In March it was revealed that two Japanese girl groups would be performing at 88rising’s Head in the Clouds NYC music festival; Atarashii Gakko, who are signed under 88rising and newbies to the festival, XG. I personally decided to attend the show and have lots of impressions about the experience.
Head in the Clouds Festival is an annual music festival held by 88rising with the intention to promote acts all across the Asian diaspora. This year the 2-day festival was brought to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York for the first time. There was the main stage, which XG would be performing at and then there was a smaller stage called the Honda Double Happiness Stage which Atarashii Gakko were booked for. I was not at the Honda Double Happiness Stage so I did not see Atarashii Gakko up close, but from where I was sitting I could see their performance. Forest Hills Stadium is a tennis stadium so there were truly no bad seats.
Atarashii Gakko were scheduled to perform at 5:45 PM, while XG were on at 6:15 PM. I arrived at the stadium when the gates were opening and was able to see every act that went on before them. One thing I noticed was that everything started and ended exactly on time as listed on the schedule. Compared to other music festivals I’ve attended in the past, this was a pleasant surprise!
While waiting for the two groups to perform, I surveyed the audience and noticed quite a few people dressed up in XG’s “Left Right” white top and bucket hat outfits. As more people arrived, I even saw quite a few people holding up signs labeled “XG.” When it comes to hardcore fan support, it was clear from the start that XG had a lot of it in this audience.
At 5:15 PM, Korean-Canadian DJ Dabin started his setlist and included a remix that he made of XG’s “Shooting Star.” The crowd really went wild for this one.
When Atarashii Gakko’s time came around, you could feel the excitement from every part of the stadium. Many people who were not at the Honda Double Happiness Stage started filming them even though that stage was far away and the members would only appear as tiny specs in the videos. I was not familiar with their songs beforehand, but I got the impression that their discography is diverse and is filled with orthodox idol songs, funky songs, rock bangers, you name it! For the first few songs, they performed in their sailor school uniforms and then quickly changed into black cloaks, and finally ended their setlist in the school uniforms again. The girls were very energetic performers and I was really invested in their stage despite watching from afar. The member named Suzuka even crowd surfed. When their setlist finished, they had won a new fan (me).
- Seishun wo Kirisaku Hado
- Saisyu Jinrui
- Giri Giri
- Pineapple Kryptonite ~Remix
- Shiken Zenya
Then finally it was 6:15, the moment I had been waiting for the entire day. XG were up next and suddenly the VIP area was filled with people and the stadium looked the fullest it had since the start of the festival. Many people in the seated area who had been sitting down up until that point were now standing just to get a good glimpse of the girls. A VCR of an animated wolf in space played on stage, most likely a reference to XG’s fanclub name “ALPHAZ” and then the girls appeared wearing suits while “Tippy Toes” could be heard. “Tippy Toes” was followed by “Mascara” which really got the crowd hyped with its chant-like lyrics. I felt that an advantage of XG performing in the US and having all songs in English was that the crowd would most likely know a majority of the words to their songs, which they did!
After Mascara, there was a short MC done by the members. Their English is improving so quickly and it was heartwarming to hear how confident they sounded in their individual introductions. The members then left the stage to do an outfit change, leaving us anticipating what was to come.
After a few seconds of waiting, Maya and Harvey came out and started to do a special rap unit stage. I had been expecting the rappers of the group to do a stage since XG only have 4 songs out at the moment, but I was expecting them to perform their “GALZ XYPHER” that gained a lot of attention (two of the viewers being Jackson Wang and Sean Miyashiro, the founder of 88rising, who did a reaction video to it). Instead Harvey and Maya did a cover of Two Tens by Cordae feat. Anderson Paak and wow I enjoyed this one a little too much! My favorite rappers of the group are Cocona and Jurin, but Harvey and Maya blew me away with this stage. The two are oozing with charisma and look to me as if they were born to be on stage. Next up was Cocona and Jurin’s special unit stage. They did a rendition of Nothin’ by N.O.R.E, a hip-hop song released in 2002. And what can I say about these two? They are just as incredible as you would expect them to be. Every time I see Cocona and Jurin I can only think about how they are the coolest girls alive, and being able to see them perform together in this unit stage was a treat.
After witnessing the rap unit stages, the 3 vocal line members came out and performed a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Peaches.” Last year, a cover of the song was uploaded on the official XG YouTube channel with just Juria and Chisa, but this time Hinata was included.
The unit stages were over, and after another VCR the 7 members returned to the stage in matching denim outfits. They then performed “Left Right” which was definitely a crowd pleaser. Hundreds of people singing along to the lyrics could be heard. A remix of “Left Right” featuring Ciara and Jackson Wang was recently released, and the possibility of one of them appearing on stage with XG had been crossing my mind for some time now. Ultimately, my childhood idol Ciara did not appear like I had daydreamed about, but the “Left Right” stage that I ended up seeing was incredible nonetheless. When the song ended, the girls did a final MC segment and thanked fans for the support while expressing gratitude for receiving the opportunity to perform at the festival. Maya revealed that the next song would be the last one, and we all knew which song it would be! The girls then performed “Shooting Star” and it was amazing to hear the audience yell out Jurin’s opening lines “Everything I do, I do it A1 Flawless.”
After 30 minutes, XG’s set was officially over. To me their invitation to the festival felt like 88rising was testing the waters with them, but after seeing the reaction of the crowd I believe any doubts they had are completely gone. XG are known for being strong performers, and seeing them live in this type of setting was extremely enjoyable and I cannot wait until they come back to the US to perform. Actually, it was revealed earlier that XG, as well as Atarashii Gakko are included in the lineup for Head in the Clouds LA that will be held on August 5 and 6. I highly recommend that our Nante readers see XG and Atarashii Gakko perform live at least once if they have the chance! You won’t regret it.
- Tippy Toes
- Two Tens (Maya and Harvey unit)
- Nothin’ (Cocona and Jurin unit)
- Peaches (Juria, Chisa, and Hinata unit)
- Left Right
- Shooting Star
Check out some of the official pictures from the event below!
📷 Bryan Kwon pic.twitter.com/RNxIj8y4EQ
— Head In The Clouds Festival (@hitcfestival) May 22, 2023
— ATARASHII GAKKO! – 新しい学校のリーダーズ (@japanleaders) May 22, 2023