Lungs full of dust and eyes full of surprise guests, we have returned from the desert and we’re ready to spill. Here’s an hour-by-hour recount of our Coachella weekend 2 because we’re all about over-sharing.
King Princess: With her label head Mark Ronson watching on, King Princess delivered a stunning late afternoon set in the Mojave. She’s got a natural star quality and she’s slowly building up a discography that reflects that. Pussy Is God was an early festival favourite.
Kacey Musgraves: The people plotting out the Coachella schedule really had no choice but to put Kacey Musgraves during golden hour. Pulling heavily from her Grammy-winning album, she delivered a beautiful moment cruising us into it with Slow Burn and leaving us dancing with High Horse.
Anderson .Paak: .Paak is no stranger to the main stage in Australia but this was his first time on the main stage at Coachella and he didn’t disappoint. Moving between the drums and the mic, he was bounding with energy from minute one. He also kept us on our toes with a few surprise guests, bringing out Brandy for Ventura highlight Black Jet. He then surprises again with Jay Rock, taking on Black Panther song King’s Dead together.
Rosalía: Rosalía is a bonafide superstar in her home country of Spain but in the US she’s still relatively new, to the live scene at least. Her night set was a hypnotising spectacle that ranged from spine-tingling acapella vocals to sharp dance moves. The set peaked with a J Balvin appearance during Con Altura which is surely going to be one of the biggest songs of the year.
BLACKPINK: A quick sprint from Rosalía to BLACKPINK saw us thrust into one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, watching BLACKPINK’s US festival debut. They are the tightest girl group in the world right now and they moved with fine precision during this set. Festivals are often not home to performances this clean and it’s testament to the band’s work ethic.
Janelle Monáe: From this point on, Janelle should accept no other position than headliner at a festival. Her Coachella set was a highlight of the weekend, giving us everything from unforgettable outfits (those vagina pants) to Prince and MJ-level dance moves. She brought the sex with Make Me Feel and the militaristic strength with Django Jane. She thanked last year’s headliner Beyoncé for breaking down walls and we reckon those following are going to thank Janelle.
Childish Gambino: Admittedly, after Janelle, Childish Gambino’s set felt like a low-key affair. He’s a charismatic performer with the dance moves to boot but there wasn’t a lot new on offer here given that his last album was release well over two years ago now. This Is America was captivating and Sober provided a hearty singalong but sometimes you’ve gotta give something bigger on the world’s biggest stage.
Sheck Wes: Sheck Wes may have played some huge sets in Australia at the beginning of this year but his popularity in the US is unmatched. Mo Bamba was a top 10 hit here and he packed out the Sahara tent as a result. Wearing soccer gloves, he melded together hip-hop and sport with visuals showcasing the latter. Mo Bamba was an obvious highlight but Kyrie also roused the crowd.
Bazzi: Australian festivals don’t often get big pop shows so it’s always interesting to see how they work at Coachella. Bazzi has a few huge hits under his belt now with Beautiful and Mine which helped him draw a healthy afternoon crowd. Wearing a chain across his chest and fishnet stockings on his arms, he looked like an ’80s popstar. He delivered on that promise too with ’80s RnB vocals, nailing the soaring chorus of Mine.
J Balvin: There’s absolutely no question – Balvin had the best stage set up of the week. From Michelin men to giant Cardi B heads, he delivered the fun with a colourful, joyous performance. He returned the favour, bringing Rosalía on for Con Altura which only got better the second time around on a bigger stage.
Maggie Rogers: For somebody who was basically plucked out of music college by Pharrell, Maggie Rogers has become an accomplished performer very quickly. Her set was one of the most best of the weekend. There were no flashy guests or visuals, just Rogers powering through songs from her debut album Heard It In A Past Life. Lights On was so good that you would’ve been forgiven for thinking you were at a Fleetwood Mac show.
Billie Eilish: Eilish is one of the biggest stars in the world right now so it was somewhat surprising to see her not on the main stage. It didn’t seem to matter though, she still drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and gave an electric performances. Pounding in with the woozy Bad Guy, she pulled us close with haunting moments like When The Party’s Over and tore shit apart with anarchic cuts like Bury A Friend.
Tame Impala: Our Aussie boys may have been an unlikely choice for headliner, flanked by Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, but they brought a sense of occasion to their Saturday night set. Parker was unusually casual for a headliner when speaking but when the music came in it was spectacular. New song Patience was groovy but it was Borderline that stole the show with its ’70s disco-tinges. Alongside the other songs, you could tell that the band had learned how to finesse their melodies. An A$AP Rocky appearance for Sundress and LSD also helped Tame become the best headliners of the festival against all odds.
Kid Cudi: Cudi delivered one of the latest sets of the festival, opening up with a surprise Kanye West appearance that lasted six songs. It was mostly made up of KIDS SEE GHOSTS songs but an airing of Father Stretch My Hands was euphoric. Cudi is a shaky live vocalist at times but he knows exactly how to have his die-hards and casual fans eating out of the palm of his hand.
Sunday Service: There’s only one person who would have festivalgoers watching him after midnight only to get them to wake up in the early hours of Sunday morning for an Easter Sunday church service. Kanye provided a rare Coachella experience, taking festivalgoers to a custom made mountain where he performed atop with a band that featured Chance The Rapper, Kid Cudi and Teyana Taylor. Given that he had a custom-made experience built for him, it was a surprisingly selfless performance with Kanye only taking to the mic a handful of times. Instead, it was the gospel choir that elevated the Sunday Service to euphoric levels. They drew from a set that included both hymns and Kanye songs, finding a common theme in uplifting music. It was hard to deny that it was a heart-warming experience, even if Kanye hasn’t quite redeemed himself just yet.
Pusha T: Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music buddy Pusha relished in his main stage appearance beginning with an acapella If You Know You Know and powering on from there. There was plenty of Kanye from Runaway to Mercy but not Yeezy appearance. It didn’t matter though because Pusha is incredible on his own, pulling heavily from the excellent Daytona or the rap of the year, as he would call it.
Lizzo: Lizzo was one of the most hyped names of the festival this year and she made sure that people would be talking about her set for a long time to come. There was plenty of arse, flute and body-positivity in a set that was hard not to feel good during. She howled onto stage with Cuz I Love You, got people shaking with Tempo and had the crowd celebrating themselves with Good As Hell. When the sound failed her on the finale Juice, she took matters into her own hands cutting the music and performing acapella.
Gucci Gang: Most were confused when a group called Gucci Gang turned up on the Coachella lineup. It turned out the gang in question was Lil Pump, Gucci Mane and Smokepurpp and they took to the stage together for seemingly no reason. They overlapped at a number of times during the set but we would’ve preferred a solo Gucci Mane set to be honest. From the pop-tinges of Wake Up In The Sky to Drake favourite Both, he proved why he’s a top tier rapper. As for the rest, there’s work to be done.
Khalid: The kids really love Khalid and it shows. Gone are the days of 9pm being the time when most would be elevating to EDM DJs, they now want to chill with Khalid. Appropriately, his set was a low-key affair, surprising with a chilled-out John Mayer appearance. It wasn’t anything particularly memorable but it was necessary for the final night of the festival.
Ariana Grande: Ariana is at the peak of her powers right now and it was exciting to see Coachella nabbed her at this time for the headline slot. After battling sound issues with her surprise guests last week, she stripped it back this time around, only allowing for a last minute appearance from Justin Bieber. That was fun but it’s Ariana who has all the hits now and she wheeled them out one after the other. Break Up With Your Girlfriend sounded slick, NASA was a giddy highlight and 7 Rings hit as hard as it needed too. Ariana was at her best when she was soaring vocally on songs like No Tears Left To Cry and Dangerous Woman.
What makes her so special was lost on moments like Bang Bang and she was left understandably rattled when someone pegged a lemon at her. It’s sometimes difficult to deliver a career-defining moment when you’re in the middle of the storm and while her headline set was great, you get the feeling her best performances are yet to come when she’s really working on her legacy.
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