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30 Best Things We Saw at Coachella 2016: Weekend One

Rock reunions, desert dance parties and a Kristen Wiig cameo: the most memorable moments from Weekend One

Coachella; 2016; Best of; Weekend 1; Guns N Roses

The Reunited Guns N' Roses Headlined Coachella 2016.

Kevin Winter/Getty

This weekend, Coachella returned to Indio and the small Southern California town once again became the center of the music world. Guns N' Roses turned the desert into the jungle, Calvin Harris found love with Rihanna, Sia had some video help from Kristen Wiig, three-fifths of N.W.A got together and Diplo did double duty with Major Lazer and Jack Ü. Our team went in search of the festival's most memorable performances, moments and meals. These are the 30 best things we saw.

Coachella; 2016; Best of; Weekend 1

Kamasi Washington at Coachella - 2016

Photograph by Andy Keilen

Best Keytar Solo: Kamasi Washington

With all the excitement brewing around Kamasi Washington – the multitudes-containing jazz composer behind 2015's rightly named 3LP The Epic – it's easy to forget that the tenor sax blaster is only the most visible member of a Los Angeles jazz collective with their hands in everything from Flying Lotus albums to Kendrick Lamar songs to Herbie Hancock concerts. Obviously, there wasn't a dud among the 10-piece posse that swarmed the stage (11 counting guest flautist Ricky Washington, Kamasi's father). With a grand piano, two drum kits, an upright bass rigged to a wah-wah pedal, turntables, a wall of brass and the rich, otherworldly vocals of Patrice Quinn, they unleashed mad flurries of notes and thick gushes of resplendent sound with, if not ease, than something approaching second nature. But for all the sonic gold the group was spinning, no one captured the crowd's affections like Brandon Coleman, who tore into his vintage Moog Liberation keytar synth like it was a Flying V during a high-speed hyperfunk freak-out, horns blazing and beats pounding all around him. Biting his lower lip, he shredded that thing until even his beloved bandleader looked floored. When he finished, though, Kamasi grasped his sax, stepped to the mike, and followed Coleman's manic runs blow for blow.

Coachella; 2016; Best of; Weekend 1

The Front Bottoms at Coachella - 2016

Photograph by Andy Keilen

Best Sun-Baked Angst: The Front Bottoms

These New Jersey folk-punks were truly one-of-a-kind – an emo and power-pop-owing fourpiece that sounded like Conor Oberst fronting the Get Up Kids. Dressed in a too-big black shirt and slim dark jeans beneath the midday desert sun, leader Brian Sella wailed on his plugged-in acoustic like it was Les Paul, and sang with emphatic earnestness that showcased imperfect warbles and a cracking larynx. In "Skeleton," a song about losing love and ducking student loans, Sella even managed to make smoking weed sound sad: "I got so stoned I fell asleep in the front seat/I never sleep in the front seat/I'm too tall." It wasn't all so serious. Fizzy pop-punk drums, playful Casiotone key lines and a sixer of Natty Ice lightened the mood as the singer announced in "Laugh Till I Cry": "Ladies and gentlemen, the DJ just threw up on the dance floor/Party is over/It's time to go." The pulsing bass bleeding in from another stage turned his bitter comedy into sweet situational poetry.

Coachella; 2016; Best of; Weekend 1

Alessia Cara at Coachella - 2016

Photograph by Andy Keilen

Most Down-to-Earth Pop Star: Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara is an accomplished pop singer with a history of real chart action in the U.S., Europe and at home in Canada. Yet for her performance Sunday at Coachella, she kept it real: "Coachella, I'm yours!" she shouted. "I've got a lot of dreams going off and this is one of them."

Coachella; 2016; Best of; Weekend 1

Mbongwana Star at Coachella - 2016

Photograph by Andy Keilen

Best Reason to Show Up Before Noon: Mbongwana Star

Coachella's gates opened late on Day One to much grumbling, but for those who made a beeline to this Congolese outfit's tent, there was no quicker cure for bummer vibes than a joyously clanging mix of funk, rock, dub, psych, soul and soukous. The drummer was all fills, somehow never breaking a sweat or losing the pocket while the lone guitarist switched back and forth between rapid rhythmic runs and spacey pedal-powered yawps that blew all that grounding groove into the atmosphere. More to the point, the true stars of Mbongwana were the group's co-founders and primary vocalists, Coco Ngambali and Théo Ntsituvuidi. Both use wheelchairs due to polio, but the former's high, hoarse wail soared above the field, and the latter's hypnotic chant was almost otherworldly – an impression perhaps colored by the fact that he was wearing plush Yoda ears and wraparound Geordi La Forge-style shades. He'd also slap his wheels, shimmy the chair to the frenetic beats, and pop his body halfway into the air when not leading the fresh-faced crowd in call-and-response. "Is good?" Ntsituvuidi asked after half of the songs, and there was always only one possible answer: "IS GOOD!"

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