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Festival review: Rich Brian delivers ‘100 Degrees’ of heat at Head In The Clouds headlining show

Headliner Rich Brian closed off the first night of the Head In The Clouds festival with a flashy set and pyrotechnics. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

By Tara Oldenburg

Nov. 8, 2021 12:05 a.m.

Rich Brian is the moon in the Head In The Clouds sky.

Controlling the crowd like the tide and eclipsing the sun displayed on the LED screen, the rapper glided onto stage in a retro futuristic, chrome vest and pants set. Although it had been a year since his last foray onto the stage, Rich Brian brought charisma to his set as he bounced onto the Head In The Clouds Music and Arts Festival T stage sandwiched by an iron-masked army on LED screens that looked with fiery eyes upon the crowd. Despite the horror-inducing imagery, the rapper danced as cannons sent sparks into the air and fans screamed for his attention for one of the most chill-inducing performances of the night.

His year off stage brought a desperation to connect and speak with fans that had been unmatched in previous performances of the night, finally lighting the spark that audiences had lost over the pandemic and was missing throughout much of the festival. To keep the fire alive, the rapper primed audiences for his quarantine-driven freestyle with an anecdote about its release.

“It’s been a really crazy year. It’s been insane, but I want to take it back to the first day of lockdown,” Rich Brian said. “How did you guys feel? For me, … I was terrified. I was trying to do something productive, but I didn’t know what to do. So … I put (out a song), and before I put it out I made a music video, and I put that out, and it goes a little bit like this.”

Careening off the sampled instrumental of “Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz in Rich Brian’s “Tokyo Drift Freestyle” came the summer anthem “100 Degrees.” The chorus-driven ode to the heat provided the audience with the perfect balance between exciting and calming as Rich Brian successfully kept spirits alive for concertgoers who had potentially gone to nearly eight hours of live performances.

But the rapper didn’t stay alone on stage for long. Rich Brian’s feigned confusion at a single, intrusive brass melody opened the floodgates for dancers dressed as large edamame to accompany the rapper, who launched into the song by the same name. Riding on its TikTok fame, audiences were clearly hoping for an opportunity to show off their lyrical knowledge of “edamame” with the loudest singing of the night. While the dancing and costumes were unexpected, the “edamame” interlude was a misplaced gimmick that only suggested the rapper had lost the confidence in ruling the stage that he had in 2019.

The artist interacted more than earlier artists had that night, talking about his recent projects and the emotions of performing live again. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)
The artist interacted more than earlier artists had that night, talking about his recent projects and the emotions of performing live again. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

Rich Brian scrambled for command of the stage and gained it back with the backdrop of quick piano melodies, harmonic tones and consistently rhythmic raps of his latest release, “New Tooth.” Although the song in the studio lacks anything remarkable to differentiate it from the slew of rhythmic rap flooding the genre, Rich Brian’s performance of the track made it one of the most invigorating of the night as he traveled the whole stage and got low with fans.

Demanding a call and answer of “Rich” and “Brian,” the rapper expertly played several of his early popular songs, culminating in “Yellow,” his popular 2019 release that made for the most powerful sonic experience of the night. Swapping the wireless mic out for a mic stand, Rich Brian looked across the audience who had curiously put their phones away as if to say that “Yellow” could only be experienced in real life.

No camera could do the performance justice, as the rapper questioned the crowd through lyrics, “Will anyone even miss me when I’m gone?” and it’s certain the encompassing orchestral strings and soft rain visuals on screen would not be forgotten for quite a while. Finishing in quick succession with “History,” “Slow Down Turbo” and a crowd-led version of “Midsummer Madness,” Rich Brian closed out the show with expectations for the second day of concerts.

“Let’s turn up even harder tomorrow, alright?” Rich Brian said.

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Tara Oldenburg
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