14 highlights from Head In The Clouds 2021: Joji, NIKI, CL, Rich Brian, eaJ, BIBI, and more

14 highlights from Head In The Clouds 2021: Joji, NIKI, CL, Rich Brian, eaJ, BIBI, and more

Setlist in hand, a bottle of water in your bag, and friends by your side, the day of a music festival is a busy one. You’re making sure you make it to your favourite artists’ sets on time and not losing your friends in the process. 

And it’s still the same as catching one online – a ridiculous number of alarms to make sure you’re awake for a show in the opposite timezone, a stable Internet connection, and your friends all gathered in a group chat for live updates and reactions. 

Granted, making sure you wake up on time for your favourite artists' sets is not as glamorous and Instagram-worthy as running around festival grounds but the excitement of making it in time for the set you've been waiting all night (or in our case, morning) for still transcends. 

BANDWAGON TV

88rising held the third instalment of Head In The Clouds music festival at the Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California last weekend. And for the first time ever, the festival was also livestreamed via Amazon Music which meant that everyone from all over the world could tune in to the two-day West Coast party.

The festival had an all-Asian lineup, inviting everyone from Korean hip-hop legends to budding indie pop acts. Across two days, we saw performances from Joji, NIKI, Rich Brian, CL, Saweetie, keshi, Seori, DPR LIVE and DPR IAN, eaJ, the FEEL GHOOD MUSIC crew, beabadoobee, and more. 

Head In The Clouds comes as one of the latest live music events to include a livestream, joining the likes of Slipknot and BTS. Hybrid shows are undeniably one of the best things to come out of the pandemic, turning an otherwise distant, exclusive experience into a shared moment for everyone across the world. 

The livestream also included moments you would have gotten otherwise, like artist interviews or glimpses of what goes on backstage If we didn't tune in virtually, we wouldn't have gotten to see CL practice her choreography or Warren Hue's heartwarming reaction to the crowd screaming for an encore or FEEL GHOOD MUSIC's pre-show rituals. 

And for the most part, the unbelievable performances – including the wholesome acapella sing-along to ‘Midsummer Madness’ – still raises goosebumps through the screen. 

While the live festival was easing into the night in Los Angeles, for many of us in Asia, we were waking up to ATARASHII GAKKO! stabbing an alien with a pineapple and DPR LIVE chanting "DPR we gang gang". Happening from the early morning all the way to peak afternoon, there was no better way to start off the day. 

Here are some highlights from Head In The Clouds 2021.


ATARASHII GAKKO!

ATARASHII GAKKO! have always been about revolution. Wanting to lead a new wave of music from Japan to the world, the Japanese quartet are never predictable – which is exactly how their first-ever live performance in the US went.

Never knowing what the chaotic J-pop act was going to do next, you were always on the edge of your seat, buzzing with excitement and anticipation for the track, skit, and dance number. And it's always never close to what you expected.

From recreating the Beastie Boys'Intergalactic' in Japanese to stabbing an alien with a pineapple, ATARASHII GAKKO! gave a performance to remember, an unforgettable start to Head In The Clouds


YLONA GARCIA

Clad in bright red and beaming with energy, Ylona Garcia served great vocals, engaging spiels, and a bucket load of positive energy at her first-ever festival performance.

Considerably a great set to wake up at 7 AM to, the Filipino-Australian singer-songwriter performed her tracks 'Don't Go Changing' and 'All That'as well as covers of Ariana Grande's 'Dangerous Woman' and Bruno Mars' 'Locked Out Of Heaven'. While her performance only last 20 minutes, it was enough to make her an instant festival favourite. 


DPR LIVE + DPR IAN

In the days leading up to the festival, DPR LIVE and DPR IAN's performance was definitely one everyone was anticipating.

Their Head In The Clouds debut was not only the pair's return to the live stage after almost two years but also DPR IAN's first time performing — ever. Having just recently released his debut album, MITO earlier this year, the 'So Beautiful' act was moving from behind the stage to performing front and centre at one of the most anticipated festivals of 2021.

But his nerves were nowhere in sight. Commanding the stage and interacting with the crowd with such ease, it felt like DPR IAN had been performing for eons. 

"I've been manifesting this moment and it’s a lot better than I thought it would be,” he shared with the crowd.

Continuing the party was DPR LIVE, who has always been known for giving memorable live performances but you never know to what extent until you experience it firsthand. Completely in his element, you could easily tell he was someone that belonged on a stage. 

Performing fan favourites such as 'Jasmine', 'Kiss Me', and 'Martini Blue' and new hits like 'Hula Hoop' and 'Yellow Cab', DPR LIVE had a stage presence that captivated not only the live audience. 

The pair also brought out eaJ – who DPR LIVE introduced as "DPR eaJ" – to perform ‘Jam & Butterfly’. At this point, if you weren't already fully awake and buzzing with adrenaline, you definitely were after this performance. 

Closing out their show on an absolute high, DPR LIVE and DPR IAN bid farewell with 'To Myself'  because what DPR show is complete without the crowd – be it live or virtual – chanting "DPR we gang gang" from the top of their lungs.


CL

CL began her set with the words, “Hold up, you’re in the presence of the Queen.” And, no greater truth was spoken that day.

Proving exactly why she’s often dubbed as one of the queens of K-pop, the versatile performer took over Head In The Clouds with such power and confidence. Keeping the energy at a 100 all throughout her 45-minute set, the all-around performance showed no sign of fatigue as she killed through top hits like 'Doctor Pepper', 'Hello Bitches', 'Lifted' and more, with the crowd raising the energy with every track.

The crowd especially went wild DPR IAN and DPR LIVE joined the 'SPICY' act on stage to perform their collaborative track 'No Blueberries'Serving as the live stage debut of the MITO track, the chemistry between the three acts had everyone screaming, even from miles away. 


RICH BRIAN

Rich Brian is undeniably one of today's biggest rappers but you don't realise exactly how big until you see a huge crowd chanting back every single lyric back to the Indonesian act. If it weren't for his interspersed "What the f*** is up Head In The Clouds", you would have thought you were at a Rich Brian concert. 

From featuring on the official soundtrack of Shang-Chi to becoming the first-ever Indonesian act to reach 100 million Spotify listeners, it's been a great year for Rich Brian to say the least. And, all that pent up energy and excitement culminated into an unbelievable headlining performance.

Whether you were part of the jumping crowd or jumping on your own in your bedroom to the livestream, the 'Edamame' act knew how to hype up a crowd, transporting the crowd to what seemed like the hottest (like '100 Degrees' level hot) party of the year.


THE LINDA LINDAS

All about empowerment and challenging outdated constructs, The Linda Lindas showcased true force in their Head In The Clouds debut.

Taking over the stage with such power and energy, it's hard to believe that The Linda Lindas' average age is 13. Performing at their home turf, the punk group rocked the Double Happiness stage with performances of 'Oh!', 'Rebel Girl', and more. 


WARREN HUE

Warren Hue gave a glimpse of what to expect from his set when he joined Rich Brian for the finale of day 1 but nothing compared to what he actually had in store. 

Full of energy and brimming with glee, the Indonesian rapper aptly kicked off the West Coast party with his new track 'WEST'Joined by DJ and long-time collaborator Chasu, he had a stage presence that went beyond his two years in music.

Capturing the audience right from the get-go, Warren had the ability to get the crowd jumping and dancing along to unreleased songs, a feat that not a lot of new artists can say. Beyond that, he also performed his top hits including 'omomo punk', 'Candy Choppa', and 'Chardged!' interspersed with spiels where he shared his his appreciation for the year he's had. 

"I wrote this song in high school and now, I'm performing it in front of 30,000 people," he shared to the crowd as he closed his set with 'I NEED U, IN THE SUMMERTIME'. 


FEEL GHOOD MUSIC

FEEL GHOOD MUSIC was a wildcard performance, with many not knowing what to expect from rising star BIBI and hip-hop legends Tiger JK, Yoonmirae (aka Tasha), and Bizzy; but just a few minutes into the 50-minute set, the performance instantly solidified itself as a festival highlight. 

Kicking off the almost hour-long show was BIBI with 'PADO' but not before allowing the crowd to "fall in love with [her]" and fall in love we did. Enchanting and mesmerising, the versatile performer captured the hearts of everyone in the audience with her soothing vocals, charming personality, and chaotic on-stage antics (like throwing a pack of condoms into the crowd).

Following BIBI was Tiger JK, Yoonmirae, and Bizzy or MFBTY who are proof that legends are on a completely different level. Veterans in the Korean hip-hop scene, the trio held an unforgettable performance that had everyone on their feet.

Talking to the crowd, the trio shared how they were hesitant about taking the stage in front of a relatively young crowd. "We're old as f**k, no one knows who we are but tonight, we're going to let you guys know," said Tiger JK. 

And, they did. Keeping the energy up as the sun went down, MFBTY left their mark at Head In The Clouds that night, hosting one of the most memorable performances of the entire festival. A day later, we're still singing "You will always be my A-N-G-E-L". 


SEORI

A star on the rise, Seori gave a performance worth remembering in just 30 minutes. Clad in white, Seori materialised in a cloud of smoke like an angel opening her set with 'Who Escaped?'. Backed by the impressive Ganda Band, she took the crowd on a 'Fairy Tale' ride with her angelic voice and enticing stage presence. 

Having debuted in the middle of the pandemic, Head In The Clouds comes as one of Seori's first live performances after a string of pre-recorded online shows and she definitely did not disappoint. The singer made her way through tracks off of ?depacse ohw, such as the Jungkook-approved 'Running Through The Night,' with each track attracting a bigger crowd than the last – an impressive feat for an act who speaks and sings primarily in Korean. 

As one of her final songs, Seori brought out friend and frequent collaborator eaJ to give a live rendition of their recently released collaborative song 'Dive with you'With voices that work like magic together, the pair stunned the crowd.


KESHI

keshi is undeniably a crowd favourite; you ask any one whose performance they were looking forward to and his name is one of those that top the list. And right from the beginning, you knew exactly why. 

With impressive vocals and a stage presence so captivating, your eyes were on him the entire time. keshi performed long-time fan favourites like 'like i need u', and '2 soon' while also diving into recent hits like 'SOMEBODY' and 'beside you'.

While technical issues didn't give keshi the credit he deserves, his jam-packed performance proved exactly why he's one of today's biggest musical acts. 


EAJ

eaJ kicked off his first-ever solo stage like the true rock star he is, with a drum-heavy and electric guitar latent unreleased track that had everyone in the crowd banging their heads and the energy up to the skies in an instant. A mix of My Days [DAY6 fans] and new fans, eaJ drew quite the crowd from the beginning – especially for someone who doesn't have any official releases – a fact he rightfully called a flex. 

With Korea still limiting live concerts, the DAY6 member had spent two years away from the live stage and the pure joy and excitement of being back in front of crowd was clear and definitely added to the passion and fire of his half-hour set. 

Treating his crowd like they were his Twitch chat, eaJ sprinkled moments of hilarious spiels throughout his performance, many to call out the memes in the crowd and to catch his breath as he powered through his self-described chaotic setlist. 

To close out his set, eaJ invited on Seori and keshi to perform live renditions of 'It just is' and 'Pillows' for the very first time. 


NIKI

NIKI did not come to play. 

As the days counted down to her highly anticipated, the Indonesian star had teased that this was "the performance of [her] life", and it certainly was. Presenting a show like she's never done before, NIKI's hour-long set had everything from outfit changes and choreography to piano ballads and heartwarming speeches. 

"Growing up in Indonesia, I never even dreamed of being here – not just performing here but singing the songs I wrote and hearing the songs being sung back to me. Thank you so much for being here and for giving me this opportunity," she said to the crowding before starting a laidback rendition of 'Plot Twist'

Backed by an amazing band which includes rising guitarist Tiana Ohara, NIKI performed new hits from her album MOONCHILD like 'Switchblade' and 'Pandemonium' while also paying homage to the tracks that got to where she is today including 'lowkey', 'Vintage', and 'I Like U'. The singer-songwriter also invited keshi on stage to perform a duet version of his track, 'right here'


BEABADOOBEE

Armed with a guitar and backed by her long-time band, beabadoobee eased us into the evening (or late afternoon for us) with her melodious voice. 

While the Filipino-British act gave outstanding performances of tracks like 'Care', 'He Gets Me So High', and 'Dye It Red', her stripped-back rendition of 'Coffee' truly stole the show. With just her voice and the faint strumming of her guitar, she teleported us to a cold, rainy day comforted by a warm cup of coffee and cosy blankets.

There's true power in holding an audience undying attention with just your voice, and there's not a doubt that beabadoobee does it the best.


JOJI

If you were tuning on Twitch, you’d know that Joji’s name was never not in the live chat – even from day 1. Everyone was looking forward to the singer's performance and you could tell, with the number of Twitch viewers rising from 30,000 to 40,000 the moment his name appeared on screen. 

We haven't heard much from Joji since his impressive and very weird online concert last year so expectations were high for his headling performance; but in true Joji fashion, the 'Sanctuary' came out kicking (and screaming) starting out what was going to be a show that we'd be thinking about for weeks. 

Sending in a wave of feels and emotions (that we definitely were not ready to deal with on a Monday afternoon), Joji went through his impressive discography, performing beloved tracks like 'SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK', 'Sanctuary'and 'CAN'T GET OVER YOU'

Of course, we can't forget him slingshotting random gifts and merch into the crowd and breakdancing.


FINALE PERFORMANCES

In true Head In The Clouds fashion, the festival bid farewell with a special performance featuring several 88rising artists. On day 1, Rich Brian closed out the show joined alongside NIKI, Warren Hue, and August 08; while day 2 saw the addition of Seori, Lil Cherry, and GoldBuuda

The most notable moment, however, was the acapella rendition of 'Midsummer Madness' that 100% gave everyone goosebumps, no matter where they were tuning in from. After a bleak year full of isolation, fear, and worries, it was a special moment that tied everyone together regardless if you were in the crowd or behind a screen. 


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