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Festival review: Saweetie, CL and others bring ice and spice to day 1 of Head In The Clouds

This year’s Head In The Clouds festival, organized by Goldenvoice and 88rising, occurred this weekend and featured headliners such as Rich Brian, Japanese Breakfast and Joji. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

By Tara Oldenburg

Nov. 8, 2021 12:04 a.m.

The sky is the limit – and the clouds are only just the beginning.

Held on Saturday and Sunday, the Head In The Clouds Music and Arts festival showcased artists of Asian and Asian American heritage as they performed at Pasadena’s Brookside at the Rose Bowl. Featuring food vendors from San Gabriel’s 626 Night Market, the two-day festival organized by music collective 88rising rose to new heights.

Read on for the Daily Bruin’s coverage of day one of Head In The Clouds.

Rapper Audrey Nuna played towards the beginning of the night, with high energy that an inconsistent crowd failed to match. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)
Rapper AUDREY NUNA played toward the beginning of the night, with high energy that an inconsistent crowd failed to match. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

AUDREY NUNA

AUDREY NUNA is chasing freedom – and found it in her set.

Donning a tattered striped shirt and racing onto stage, the New Jersey-raised singer and rapper opened her set with live drums, keyboards and guitar – one of the few sets to highlight live instruments from the night. Backdropped by cybergoth graphics and vintage film reels, the singer launched into hits such as “damn Right” and “Cool Kids” for her festival debut.

Die-hard attendees interspersed with casual fans made for a sporadically jumping crowd that struggled to get into the flow of stuttering and syncopated beats in “Typical” and “Honeypot.” Fans appeared to sluggishly bounce along to songs but lacked the spark that many crowds had pre-COVID-19 pandemic.

As the set continued, the audience and Audrey Nuna may have needed another 30 minutes to remind themselves that concerts and live performing were back in full force. But slumping crowds could not hold Audrey Nuna back from involving fans in several call-and-response moments and a vocal performance that could make studio recordings jealous.

And it seems there’s only room to grow for the first-time festival performer.

Rei Ami&squot;s shouted bars and furious dance moves were slow to carry over into the crowd, but tracks like TikTok hit "DICTATOR" revived the audience. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)
REI AMI's shouted bars and furious dance moves were slow to carry over into the crowd, but tracks like TikTok hit "DICTATOR" revived the audience. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

REI AMI

REI AMI isn’t impressed unless you’re foaming at the mouth for her.

Addressing her greatest fans, whom she dubbed “Reibies,” REI AMI slithered onto the stage with four backup dancers contorting and tutting in tow as she welcomed fans to the “Church of REI AMI.”

Sporting 2000s-esque sweatsuit chaps for her festival debut, REI AMI demanded fans to sing along and “shake their ass, violently.” The singer’s intensity didn’t stop there as she whipped the motionless crowd into shape by repeating her authoritarian commands until the audience complied.

Hyperpop and hip-hop hybrid track “RUNAWAY” started with just as much gusto as previous songs but eventually took the audience to a sensual reprieve as REI AMI stomped across stage with her backup dancers twerking and grinding alongside her. Audiences were slow to match REI AMI’s energy as the singer expressed her dissatisfaction by saying the crowd “sucked.”

Shifting from her typical dance choreography to a burlesque-style dance on chairs for “MAKE IT MINE,” the singer danced sensually with her backup dancers and flirted with the crowd as she hauntingly crooned the ode to carrying out one’s desires without explanation to others. Closing with TikTok hit “DICTATOR” after throwing fruit snacks into the crowd, REI AMI bowed off stage to screams of a crowd who had finally started to match her expectations.

REI AMI had crowds left assured that REI AMI was not their queen but rather their “DICTATOR.”

Saweetie both opened and closed her set with drama, performing "Back to the Streets" twice and wielding a bedazzled cane. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)
Saweetie both opened and closed her set with drama, performing "Back to the Streets" twice and wielding a bedazzled cane. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

Saweetie

Saweetie gave it all away on the stage – including several “icy” chains and her own lip gloss that made it into fans’ hands.

Bedazzled cane in hand and backup dancers to boot, Saweetie opened her set 15 minutes late with “Back to the Streets,” performing to eager fans who finally appeared to have gained the spark lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. As her set continued, the rapper pulled out several chains to gift to fans who could rap along to her first hit, 2017’s “ICY GRL.” After reapplying her makeup, the singer also tossed her used lipgloss tube into the eager hands of the crowd.

The California-raised singer paid homage to her Filipina and Chinese ancestry with a “special shoutout to Asian kings and queens” who had attended the festival and made the large crowd feel small by taking requests for her final song. Having to cut the set short, Saweetie teased the crowd, saying “Best Friend” would be her final song but after playing the hit, performed “Back to the Streets” by fan request, ending right where she began with the sparkly cane and similar choreography.

After all, there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken.

(Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)
As one of the festival's evening performances, CL's dynamic set was full of movement as the artist lunged and lay across the stage. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

CL

CL has it all: energy, power and chemistry.

The three adjectives featured in the opening lines of the singer’s newest song, “SPICY,” aptly describe her set as she took the stage later in the night.

Donning a slouchy, black puffer jacket and sparkly leotard, the K-pop performer turned solo rapper took the stage to “look for the bad girls.” With darkness falling on the hills surrounding the Rose Bowl, attendees could finally witness the all-encompassing strobe lights displayed on the LED screens to punctuate the EDM-trap hybrid buildup to “MTBD.”

The introspective lyrics in the outro to the song, which croons, “How beautiful is this life? How painful is this life?” juxtaposed the filtered and electronically enhanced vocals that screamed nothing but excitement. Her performance made for one of the most participatory moments of the night as attendees screamed the cathartic lyrics back to CL.

From hair whipping to grabbing the stage camera throughout the set, CL did not fail to touch nearly every part of the stage, whether it was with her feet, or in some cases, her stomach as she lay on the floor to reach fans and cameras.

Excitement in the set mounted with the introduction of DPR IAN and DPR LIVE, who performed “No Blueberries” with sensual chemistry to the eager eyes of audience members trying to capture the moment on their phones.

Riding off her 2015 fame, CL finished the set with her greatest hit to date, “Hello Bitches,” to the delight of her fans who screamed many of the lyrics back to the singer while she stomped across stage. As she strutted off, a final few flashes of light from the LED screens were all that was left to remind audiences of CL’s final song.

At least for CL, there’s no better way to say goodbye than with a “hello.”

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Tara Oldenburg
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