Coachella 2019: 16 Best Performances – Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Coachella 2019: The 16 Best Things We Saw

Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, J Balvin and Bad Bunny, Ariana Grande featuring ‘NSync and more

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.

Coachella in Indio, CA, USA on April 13, 2019.

Four Test performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Koury Angelo for Rolling Stone

Four Tet Keeps It Low-Key

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.

Coachella in Indio, CA, USA on April 14, 2019.

Ayaka Nishiwaki, Ayano Omoto, and Yuka Kashino of Perfume perform at Gobi Tent during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 14, 2019 in Indio, California.

Koury Angelo for Rolling Stone

Perfume’s J-Pop Rave

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

Tierra Whack performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Tierra Whack’s Expansive Vision

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.

INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 14: Singer J Balvin (L) performs onstage as a special guest with Bad Bunny (R)  during Weekend 1, Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 14, 2019 in Indio, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella)

J Balvin (L) performs onstage as a special guest with Bad Bunny (R) during Weekend 1, Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 14, 2019 in Indio, California.

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella

Reggaeton Rules the Desert

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.

Rosalia

Rosalia performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Rosalía’s Rhythm Nation

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

Los Tucanes de Tijuana performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Los Tucanes Bring Tijuana to Coachella

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.

INDIO, CA - APRIL 12:  Jpegmafia performs at the Outdoor Theatre during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 12, 2019 in Indio, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Jpegmafia performs at the Outdoor Theatre during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 12, 2019 in Indio, California.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

JPEGMafia Brings the Noise

“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.

Mon Laferte

Mon Laferte performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Koury Angelo for Rolling Stone

Mon Laferte’s Tropical Folk-Pop Party

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.

Ocho Ojos perform at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Photo credit: Manuel Barajas

Ocho Ojos’ Cumbia Celebration

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

SOPHIE performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.

Quinn Tucker/Goldenvoice

SOPHIE Builds a Dance Tent Dystopia

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.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.