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Head in the Clouds 2023: Stellar performances thrill crowds despite summer heat

Dressed in a stringy, all black look, Head in the Clouds headliner NIKI stands and points upward on stage. The annual two-day music and arts festival came to a close Sunday night after a plethora of outdoor performances. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Dannela Lagrimas

Aug. 7, 2023 6:07 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to Yerin Baek’s song “Square” as “Square (2017).”

This post was updated Aug. 14 at 8:10 p.m. 

Head in the Clouds has floated away.

The music and arts festival, hosted by 88rising, drew to a close Sunday night at Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. With performances from 88rising’s roster and beyond, the two-day event serenaded attendees across three stages.

Read on for the Daily Bruin’s coverage of Day 2 of Head in the Clouds 2023.

Yerin Baek grips the microphone with her florally-tattooed arms. The South Korean musician serenaded the afternoon crowd with her vocals and an unreleased song. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Yerin Baek grips the microphone with her florally-tattooed arms. The South Korean musician serenaded the afternoon crowd with her vocals and an unreleased song. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Yerin Baek

Yerin Baek gave Head in the Clouds crowds a dreamy afternoon to remember.

The South Korean singer-songwriter took the 88rising stage at 3:30 p.m., dressed in a simple black jumpsuit. As the screen behind her flashed visuals of her name floating in the clouds, Baek smiled and waved to the crowd during “Our love is great,” an airy song that allowed Baek to show off her vocals. She encouraged the crowd to sing along with her and ad-libbed alongside them, creating ethereal harmonies.

Baek also treated the crowd to a silky, unreleased song, called “Dance on you.” As she swayed behind the microphone stand, audience members waved their hands as the singer smiled at them. Her next tune, “’HOMESWEETHOME,’” offered a sultrier R&B atmosphere. Although she remained behind the microphone stand for a majority of her set, Baek’s crowd kept the energy up in the August heat.

With her last song, “Square,” Baek’s band set the mood with a soulful introduction. The song allowed Baek to show off her more powerful vocals beyond the breathy falsetto she used previously. “Come take my arms and go / I’ll be yours for sure,” she sang.

And as the crowd screamed her name as she waved goodbye, the audience was hers for the taking.

[Related: Head in the Clouds 2022: Stage visuals, effects add flair to Day 2 festival performances]

Wearing matching black cowboy hats, multinational group XG dances in front of a pink digital display. XG&squot;s dance-heavy setlist included the tracks "LEFT RIGHT," "SHOOTING STAR" and "GRL GVNG," among others. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Wearing matching black cowboy hats, multinational group XG dances in front of a pink digital display. XG’s dance-heavy setlist included the tracks “LEFT RIGHT,” “SHOOTING STAR” and “GRL GVNG,” among others. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)

XG

XG is rolling with queens.

With an extra-terrestrial video that showed the girl group landing in time for their debut Los Angeles performance, XG emerged as the crowd chanted for them. Dressed in a mix of cowboy and Y2K clothing, complete with hats and matching boots, the members began with “MASCARA,” a self-empowerment anthem. With clean choreography, all seven members moved seamlessly as they traded off on vocal parts.

As “GRL GVNG” began, the group welcomed several dancers who filled the main stage. While Jurin performed the song’s chorus, the crowd echoed it back to her — “All of my ladies are fire / Rollin’ with queens, it’s a female empire.” The group took time to enthusiastically introduce themselves in turn after the song’s conclusion – Maya, Cocona, Chisa, Jurin, Juria, Hinata and Harvey. The crowd reciprocated their love by singing happy birthday to Maya, who held up heart hands and wiped tears from her eyes, jokingly asking the audience if they were trying to make her cry.

They continued their set with “LEFT RIGHT,” another choreographed song that put each member front and center in turn. Following a futuristic member introduction video, they returned on stage. As the haunting intro to “SHOOTING STAR” began, the crowd screamed the group’s fanchant. After more crowd interaction and banter among each other, they finished their set with their newest single, “TGIF.”

XG might have started on Earth, but their debut LA performance left them higher than the clouds.

grentperez sits on the edge of the stage wearing a khaki hat and denim shorts. Audiences danced and swayed during the Australian singer-songwriter's Head in the Clouds debut. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)
grentperez sits on the edge of the stage wearing a khaki hat and denim shorts. Audiences danced and swayed during the Australian singer-songwriter’s Head in the Clouds debut. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)

grentperez

grentperez was Sunday’s “Silver Lining.”

The Australian singer-songwriter, whose real name is Grant Perez, bounded onto the Honda Double Happiness stage at 6:25 p.m. His first song, “Confusing Girl,” was an upbeat choice that had the crowd bouncing enthusiastically and singing with him.

Throughout his performance, Perez interacted with his drummer and guitarist, joked with the crowd and tossed shirts to the audience. He took things slower with “Silver Lining” and “Clementine,” where the crowd swayed their arms in time with Perez on stage. Perez remained lighthearted and charismatic throughout, cracking jokes in between verses as audience members grinned back.

For “Old With You,” a pleasant tune about growing old with loved ones, Perez closed his eyes as his sweet voice flowed over the crowd. Audience members held hands and danced with one another as the sun slowly sank behind the mountains. “In a moment, the world could fall right down, but / Could you fall for me too?” he sang.

Perez concluded his set with his breakthrough hit, “Cherry Wine.” As he crooned the song, the crowd continued to groove and cheer while the bassist and drummer showed off their own dance moves. Perez imitated a trumpet in the middle of the song and continued to vocalize throughout. As he finished, Perez expressed his gratitude for his debut Head in the Clouds performance.

“I can’t believe I’m on this stage right now,” he said. “I started all of this on YouTube, so this is surreal to me that all of you are here.”

[Related: Head in the Clouds 2023: Day 1 sees spirited performances on festival stage]

With sunglasses covering her eyes and a guitar in hand, NIKI sings on the 88rising stage. The Indonesian artist returned to her label's festival after pulling out of the 2022 lineup due to a case of COVID-19. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)
With sunglasses covering her eyes and a guitar in hand, NIKI sings on the 88rising stage. The Indonesian artist returned to her label’s festival after pulling out of the 2022 lineup due to a case of COVID-19. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin senior staff)

NIKI

NIKI is no longer “lowkey.”

The Indonesian singer-songwriter made her triumphant return to the Head in the Clouds LA main stage Sunday evening after missing her headlining spot last year due to contracting COVID-19. She entered the stage following a dramatic introduction, featuring snippets of “Teenage Dirtbag” as her band headbanged in unison.

Dressed in a black leather dress with matching armbands, boots and a pair of sunglasses, she sang “Before” as visuals of a broken relationship played on the screen behind her and amped up the energy during “Keeping Tabs.” The 88rising artist, who is a staple at the label’s festivals, introduced herself to the crowd before “urs.”

“This place (Head in the Clouds) always feels like a big old family reunion,” she said. “I just want you to have fun – do whatever you want, because tonight is yours.”

For “Oceans & Engines,” the audience turned on their flashlights, creating a sea of swaying stars as NIKI belted into her mic. Liveliness returned with “High School in Jakarta,” which was updated with a rock arrangement that kept the crowd bouncing. NIKI finished with “lowkey” and “Every Summertime,” taking full control of the stage as she gestured and held her mic out to the crowd for them to sing. As “Every Summertime” drew to a close and she began to say her goodbyes, fireworks sparkled at the front of the stage while the audience continued to scream.

Indeed, NIKI proved that every day could be summertime with her.

Email Lagrimas at [email protected] or tweet @dannelawrites.

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Dannela Lagrimas | Lifestyle editor
Lagrimas is the 2022-2023 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2021-2022. She is also a second-year communication and political science student from Temecula, California.
Lagrimas is the 2022-2023 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2021-2022. She is also a second-year communication and political science student from Temecula, California.
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