Photo by @dillonmatthewc
Making their epic U.S. return, Head in the Clouds kicked off its 2023 season in New York. In spite of the rain on opening day, the crowds still gathered decked out in rain ponchos to celebrate the HITC debuts for some of their favorite artists such as girl groups ITZY and XG, and soloist LØREN, and the return of HITC alumni such as Hojean, Dabin, DPR Live and DPR Ian. Along with those artists, the full lineup also included Akini Jing, Beabadoobee, Dumbfoundead, ISOXO, Fifi Zhang, Warren Hue, Milli, Spence Lee, NIKI, ATARASHII GAKKO!, Paravi, Raveena, and Rich Brian.
Photo by James Baxter
Hojean was the first of the Korean artists to perform on the 88rising stage. The singer performed a few of his hit classics, which included “Over 85” and “You Ain’t Gotta,” and even teased a snippet of an unreleased track, “Easily.” Whilst his songs have catchy melodies, the softness of his vocals matches to fit the tone. “Pick Up the Phone” was one of many songs during his set where fans couldn’t help but softy sing along to match his register. Creating a different experience, Hojean’s performance was an intimate affair, even in spite of the rainfall.
Photo by Lindsey Blane
The last performing kpop artist of day one was none other than JYP Entertainment girl crush group ITZY. Opening with “Not Shy,” “Sorry Not Sorry,” and “In the Morning,” the crowd’s cheers only intensified with each passing song. With this being the group’s first performance at Head in the Clouds, they drew in a packed stadium filled with their fans, MIDZY. The five girls performed all of their biggest hits, including “WANNABE,” debut song “DALLA DALLA,” and their first English-language song “Boys Like You.” The softer vocals of “Nobody Like You” created a sea of lightsticks and cellphone lights in the audience, leaving the members awestruck, and the set ended with “LOCO” and “Sneakers.”
Starting out day two of the festival on the 88rising stage was singer-songwriter and producer LØREN. Alongside a live band, the soloist performed songs like “All My Friends Are Turning Blue” and “Folks.” His set was a mood itself, enjoyable for those who were already his fans, and making fans of those who were unfamiliar with him. His set concluded with a variety of his earlier releases, including “Temporary” and “Frown.”
Photo By Bryan Kwon Photos
The next of the Korean artists to take the stage was producer and DJ, Dabin. His set included various remixes of popular songs such as Teriyaki Boyz’s “Tokyo Drift,” fellow lineup artist XG’s “Shooting Star,” and NewJeans’s “Ditto.” While his set focused more on the music rather than any extravagant choreography or stage performance, just his presence alone was enough to garner a packed stadium of attendees jamming along.
Photos by Deanie Chen
Making their U.S. debut, girl group XG also performed on day two of the festival. The girls opened their set with debut song “Tippy Toes,” followed by their hit song “Mascara.” Showing off their versatility, the members also prepared unit cover performances, with Chisa, Juria, and Hinata performing Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” Harvey and Maya performing an unnamed duo track, and Jurin and Cocona performing “New Xypher.” Going all out for their first stateside performance, the girls brought three outfits for their set, and after their final outfit change, finished off their stage with their most popular songs, “Left Right” and “Shooting Star.” As a rising group with no boundaries in terms of genre, the group flawlessly showed off their fierce dancing, edgy aesthetic, and polarizing vocals.
Photo by Lindsey Blane
Performing as the final kpop artists of the evening were DPR Live and DPR Ian. Kicking off their set was DPR Live, with songs such as “Legacy,” “Know Me,” and “Laputa.” As the setlist went by, the crowd only grew rowdier and more excited, especially as both DPR Live and DPR Ian stepped on stage for songs like “No Blueberries” and “Bloom.” With their own unique individual sounds, the vibe switched up when it came time for DPR Ian’s set, which included songs such as “Dope Lovers,” “Nerves,” and “Scaredy Cat.” The soloist shed his coat for a bass guitar solo, and soon after ended his set with “Ballroom Extravaganza.”
Commemorating five years since its inception, Head in the Clouds really started out the year in true style. The weather may not have been ideal, but the dedication of both artists and fans made all the happiest moments in the end. Concluding this year’s first celebration in New York, fans were left with unforgettable memories, and anticipation for the Los Angeles festival in just a few months.
Written By Kortney Kendall
Edited By Ephney Tsai