The first weekend of Coachella was a big hit thanks to the stacked lineup, the incredible art, and the beautiful scenery. While most sets lived up to the hype, others were disappointing. Hear about both the good and the bad from weekend one of Coachella in this piece by staff writers Lee Fisher and Nicole Woo. Staff photos by Nicole Woo.
By Lee Fisher and Nicole Woo
This year’s Coachella lineup was stacked, and the artists at the top of the bill were absolutely insane. Radiohead, Lady Gaga, and Kendrick Lamar all earned their headliner status over and over again during their respective sets on the main stage. Although Radiohead’s sound cut out a few times during their set, the rock band pulled through with crowd favorites and some epic anthems. Lady Gaga stepped up to the plate to replace Beyoncé with a visual masterpiece that showcased her top hits from the past ten years. Kendrick Lamar’s energetic set rounded out the lineup as he played his new album live for the first time ever.
In addition to the lineup, Coachella’s list of cameos was equally as impressive. It’s common for artists to collaborate to create new tracks that blends each of their own unique styles. While at most concerts featured artists’ verses are blasted through speakers from the original recording, Coachella masters had a different plan in mind. In the middle of Future’s set, with no introduction, Drake stormed the stage to kick off his and Future’s song, “Jumpman.” Future also decided to surprise us with Ty Dolla $ign and Migos. These exhilarating bursts of energy kept the crowd on their toes despite intense dehydration, sweat, and swollen feet. Hopping over to the Mojave tent, festival goers spotted A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX as well as many other singers take the stage and perform their bits for Mura Masa’s electronic beats. Back at Sahara tent, Dua Lipa made an appearance to sing her and Martin Garrix’s hit single “Scared to be Lonely.” Nav also brought out his good friend The Weekend for a song. At Outdoor Stage, Lauryn Hill unexpectedly showed up to sing songs such as “Killing Me Softly” and “Miseducation.” And to leave all of the 18 year olds dazed for the night, Gucci Mane ended Saturday with guest stars Lil Yachty, Migos, and Rae Sremmurd. Sunday, although slightly less exciting, introduced some renowned artists as well. Lil Uzi was accompanied by Playboi Carti in Sahara and DJ Khaled’s set included 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, French Montana, and A$AP Ferg afterwards.
Sahara Tent. Photo by Nicole Woo
Standout performances came from smaller bands to EDM artists. Some of the best DJs to take the stage were Galantis, Mura Masa, Martin Garrix, and Marshmello. Bands like Bastille, The Head and the Heart, The Interrupters, and Twin Peaks also delivered outstanding sets. Highlights of the weekend included a drum battle between Marshmello and Travis Barker, blink-182’s drum solo, and Migos’ four-time live performance of “Bad and Boujee.”
Marshmello performing. Photo by Nicole Woo.
However, there were a few performances that didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Travis Scott, Banks, and DJ Khaled were disappointing, to say the least. Travis Scott’s set was an hour of synthesized, autotuned noise with little to no lyrics, even during his hits “Goosebumps” and “Antidote.” Banks was low energy and far less interesting than anticipated. DJ Khaled’s set consisted of him yelling his name and pressing play on other artists’ hit tracks, only to stop them after 20 seconds and skip to the next song. Although these artists failed to hit the right notes, our weekend was saved by the dozens of acts that blew our minds and performed their amazing music with boundless energy.
Beyond music, an iconic part of Coachella is its art. Each year, the festival hosts new sculptures and displays that may be intended to enhance some viewers’ impaired state. Walking around the festival grounds, one would have likely noticed the giant, towering neon rhinoceroses, titled “Is this what brings things into focus?” planted in the grown. Next to the playful beasts was the “Lamp beside the golden door,” a striking mirror sculpture that acted as a prime spot for Instagram photos. A few hundred feet away, there were oversized bedside lamp fixtures, a skyscraper-like tree called “Crown Ether,” and Dr. Seuss-looking polka-dot structures in Chiaozza Garden that made me feel like I was in Alice in Wonderland.
An article recently published on Artnet News claims that Coachella’s art seemed to be replacing acid at the festival. The audio-visual sensory stimulating experience found at The Antarctic tent may have been the trigger behind this claim. While reclined on bean bag chairs in an airconditioned room, staring at the dome-shaped screen above, one may have felt like they were a particle drifting in the ever-changing landscape of the screen performance. Flashing lights, twisting, morphing graphics, and orbiting movements left the viewer in a new state of consciousness. The Antarctic was truly remarkable.
Senior Maya Donato and friend in front of “Is this what brings things into focus?” Photo courtesy of Maya Donato.
“Lamp beside the golden door." Photo by Nicole Woo.
Chiaozza Garden in background . Photo by Nicole Woo.
The Antarctic Dome. Photo by Nicole Woo.
The music and art at Coachella can’t exactly be fully enjoyed without some sort of sustenance. Fortunately, the festival has dozens of high quality options. We tried out the mac n’ cheese, chicken and waffles, coffee ice cream, mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers, pizza, churros, and pretzels. Although all of them were delicious, our personal favorite was the chicken and waffles, which featured a freshly fried and seasoned chicken breast sandwiched between two fluffy Belgian waffles... enough said.
Living in the desert for three days was tough, even though we weren’t tent camping. For more than nine hours each day, we had to brave 90+ degree heat waves and windy 60 degree nights. Fortunately, over the course of the weekend, we were able to refine our list of essentials that we brought into the festival each day.
First on our list was water. Water, water water!! Walking and dancing in the desert for three days is extremely dehydrating, and although you can’t take full water bottles into the festival, we brought in empty ones to fill at the filling stations. Next on our list was baby wipes, because nothing feels better than wiping three layers of dirt off your body or cleaning your hands after a visit to the porta-potties. Next up, chapstick. Without it, our lips would have been cracked and burned beyond repair. Sun protection in the form of sunscreen and sunglasses was also a must. After just the first day, we saw plenty of people who were badly burned and it didn’t look like fun. And of course, don’t forget cash!
In terms of clothing, we opted for closed toed shoes and light layers. If we had worn open toed shoes, our feet would have been caked in dirt and crushed by the various mosh pits. The light layers were important for when the temperature dropped at sunset. We also both brought along fanny packs so we could keep all of our essentials on hand at all times. Fanny packs are perfect because they aren’t overbearing or annoying, they can store a lot, and they look cute!
Finally, nothing is more important than some sort of plan. Without our schedule, map, and pre-determined meeting times/spots, we would have been absolutely lost at Coachella. Planning ahead saved us valuable time and meant that we were pretty comfortable as soon as we set foot on the festival grounds.
If you can justify $400 for a ticket, an eight hour car ride from the Bay Area (each way), or airplane and Uber expenses, hotel/condo costs or camping conditions, pricey festival food, and long festival hours, the trip is well worth it. This list of sacrifices is long, but Coachella somehow brings together 75% of the artists on your music playlist, 95% of your food cravings, and memories that last. If the opportunity ever lines up, take it. Coachella will create individual moments that you will take with you and think about well after the festival ends.