After ATARASHII GAKKOU, Lil Cherry, and GOLDBUUDA kicked the Head In The Clouds festival off a quartet of heavy hitters rolled out in the form of DPR Live, DPR Ian, CL, and Saweetie.
88rising’s Head In The Clouds festival leans heavily towards representing Asian talent who provide elevated forms of art, and the guys at DPR certainly had more than enough of that to spare. To see them on the Head In The Clouds lineup again wasn’t a surprise. Though this year proved to be memorable for the simple fact that DPR IAN was on stage.
DPR LIVE and DPR IAN opened their joint set with the mighty epic “Diamond + And Pearls” off the recently released Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings soundtrack, produced by festival host 88rising. It was an exciting entry for the two. Divided not into separate acts but a singular unit with two distinct perspectives, DPR LIVE and DPR IAN offered a shining example of the synergy that has come to define their Dream Perfect Regime brand. Composed of a cohort of visionaries, DPR’s commercial output is defined by tracks exquisitely engineered in-house paired with music videos filmed and directed by DPR IAN, whose keen eye for detail has generated some of the most immersive visuals around.
“I have been manifesting this moment,” said IAN to thousands of fans who watched the former boyband member take his first steps on a live stage as a solo artist. After years behind the camera and many more refining his identity as a performer, IAN didn’t waste a minute of his Head In The Clouds debut. Often throughout their set it felt like LIVE was a supporting presence for IAN, appropriate in many ways given how seasoned LIVE is at these things by now. He stepped back during IAN’s “So Beautiful” and allowed fans enough breathing room to soak in the ridiculous levels of sensuality that the man exuded. The dichotomous allure of IAN’s suave disposition, summed up best by the leather O-ring belt around his waist, was more enchanting in person than you could imagine.
When LIVE emerged for “Jasmine” and “Kiss Me,” it was impossible not to ride the waves of serotonin that they both had set in motion. For his part, LIVE was a true professional, conducting the crowd’s energy through “Hula Hoops” and “Martini Blues,” never once loosening his grip on their attention (except when eaJ appeared for a quick feature on “Jam and Butterfly”).
LIVE’s specialty has always been to deliver chill jams with sang-froid, and he accomplished to do that again after two years away from the Head In The Clouds stage.
The sun had set by the time Saweetie hit the main stage, which meant more people were present and many more were starting to hit their threshold of alcohol. I made the poor decision of stationing myself within the confines of the VIP section during the first couple songs of Saweetie’s set, which I regretted later when I got closer and felt the energy of her show much more brilliantly.
The last time I saw Saweetie live was back in 2018 at South by SouthWest when she was a relatively new figure in hip-hop with no more than a couple songs under her belt and a stage presence that could best be described as nonexistent.
Fast forward to Head In The Clouds 2021, where the same artist not only delivered a stream of showstopping hits, but did so as a confident performer, self aware of the fact that the greatest asset she possesses is her charisma. I was mesmerized by her command of the crowd, which at one point she threw Tiffany & Co. boxes to as a token of appreciation for their support. I missed out on that fanservice, but to say I experienced “My Type,” “Best Friend,” and new single “Icy Chain” live was enough to satisfy my bougie little heart.
The evening hit an all-time high when K-pop superstar CL made her grand entrance on the Head In The Clouds main stage. Radiant and looking happier than ever, CL strutted in with her iconic blonde hair down to her waist wearing a black bodysuit underneath an oversized, puffy jacket that she refused to remove all night. Her set felt like a whirlwind of pent up energy, finally released into the universe. It was CL’s first time in a concert setting in six years. As someone who counts this festival as their first in only two, I can only imagine what it meant to CL to have the chance to finally share her music directly to her fans again after such an extended time away. As a fan who can trace their K-pop beginnings back to CL’s pre-debut, seeing her live and up close was an emotional moment I don’t think I, or anyone who was there, have processed yet.
Early in her career, CL was branded as an undeniable leader by her peers and dubbed the baddest female Seoul city ever had. Yet, the way her trajectory went following a shacky foray into the American market left CL’s career nestled between instability and uncertainty. For fans that have been by CL’s side long before 2NE1’s unceremonious disbandment, there was something utterly cathartic about watching such a master of her own craft explode across the stage. Though there wasn’t a proper 2NE1 tribute in sight, CL made sure to flip through her rolodex of old solo hits with fervor. Between “Dirty Vibe,” “The Baddest Female,” and “Doctor Pepper,” I don’t think she ever took a moment to breathe. CL’s set transitioned between songs at light speed. It wasn’t until she brought out special guests DPR LIVE and DPR IAN for a flirtatious performance of “No Blueberries” that she took a moment to cool down the engines before revving back up again to close out her set.
The excitement to perform her new songs was visible across CL’s face all night. She had been sitting on most of this music for years, which was all the more reason to set fire to the Head In The Clouds stage like she did. CL gave it her all on “Tie a Cherry,” “SPICY,” and “+HWA+,” with choreography, backup dancers and all. But nothing matched the overwhelming passion that resonated through the festival grounds like when “Hello Bitches” blew through the speakers. It was the ultimate highlight of the night and a suitable number to end on for CL, who proved to be just as dynamic and electrifying as when she first released the now crystallized pop anthem.
Stay tuned for the the last of Day 1 with Illenium’s set and Rich Brian, plus Day 2!