This year’s first Coachella weekend featured a strong showing from some of pop, hip-hop and rock’s biggest names, led off by the very 2019 headlining trio of Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino and Tame Impala. As always, though, many of the greatest moments from the desert-valley party happened on side stages, in dance tents and during early-afternoon sets. It was trippy, it was beautiful, it was hot — and it was another Coachella weekend in the books. Here are the 16 best things we saw on Weekend 1.
Justin Timberlake, who? Just months after Ariana Grande sampled ‘NSync on her song “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” four-fifths of the full-grown boy band resurfaced on Sunday night to make their very first Coachella appearance during Grande’s set. Met with thousands of screaming fans — a familiar scene for the Nineties pop icons — JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick brought back their 1997 banger, “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” along with their decades-perfected synchronized dance moves. Grande became one of the boys that night, claiming Timberlake’s verses from the center stage and whipping her lustrous, anime pony like a boss. Other notable reunions that night included a multi-song medley between Grande and Nicki Minaj, followed by a heartrending appearance by P. Diddy and Mase, who paid homage to deceased rappers Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Mac Miller, and most recently, Nipsey Hussle, with a performance of their “Mo Money Mo Problems.” S.E.
Country-pop alchemist Kacey Musgraves quietly took the Coachella Stage on Friday afternoon, regaling festival-goers with songs from her Grammy-winning album, Golden Hour. But the energy took a palpable shift once she decided to kick off her high heels and run barefoot across the stage. “I’ve been yee-haw all my life,” she told the California crowd, before testing their country mettle with a call-and-response. “When I say yee, you say haw!” she shouted, pointing the microphone towards the audience, who replied preemptively with a resounding “Haw!” She wrinkled her nose. “I didn’t say fucking yee!” she yelled — prompting a video clip that even out-viraled her do-si-do with her special guest, 90-year-old fashionista Baddiewinkle. S.E.
Donald Glover (and co.) know how to engineer an event. His headlining set at Coachella was no different — it came with a well-publicized, hour-long film co-starring Rihanna. Glover was locked in from the first minute, and refused to let anyone forget that he was giving this performance his all. He’s clearly been putting in the work to step his game up (hello, presumable voice lessons for the Lion King), but the true edge he has is still his eye as a visual storyteller. Watching from the crowd, there was one clear question: How did Donald Glover make the stage screens, somehow, higher definition? There were tracking shots, clearly staged intermissions, and striking color work. Glover has long been described as a polymath, but at his Friday night set it truly felt that his myriad skills were colliding, to great effect. B.K.
Tame Impala’s Saturday night headlining set opened on a high note with the eight-minute wonder of “Let It Happen.” With their customary mix of dreamy vibes and anthemic energy, the Aussie musicians drew a myriad of Zoomers and Millennials of all persuasions, from random teens attempting to mosh, to affectionate couples channeling peace and love. Leader Kevin Parker brought it all back home with 2012’s “Elephant,” inspiring a massive chant-along. “Guess what?! This is my fourth time playing Coachella!” he said with a smirk, right before playing the brilliantly funky banger, “The Less I Know The Better,” amid trippy images of three-eyed aliens. I.R.
The crowd began to trickle out about as quickly as they flowed in. Billie’s set was delayed, and after nearly a half hour her audience was beginning to leave; tech workers swarmed over the stage, presumably fixing the floor-spanning displays that stretched across the stage. The wait was worth it. As soon as the stage was fixed, Billie arrived, and the crowd made an about-face. What followed was something of a coronation for the teen star — her performance was as assured as her recent debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Just as impressive was the crowd response; much of her setlist was released just weeks ago, but the packed crowd knew every word, and seemed eager to play the part of rapt audience to Billie’s superstar turn. B.K.
In the now 20 years since its release, TLC’s anti-catcall song “No Scrubs” has remained a lasting anthem for ladies of all ages — not to mention the all-male band Weezer, who paid tribute to the timeless hit on their 2019 covers LP, The Teal Album. “When I heard it, I loved it!” TLC member Chilli told Rolling Stone in January. “I wanna reach out to [Weezer] and try to make this performance happen!” Chilli not only got her wish Saturday night, but so did many a TLC fan in attendance at Weezer’s set on the main stage. Together Weezer and Chilli — she, sporting a bejeweled crop top and chain pants — reminded us all of the uniting power of a good Nineties jam. (Overheard nearby, a teen said: “Man, Weezer’s playing all this Eighties stuff!”) S.E.
Coachella — and music festivals writ large — often feel like an arms race. Artists are competing for spectacle and bombast and ingenuity; we remember the thing we haven’t seen before. Four Tet isn’t interested in that competition. The lights were never turned on for his set, he opted to play under some desk lamps and leave the crowd in the dark. The effect was focusing, more immersive than anything he could have summoned with overwhelming special effects. Instead, the star of the show was the Nelly Furtado sample that serves as the centerpiece of his recent “Only Human,” which he stretched out to an impossible 10 or so minutes — it was the kind of move from a veteran DJ that you want to keep your eyes closed for, lights or no lights. B.K.
As if being the first J-pop group to play Coachella wasn’t impressive enough, the Hiroshima trio incited the best damn rave party on Sunday night. Like bees to honey, curious festival-goers were drawn into the Gobi tent by the group’s takes on bubblegum house and happy hardcore pop — and sure enough, they stayed long enough to dance their glitter off. Spotted in the VIP zone was none other than Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny, who bopped along to their techno frenzy with gusto. “We love you, Coachella,” said Ayano Omoto, “We will come back soon!” S.E.
Tierra Whack’s 15-minute debut album and calling card, Whack World, was as impressive visually as musically. Its accompanying short film had the relentless creative energy of a talent that would probably be as at home in Hollywood as a major label rapper. Her set at Coachella brought that to bear. Already a charismatic performer, Whack’s performance this weekend showed what she plans on doing with the attention she’s earned: push boundaries even further. Clad in neon green head to toe, she was a commanding presence on stage, and the set design (think melting monsters) and backdrop visuals (think melting Tierra Whack) made the case that this was a new, real-life star in our midst. B.K.
It’s official: 2019 is the year of reggaeton. Chilean DJ Tomasa Del Real kicked off the perreo at the Sonora Stage on Friday afternoon; Puerto Rican crooner Ozuna continued the streak that night during DJ Snake’s set, where both he and Latina rap queen Cardi B traded zippy, Spanglish verses from their 2018 song, “Taki Taki,” with pop darling Selena Gomez. Colombian megastar J Balvin supplied the main stage with a crash-course in reggaeton Saturday night, and joined “I Like It” co-star Bad Bunny for his Spanish-language Sunday Service, where together they made loyal converts of fans from across the globe. S.E.
Latin music’s current It Girl, Rosalía, never missed a beat on Friday night’s performance. Wearing a red latex two-piece, la española slayed at the Mojave stage. By that, we mean she sliced the air with sharp, accentuated dance moves that had flamenco grace and urban cool aplenty. Think the militant choreography of Janet Jackson’s R&B masterpiece Rhythm Nation meets the vibrant aesthetic of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Backed by a crew of cut-throat dancers, as well as Canarian beatmaker El Guincho, Rosalía mesmerized those in attendance as she ran through the emotions of El Mal Querer. Love, disgrace, fury and empowerment — Rosalía was there to remind us that love is a battlefield, and we are in awe. I.R.
Los Tucanes de Tijuana kicked off their high-powered banda on the Coachella Stage on Friday afternoon, resulting in the biggest quebradita frenzy the festival has ever seen. The mustachioed legends brought their invigorating norteñas to thousands of zealous young folks of all shades and subcultures — a sight to behold with bride, considering this is music you’d normally see your sombrero-clad tios rocking out to. (“This is so cool,” said a bystander in assless chaps.) Meanwhile, a Latino fan in the crowd lofted a life-size cardboard cutout of Yalitza Aparicio, the indigenous breakout actress from 2018’s Roma. Their set was so lit that Los Tucanes even played their recently-gone-viral hit, 1995’s “La Chona,” twice! The crowd shouted for an encore, and Los Tucanes righteously delivered. Unfortunately, the Mexican rebels were already beyond their time limit and got the plug pulled on them. This just showed how chingones they roll. I.R.
“Before I start this freestyle, I need a strong white man to lean on.” JPEGMafia was as winkingly confrontational as his on-record persona would have you believe at his Coachella debut; he quickly found a white man to lean on after that announcement. The experimental rapper was intense, but frequently let the audience in on the act, joking about being old, too hot and too high. The glitchy, muscular production that defines his work isn’t made for the festival scene, but it is bluntly effective for those that made their way to his set. B.K.
In just a few years, Chilean indie-pop singer Mon Laferte has scored a number of streaming and radio hits around the world — a refreshing respite from the demanding and dominating rhythms of reggaeton. On Friday afternoon at the main stage, she gave the crowd a tropical folk-pop party that glimmered in gold. Donning a red cabaret-style one-shoulder dress, the coquettish singer oozed plenty of sass with her melodramatic takes on salsa, mambo and cumbia. She strutted through the hits of Norma and other crowd favorites, at times evoking Carmen Miranda’s sultry extravagance with a vintage pin-up-style allure. “I feel that it’s very important to sing music in Spanish on the main stage, because that reflects a change in the world,” she told Rolling Stone backstage. “Language isn’t a problem anymore, and I feel very happy about that.” I.R.
Lured in by the folkloric dance rhythm that is cumbia, festival-goers grooved to the Latin beat at the Sonora stage on Sunday evening. Ocho Ojos, an ensemble of Mexican-American dynamos, showcased their riveting mix of cumbia sonidera, villera and a dash of chicha to a crowd that was eager to hip-shake. “This is the how the real Coachella sounds like,” said frontman Danny Torres, while duly repping their hometown. Perhaps the only actual, native Coachella band on the lineup, Ocho Ojos managed to make their performance feel like a grand family function of pure baile with all your primos and extended relatives in attendance (whether you’ve met them or not). I.R.
Sophie doesn’t move much during her sets. Instead, she opts to sway slightly from side to side, as if listening to something light and airy. It’s at odds with what she plays: As a recording artist, Sophie tends to craft songs that veer between the experimental and the simply beautiful, but during her live sets it’s the most abrasive sounds that take center stage. DJing from behind what appeared to be a scrap metal xenomorph, Sophie’s set tended towards the punishing — the mixes sounded like a computer attempting to replicate the sound of running water — but when the bass dropped it was easy to see that she was building towards something bigger than discomfort. B.K.