Head in the Clouds

Christian Rodriguez, Features Editor

On Saturday, September 21, media production company and record label 88rising held their first music and arts festival at the Los Angeles Historic Park. The all-day event, named after 88’s collaborative summer album Head in the Clouds, was the first the music festival ever led by an Asian collective in North America and featured more than a dozen popular artists including Joji, Rich Brian, and Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers.

Nearly the entire park venue was dedicated to the gala, easily distinguished by the dozens of cloud-shaped balloons with “88↑” written in bold letters floating all over the festival grounds. Notable areas included a beautiful photo space filled with fluffy cloud props and a bright 88rising neon sign, a merch booth with a line that boasted hundreds of attendees at any given time, and a pop-up selling exclusive GUESS x 88rising (amusingly stylized as GUE88) shirts and hoodies.

The focal point, however, was the main stage in the center of the park. The stage had a small upper level that artists could take stairs to and perform on, two giant screens for visuals during and between acts, and one small screen at the very top that either displayed a picture of the performing artist or a series of animations following the adventures an adorable smiling cloud. The stage visuals, rather than being generic animations, were created specifically for each artist and matched the performers style perfectly (a particularly notable scene being a slightly uncanny picture of Rich Brian’s face that slowly moved across the screen and occasionally blinked during performances from his  debut album Amen).

The performing artists, in order of appearance, were Diablo, Don Krez, Sen Morimoto, Yung Pinch, August 08, Dumbfoundead, Laff Trax, KOHH, NIKI, Zion T., Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, Murda Beatz, Joji, and Rich Brian. Of these artists, those most popular with American audiences were probably Rich Brian, Joji, and the Higher Brothers. Many of the artists also brought out friends not listed on the lineup to perform with them during their sets.

Artists like pop star Zion T. and rapper Keith Ape, both of which sang in Korean for most songs, gave incredible performances, and, though much of the crowd couldn’t sing along, had the audience transfixed for their entire sets. Smaller artists like Sen Morimoto similarly blew away the crowd and gained many new fans in the process.

Throughout the entire day, the audience maintained a consistent state of high energy, which peaked as Higher Brothers opened their set with their song Made in China, and continued as they delivered what was arguably the most hype act of the day. Many Chinese fans attended the event specifically for the group and nicely filled in the non-English gaps in songs that much of the crowd struggled with. Joji delivered an emotional performance during songs like “Slow Dancing in the Dark” and “Worldstar Money”, which nicely contrasted his funny, casual banter between songs and his exclamations of his now-famous line, “UNBLOCK ME, B*TCH.” He performed many songs off his In Tongues EP, and several singles from his upcoming BALLADS1 project, and, due to his popularity, was met with singing from nearly all of the attendees. Rich Brian pumped up the crowd with classics like “Glow Like Dat” and “Cold,” at one point even feigning sound and video errors, only to immediately jump into a performance of his smooth flowing “Amen” before the crowd even had time to assess the situation. To the delight of most crowd members, and the horror of several others, Brian closed his set with his controversial breakout hit “Dat $tick.” Finally, the entire 88rising cast joining on stage for several collaborative songs and encores of fan favorites. The entire event culminated in a beautiful scene – the entire festival audience singing and joining together for a final performance of 88’s track of the season, “Midsummer Madness”.

88rising’s first festival was a massive success and went extremely smoothly despite it being the collective’s first venture into the medium. Small artists and big artists alike wowed the audience and gave attendees nonstop fun for the whole day, and made history in the process by headlining this milestone festival. 88 artists have already confirmed that the event will take place again next summer.