During the day, dust is swept into the crowds as the hot desert sun beats down on music lovers, while the nights are cold and punishing without a proper jacket.
Coachella is one of the most highly anticipated music festivals of the year, winning “Top Festival” at the Billboard Touring Awards every year from 2011 to 2017. Two three-day weekends filled with acclaimed artists and lesser-known indie bands make for an unforgettable experience for over 100,000 attendees.
With 60 to 75 artists performing daily on the eight stages, it’s impossible to see every act. Not to mention, this year’s line-up included more international artists, who might otherwise be difficult for U.S. fans to see perform. Here are some highlights from the first weekend of Coachella.
Friday, April 12
Attendees arrived on the site in Indio, California, fresh and ready to enjoy the weekend. Without feeling any of the fatigue that was to come in the next two days, everyone energetically bustled around the festival.
Day one presented artists with heavy bass, making for an overall feeling of a high energy. Rappers and power vocals ruled the majority of the day with hints of sharp choreography sprinkled into many performances.
Spanish singer/songwriter, Rosalía, performed on the Mojave stage. The audience was blown away by the powerful stage presence and unique sound, which puts a modern twist on flamenco music. Another striking part of her set was her compelling dancing that commanded the viewer’s attention. Rosalía came from Barcelona as one of the top-rising artist in Spanish music. She performed some of her hits like “Malamente” and “Con Altura,” which she returned for on Saturday night to perform again with J. Balvín.
K-pop girl group, BLACKPINK, killed the Sahara stage with its striking performance. Although not the only Korean musicians to have performed at Coachella–Korean hip-hop trio, Epik High, performed in 2016 and Korean indie band, HYUKOH, performed Sunday night–BLACKPINK is the first K-pop idol group to take to the stage. When the first few beats of Ddu-Du Ddu-Du began the crowd erupted in cheers and the four girls kept that energy going in an explosive performance with their mixture of vocals, rap and dance.
“Obviously we, you guys and us, we’re from totally different worlds, but tonight I think we’ve learned, so deeply, that music brings us (together) as one,” says BLACKPINK’s Rosé.
Janelle Monae made the crowd feel so good on the Coachella stage as the last performer before headliner Childish Gambino. Her smooth choreography flowed with the music and topped off the power of her high notes. After an outfit change, Monae sang and spoke on women empowerment, while wearing her iconic pants from her “PYNK” music video. She then brought on fellow black female performers Lizzo and Tierra Whack for a dance-off during “I Got the Juice.”
Childish Gambino took the crowd to church as the headliner for the night. With 100,000 people in the audience, Donald Glover delivered a touching performance after asking the crowd to put their phones away during his set. Fireworks literally went off near the end of the night in great bursts of color during his songs “Me and Your Mama” and “Boogieman.” Between singing some of his top hits, like “Feels Like Summer,” “This Is America,” “IV. Sweatpants” and “Redbone,” Glover interacted with the audience through talking about his thoughts and experiences and even sharing a blunt with one fan.
“What I’m starting to realize, is all we really have is memories at the end of the day,” Glover says after reflecting on the recent deaths of his father, and artists Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller.
Saturday, April 13
The sun continued to punish music lovers on the festival’s second day, but with the promise of a new day of new artists, the audience bounced from stage to stage without worry. Saturday had the most artists of the weekend with a completely packed schedule.
Day two was filled with smooth tones and sweet melodies that left attendees floating on the high notes. Soft rock, jazz and indie artists filled the desert with a relaxed sound to revive patrons despite an exhausting first day.
FKJ made music and memories on the Mojave stage. The electronic jazz musician made waves through the crowd with the soft beats and unique performance. FKJ, Vincent Fenton, then announced that he would attempt to make a whole new song in honor of Coachella live in the middle of his set. By recording multiple instruments live and even involving the crowd’s vocals, the song slowly started to develop into a groovy, laid-back sound that fit the mood of the festival for the day. Fenton then brought artist, Maego onto the stage to play its hit song “Tadow” and have a saxophone jam session.
Sabrina Claudio soothed the audience at the Coachella stage with her sweet vocals. In a lingerie outfit was as sensual as her voice, Claudio mesmerized while she sang her songs “Confidently Lost,” “Unravel Me” and “Messages from Her,” and an unreleased song written for Coachella.
“What better place in the world to try a new one [song],” Claudio says before playing her soon-to-be-released song “Take One to the Head.”
Billie Eilish tore up the smallish Outdoor Theatre, after the nearly half-hour delay. Eilish’s eerie vocals transformed the restless crowd into dedicated fans that sang and danced along to some of her most popular singles like “bury a friend,” “when the party’s over” and “idontwannabeyouanymore.” The 17-year-old singer/songwriter also made an appearance at Khalid’s Sunday stage to perform their song “lovely.”
Tame Impala headlined the night with its “psychedelic rock” sound, which was reflected in its mind-boggling light and laser show that transformed the desert night sky. The group opened with a bang of confetti that energized the crowd during “Let It Happen.” They then performed some of their top hits like “The Less I Know the Better,” “Elephant,” “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and their newest single, “Patience.”
Sunday, April 14
At this point, the atmosphere was filled with more glitter than dust as the wind continued to sweep through the Empire Polo Club, yet people were still elated at the thought of one more day before retiring until the next week.
Day three featured catchy beats and addictive tunes with an overarching upbeat theme for the final day of the first weekend. Pop artists and DJs ended the night on an energetic note to round out the weekend.
Bad Bunny pumped up the crowd with reggaeton on the Coachella stage. The Puerto Rican artist’s deep voice, mixed with listener’s voices singing along to songs like “Solo de mi” and “Te Bote,” echoed in the venue, drawing in a larger and larger audience. Bad Bunny even brought out fellow Latino performer, J. Balvín to sing “I Like It.”
J-pop girl group, Perfume, shook up the night on the Gobi stage. With over nearly 20 years of industry experience, the trio dominated the stage with its intricate choreography and electronic sound. The EDM created a rave-style atmosphere, attracting a sizable crowd in the smaller tent. Compelling stage backdrops as the group performed perfectly synced with the lights and movements.
H.E.R. carried away listeners on a sonically pleasing trip with her bluesy voice in the Outdoor Theatre. Despite the delay in her set and concerns over the schedule, Gabriella Wilson lightened the mood instantly with her music. The R&B artist’s 10-plus years of experience showed as she enchanted the audience with her sweet and rich vocals that were showcased through her singles “Best Part,” “Focus” and others.
Ariana Grande brought down the house with her impeccable stage presence as the final headliner of the week. Her powerful vocals cut through the track with added ad-libs and high notes. Grande brought out guest artists Diddy, *NSYNC and Nicki Minaj who added an extra element to her set and sent social media abuzz. Her strong setlist of hit after hit had fans singing. As one of the top artists in the world, Grande was the perfect choice to headline the final day of the first week.