[RECAP] Head In The Clouds New York Day 1: ITZY, Dumbfoundead, and Hojean Bring Korean Representation to Inaugural Festival

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Five years after its founding, 88rising’s Head in the Clouds New York Music & Arts Festival made its long-awaited East Coast debut at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York on May 20 and 21, coinciding with Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month. The festival had previously seen successful runs in Los Angeles, Manila, and Jakarta. The expansion to New York represented a homecoming for 88rising, which was founded in the city in 2015 with the mission of amplifying Asian talent around the world. With the New York metro area also being home to the largest Asian diaspora in the world, Head in the Clouds New York was a star-studded event celebrating Asian talent and culture through music, food, and community.

Korean culture was represented on Day 1 of the festival by Dumbfoundead, Hojean, and K-Pop girl group ITZY, who was slated to headline on Saturday alongside Rich Brian. Dumbfoundead and Hojean were no strangers to Head in the Clouds – Dumbfoundead being a regular Head in the Clouds performer and 88rising collaborator, and Hojean having performed at the Los Angeles festival in 2022 – but Saturday marked ITZY’s first Head in the Clouds appearance along with their U.S. festival debut.

The day’s pouring rain and cloudy skies ended up being nothing more than a slight inconvenience to the enthusiastic attendees. Fifi Zhang, Paravi, Akini Jing, Spence Lee, and Warren Hue performed their sets without issues and festival-goers were more than excited to stand in the rain and support their favorite artists throughout the day.


Dumbfoundead was the first artist of Korean descent to take the stage among Saturday’s lineup. The multi-faceted rapper, actor, and comedian brought a party to the Double Happiness stage even as the rain kept falling. He performed hits like “Rocket Man,” “We Might Die,” and the fan-favorite social commentary track, “Harambe,” which calls out police brutality against the lens of 2016’s Harambe controversy/meme

“Look at all these cute ass ponchos in the building! Looking like colorful boba balls and lychee up in this bitch,” he joked at the crowd’s rain gear, even comparing the functional festival fashion to Pokémon. “We got some Pikachus, some Snorlaxes, some Bulbasaurs, and some Squirtles, of course.”

At one point, the rain caused Dumb to slip while he was performing, though he laughed it off and later reshared a fan-made meme video of himself “busting his ass” on Instagram. The show must go on, though – Dumbfoundead continued his set with “Hyung” followed by “K.B.B.,” his collaboration with Jessi, Microdot, and Lyricks. He also surprised attendees by briefly bringing out his friend and collaborator, fellow rapper, actress, and comedian Awkwafina, a Forest Hills native. They bantered about Dumb’s earlier fall, but Dumb also noted the rarity of a music festival taking place in Forest Hills, further highlighting the novelty of the event – especially one that serves as a platform for musicians and artists of color.


Up next on the Double Happiness stage was Korean-American New York-born, Georgia-based singer Hojean. A self-proclaimed hoodie lover, Hojean was dressed for the weather in a tied red hoodie and black jacket. He kicked off his performance with “You Ain’t Gotta” and “Hookup Culture,” which both worked to set a chill, laid-back mood that made the rain feel more like a lo-fi ambient background to his music. Hojean’s well-loved track “weekends” emphasized the feeling and he warmed up the crowd with his smooth voice and impressive falsetto. 

Hojean then introduced a soon-to-be-released song called “Easily.” He quickly taught the audience to chant out, “easily, easily, easily, like,” during the pre-chorus and the crowd learned it without missing a beat. Once the song ended, Hojean asked the audience when he should drop the new track, to which they responded, “Now!”

Toward the end of his set, Hojean performed his highly-anticipated song “Over 85.” He noted that it was his most popular song, and it was obvious as the audience sang and bounced along as loud as they could. His dynamic R&B set was a breath of fresh air amid the humid and rainy weather.


Once the sun started to set, it was time for ITZY to take the main 88rising stage as the night’s first headliner. Fans, known as MIDZYs, gathered in the pit with their ITZY light rings and filled the stands in anticipation of what the monster girl group would bring to Head in the Clouds. Due to the weather, ITZY’s set was pushed up by five minutes, but luckily the rain had begun to ease up.

The performance began with a colorful sizzle reel of members Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna in different music videos showcasing their versatility and visuals. Dancers then gathered onstage with color guard flags emblazoned with ITZY’s name. They kicked off with an epic, guitar-heavy arrangement of “Not Shy,” and the dancers waved the flags out-of-the away to reveal the ITZY girls in coordinating black and white outfits. The badass, high-energy vibe was accentuated by a dance break before the final chorus that the audience went crazy for.

ITZY’s mini color guard army of dancers returned for a rock version of “Sorry Not Sorry.” The girls’ explosive choreography was front and center, and the performance was intensified by the bright background visuals and some onstage fog effects. Later in their set, Chaeryeong revealed that they had written new versions of “Not Shy” and “Sorry Not Sorry” just for Head in the Clouds

ITZY then kept the fierce vibe going with “In the Morning (MAMA 2021 ver.).” Fans shouted the lyrics at the top of their lungs as the group strutted across the stage complemented by the dancers’ impressive flag-twirling routines.

“Hello, Head in the Clouds! The vibe here is amazing!” Ryujin said as the girls took their first break of the set to introduce themselves. Their greetings were met with deafening screams from the crowd. “I’m very happy to see you all singing along and enjoying [it] with us. We already met a lot of you at our last tour, but to be on this huge stage is more of a thrill than I imagined.”

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“Thanks to you guys, we’re having a whole lot of fun and we’re so excited to be here today. Thank you for coming,” Lia added earnestly.

Ryujin asked the crowd who had seen them before and who was meeting them for the first time. The vast majority of the crowd cheered at this being their first time seeing the group, and Ryujin cheekily replied, “Please keep your eyes on us, we’ll make you fall in love with ITZY!”

Next on the setlist was the alluring self-confidence anthem “SHOOT!” It was tough to look away from ITZY as they performed, but the icing on the cake was Chaeryeong’s flirty solo at the end of the song where she blew a kiss to the crowd and then sashayed away. The confident and carefree mood continued on with ITZY’s hit song “WANNABE.” MIDZYs went wild for the song’s iconic shoulder dance move. They then transitioned into, “DALLA DALLA,” their debut song and another fun fan-favorite. Fans danced and screamed out the lyrics, “I love myself! Nan mwonga dalla dalla, yeah,” at the top of their lungs.

“You guys have been here since the morning and afternoon, and yet you guys are full of energy!” Lia commented in the second ment. 

“We always do our best to give you guys a powerful, positive, and happy mood,” Chaeryeong remarked.

Yeji added to the sentiment, “At this moment, let’s not care what others say and just enjoy the moment! You can dance, you can sing, you can jump!”

It was the perfect setup for ITZY’s sassy English single, “Boys Like You.” After a set full of planned choreography, “Nobody Like You” gave the girls a chance to dance across the stage and interact with fans freely. The song’s cute, Y2K pop-rock vibe had the crowd engaged – the entire stadium was glowing with light rings and phone lights being waved to the beat of the song. 

“‘Nobody Like You’ is one of our favorite songs, and as you can tell, all our members were very, very touched by the way you all waved your light rings and flashlights,” Lia said. Sadly, Lia announced that it was the final part of their set, to which the crowd responded by echoing, “Noooo,” before chanting, “ITZY! ITZY! ITZY!” and barking at the group to hype up their last performance.

To close out their set, ITZY brought a playful, cheeky vibe to the stage with “Sneakers.” They then delivered a memorable finale to their Head in the Clouds stage with a performance of “Loco,” which had the crowd cheering and dancing before their final bows.

Overall, it was a stunning conclusion to a day filled with amazing performances from artists across the world. Despite the questionable weather, the jam-packed stadium demonstrated just how meaningful and impactful a festival like Head in the Clouds is for the Asian community worldwide.

Stay tuned for our coverage of Head in the Clouds New York Music & Arts Festival’s second day, and our exclusive interview with ITZY!

Written by: Aleisha F. & Sarah P.

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