You only get one chance at making a good first impression. This seemed something of a mantra for 88rising at its first-ever Jakarta edition of the label’s Head in the Clouds (HITC) festival (December 3-4).
From its choice of venue alone, festivalgoers – especially, those who had been anticipating the festival since its announcement back in March – could tell how HITC Jakarta attempted to rise above the city’s recently saturated (and frenzied) festival market. While festivals such as We The Fest preferred venues nestled in the heart of the city, HITC Jakarta decided to go for a blue-seas-and-white-sands ambience at the distant end of the province. Crowd management officers were stationed almost literally in every corner, and even the country’s minister of tourism Sandiaga Uno showed up, adding to the already star-studded weekend.
88rising laid the groundwork: HITC Jakarta had the bearings to be the biggest spectacle of the year. And then, the stars showed up. As did the sandy gales and the heat waves.
Nearly every act that graced the stage made quips about the scorching weather, and some of them adapted cleverly to it. Visibly drenched in sweat, Ylona Garcia delivered an extra sultry set, further accentuated by her poised swag through ‘Space’ and her take on Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 hit ‘Crazy’. BAP. and torrid temperature were an unexpectedly perfect match in hell, especially once the rapper popped off on ‘RICHTER / RICHTER’ and ‘GOYA’. Fellow rapper and day two headliner Rich Brian showed up only in an undershirt and cargo pants with a piping hot rendition of ‘Edamame’.
Several acts managed to keep themselves unfazed by the heat, resulting in some of the most memorable performances of the weekend. BIBI and her backup dancers did not miss a beat throughout their set – a commendable consistency that began from the savage ‘Blade’ until the ferocious ‘BIBI Vengeance’. The crowd practically lost it once BIBI started bumping and grinding through the lyrically vivid ‘BINU’ and ‘She Got It’. It is not everyday you get to see thousands of Indonesians singing lines like “Pack of cigarette and condom in my pocket” at the top of their lungs in public spaces.
BIBI was not the only one making a great first (and lasting) impression. Voice of Baceprot brought out an all-female choir as they blessed the roaring crowd with ‘God, Allow Me (Please) To Make Music’. MILLI basked in the sun, cracking jokes and shaking her booty as she showcased her debut album, ‘BABB BUM BUM’.
Yoasobi’s set felt like a cool glass of water for audiences who were particularly a fan of anisongs and J-pop, conjuring one of the loudest sing-alongs of the weekend. The award for best crowd interaction, though, went to eaJ who was so moved by his audience’s energy that he took a victory lap around the entire tribune area twice.
Surprisingly, HITC Jakarta’s biggest letdowns came from those who were supposed to be the biggest draws of the festival. Joji, for one, was seemingly unable to handle the heat and the humidity. He was perfectly game when he kicked things off with the misty ‘Will He’ but visibly lost steam once it was time to close his set with crowd-pleasers ‘SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK’ and ‘Glimpse of Us’. On several occasions, he tried to amuse his audience by situating his crotch above the stage fan while poking fun at the weather – a skit that was cringier than it should have been. Moreover, he was obscured by the excessive smoke and fog on the stage.
His fellow headliners weren’t doing so hot either. Observing NIKI’s performance at the HITC Jakarta alone, it would be difficult to peg her as a Coachella breakout act with a solo North American tour under her belt. Possibly due to either the heat or technical issues, NIKI’s vocals were often nasally and inarticulate – as if she could not keep up with the wordiness of her latest album ‘Nicole’. Her vocals were more of a murmur throughout ‘High School in Jakarta’, though she did slightly better when she slowed things down through the ballad ‘Lose’.
Jackson Wang was on point as usual, but his robotic choreography and lack of spontaneity onstage made the set feel more manufactured than magical. ‘Blue’ could have been his opportunity to establish a degree of intimacy with his adoring front row, but he decided to stick to the routine instead. His efficiency resulted in his set ending 13 minutes earlier than scheduled, but he did manage to inspire a spontaneous sea of flashlights during ‘Dopamine’.
Despite having guest stars Vidi Aldiano and her mother Titi DJ by her side, Stephanie Poetri’s folky performance was overtly laid-back compared to the rest of the acts. She also kept herself under the shade, away from the sun and the crowd, leading to a disconnect between her and her fans.
Ultimately, a pitch-perfect first impression is difficult to achieve. HITC Jakarta’s debut was delightful enough for music fans who were looking for something fresh. Let’s hope that next year’s performers can handle the infamous Jakarta heat better.