean R&B, Park is famous for his charisma and insane energy, and he did not disappoint.
Jay Park’s career has been surrounded by scandal, but he is credited as one of the main figures responsible for the increased commercial acceptance and mainstream popularization of K-hip hop in South Korea. Originally born in Edmunds, Washington, Jay Park rose to fame as the Leader of JYP’s boy group, 2PM. However, after comments he wrote about Korea as a teenager came to the surface, he left the group and did not return until 2010, when he debuted as a solo rapper and producer. Not only has Jay Park released multiple albums, collaborating with influential artists like IU and Charli XCX, he also created high own record labels– AOMG, H1ghr Music, and More Vision– and recently started his own soju brand, WON SOJU.
Opening with “All I Wanna Do,” Park brought out the swag that few people possess. It’s worth mentioning that he began the song singing the English version but closed singing the Korean version. Maybe I’m reading into it, but I think that the fact that Jay Park sang both versions of “All I Wanna Do” highlights how he brings American influences to his music but has also remained true to his Korean heritage. Maybe that’s why his fan base is as dedicated as it is.
Prior to his performance, Park teased two special guests on his Instagram story, so fans were speculating that he would bring out someone from his record label, H1ghr Music. Turns out they were right. After performing “Yacht” and “Garadara,” his collaboration with IU, Jay Park brought out Sik-K, and they performed “Party” together. If I told you that the crowd went absolutely insane when Sik-K appeared, that would be an understatement compared to when Park brought out pH-1 for a performance of “Cupid.” All three of them are signed under the same label, so their brotherhood was fully on display throughout the 40-minute performance.
The energy that the three shared was infectious because the fans could not get enough. I cannot count how many bras were thrown on stage and how many chants were started (one of my favorite moments was when Jay Park and Sik-K clinked the bras like wine glasses on stage).
Just when I thought his performance couldn’t get any better, Jay Park closed his performance by taking his shirt off and performing his sexiest track, “Mommae.” Needless to say, the crowd went berserk. Even after he went off stage, fans were screaming his name for minutes on end. Thank you, Jay Park, for such a great performance, and I’m already waiting for his next performance in Los Angeles.
With three high-energy acts before him, I think that keshi’s performance gave the audience a much-needed change of pace. Casey Luong or keshi, is a Vietnamese songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist who is known for his signature falsetto and his lo-fi, indie-pop style. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, keshi originally was a nurse but found fame on SoundCloud, signing with Island Records in 2019. He’s had continued success since then, releasing his first studio-length album, Gabriel, in March and selling out his North-American leg of his “HELL/HEAVEN Tour.”
I have a soft spot in my heart for keshi. As a fellow Vietnamese-American, I am proud of him for taking a leap of faith to pursue his creative passions, and I appreciate the themes of family, isolation, and culture that he sprinkles throughout Gabriel. So when it was announced that he would join the lineup, I was ecstatic and could not wait to see what he would bring to Head In The Clouds.
Last year, keshi’s time at Head In The Clouds was tainted by microphone trouble and technical issues, so I, along with other festival-goers, could not hear many of his songs and truly experience the full depth of his performance. Luckily, this year’s performance had great acoustics and theatrics, with an LED screen, lights, and pyrotechnics.
I’ve seen him three times thus far, and what I’ve come to realize is that the amazing thing about keshi is his ability to perform the same songs so differently. What I mean by this is that even though he has similar set lists for each of his performances, he’ll change up or add new elements to each song he sings. For example, when he performed “WESTSIDE,” keshi extended the track by adding a guitar solo, or when he sang “ANGEL,” he variated the pitch of his voice, supplementing with extra flourishes and adjusting the melody. Keshi’s ability to modify his performances and continually interest listeners speak to his stage presence and raw musicality, which captivated the crowd, who was singing every lyric with him.
Speaking of the crowd– if you didn’t know keshi’s fanbase, you would be shocked to observe how participative the audience was. Like at many of his other shows, the audience made an effort to collectively chant for the singer to take his shirt off. However, keshi waved his finger, saying “no no” and asking, “You all just saw Jay Park, isn’t that sexy enough?”
I also want to give props to keshi for stepping in for NIKI last minute. He just finished the North-American leg of his tour and is preparing for the Asia and Australia leg, so I’m sure that he is fatigued. Nevertheless, he flew to Los Angeles and gave a stellar performance. It would have been great to see NIKI perform her new album, Nicole, for the first time, but watching keshi is always a treat.
Pure joy. That’s the only way to describe mxmtoon’s performance at Head In The Clouds. I think a lot of that joy derived from Maia (p/k/a “mxmtoon”) basking in the excitement of being able to perform for 88rising’s Head In The Clouds Festival. After her performing her first song, her hit “Falling for U”, she admitted to the audience that this was her first time at Head In The Clouds. After performing “sad disco”, she took a moment to reflect on how important this moment was for her, and how 88rising was such a big part of her wanting to pursue music. How she attended a show that 88rising put together in San Fransisco explaining, “I remember looking at the people on that stage and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope that one day I can perform among people like them,” with “them” being people of Asian heritage.
She further explained that she just wanted to be, “surrounded by people who were so proud of their culture. To be by people who were proud of the music that they made. To be excited with people who were excited to share that music with each other.” This performance was more than just another 30-minute set for mxmtoon.
mxmtoon’s energy was infectious. She may have had the smallest case of nerves, but you could help but fall in love with the way she engaged the audience and playfully danced about the stage to her music. Her energy was present from the jump when she sprinted onto the stage almost passing by her mic. Whether she performed high-energy songs (like “sad disco” or “coming of age”) to more downtempo mellow numbers (like “bon iver”) her quirky indie-pop couldn’t help but leave on your face.
If you looking for an audio Lily Allen-like pick-me-up to get you through a midafternoon lull, I can’t recommend enough giving mxmtoon a flier and pressing play on one of her playlists. Pure joy.
As the night’s last performance, tens of thousands of fans were waiting for the debut of Joji’s DJ alias, Yebi Labs. Born George Kusunoki Miller, Joji is known for his trip-hop and lo-fi music that blends elements of trap, folk, electronic, and R&B. He began his career on YouTube under the aliases DizastaMusic, TVFilthyFrank, and TooDamnFilthy. Miller’s videos consisted of shock humor, rap songs, swearing, rants, extreme challenges, and ukulele performances, but he eventually retired from YouTube in 2017 to pursue music, focusing on more serious and depressing themes. With his first studio album, Ballads 1, Joji became the first Asian-born artist to reach #1 on Billboard’s top R&B and hip-hop charts in November 2018.
Usually known for his downtempo, melancholic, sad boy music, fans did not know what to expect from Yebi Labs. I thought Yebi Labs would be similar to his past performances at the Boiler Room– him playing on a keyboard, mixing his music live, and singing a couple of covers. However, Yebi Labs blew any expectations I had out of the water, reminding me of Joji’s roots as Filthy Frank– comedic, shocking, and overall, random.
The DJ mix contained a mix of Joji’s hits like “Daylight,” “Pretty Boy,” and “Your Man,” as well as the club hits from Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, and Disturbed. What also added to the energy was the amazing visuals– a compilation of memes, strobe lights, and pyrotechnics– and the crowd ate it up. And let’s not forget when Joji would yell “BITCH” or “YEAH” spontaneously.
The icing on the cake for me was the “Glimpse of Us” hardstyle remix Joji played towards the end of his DJ set. The intense force of the bass in my ears posed a stark contrast to the heartbreaking lyrics, which made the energy all the more exciting.
Joji closed off the night by performing a couple of songs, like “Will He” and “Yeah Right.” In all honesty, he hasn’t been super verbally interactive with the crowd beside a period where he threw he threw miscellaneous household merchandise. However, he communicated to his audience through his meaningful lyrics and captivating aura, so it was a wonderful performance nonetheless. As Joji ended his performance with his classic “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” fans were chanting his name and throwing underwear, roses, and stuffed animals on stage. No matter how Joji performs, as a DJ or himself, he’s able to command the stage and bring audiences together.
Overall, Yebi Labs made a successful debut, and it was a great way to close off day one of Head In the Clouds.