On August 20-21, 88rising and Goldenvoice’s Head In The Clouds Music & Arts Festival made its return to the Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Occupying three stages – the Double Happiness stage, the 88Rising stage, and a newly introduced Club Year Of Dance tent – this year’s festival aimed to be the biggest one yet. It did not disappoint. Filled with food vendors, special pop-up shops, and music performances, this two-day school-themed celebration of Asian American music and culture delivered a star-studded lineup where K-Pop and Korean artists were in full attendance.
Day one started strongly with Hojean’s sweet melodies. For the first live performance of the entire festival, the young artist took the stage with his signature hoodie on to “Pick Up Your Phone” exclaiming to the crowd, “I want you guys to know this is actually my very first festival ever!… What a show out!” He continued his opening performance with songs such as his ever catchy “far from here” and soothing “weekends.” A key moment that stood out was when he threw on his guitar to perform a song from his upcoming EP, Swing, titled “Pose for Me.” Due to technical difficulties, his backing vocals did not work. But due to this, the fans were treated to a special “raw” performance of the song that highlighted Hojean’s vocal ability. “You guys are so dope, man. I never wanna leave. I never wanna leave…”
Dabin was also in attendance at this year’s Head in the Clouds Festival. Known for his collaborations with artists ILLENIUM, Slander, Seven Lions, and many more, fans were in for an EDM set that would both make them jump and inspire them to cry all within 45 minutes. Armed with multiple keyboards and a guitar, Dabin, fresh off the release of his Between Broken (Remixes) album, took the stage and played an insane mix of “Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz into a remix of “Laser Beams” by Ray Volpe. Dabin also had a song in his pocket that fans were looking forward to. Just the month before, the artist also performed at Riot Games’ 2022 Valorant France Regionals Opening Ceremony where he unveiled his “Die For You Remix,” a theme song for the game that made gamers and fans alike jump and shout. Ending out his set, Dabin hit the crowd with his ever-popular “Rings & Roses” / “Gurenge”(Demon Slayer OP) mash-up that left the crowd wanting more.
It was now time for K-Pop, and fans were ready. To screams, chants, and even some snaps, Chung Ha and her crew of dancers rushed the stage to an intricately choreographed “Snapping.” Although it had been a while since she had last performed in LA, the energy from the fans let her know that they had missed her. Chung Ha explained, “I was actually like, ‘would somebody ever know me?’, It’s been too long since I was performing in LA… thank you I feel loved.” She continued her set with “Sparkling” and of course, being on the West Coast, she had to perform “California Dream.”
Immediately after, Chung Ha stopped her whole show for a fan. Reaching out, she grabbed a front-row fan’s album and signed it. “My album was just there… I couldn’t.” She continued on to play signature songs such as “Rollercoaster” and “Gotta Go.” After many many thank-yous and numerous crowd selfies with every corner of the crowd, the Dallas-raised artist wanted to bring it back to her debut song, “Why Don’t You Know” to close her show. “I won’t forget today.”
The last Korean artist of the night was none other than H1GHER Music’s founder, Jay Park. “LA, it’s been a long time!” the artist shouted as he ran out to perform a dance-filled “All I Wanna Do.” Just like Chung Ha, Jay also has not been back to LA in a long while, so this was a special performance for the Seattle native. “It’s my first time back in LA in three years,” he told the crowd right before vibing out to four of his biggest hits, “Me Like Yuh,” “Yacht,” “Solo,” and his currently TikTok viral “GANADARA.”
Jay Park did stop in the middle of his set to pay a special homage to the pioneers of Asian American music. “I wanna give a shoutout to all the OGs that made this possible,… legends like Far East Movement, legends like Teriyaki Boyz, legends like Drunken Tiger.” All of these artists paved the way for a festival like Head in the Clouds to even exist and Jay wanted to pay his respects to the people before him that put in work for the culture. “And speaking of putting in work, I brought a few special guests with me!” as fellow H1GHER Music member Sik-k took the stage to perform his single, “party(SHUT DOWN).” Needless to say, bras were thrown and Sik-k’s shirt came off.
But that wasn’t the end of Jay’s special guests, as pH-1, another H1GHER member, rushed the stage to his single, “Cupid.” Now that both artists had introduced themselves and performed their own singles, it was time for the trio to do their signature song together, “iffy.” It really wasn’t just the Jay Park show anymore, it was a full-blown H1GHER Music concert as the trio performed two of their most popular hits, “Telefono” and “The Purge.” Jay went on to perform more of his hits, but knew he couldn’t end the night without performing what the fans were all waiting for, “Mommae.” Needless to say, thousands of Jay Park fans left happy that night – because his shirt was also taken off.
Day two was another huge night for K-Pop. Kicking off the evening adorned in white, transparent, unicorn cowboy boots was BIBI, opening her set with “BINU” and her newest 88Rising single “Best Lover.” Backed by a live band, she went on to perform her unreleased Latin-themed single, “Bumpa.” “Give it to me, papi!” she told the crowd as she cha-cha’d and salsa’d her way up and down the stage in the evening sunlight before performing her hit “Cigarette and Condom.”
One of the most exciting moments of the whole festival was her skillful performance of one of her unreleased tracks. “My new album is coming out… this song is about a lonely girl from Seoul City,” she explained and then performed her never before-heard “City Love.” One of the most vocally challenging songs of the night, BIBI skillfully belted her new song, which was inspired by trot, a genre born in 1920s Korea and that is once again gaining steam. . Not only was the song uptempo and chock full of lyric-filled verses, but the chorus was also extremely powerful and required the until now calm vocalist to let her inner lion roar. After such a highlight of a performance, BIBI calmed things down, ending her set with her two most popular fan favorites, “Kazino” and last year’s Head in the Cloud’s festival anthem, “The Weekend.” “I love you guys! See you later!”
Right after BIBI was Southern California native EAJ. Opening with “Go Away” and “LA Stars,” EAJ’s mellow and calming vibe was pervasive. “Thank you so much for allowing me to be here, humbly, genuinely. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart,” EAJ expressed. Slowing it down, he went on to perform an emotional performance of “A Typical Story” and “Traveler,” songs that let the talented vocalist’s range run rampant between octaves.
EAJ’s set felt like it came from the heart. He touched on a lot of very important issues, having a heart-to-heart with the crowd in between some of his more deep songs. “How many of you guys sometimes stop and think and are like ‘What am I doing? I don’t know where my life is going… I just want you to know that you are loved.” Closing out his set, he ended with an emotion-driven performance of his official debut song “Car Crash,” a song ironically describing how beautiful the night was.
Last, but certainly not least, was one of the main headliners of the festival. Fittingly introduced as the “magic man from China,” Jackson Wang opened his set to thousands of screams with a powerfully choreographed trio of songs, “100 Ways,” “Go Ghost,” and “Just Like Magic.” “Tonight I’ll be performing my new album, Magic Man.” A completely new experience, fans were treated to Jackson’s whole unreleased never before-heard album for the first time. From damn near dousing himself in champagne during “Champagne Cool” to the intricate dance moves in “Drive It Like You Stole It,” his performance was full of highlights, but nothing was more memorable than his next song.
During yet another unreleased song, “Dopamine,” Jackson walked out to the end of the stage and was raised up high on a pedestal overlooking the whole crowd. The image was iconic as he sang. “I hope you guys become somebody you’re proud of in your field. Just go for it. Never rely on other people making it happen for you… I might fail but I’ma die trying. Asians always rise.” To close his set, Jackson expectedly went on to perform his newly released but already hit song, “Cruel,” but he had one more surprise for the fans. During his final song, “Blow,” fans were treated to the flash appearance of the KINJAZ dancing all around Jackson to end his solo set.
Another big draw of the Head in the Clouds Festival is the grand finale, a unique culmination of special collaborative performances by almost all of the headliners that resulted in all of the performers being on stage at one time. Almost as if he never left the stage, Jackson opened the finale with MILLI for a beautiful performance of their joint song, “Mind Games,” a perfect song to open the closing ceremony.
Something special about this year’s finale was Jackson’s MCing. With a hand in every performance, he was on stage the whole time, even during songs he wasn’t originally a part of. This gave the whole performance a special feel. Highlights included Rich Brian and the Teriyaki Boyz performing “Tokyo Drift,” a fitting performance of 88 Rising’s “California,” and the festival’s signature song, “Midsummer Madness” with a surprise guest, legendary actress Michelle Yeoh, also taking the stage.
Overall, this year’s Head in the Clouds Festival was a playground for Korean artists. From the sheer number of hits from Jay Park to the soothing melodies of Hojean, the variety and range were there. It is such a unique festival. 88 Rising brings Asian artists you would usually have to travel the world to see all together in one place. Even though guests may have only taken one plane to be here, it will leave their heads in the clouds for the weeks to come.