Though Coachella is exclusive with its setlist, usually featuring American indie artists, the annual indie music festival is slowly opening up its geographic borders. Straight out of Seoul, South Korea, the three-member alternative rap group was set to perform on April 17 and 24 as the first ever major Korean Pop group to be invited to a major American music festival.
Epik High, consisting of Stanford-educated Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz, is one of the original pioneers for Korean hip-hop as a part of the “Hallyu,” or K-Pop wave. Since 2001, it has already made numerous appearances at other festivals and American concert venues, such as the Wiltern.
“It’s totally inspiring whenever we do fests outside of Korea,” Tablo nostalgically told LA Times. “Korean audiences are the greatest in the world, everyone that plays there says they’re mesmerized by the fans. When we play there, it’s a hit-driven set. But here, it feels like how it felt 13 years ago.”
The K-Pop wave first made a huge impact in the United States with PSY’s “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Since then, it has become a cultural phenomenon in the U.S. with its catchy songs, difficult dances, and interesting themes. However, Epik High, as an alternative group, is the perfect mix between cute K-pop and Korean underground rap, but they also experiment with different genres, such as jazz, soul, and pop rock.
Although they had to perform in Korean for a mostly American audience at 1:20pm in the Sahara tent, many festival-goers and fans alike came to see the performance, attracted to the vibe that Epik High gave off.
“I think that language is not as big of a barrier as we tend to think,” Tablo said. “…I think music transcends that, and art transcends that where you can feel the energy of the person who made it and who delivers it to you.”
Throughout the set, the group performed hit songs, like “Born Hater”, and songs that would appeal to an indie audience, such as “Kill This Love.”
As Epik High describes its genre as “sad fun” hip hop, the group will continue to advance and expand their music as they are yet to release their next studio album, Pieces, Part Two.