FULL DAY 2 REVIEW OF ALL THE TALENT WE CAUGHT AT 88RISING’S HITC 2022
LOS ANGELES, CA– Day two of Head in the Clouds was marked by a quiet excitement. After seeing their favorite artists on day one– Joji, Keshi, CHUNG HA, Jay Park, and more– festival goers were filled with anticipation about what the next day had to offer. Personally, I was looking forward to seeing Jackson Wang’s Magic Man stage, especially because he was unable to perform at the festival in 2019. However, day two was filled with tremendous talent from around the world.
Day two of Head in the Clouds was marked by a quiet excitement. After seeing their favorite artists on day one– Joji, Keshi, CHUNG HA, Jay Park, and more– festival goers were filled with anticipation about what the next day had to offer. Personally, I was looking forward to seeing Jackson Wang’s Magic Man stage, especially because he was unable to perform at the festival in 2019. However, day two was filled with tremendous talent from around the world.
The main stage of Head In The Clouds day two opened up with Ylona Garcia. The Filipino-Australian singer rose to prominence during her participation in Pinoy Big Brother:737, where she finished as runner-up. Receiving praise for her acting, dancing, and confidence, Ylona released her first solo single, “Dahan-Dahan Lang,” in 2016 and signed with 88rising’s sublabel, Paradise Rising, which focuses on Filipino artists.
Garcia had performed at the previous Head in the Clouds Festival on the Double Happiness stage, but this year marked her first time performing on the Main stage. And she killed it. Moving from the Double Happiness stage to the Main stage highlights her growth as an artist, and for good reason.
Coming out in a custom body suit and platform boots– all spray painted with her logo– she looked stunning. During her 20-minute set, she showcased her soulful voice and stage presence, interacting with fans and performing both original songs like “Entertain Me” and covers like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Ylona Garcia is only twenty years old, but her performance at Head in the Clouds cements her artistry and speaks heavily to her potential. I can’t wait to see where her career takes her and what music she releases next.
A real pleasant surprise for me at Head In the Clouds was the performance by No Rome. This would be my first time hearing his music, so when he walked onstage wearing a full-face ski mask that had horns, my “first impression” prejudice stood up and told me to get ready for some hard-hitting hip hop of some sort. I was wrong. Very wrong.
Instead, what I got was probably the most chill chillwave/bedroom pop I’ve heard in a while.
No Rome is Guendoline Rom Wiray Gomez, and he came to us from London but has his roots in the Philippines. At 25 years old, he’s a young cat and released his debut studio album, It’s All Smiles, last year. As soon as I stepped out of the photo pit, I had to queue it up on my streaming playlist to cause I needed to learn more about this rising star.
As it turns out, he’s currently signed to the Dirty Hit, the same label as The 1975, among others. Sonically, that totally makes sense. When I looked up the label, I noticed that Dirty Hit houses a handful of artists that I quite enjoy, including beabadoobee, The Japanese House, Wolf Alice and Pale Waves. The fact that No Rome had collaborated with The 1975, beabadoobee, and Charli XCX and I failed to pick up on his talent is a “shame on me” moment.
While it took me quick minute to get over his initial visual presentation to really synchronize with his music, it was his music that left a memorable impression on me and excited to hear how else his soothing tenor and effortlessly relaxing production can shift my perceptions further.
COMING SOON! STAY TUNED!!
One of the biggest highlights of the festival was Atarashii Gakko!– a unique and eccentric Japanese quartet. Comprised of four members, Suzuka, Mizyu, Kanon, and Rin, the group debuted in 2017 with “Dokubana,” and they’ve found continued success internationally with 88rising.
The concept and message behind the group are extremely interesting. Atarashii Gakko roughly translates to “new school leaders.” While their costumes reference the country’s rigid conformity, their loud, disruptive music, powerful dance moves, and authentic personalities are anything but. Taking influences from hip-hop and other Western forms of music, they’ve been able to spread Japanese culture in their own signature style– making videos about the Japanese subway system, bento boxes, and new year’s traditions.
I saw Atarashii Gakko perform at last year’s festival, and while I enjoyed it, their set this year blew their last performance out of the water. I love how vibrant the quartet’s style is– it’s unique, new-school, yet retro all at the same time. They performed many of their hits, including “NAINAINAI” and “Woo! Go!” but my personal favorite song was “CANDY” because of its house influences. There were many OG fans that brought pineapples and umbrellas, but the group definitely gained many new supporters because of their dynamic and infectious energy. The young ladies of Atarashii Gakko are definitely the ideal youth ambassadors of modern Japan, and I can’t wait to see how their style evolves.
At music festivals … try as you might … it’s virtually guaranteed that you won’t be able to catch… and appreciate… all of the scheduled acts. You put little stars next to performances you’d like to catch, but sometimes that trek across the festival grounds makes you reconsider your wants and desires.
Back at Head In The Clouds 2019, an act that I had to scribble off my list was Stephanie Poetri. I can’t recall the exact reason why, but I had to skip the performance. With a friend of mine playing in Stephanie’s band… who encouraged me to come out and enjoy the set… a small bubble of guilt lingered for a spell. Fast forward to this year’s Head In The Clouds, and my friend once again nudged me to catch Stephanie’s performance. Time to make good on that 2019 omission.
Stephanie was an absolute delight. I don’t know whether it was planned this way, but 88rising had a really nice slate of killer R&B/Soul/Neo Soul/Bedroom Pop on hand, Stephanie’s performance definitely included. From her most viral hit “I Love You 3000” to her heart-strings pulling “Picture Myself”, her delicate soprano vocals floated in the midday sun. She even covered Owl City’s “Fireflies”, which really allowed her light voice playfully jump around with the song’s staccato notation.
When I did some research on her …. umm… looked her up on Wikipedia … I found out that her mother is actually an Indonesian “pop diva singer”. Clearly, Stephanie has the tools to build her own career and I’m excited to hear it evolve. Perhaps next time I can catch a performance apart from Head In The Cloud and get more than just a 25-minute sampling.
The next act that I was able to catch was Warren Hue, an emerging talent from Jakarta. This is the 20-year-old’s second year with 88rising, and he’s already made big moves in the four years that he has been active. Not only has he performed on Coachella’s main stage, but he’s also co-written and performed three tracks for the blockbuster film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
His performance at Head in the Clouds comes right after the release of his debut album, Boy of The Year, and is right before his tour, which starts in October. I’ve noticed that 88rising is really pushing Warren’s career by giving him good promotions, and for good reason. I’ve followed him since before he signed with 88rising, and he has so much raw potential and talent. He recently went viral on TikTok for one of his freestyles (the video has 154.2k likes as of September 2022), which eventually became a collaboration track with Rich Brian and BIBI called “froyo.”
Bringing out Chasu, his longtime friend, producer, and collaborator, for his set, Warren showcased his talents as he performed songs from his new album. From “I$$EY,” which he performed as a tribute to the late fashion designer, to “IN MY BAG,” where he brought out Tobi Lou, you could definitely tell that Warren was feeling the music and communicating with the audience through his energy and lyrics. Additionally, Chasu helped to hype the crowd up by taking fans’ phones (I couldn’t even count how many he took) and even giving the mic to a die-hard fan, who was screaming the lyrics.
Towards the end of the set, Warren encountered some technical issues that made his microphone disconnect from the backing track. Yet, even with the difficulties, Warren Hue and Chasu did a fantastic job creating a memorable performance.
Head in the Clouds is run by powerful women. Featuring the likes of CHUNG HA, Ylona Garcia, ATARASHII GAKKO!, mxmtoon, NIKI, Milli, Thuy, and more– BIBI was a great addition to the Head in the Clouds lineup. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter from South Korea has kept herself extremely busy this year– collaborating with former IZ*ONE member Yena on the track “Smiley,” joining 88rising for their set at Coachella, and doing multiple TV and radio appearances– all while working on her next album.
All that hard work has paid off, as she has gained millions of fans worldwide for her freewheeling, out-of-the-box music and charismatic personality. She showed off these charms in her 30-minute set, where she performed “The Weekend,” which made her the first independent Korean solo artist to chart on top 40 radio and also teased new songs from her unreleased album. She also showcased her alluring charm through her dance moves and great interactions with the crowd.
BIBI has a personality and charm that absolutely mesmerizes the audience. I swear… no matter what gender or sexual orientation you were… if you saw BIBI at Head in the Clouds, you would swoon. No wonder why her fan base is so dedicated– showing her with red roses as she left the stage.
I’m a bit disappointed that her set was not longer, but with only half an hour, BIBI made her mark on stage and the festival, and I can’t wait to see her if (or WHEN) she goes on tour.
It’s been a hot minute since Lastlings were on my radar. In fact, I first heard of them years ago when I went down an Australian, electronic music rabbit hole after I had been introduced to the music of RÜFÜS DU SOL. With COVID jumbling up the touring industry, they didn’t get the chance to tour the United States (I’m assuming this) in support of the 2020 sophomore album, First Contact. Notwithstanding that, tracks from that album have garnered tons of ears, with their song “Deja Vu” gaining over 9.5MM streams on Spotify. That’s really quite impressive.
Lastlings are the sibling duo Amy and Josh Dowdle and their performance at Head In The Clouds brought that beat-slanging, club vibe to the Double Happiness Stage. Personally, I think slotting them in the evening with the sun setting and laser emanating from the stage would have accentuated the club atmosphere of their music, but Amy did a solid job exuding that dance mojo out to the audience and getting booties shaking on the lawn.
In scouring the web, I read somewhere that Lastlings is in the process of making new music for their third album. Though they have dropped any new music lately, I’d suggest clicking that “follow” tab in your browser, cause I have a feeling that new music is pretty imminent.
One of the names that I was surprised to see on the lineup was eaJ, or Jae Park. The Argentine-American musician had performed at Head in the Clouds in 2021– yet, in 2022, he faced a multitude of scandals that affected his public image. Aside from his personal life, however, I was glad to hear that he was performing at the festival because he always gives great performances– and this year he lived up to that expectation.
Originally born in Argentina, Jae Park, p/k/a “eaJ”, moved to Cerritos, CA as a child. While he was attending California State University, Long Beach, he took a leave of absence to compete as a singer-guitarist in the inaugural season of K-pop Star. Even though he did not place, finishing sixth, JYPE offered him a contract at the end of the show to join the company as a trainee for an upcoming band, Day6, which debuted in 2017. Park stayed with the band until 2021 and has been releasing solo music since 2020.
Park has been releasing solo music since 2020 on SoundCloud, but he didn’t officially debut as a soloist until April of this year. The fact that eaJ performed at Head in the Clouds 2021 without an officially released single speaks volumes about his skills as a performer and his fan base. He returned to the 88rising Stage in a 35-minute set, showcasing his talents and gratitude for his fans. Despite feeling unwell, eaJ put on a show– teasing unreleased tracks from his upcoming album and performing “Car Crash,” his debut single.
One thing that I noticed about eaJ’s set was how grateful he was to be performing. After every song, he thanked the crowd for being present at his performance and for supporting him through his highs and lows. He also expressed his appreciation to be on the same stage as huge performers, like Rich Brian or Jackson Wang. He was not afraid to share his vulnerability to the audience, whether it be in the messages in his music or through his interactions with the crowd, which I truly admire. Being in the public eye, with millions of fans watching your every move, is not easy– and it takes courage to continue to be authentic and honest even after facing hardships and scandals.
Jae Park’s performance truly came from his heart. He came into day two with something to prove, and whatever that was, he definitely achieved his goal.
The last act we were able to catch on the Double Happiness stage was the delightful vocalist Raveena. Ugh. Talk about falling in love at first listen.
There is such a breezy casualness to Raveena’s vocals. The breathy whimsy with which she delivers lines. The effortless float into her head voice. I swear you could close your eyes and be tricked into thinking that you were listening to a classic Minnie Ripperton, “Baby, This Love I Have” type cut. Soooo dreamy.
And her stage presence is seductively soulful. I loved the way she was able to let the music guide her body. Whether it was a simple flip of the hair, or a subtle step backward when she ascended a scale… there was a really simple beauty to it all, and it had me googly-eyed throughout her performance. Her apparently humble demeanor … my suggestion, I acknowledge, may have been slightly influenced by the performance… gave her even more brownie points in my book.
This performance was everything that I hoped it would be. Beautiful music… Beautiful execution… And if her performance is even a partial reflection of her soul… by a beautiful person as well. Brava.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Rich Brian live. I think this year’s Head in the Clouds set marked my seventh. Even though I’ve seen him perform so many times, Rich Brian never fails to disappoint. You can always trust him to put on a great show, proving why he is one of the most versatile up-and-coming rappers in the game right now.
Born Brian Immanuel in Jakarta, Indonesia, Rich Brian rose to fame first through social media, starting his career in social media on YouTube and Vine. Posting videos like “My Strange Addiction: Kushothyleoma” and “how to microwave #bread,” Brian showcased his eccentric and witty personality– while also teaching himself English, leading to the start of his rap career. After posting his first single “Dat $tick” in 2016, which went absolutely viral and was later certified gold, Immanuel signed to 88rising, becoming one of their first artists and helping them become the label that they are today. With hits like his first studio album, Amen, which peaked at number 18 on the US Billboard 200, “Yellow,” and most recently, “edamame,” Rich Brian is one of the pillars of 88rising and has paved the way for Asian artists in the hip-hop industry. As someone who’s been following him for years, I’m proud to have seen his artistic growth firsthand and ecstatic to see him being offered huge opportunities, like performing on the main stage at Coachella, creating songs for a Marvel movie, and collaborating with huge names in the industry.
Wearing an all-black ensemble, the rapper’s performance started with a bang. Revealing himself from the smoke and cages, Brian performed an unreleased song, “Vivid,” that he also displayed at Coachella. Showcasing his gruff and unique rapping style, he brought the energy as he continued the set with “Lagoon” and “Gospel.” The thirty thousand people in the crowd matched Brian’s energy, moshing and chanting his name in unison every chance they got.
After turning up with the crowd in his opening songs, Rich Brian slowed it down with “Cold” and “See Me.” After being in the industry for six years, Rich Brian clearly showed that he’s a master of crowd control, as he’s able to provide the audience– who at that point had been standing in the heat for hours– a perfect balance between exciting and calming.
Towards the end of his performance, fans were in for a treat. As live trumpets sounded, the rapper introduced his next song, “We’re having a fucking party, and what better way to have a party, than have a song like this.” The song he was referring to is “edamame,” a collaboration with bbno$, which blew up on TikTok (the sound has 626.2k uses at the time this article is being written). The entirety of the crowd sang along, having a great time with the unforgettable melody and catchy lyrics.
Years after “Dat $tick,” Rich Brian has grown into an artist with a distinct style and sound. Yet, he remains faithful to his roots– mixing his more serious messages with playful influences and stage effects. That dichotomy between these different influences is what cements Rich Brian’s presence as one of 88rising’s key artists and a forerunner for Asian rappers in the West. At only 23, he has many years ahead of him, and I can’t wait to see him perform again.
Perhaps the most anticipated performance of the festival was Jackson Wang– a Chinese icon and superstar– who was set to perform his unreleased album, MAGIC MAN. The multi-hyphenate was set to perform at the festival in 2019, but due to political turmoil between mainland China and Hong Kong, this performance was extra anticipated by international fans, who have been waiting years to see him perform.
With over thirty million followers on Instagram and another thirty million on Weibo, it would be more of a surprise if you didn’t know who Jackson Wang is. Born in Hong Kong, Wang rose to fame as a member of the K-pop group, Got7. Besides his activity as a K-pop idol, he has his own label, Team Wang, and began releasing solo music internationally and in China. A superstar celebrity in multiple countries, Wang has pursued multiple projects– such as collaborating with luxury designers like Palm Angels, appearing on more than 18 TV shows in various countries, and founding his own fashion label, Team Wang Design. Since being released, MAGIC MAN topped the Worldwide iTunes Album Chart in 30 different countries and is seeing rave reviews.
Wang describes MAGIC MAN as an album that “is more inspired by modern art and contemporary choreography.” The album is a natural progression from his last single, “Mirrors,” blending grunge, pop, rock, and R&B elements with quirky symbolism to craft an intricate story of a disaster waiting to happen and how timely efforts have resurrected the man. Even though he’s performed different iterations of the “MAGIC MAN Experience” around the world, Wang put on the performance of his life– bringing in a bevy of backup dancers and utilizing special visual effects that made audiences feel like they were watching a musical.
Sporting a black suit jacket, cobalt gloves, dark makeup, and a headset mic, Wang was reminiscent of The Joker. Between performing hits like “100 Ways” and unreleased songs from his new album, Wang interacted with the audience, popping a bottle of champagne and drinking it straight out of the bottle, and giving heartfelt speeches. He even brought out the dance crew, Kinjaz, out to dance with him during “Blow.”
I know I’m speaking for the entire audience here, but it was unreal to see Jackson Wang perform. He leaves his heart on stage, singing and dancing tirelessly in order to transport the audience to the world of MAGIC MAN. Wang has mentioned that he has a hand in every step of the creative process, wanting his visuals to “be done…like a musical.” His efforts definitely paid off because I was absolutely stunned throughout the entirety of his 50-minute set.
“As an Asian artist, as a Chinese boy, my dream is always, hope. I can leave something behind for my culture, for my people before I’m gone…I might fail, but Imma die trying. This is 88rising. Asians always rising.”
Jackson Wang is known as something of a “great equalizer” in the music industry. He’s an artist that you respect, no matter what fandom or subgenre you’re in. And I believe that this quote is a perfect example of why. Wang is an artist that continually raises the bar and works to make his people proud. If you ever have the chance to see Jackson Wang live, don’t miss it. He’s an artist that will be remembered for generations to come.
88rising’s focus has always been on family. For many fans of the label– the artists signed under 88rising are not just people who make music. They’re the new generation of Asian creatives, who are paving the way for other minorities in the music industry. That’s why there’s such a special relationship between 88rising and its fans, and it was clearly demonstrated in the 20-minute finale.
Almost the entirety of the artists signed under 88rising made an appearance during the finale. There were even surprise guests on stage, like AUGUST08 and actress Michelle Yeon. With performances from Milli, Jackson Wang, Rich Brian, Teriyaki Boyz, Warren Hue, Chasu, etc., the finale was a culmination of all the hard work that both the artists and the audience had done over the weekend.
You could clearly see the family that 88rising had created. With all their artists on stage, the festival came to a close in what is now a Head in the Clouds tradition– an acapella sing-along of “Midsummer Madness.” When I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE in the audience was singing along, and it was this moment that cemented what Head in the Clouds is all about. It’s a celebration of Asian culture and creativity, a celebration of what should have been celebrated many years earlier.
“Asians always rising.”