This weekend, Coachella returned to Indio, and the small Southern California town once again became the center of the music world. Beyoncé reigned supreme, but rising stars like Cardi B, Brockhampton and, ahem, Yodel Kid all made strong showings. Here’s the best of what we saw.
In her first live performance since the 2017 birth of her twins, Queen Bey broke the internet Saturday night with her two-hour bombshell of a comeback set. With a drumline and brass band in tow (not to mention a Destiny’s Child reunion), Beyoncé’s headlining show was an explosive pep rally honoring the singer’s epic discography – as well as the long line of inspirational black artists and historical icons who inspired her. Read our full review here.
Eminem hit Coachella with a full band and strings – not to mention guest appearances by Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and Skylar Gray. “Coachella, can I take you back to a time when I was actually dope?” he joked with a combo of bravado and self-awareness. Read our full review here.
Just five years ago, Abel Tesfaye was shrouded in darkness and self-constructed mystique. But on Friday night, he was a fully-functioning pop star standing proudly in the spotlights, delivering hit after hit, tirelessly working the crowd and projecting his icy, introverted R&B across the entire Coachella grounds. Crowd-pleasers such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Earned It” were present and correct, but while Tesfaye has learned to put on a show, he’s also managed to keep the emotional core of his music intact. Nowhere was this more apparent than on a bare bones version of “Call Out My Name” (from the new My Dear Melancholy EP), which the Canadian injected with a torrid, eye-widening drama that wouldn’t have felt out of place on one of his early mixtapes.
The Bronx was in the house on Saturday afternoon, as Cardi B made her first appearance on Coachella’s main stage. In sheer white clubwear and pigtails, Cardi channeled late TLC member Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez while bespectacled strippers swung and slid on the rafters. G-Eazy, Chance the Rapper, 21 Savage, Kehlani and YG all made guest appearances – during the latter’s performance of “She Bad,” Cardi took the chance to lean over and twerk, baby bump and all, for thousands of screaming fans. “And that’s how I got pregnant, y’all!” she laughed. “Just like that.”
The Atlanta trio’s Sunday night slot started out marred by technical problems, and the group themselves ambled onto the stage like they were headed out for a late-evening stroll. But the crowd were looking for one last release to cap the weekend, and Offset, Quavo and Takeoff harnessed the fans’ energy by ordering circle pits and instigating numerous call-and-response segments – including a euphoric back-and-forth on the “raindrops/drop top” lines from “Bad and Boujee.” The real way to blow the roof off Coachella 2018 would have been a version of “Motorsport” featuring both Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, in a beef-quashing reunion. But even though Cardi was just yards away, her voice was on backing track and Minaj’s lines were cut completely, ensuring that the rumor mill will continue to churn until at least next weekend.
SZA opened her Friday set by singing “Supermodel” from an actual tree swing atop the stage. Accompanied by a bonfire and vintage Airstream trailer – a nod to her dreamy music video for “Broken Clocks” – she explained that her time at summer camp would set the vibe that night. (“My parents sent me to sleepaway camp,” she said. “I was the only black girl there.”) She debuted “Consideration,” her 2015 feature off Rihanna’s Anti – without Riri in tow – and followed up with a series of features by Isaiah Rashad and Trippie Red (during which she bounced on a tiny trampoline), and was joined by Kendrick Lamar for the grand finale. Aristocats played on repeat behind her as the duo performed “Doves in the Wind,” then topped it off with their collab from the Black Panther soundtrack, “All the Stars.”
Eleven-year-old Mason Ramsey – a.k.a. the YouTube sensation who famously yodeled a Hank Williams song in an Illinois Walmart – made his Coachella debut on Friday, to the delight of thousands of festivalgoers. Having noticed the uncanny resemblance between himself and Ramsey, 18-year-old DJ Whethan extended an invite to the youngster to share the stage just days prior. Ramsey wore his Sunday best that afternoon, smiling big and pointing at fans in the crowd as he sang “Lovesick Blues.” And as if his coveted Coachella show wasn’t enough, the singer would make his debut at the Grand Ole Opry the following day.
“This is our hometown music festival!” declared Alana Haim, pausing midway into Haim’s mainstage set with a quick singalong to Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” Years before anyone knew of them as a band, the Haim sisters were regular fans in Indio – bassist Este told of once being handed chocolate laced with magic mushrooms by her pal Kesha on their way to see Prince in 2008. Their “Nothing’s Wrong” opened with a ripping guitar solo from singer Danielle, fog rising dramatically from the floor. They closed with “Right Now,” as the trio gathered behind a drum kit to pound a euphoric, unified beat into the desert night.
The former Talking Head kept his band of 11 (with six percussionists) on their feet and moving. Byrne led a fiery set of Heads classics and songs from his new American Utopia, closing with a cover of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout,” singing and shouting with the full band about generations of black men killed under outrageous circumstances. Names were listed with rage and remembrance, from Trayvon Martin back to Emmitt Till: “Say his name! Say his name!”
In their first U.S. gig since 2005, British funk-pop band Jamiroquai made a dazzling showing at Coachella Friday night, luring away the most hyped fest attendees from the Weeknd’s melancholy set. Frontman Jay Kay commanded the pulsating crowd in a color-changing LED headdress, as the band transformed the Mojave tent into a breezy discotheque. With blunt in hand, Snoop Dogg made a surprise appearance during “Dr. Buzz,” a track off the group’s 2017 LP, Automaton. The band cranked out groovy renditions of his own hits, such as “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Gin & Juice,” which went down swimmingly with the vivacious crowd.
The mercurial Londoner guided his Coachella audience through a wonderfully disorientating set of hazy jazz, twisted funk, noise-rock and swampy punk – sometimes all within one song. The singer acted as a wonderfully freaky focal point, growling his distinct vocal tones into the microphone one moment, then thrashing and flailing his gangly limbs around the stage the next.
Sporting beige vinyl and bright-red opera gloves, Annie Clark was in top form Friday night, emitting a cyborg-esque chill as shredded on her guitar. Her Coachella appearance doubled as a debut for her full live band, which elevated the most painstaking details of her avant-garde Masseduction songs. Clark and her enigmatic crew signed, sealed and delivered an icy yet absorbing spectacle that was part rock show, part performance art.
During Vince Staples’ early-evening set on Friday, the only thing sharper than his flows were his barbs. “This is the white-people stage, so I appreciate you having my black ass up here,” he quipped, apparently forgetting that SZA and Weeknd were on immediately after him on the Coachella stage. If he felt awkward about being an interloper, the Long Beach rapper didn’t show it. Backed by a giant collage of screens (showing a dizzying mix of everything from Kurt Cobain interviews to Black Panther demonstrations and classic Sprite commercials), Staples confidentially delivered the best cuts from Summertime ’06 and the last year’s superb Big Fish Theory. Kendrick Lamar’s guest appearance on “Yeah Right” may have jolted an otherwise nonplussed crowd to life, but Staples’ commanding performance proved that the MC was exactly where he deserved to be.
Before Brockhampton even played a note on Saturday evening, the Mojave tent was jammed full of fans chanting their name. Despite delays and microphone issues (which main member Kevin Abstract later profusely apologized for), the L.A. hip-hop collective still pulled off one of the weekend’s most exciting sets. Donning bulletproof vests, backed by a string section and rolling with their special guest DJ A-Trak, Brockhampton delivered the finest cuts from their trilogy of Saturation albums, with a smattering of boy-band choreography to boot. The performance mixed the energy of early Beastie Boys, the dynamic interplay of peak Wu-Tang Clan and the creative mischievousness of Odd Future. The energy around Brockhampton and their fiercely loyal followers already feels less like breakout-band buzz, and more like a developing cultural movement.
“We’re Bleachers from New Jersey!” shouted frontman Jack Antonoff. At Coachella on Friday, the singer-guitarist stepped out looking less the precocious pop artist of fun. than working class Jersey boy in sleeveless T-shirt and black cap. The band’s 11-song set was relentlessly upbeat, even when exploring romantic challenges through pop songs of deep feeling and hard questions. He unfurled a swirling guitar solo on “Wild Heart,” and brought out Carly Rae Jepsen for “Hate That You Know Me” and a partly acoustic “Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song).” By the time Antonoff demanded that fans climb on each other’s shoulders to “make it a real fucking festival,” the crowd was bouncing along.
While Beyoncé delivered the epic performance of her career across the field, X Japan landed in the Mojave Tent to deliver on the flash and melodrama that has made them hugely popular across the globe. They played to a modest but excited crowd, the front rows packed with true believers singing and weeping along. There were hard rock explosions and teary ballads, and cameos by Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit and Richard Fortus of Guns N’ Roses. “Jade” began with a speed metal riff and geysers of pyro, then shifted into an emotional glam melody and lyrics sung in English. The star behind the drums and piano was band mastermind Yoshiki, shirtless and wearing a leather neck brace. He ended the night with the band’s traditional show of unity, shouting “We are! We Are!” and their followers responding with a rousing “X! X!”
The pitifully sparse crowd inside the Sonora tent during Priests’ set on Saturday afternoon made it feel like the D.C. four-piece had been stood up. Just before the band played “Nicki” (a taut homage to Nicki Minaj), singer Katie Alice Greer explained they’d even invited the Queens MC along to see the show. “I think she’s really busy,” she mused. But Minaj – and the majority of the festival crowd – missed out on a set of visceral post-punk, punctuated by Greer’s howl. As the global political climate appeared to darken during Coachella’s first weekend, Priests’ primal screams of alienation landed with a greater impact than usual.
This young punk quartet from Los Angeles makes garage-y pop-rock with bite and wild attitude. In the festival’s Sonora Tent, the Regrettes got the moshpit boiling with their take on 1973’s “The Ballroom Blitz” by the Sweet, remaking a classic bit of glam. Far away from the big stages in Indio, the band burned bright with a quick playful set.