Once a year, music fans come together in the Indio desert to celebrate the mishmash of established and up-and-coming artists during the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. With more than 180 acts taking over 7 stages, without counting the additional side stages and after parties, Coachella’s guests are likely to miss some of the weekend’s most talked about moments, while personally experiencing legendary moments of their own. In a mirage of desert antics, the interpretation of what this festival entails comes down to an individual’s plasticity and ability to squeeze the most out of their given fruits.
While Beyoncé was undoubtedly the queen of the festival, becoming the first woman of color to headline Coachella, her presence made way for one of the festival’s most diverse lineups in years. In the crosshairs of a diminishing EDM presence and rise of R&B infused acts, this year’s festival felt like a reminder that times are changing and the support of certain artists will bring more opportunity for people of color to be better represented and furthermore respected for the cultures they speak for.
With a heavy foot set in the past and the other treading lightly into the future, here are a few personal highlights from Weekend 1 of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival 2018.
FRIDAY the 13th
Following an astounding performance in Sacramento back in March, Los Angeles Azules kicked things off on the Coachella main stage Friday with an unforgettable set full of classics their fans have come to expect, like “Como Te Voy A Olvidar” and “20 Rosas.” Whether those in the crowd knew the lyrics or not, the music had all those in earshot dancing to the cumbia rhythms from the South.
On the next stage over, Skip Marley, grandson of Bob Marley, made his Coachella debut with a short catalog that carries much promise. One of only three reggae artists represented over the weekend, the crowd in attendance swayed as Marley performed his 2017 hit “Calm Down,” alongside a stellar rendition of his grandfather’s classic, “Redemption Song.”
Shortly after, perhaps the most foretoken group in the rock and roll world, Greta Van Fleet made their Coachella debut on the screeching highs of Josh Kiszka’s vocals. The Michigan-based band, consisting of three brothers and a friendly drummer, took over the little Mojave stage with such ease that co-signs from Elton John and Robert Plant show clear signs of true stardom. With technical issues and all, their performances of “Highway Tune,” “Lover Leaver Taker Believer,” and more, left jaws on the floor and rock and roll hearts pounding.
Back at the Outdoor stage, Canada’s Daniel Caesar brought the silkiest of R&B sets to the Coachella grounds. A special performance for those who have been following the rise of his career, Caesar offered cuts from his first project ‘Praise Break’ to his latest album ‘Freudian,’ never missing a pitch or sentiment felt in the studio version of each song, except for the moments he seemed to hold exclusively for the live set.
While most of Friday night’s crowd headed to the main stage for The Weeknd’s closing set, a funkier crowd made sure not to miss the first Jamiroquai show in the states in over a decade. From the initial moments of what felt like a cosmic journey, the dancing could not cease as the British funk band strolled through as many hits as their allocated time permitted. Even so, they made time for a surprise appearance by Snoop Dogg during the band’s 2017 track “Dr. Buzz.” With a 3-D printed light-up helmet that changes shapes and colors mid-performance, Jamiroquai front man Jay Kay dazzled through beloved tracks, such as “Cloud 9” and “Cosmic Girl,” leaving behind a stellar exclamation point on the first night of the festival.
SATURDAY the 14th
Recovering from a day full of dancing and hustling from stage to stage, Saturday came with a pleasant invitation to the Republic Records pool party at the Zenyara Estate, where Martin Solveig, Phantoms, Mel Debarge and Heron Preston treated guests to some of the most intimate DJ sets of the weekend. With an open bar and offerings of mini chicken and waffles, fresh fruits, tacos, tennis courts, Harley Davidson swag and so many Instagram-able moments, it was a struggle to pull away, but the music was calling.
Eventually, the time would come to head back to the festival, just in time to catch the fabled Nile Rodgers and CHIC perform some of their classic funk records. With a catalog long enough to supply the crowd with grooves through the night, the hour-long set felt like a brief introduction to a true legend with hits like David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” forever engraved by Rodgers’ funky guitar licks.
Spliff Starr, Mase, Busta Rhymes and Diddy. Coachella Weekend 1.Later in the evening, one of the festival’s smallest stages in the Heineken tent hosted some of the biggest names in music for a surprisingly unforgettable night. What started with the ever-lyrical Busta Rhymes putting on a showing of his own hip-hop classics alongside Spliff Starr, ended with a legendary display of East Coast/West Coast love as Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Mase, and Love (formerly known as Diddy) each came out to perform their own classics respectively. Had one more guest come out, the stage may have crumbled from sheer star power.
Of course, by the end of the night, Beyoncé could only make history as she tends to do. With undoubtedly the largest crowd gathered for a performance all weekend, both fans in attendance and those who enjoyed the show from home via livestream would agree the magnitude of her performance begged to ask the question, “where were you when Beyoncé took over Coachella?” From a Solange appearance to a fulfilling Destiny’s Child reunion, Queen B made sure to figuratively and literally bring all her sisters along for the historic night.
SUNDAY the 15th
The bittersweet taste of Weekend 1’s final day came with a friendly welcome from Lion Babe’s inescapable grooves. Having started the week in Sacramento, Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman made their official Coachella debut on the main stage and confirmed that their latest body of work is just as captivating on a festival stage as any platform the duo is set to charm. Recalling their time in Sacramento, while feeling out their next project, Hervey and Goodman expressed much love for California’s capital.
“Yeah, psyched,” said Goodman. “Even when we were in Sacramento the other day they played “The Wave” at [Motown Mondays] and it went off.”
“We had the full Sacramento experience,” added Hervey. “We had iHop at 3 in the morning, we were out [at LowBrau] and the DJ was so fun, we were dancing forever. It was cool. Sacramento is just such a colorful place, even in that bar there were so many different types of people, which we love. It’s such a vibe and everyone was just minding their own business dancing…so it was cool, we’ll have to come back.”
One of the weekend’s pleasant discoveries came in the form of Oregon-based band Japanese Breakfast at the Gobi tent. Lead by the curiously warm vocals of Michelle Zauner, the feisty undertones in songs like “Road Head” and “Everybody Wants To love You” made for a vampy afternoon set.
Returning to the main stage, Australia’s Vance Joy, the only artist of the weekend placed under the singer/songwriter title, prepared for his sophomore appearance at Coachella. Prior to a solid presentation of songs from his latest album “Nation of Two” and the ever-popular single “Riptide,” among others, he spoke on the Coachella effect and his latest inspirations.
“I read a book called ‘Between Them’ by Richard Ford, which kind of inspired me a bit [because] it had a lot of parallels with, I guess, when I was thinking about naming my album, it was in my head because it’s a story [where] the author writes kind of like a tribute to his parents and their life before he was born,” said Joy. “Like, my parents were people as well before I was the center of the universe.”
As in tune with his surroundings as one might expect from a songwriter, Joy went on to comment on the biggest acts of the weekend in his eyes, including Beyonce’s Saturday night performance, which he deemed “pretty hard to match.”
“It’s a very eclectic mix of artists here,” said Joy. “It’s cool to be playing on stage before, it’s like, Cardi B is playing after us, it’s amazing.”
Middle-aged white women rapping the lyrics to “Bodak Yellow” word-for-word is surely a phenomenon in itself, but Cardi B’s Coachella debut was more than the 35-minute set could handle. With guest appearances from G-Eazy, Kehlani, Chance the Rapper, 21 Savage and YG, the pregnant phenom from the Bronx was living her best life on stage while images projected across the giant screens packaged her story full circle, with a quick “Okurr!” included.
As the day’s sun began to settle, one of the greatest performances of the weekend came at the helm of R&B superstar Miguel. With luscious hits such as “Adorn,” “How Many Drinks?,” “Coffee,” and his latest “Sky Walker” on full display, the sultry moods the singer’s lyrics elicit were echoed in the crowd’s singalong. Although, however beautiful his voice may be, it was his performance on stage, with moves that reached Prince comparisons, that truly sealed this performance into a defining experience for new and old fans alike.
Advance tickets for Coachella Music and Arts Festival 2019 are likely to go on sale early June 2018.
For more information on the festival, visit Coachella.com.
Photos courtesy of Coachella.