Head In The Clouds Closed With Joji Headlining & 88rising Crew For The Finale FULL DAY 2 REVIEW OF ALL THE TALENT WE CAUGHT AT 88RISING'S HITC
LOS ANGELES, CA- With day one of Head In The Clouds being jam-packed with a ton of amazing performances, I eagerly made my way to the festival grounds the following day to soak in what day two would offer. I already anticipated that it would be a day of discovery for me, as I was only familiar with 4 (of the 14) acts that would be gracing one of the Head In The Clouds stages.
Taking a step back and taking a macro view of the festival, I wanted to note that I was particularly impressed with all of the women that were curated to perform for the weekend. While I was duly impressed with the level of fanaticism that the young male acts stoked, it was the women who not only held their own with their own fanatics but also really really dazzled me with their musicality. The women at Head In The Clouds may not have headlined, but they certainly were the crown jewel. In fact, whether 88rising intended it or not, this may have been the first music festival I’ve attended where the number of female acts outnumbered the male acts. by my count, 20 of the 32 acts (including the two female DJs who kicked things of to start the day) were women. Very impressive.
The first act to perform on Sunday was the Vietnamese singer Mỹ Anh. Wearing a brightly colored, and comfortable-looking, fleece pullover, I immediately got the sense that her music would be giving us those same kinds of bright, cheery, and gentle feels as well. I was right.
First off, I absolutely loved the timbre of Mỹ Anh’s voice. It’s crystalline clear and totally fits the underlying music she sings over. Second, I absolutely loved the style of her music. It’s got a modern pop/R&B gloss, but it really feels rooted in some late 80s/early 90’s sonic motifs. I hate playing the comparison games, but I was getting some vintage multi-platinum Debbie Gibson vibes if Debbie Gibson had an extra serving of soul. Her performance was bright and delightful and was a joy to watch. I didn’t know who she was prior to this performance, but every time she smiled, I felt the urge to smile myself … and that says a lot.
I read somewhere that she had been accepted into Berklee College of Music for the 2020 school year, but decided to stay at home with her family. While I typically encourage artists to further their musical education, I think that the series of singles that she’s released after making that decision is enough proof that maybe she doesn’t need a school to tell her what to do. Keep an eye on this one.
The first act to take the 88rising main stage was the Canadian singer/multi-instrumentalist Luna Li (nee Hannah Kim). This Korean-Canadian brought the perfect mood for a sunny, midafternoon performance. Her music felt so effortless and grounded in the present. I was already familiar with her music and knew about her affinity to nature … but I’d be remiss if I didn’t use the cliche descriptor of “earthy” to describe her music. It was music that made me wish I could lounge on the festival lawn with a glass of wine, close my eyes, and potentially drift away into a midsummer (even though it’s technically winter) dream.
During her 30 minute performance, she also let her talent for several instruments (violin and guitar) shine as she took time during her set to feature instrumental solos, adding to more of that ethereal vibe. I hear that she’s also a classically trained harpist… I could only wonder what kind of spell she’d cast if she had busted out a harp solo (which she may have done towards the end of her set, but I had to make my way for the next scheduled act).
One of the acts that I was most excited to catch was the youngest: The Linda Lindas. This quartet of 13 to 16-year-olds really took off during the pandemic. They’d been around for a few years getting tons of respect from some established peers like Kristin Kontrol (Dum Dum Girls), Alic Bag, and Bikini Kill, but they really gained some serious steam when their performance at the Cypress Park branch of the L.A. Public Library was streamed as an AAPI Heritage Month event.
Their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” really struck a nerve across social media, and soon they were seemingly on everyone’s radar. These young ladies had something to say (“You are a racist, sexist boy, and to have really take the joy, Fake dance, shoot and destroy. You are a racist, sexist boy”), and they preached it with kind of pure, youthful, fearlessness that slapped adults in the face. I loved it. I also loved their performance.
Theirs was THE punk performance of the weekend…. literally… it was like the only punk act on the bill. But it was also the grittiest and the most attitude-filled performance of the weekend, and I loved that it came from a group of multicultural, teenage girls. Their story is just beginning, but their future is looking bright, and I can’t wait to see how they grow.
Another young talent to be featured at Head In The Clouds was the 19-year-old Indonesian rapper and singer Warren Hue.
This up-and-coming talent has had a pretty eventful 2021. Not only did he make his 88rising debut in March with his single “omomo punk”, but he also co-wrote and performed on three tracks for the blockbuster film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (“Always Rising” with Niki and Rich Brian, “Foolish” with Rich Brian and Guapdad 4000, “Lazy Susan” with 21 Savage, Rich Brian and MaSiWei and “Warriors” with Seori. He can add another accomplishment to his list: a live performance in front of 30,000 people.
Warren’s energy was infectious. As he joyously performed his set, he smoothly sang his melodic hip-hop stylings to a crowd that fed off his undeniable energy. He opened his set with a new (at the time) song titled “West”, and also included his bangers “omomo punk” and “Candy Choppa”.
When he got to his last song, he reveled in the experience, and announced to the crowd, “I wrote this song in high school, and now I’m performing it in front of 30,000 people,” The look of proud disbelief exposed itself as he smiled at admiring the crowd. He then kept the fun vibes going closing his set with “I NEED U, IN THE SUMMERTIME”.
Sometime during the lockdown, I was going down several Spotify rabbit holes, and at some point, I stumbled upon a track called “Punching Bag” by an artist named Wallice. It was a lo-fi little gem of a cut that was equal parts garage/indie rock and pop. I kind of let Wallice fall off my radar until I caught wind of her EP “Off the Rails”.
“Off the Rails” is a solid EP that really establishes Wallice’s current template. I think that the way she recorded that EP, and the subject matter of the music, really shine a light on her personality; who she is, not only as an artist but as a person.
I liked that all 6 tracks had the same kind of feel that I got from my first listen of “Punching Bag”. Wallice’s laid-back vocals are the constant across all six tracks and that dreamy vibe gives her music a real interesting variance because her songs tackle a lot of personal issues and subjects. Her voice lulls you into a seemingly safe space … until you pay attention to her sharp/biting lyrics (case in point, listen to “Hey Michael”).
I’m not quite sure how many performances Wallice has under her belt, but she seemed to be pretty comfortable up on stage. She’s definitely another artist that I’m interested in keeping an eye on to see how she evolves from here.
The next artist I was supposed to catch was the Feel Ghood Music collective of Tiger JK, Yoonmirae, Bizzy, and BIBI, but the only artist I was able to photograph was BIBI as she was the first and only artist on stage for the standard photo pit “first three songs”. That was all I really needed. This young lady won ears and hearts with her charismatic performance.
BIBI, whose real name is Kim Hyungseo, is a 23-year-old R&B singer who released her second EP Life is a Bi…. in April. Like Warren Hue, she was also a featured artist on the Shang-Chi soundtrack performing on the track “Never Gonna Come Down” with her latest single, “The Weekend”, hitting U.S. airwaves and breaking into Top 40 radio play charts.
Don’t let BIBI’s coy and cute appearance fool you; her’s was a performance that playfully addressed topics of sen/sexuality, and it really resonated with the audience. During her performance of “She Got It (cigarette and condom) she playfully tossed out the same to the outstretched arms of the clamoring fans lined up at the railing. During the performance of her U.S. hit “The Weekend”, her fans went crazy when the cameras caught her giving a female fan a slow kiss on the lips.
I watched the remainder of the Feel Ghood Music set as I slowly made my way across the festival grounds to catch the next scheduled act, and was able to catch MFBTY’s (Tiger JK, Toonmirae, and Bizzy) performance from afar. With the last remnants of the day’s sun sinking into the west, MFBTY brought their party-inducing brand of hip-hop to the festival. They made really good use of call or response throughout their set and that got the crowd really involved. By the time their portion of the set ended, they had the crowd chanting “one more song”, which was only prevented because of the festival’s scheduling.
Another female singer that I found particularly charming was the South Korean singer Seori. Her pop-centric music was light and airy. She sings like she’s whispering sweet nothings into your ear, and I can’t deny it… I was particularly drawn to it. I couldn’t help but absorb her effortlessly mellow aura into my own.
She’s had a pretty busy year, dropping several singles, including the duet “Drive with you” with HITC performer eaJ and also getting featured on the track “Warriors” which is on the motion picture soundtrack to Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with Warren Hue, who performed earlier in the day on the main stage. It just so happened that Seori was able to lure eaJ to drop in to perform their lovely duet “Dive with you”. A pretty impressive thing to occur considering that eaJ was set to perform less than an hour after Seori’s set was scheduled to end!
I think my general takeaway with Seori is that her musical aesthetic and overall vibe soothes the soul of the listener. Even when her underlying beats/arrangements and propulsive, like on “Fairytale”, her breathy vocals temper the anxiousness of the instrumentals, and that makes for a wonderful pairing.
With women dominating most of the day up to this point, I think 88riing made the strategic move to have Casey Luong p/k/a “keshi” steal some hearts from the main stage after the sunset. keshi is a Vietnamese American singer/songwriter who established his reputation with his trademark, vulnerable falsetto over downtempo R&B instrumentals.
This Texas native had the ladies, and I’m sure some men, going gaga for him. When he sang his hit “Somebody”, every time he sang the lyrics “Baby, it’s you”, which was often, there was a collective cheer from the crowd, indicating that thousands of people believed that keshi was singing those lyrics directly to them.
His performance with a full band really highlighted how far he’s come from the lo-fi beats that he played around with earlier in his career that I was already familiar with. It’s an evolution that suits him, as the instrumental arrangements really complimented the forlorn, lost-love, moods that he emotes. But his loudest cheers came when he performed “drunk”, solo with just his guitar. He probably got a few of those cheers when he took off his jacket to reveal his bare, tatted arms and his white tank top. With the audience lit up with cell phone lights, that moment really showcased the raw romanticism of keshi and his music.
Josh Pan is no stranger to Head In the Clouds. He has been a featured performer for one of 88rising’s outings at L.A. Historic Park. The Taiwan native made his way to Los Angeles and has thrived as a producer and DJ, and his style is very eclectic. I think you’d be remiss if you try to pigeonhole him into any one genre. A listen through his “popular” cuts on Spotify suggests that if you were going to try to classify him as anything, it would be “artist”.
I’m not sure whether “identity” is an issue that’s at the forefront of his creative process, but I found it interesting that he took the stage wearing a hooded robe, with his mouth covered with a covid mask, sunglasses, and a scruffy red wig. Rather than let the audience see who he was, he let his music do the talking.
From glitch to EDM, to hip-hop, to funk, he played a variety of cuts that really revealed the breadth of his musical inspirations. I looked into the crowd, and I saw a few attendees with their eyes closed letting Josh’s beat and melodies kind of consume them. His music was definitely speaking to them.
Don’t tell anybody… but I had my money on a different Korean pop act to break out in the states before BTS. That group was Day6. Why did I think they would break out first? Because they are an actual band (each member played an instrument) and their music just rocked harder. Over the years, Day6 has gone through some changes, with one member doing his mandatory military service in the Korean army, and 3 of the original members embarking in a “sub-unit” group called Even of Day. Park Jae-hyung p/k/a “Jae” a/k/a “eaJ” appeared to be the odd man out, but that hasn’t stopped him from working on his own music.
The joy that eaJ had on stage was palpable. He was clearly in constant disbelief looking out into the audience of 30,000, not believing the cheering fans when he asked, “How many of you people actually know me?” Even though the cheers were deafening, he laughed, “You’re lying!”
The funny thing about eaJ is that none of his “official” music is on any streaming platforms (except Youtube). So the fact that he’s performing on the main stage with that in mind kind of blows my mind. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a ton of music that’s been released. In fact, during his performance, he had the lovely Seori, who performed just a little earlier in the evening, for their duet of “It just is” and also had keshi pull up on stage for “pillows”. eaJ then closed out his thirty-minute set with a passionate performance of “Guess Not”.
Akeem Ali Douglas Hayes is Guapdad 4000 and he brought straight fire to the Double Happiness stage at Head In The Clouds. Guapdad 4000 is Filipino and African-American and is a member of the hip-hop Zoink Gang which consists of JID, Smino and Buddy.
Steadily releasing mixtapes since 2017, Guapdad showed up on my radar when he collaborated on the 2019 Dreamville compilation Revenge of the Dreamers and was prominently featured on a handful of its tracks. This co-sign seemed to get him the kind of clout to get artists like Chance the Rapper, G-Eazy, and 6lack to lend their vocal performances to his 2019 debut album Dior Deposits. Guapdad 4000’s connection with 88rising came up with he collaborated with Rich Brian the single “BALI”, which has over 24,000,000 streams (as of 12/8/21). This lead to another 88rising collaboration on the track “Foolish” which is on the motion picture soundtrack to Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Rich Brian didn’t drop in for a special appearance during Guapdad 4000’s set, but Guarpdad didn’t need anybody to keep the audience hyped. He had that duty well handled. As he effortlessly executed his flows, he lept and bound from one side of the stage to the other, turning the energy level knob up to eleven right from the get-go. It was a fun performance and one that surely worked up a sweat in the audience.
If CL was the alpha on Saturday, NIKI was the alpha on Sunday. Though the photos don’t show it because of our 3 song limit in the photo pit, Niki had 3 costume changes. Now that’s an alpha move.
NIKI (nee Nicole Zefanya) was raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the tender age of 15, she was selected to be the opening act for Taylor Swift’s The Red Tour in Jakarta. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2017 to study music, and while in school she was able to release a handful of singles through 88rising (“See U Never” and “I Like U”). Her debut album, Moonchild, was released in 2020 and she just recently had her latest single “SPLIT” hit 1 million streams on YouTube.
Backed by a full band and a cadre of limber dancers, Niki gave her fans one hell of a show. From the first note of “Wide Open” to her final, “I love you, LA,” at the end “Every Summertime”, NIKI had fans eating out of the palm of her hand. Truth be told, I wasn’t all too familiar with her repertoire, and the only songs that I was really familiar with were the four songs that she’s featured on in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings motion picture soundtrack. Needless to say, I was in the minority, as I could hear people singing along to each of her pop-dusted songs.
While I enjoyed her uptempo songs, I absolutely loved it when she took a moment during her set to perform her slower, emotional songs. Her performances at the piano of “Pandemonium” and “Lose” were absolutely lovely. Her voice was flawless, which allowed the emotional messages of each song to stand at the forefront.
Her humble nature was also a pleasure to see on stage. All of that fierce, attitude-filled choreography from earlier gave way to her sincere thanks when she addressed the crowd, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think growing up in Indonesia that I would ever have this opportunity.”
While it was quite obvious that NIKI didn’t need any co-sign or special guests, keshi, who had performed earlier in the evening, joined her on stage to perform a lovely rendition keshi’s song “right here” before closing her performance with “Every Summertime”.
Closing out the action on the Double Happiness stage was beabadoobee, and Bea Kristi p/k/a “beabadoobee” brought just that. A double serving of happiness.
I fell in love with beabadoobee’s debut album, Fake It Flowers, on my first listen. For me, there was a real sonic familiarity with that album. There was something about its sound that I connected with. There’s a sense of adventure and newness to it, kind of like it was like an alt-rock love child from the 90s when bands were experimenting with sounds and personal motifs. She takes this sonic approach to another level with her 2021 EP Our Extended Play, pushing musical elements with even more gusto.
Of course, she played the song that kick-started her musical career, “Coffee”, and songs from her debut album (i.e. “Care” & “Dye It Red”) and her latest EP (“He Get Me So High”), but I was particularly happy that one of my favorites, “She Plays Bass”, a song that I feel screams my youth, was also on her setlist.
This young lady’s got a lot going for her, and I certainly hope that’ll be able to catch more live gigs from her.
By the time Joji stepped onto the stage, all 30,000 of the Head In Clouds attendees were ready to sing along with the eccentric recording artist’s anthemic hits. He started his set with a performance of “Sanctuary”, and immediately went into his comedic mode freestyling briefly about nuts. With the assistance of the audience, he sang then sang “Yeah Right”, “Daylight”, “Mr. Hollywood” and “Attention”, occasionally throwing in random, but euphoric, “Bitch!” in-between lines.
After a brief respite that allowed him to fling party favors into the audience with a large slingshot, he performed “Ew”, during which he responded, “I love you too,” to an audience me which elicited wild and longing cheers from those he wasn’t addressing. Joji’s music is generally downtempo, and I think he throws in the random “bitch” and “I love you” to keep the audience on their toes. LOL.
Joji has a knack for writing hooks that are easy to sing. The audience’s voice got louder and louder during the hook of “Demons” (This is not a threat, I promise (nope), I promise, This is not a threat, I promise, It’s a warning, baby, I just want you to know).
Before performing “Gimme Love”, “Can’t Get Over You” and “Your Man”, Joji once again brought out the slingshot. After running off the stage, the crowd immediately started to chant “one more song” … “Joji” …. then “Slow Dancing!”. Joji came back on stage to honor their request with what was, essentially, a group sing of “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK”, with Joji interjecting the occasional, “Can’t you see, bitch?!” LOL.
With the crowd reaching climax getting what they wanted, Joji left the stage with an “I’ll be back soon.”
While he would not return for the balance of the evening, the stage saw the return of a handful of the weekend’s performers to close the festivities out. Rich Brian, Lil Cherry, GOLDBUUDA, Warren Hue, Seori, and NIKI all had an extra moment on stage with Lil Cherry and GOLDBUUDA performing “MUKKBANG!”, Warren Hue and Seori performing “Warriors”, and Warren Hue, NIKI, and Rich Brian performing their hit single “California”.
NIKI, Brian, and Warren all thanked the crowd and started walking off stage when the crowd begged for one more song. With a last-minute decision, NIKI and Brian came back to center stage with NIKI stating, “We just decided to do this.”
“OK, you know the drill,” Niki said before counting in, “1, 2, 3, 4”
And with that, the 30,000 that were still in attendance, all started to sing, acapella, “Midsummer Madness”. One time through the chorus of “Fuck The Rules,” and that was it. Head In The Clouds was in the books.
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