Coachella is, without question, the best and biggest festival in America. With its massive lineup catering to fans of all varieties of music, it’s opportunities for Instagram flexin’, and of course all the surprise guests and things that make Coachella a truly unique experience, Coachella is a festival like no other. However, for Weekend 2, a lot of the fanfare dies down. The coverage is less 24/7, there’s not an abundance of celebrities, and if you ask anyone who goes, the crowd is more into the music on Weekend 2. For the fourth straight year, I made the trek to Indio, however, this year I went with a media wristband in tow. Despite that, I spent that vast majority of my time at the festival among friends, way more so than I do at other shows and festivals. All in all, this may have been the year I saw the most diverse array of acts at Coachella.
Being a veteran of Coachella, I definitely have a routine set up and I’m familiar with the lay of the land. I would walk down the Yellow Path around 1:00 or 2:00 each afternoon (meh, a little bit later on Sunday) and head into the festival. After grabbing some water bottles and some food I would be off to my first act of the day and generally migrate between stages and groups of friends throughout.
I started off Friday and the festival with a performance that I would not get to see at any EDM festival. I went to the beer garden and watched Preservation Hall Jazz Band. That’s what makes Coachella so great, where else could I begin my day with some jazz, and end with Dillon Francis? Either way, the venerable New Orleans band was delightful. Sax, trombone, it was awesome. I headed over to the Sahara Tent next for Big Gigantic. For those who don’t know, the Sahara tent is the mecca of EDM at Coachella. It is a behemoth mega structure where state of the art visuals, lasers, and light panels overwhelm the senses. Um, it gets a bit crowded sometimes too. The lineup in the Sahara was stacked over the weekend with performances from Steve Angello, Martin Garrix, marshmello, Galantis and Anna Lunoe, as well as housing massive hip-hop acts such as Gucci Mane, DJ Khaled and Tory Lanez.
Big Gigantic was actually a perfect transition from Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Not only did Dom and Jeremy play an incredible high energy set consisting of tons of new music, they had a full horn section to complement them as well. This was the set that truly got Coachella started, it was only 4:30 on Friday afternoon and the Sahara Tent was wall-to-wall. After a quick trip to the craft beer garden with some friends, we returned to a much less packed Sahara tent for Crystal Castles. If I were to describe Crystal Castles to someone I would say electronic music made for vinyl. It was almost folky in a way, but it was fun, and the Sahara tent production enhances everybody.
The next big performance looming for EDM fans was Richie Hawtin’s Close set at the Mojave Tent. It did not disappoint, with incredible production and visuals, Hawtin played mind blowing techno and tech house all live through modulators. The way the stage was set up, Hawtin looked like a mad scientist conducting some kind of crazed experiment. Everyone inside the Mojave was the beneficiary.
I would catch a little bit of Radiohead’s set at the mainstage later that night, it was cool, it was trippy, it was groovy, I couldn’t really pick out all of the songs, but it was worthwhile. I would finish my night over at the Sahara tent for Dillon Francis, and man, was it crowded. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying Dillon’s incredible set that ran the gamut of sounds Dillon’s produced over the course of his career. It was a trip listening to old school cuts like IDGAFOS and Masta Blasta and hearing how far Dillon’s come through new hits like Need You and Anywhere. Will Heard joined Dillon for live vocals on Anywhere and the crowd was just enraptured. Wow, that was just Day 1.
I picked up right where I left off for Day 2. I went right into the Sahara tent for Brodinski’s set, it was deep and clubby, Even at 4:00 in the afternoon, the Sahara tent production was hard at work. GRYFFIN was up next in the Sahara tent and he took the crowd on a journey of uplifting future bass and future house. The classically trained musician showed off all of his skills playing both guitar and piano as well as singing some live vocals. It was another delightful performance. I watched a little bit of rapper Tory Lanez before leaving for the Outdoor Theatre (Second stage) to meet up with friends for Tycho.
Tycho was an absolutely perfect sundown set, the ambient sounds of him and his backing band were the perfect formula for anyone weary of trekking the grounds during the day. I wasn’t sure how I’d like “ambient” music, but Tycho was on-point. Refreshed, it was time to get serious for the night, I set out for the main stage and Future. It was everything I wanted, the man known as Hendrix got the crowd going dropping so many of his bangers such as “Mask Off,” “Karate Chop,” “Move that Dope,” “Same Damn Time,” and of course, “Honest.” Fans had to be pleased.
After trapping out with Future, I regrouped with some friends and headed over to the Sahara tent to catch the last bit of Royksopp. It was pure synth-pop and electronica, and it was wonderful. The Sahara tent production was in full effect. It was time for an epic moment, as Martin Garrix was set to take the stage next. In between sets, stagehands could be seen bringing in four massive light columns and then a massive led + sign, part of Martin’s now iconic +x imagery. Martin brilliantly mix a rousing set of entirely his music. Starting out with his new mainstage banger with Brooks “Byte,” Martin took the Sahara tent on a journey through his massive catalog of songs: “Scared to Be Lonely,” “Lions in the Wild,” “Dragon,” “Don’t Look Down,” “Virus,” “Proxy”… Martin never let up. He also included unreleased fan favorites including his collab with Ed Sheeran “Rewind Repeat It” and his collab with Linkin Park “Waiting for Tomorow.” If you’re a fan of Martin Garrix, you were in heaven. If you weren’t familiar with his work, you added him to your Spotify immediately.
We managed to listened to some of DJ Snake’s set from the beer garden, and it was definitely the part of his set where he was dropping his hits. Dillon Francis joined him for “Get Low,” and Snake dropped other hits such as “Propaganda,” Lean On,” and “You Know You Like It.” From there it was back off to the mainstage to check out the one and only Lady Gaga. Wow, she is an incredible performer. She sings, she dances, she plays guitar and keyboards, her backing band is incredible. All of her songs are hits, from “Poker Face,” “Bad Romance,” “Born this Way,” and “Just Dance” Gaga showed everyone why she is one of the single greatest performers on the planet.
Fatigued from the weekend, I made a much later arrival on Sunday, probably getting there closer to 5:00. I chilled for a bit at the beer garden at Gobi Tent and caught some of NAO, a British electro-soul singer, it was nice. I watched a little bit of Kaytranada at the Sahara tent, it was another kind of deep house set, it was alright, not really my thing. However, my things would be coming up. Next, I would make my way over to the main stage for Porter Robinson & Madeon, the final performance of their “Shelter” Tour. Opening up with “Shelter,” the two superstar producers each played live keys, sang vocals on respective songs, and banged on some drum pads. It seemed as though there was more of a focus on Porter’s songs as they played a medley that included such iconic Porter songs like “Sad Machine,” “Divinity,” and “Flicker.” Although they did drop a sick rendition of Madeon’s “Imperium.” Shelter Live was so wonderful and it was great to see two of the most musically talented producers in the game come together.
Next up on the second stage, it was time for one of the most unique performances of the weekend, Academy-award winning film composer Hans Zimmer. Accompanied by a full orchestra, Zimmer took the Coachella crowd on a journey of all the iconic film scores he has composed over his illustrious career. From the iconic “Circle of Life” from The Lion King to bits from movie scores from Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception, The Dark Knight, and my personal favorite, Gladiator, the Coachella crowd was entranced by the genius composer and his immensely talented and world class orchestra. It was pure Coachella magic.
We would stay the Outdoor Theatre for Justice after Hans Zimmer’s set. The French duo slayed the crowd dropping a raucous, high-energy set of their unique blend of funk, house, electro, dance rock, whatever it is, it was absolutely enthralling, they never let up. Many packs of cigarettes were sacrificed to the music gods as the duo just plugged away on their mixers and modulators accompanied by their incredible stage production of moving light panels. Justice’s set was one for the ages.
Finally Kendrick Lamar closed out the weekend, and it was like watching LeBron James play basketball, just a master performing his craft and showing everyone why he is the best on the planet at what he does. With live dancers and smoke adorning the stage, Kendrick rolled through a set of old school hits as well as cuts of his new album DAMN. From “Swimming Pools,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and “Alright,” Kendrick was on point, as expected.
All in all, it was another great Coachella, despite some problems with theft, however, given what can go wrong when planning a festival, kudos must be given to Goldenvoice for making such a massive festival go. I highly recommend anyone go to Coachella at least once. It truly is one of the most unique festivals around and it’s a great experience. Although I didn’t really make any new friends the way I usually do at an Insomniac festival, the experience itself is incomparable. Go find yourself in the desert, it really is a magical place.