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40 Best Things We Saw at Coachella 2015

Rock reunions, desert dance parties and a generation-spanning kiss: the most memorable moments from Weekend One

Fans Watching Alesso

Fans at Coachella's Sahara stage.

Theonepointeight

This weekend, Coachella returned to Indio and the small Southern California town once again became the center of the music world. AC/DC went for the jugular, Drake received an intimate surprise, Tyler, the Creator took us on a Freudian trip, Jack White insisted that "music is sacred" and Azealia Banks packed as much of it as possible into one searing set. Our team went in search of the festival's most memorable performances, moments and meals, consuming bacon s'mores in the name of both pleasure and obligation. These are the 50 best things we saw.

Tame Impala

Tame Impala (Main Stage)

Theonepointeight

Best Light Show (Rock Edition): Tame Impala

Tame Impala seemed to be scheduled on the main stage to make a connection between AC/DC and the rest of the festival: a heavy Australian band, albeit one much trippier than Angus Young's crew, who followed immediately after. They were honored to be the Coachella-to-Sydney bridge: "I've been waiting my whole life to see AC/DC live — you have no idea," one of the Impalas announced. They offered the most psychedelic light show of the weekend: Technicolor splatters, hypnotic Spirograph effects, and beams of light splaying and reuniting in the sky.

Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts

Austin Brown - Parquet Courts

Andy Keilen

Best Introductory Line: Parquet Courts

"Hey, California. Real sorry to hear about your water supply," the deadpan Parquet Courts frontman Andrew Savage said as his band took the stage. "Just keep partying. You'll forget about it until next year." Then he launched into "Bodies Made Of," singing "Sludged all the way through the mud to orate to some bodies made of slugs and guts." The band didn't offer a cure for the drought, but they did overflow with East Coast urban tension and logorrhea, playing with the easy confidence of a band that has just begun to realize how amazing they are.

Alabama Shakes

Andy Keilen

Best Voice: Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes leader Brittany Howard sounded like she could fill up the entire festival grounds just with her voice and her guitar. Plus, she knows how to rock a cape. The quintet (plus three backup singers) debuted material from Alabama Shakes' upcoming album, Sound & Color. When Howard lost herself in a song, she closed her eyes, threw her head back, and unleashed her unique yowl. "See, I do not love you," she said, with so much passion that everybody knew it had to be a lie, and as the song built musically, she progressed to "I can't make you stay."

St. Vincent

Annie Clark - St. Vincent

Andy Keilen

Best Choreographed Rock Show: St. Vincent

While rock shows can be just as ritualized and staged as dance performances, they still have the vague aura of being free and improvisational. Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, did everything she could to undermine that stereotype. Playing a set drawn largely from her excellent 2014 self-titled album, she delivered a show where every twitch seemed to be choreographed — and never more so than when she played an over-the-top guitar solo. She's been doing this set for over a year now, which means that her movements have only gotten more crisp and precise.

Father John Misty

Father John Misty

Andy Keilen

Best “Dancing in the Dark” Nightmare: Father John Misty

Father John Misty had a dream to share amid the tortured ballads and off-kilter folk-rockers that sent him stumbling and stomping across the stage. Near the end of his set, he brought a female fan to the stage to "make a very weird dream come true." Soon the fan was center stage in a rattan chair, surrounded by balloons, white teddy bears and two women wearing masks and pasties as Misty sang Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man." If she didn't know what to make of it, she wasn't alone. "Let's all thank Amy," he said after. "Sorry about the nightmares you're going to be having tonight."

Stromae

Stromae (Mojave)

Theonepointeight

Best Pop Theatricality: Stromae

During his set at the packed Mojave tent, Belgian-born singer-rapper Stromae displayed his flair for the dramatic. The well-choreographed performance had the natural showman serenading a spider and pouring himself a stiff drink. Songs unfolded at epic scale or elegantly stripped down, with Stromae in jacket and tie or glamorously disheveled, as if at the end of a long, wild party. He closed one piece by coughing helplessly into the mic and collapsing to the floor; a band member carried him away — to another costume change.

Run the Jewels

Run The Jewels (Mojave)

Theonepointeight

Best Victory Lap: Run the Jewels

What's left for Run the Jewels? The top tag team for the last two summers has eclipsed all expectations: Both of their albums have rightfully received unanimous critical acclaim, they've sold out shows all over the world, they've attracted an ever-expanding fan base that somehow dwarves their already impressive solo careers. What's left is Coachella, the victory lap at 200 miles per hour — with Gangsta Boo, Travis Barker and Zack de la Rocha coming along for the rampage. A blue-haired Kylie Jenner and Diplo were in the VIP. They came out to their now-standard intro, "We Are the Champions," and it's accurate. In just two years, Run the Jewels have cemented their spot as arguably the finest rap duo currently cracking skulls.

Killer Mike may have the most nimble dance moves in the history of 40-year-old men approaching 300 pounds. El-P is the third rail instantiated, pure adrenaline and voltage, feeding off the wrathful vengeance of his partner. When the tandem combines it's like a lightning storm, sparking the crowd into chaos. Mosh pits erupted from young kids who don't know Def Jux from Def Jam. They have the energy of hardcore punk and rap combined — M.O.P. meeting Minor Threat. But this is two rapping-ass rappers hurling Molotovs at racist Ferguson cops, corporate plutocrats and the corrupt government. Though it's rap as revolution, there's a deceptively sweet side: The camaraderie and bond between El-P and Mike gives it legitimate heart. Even though they've "made it" at least two times previously, Run the Jewels is something entirely different. As El-P told the crowd at the conclusion of the set: "Thank you for making our dreams come true."

Tyler the Creator

Tyler the Creator

Andy Keilen

Best Freudian Furniture: Tyler the Creator

There was no shortage of notable moments in the set from Tyler, the Creator: the Odd Future rapper performed new songs "Deathcamp" and "Fucking Young" live for the first time; he enthusiastically accepted a gift of Waffle Crisp cereal from an audience member; he said "Fuck you" to the VIP section in general (and Kendall Jenner in specific). But what's going to provide grist for his psychoanalysis session for years to come? The set, featuring oversized versions of furniture from a child's room (his shirt even matched the bedspread), suggesting that maybe Tyler liked the stage to be a safe place where he could regress to a childhood.