Saturday night (April 16), 88rising’s “Head in the Clouds Forever” set lit up the main stage at Coachella with performances from NIKKI, Rich Brian, Warren Hue, BIBI, Jackson Wang, MILLI, CL & 2NE1 and superstar Japanese Hikaru Utada. Not only was it the first set organized by a label to reach the main stage of the festival, but it also turned out to be Weekend One’s biggest surprise hit.
The 80-minute set notably featured the long-awaited return of “Queens of K-Pop” 2NE1, who reunited on stage for the first time in seven years to perform their seminal hit “I Am the Best.” Their appearance on stage sparked a flurry of conversations on Twitter, according to the 88Rising co-founder Sean Miyashiro, which adds that Jackson Wang’s ensemble has also become a trending topic on the social media platform. The set also marked a first for J-pop royalty Hikaru Utada, who has never performed at any festivals in his career (Utada identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns she/they).
“People really freaked out,” Miyashiro says, adding that even days later he still hasn’t fully processed the historic moment. “Everyone killed it, then Utada appeared on stage and she played songs from everyone’s childhood, there was a lot of conversation about it. All these energies combined – the past, the present and future – people freaked out and called it historic, monumental, all these different words.
Creating the cultural moment was a labor of love for the 88rising team, who put it all together in a matter of months. They appealed to as many artists as possible given the COVID-19 related restrictions around the world and pushed to showcase great Asian music across a wide range of genres including pop, hip-hop and music. dance. Coachella Weekend 2 will once again see 88 up-and-coming artists take to the main stage, including new performers like K-pop girl group aespa in their first-ever performance in the United States.
Billboard caught up with Miyashiro after the first weekend of Coachella to find out more about 88rising’s debut on the main stage and how it all went down.
How did 88rising get involved with Coachella?
We did our Head in the Clouds festival and [Coachella co-founder] Paul Tollet had heard so much about it that he came to visit our studio the following Monday. He really admired what we were doing and the energy around it and said, “We would love to do something with you. I said, “Let me come back to you and think of the dumbest thing we could do.”
I don’t think he thought of us as a label. It was more that he felt the energy around a lot of these great Asian artists. I rekindled the conversation months later and said to myself, “If we could travel through Asia with this performance and these artists who represent their country, what do you think? He was immediately super depressed.
88rising has its own festival (Head in the Clouds) which is in partnership with Coachella promoter Goldenvoice. Why also make a stop at Coachella?
Coachella is the largest and most iconic music event in the world. When I first told my artists about this, they thought I was joking. One of them screamed so loud. It was a precious thing.
It was Utada’s first-ever appearance at the festival, not just at Coachella. How did you get someone so huge to fly out into the California desert for a five-song appearance?
She has never performed at a festival, even in Asia, in her entire career. I asked her why and she replied, “I don’t know. [Laughs] She is super cool. Everything she feels goes away. It wasn’t difficult. i just knocked [her team] and she was like, “Okay.”
All of our staff are such big fans of her. We grew up with her in so many different ways. Once we confirmed she was playing and told the other artists, they were shocked. She is such a legend. Inside, there was so much excitement for her.
K-pop has dominated much of the North American Asian music news, but the Head in the Clouds ensemble and label represent a wide range of genres. How do you mix all these genres for a coherent whole?
The variation of performers and what they do on stage is what makes it seamless. [Those differences] are what made it interesting. We always want to do weird things. It was actually one of the easiest things we’ve done.
88rising is more than just a label. Your artists have also worked on films including Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Should fans expect more forays into TV, film, and more. ?
Yes. We have just completed our first feature film, directed by Justin Chon. He is probably one of the most outstanding and dynamic Asian directors. He directed Pachinko on Apple TV. The new movie is amazing and Rich Brian was the lead actor and he has never acted before. He killed her. We have a lot of other film and movie projects that we want to do that are in development. We’re really excited about these things.
Will there be another edition of the 88rising stage at future Coachellas?
I want to do it again. Knowing what I know now after doing one, I would love to have the opportunity at some point to do it again. For some reason I believe it will happen again even though I haven’t told Paul about it. I don’t even know what he thinks of what we did. I just feel like it’s going to happen one way or another.