It’s now been two weeks since Coachella 2018 has come and gone. There’s not really too much to say that hasn’t already been said about this year’s festival. Beyonce was the talk of news and social media after Weekend 1, and for good reason. Her set was impressive on so many levels, from the sheer number of dancers and band members, to Bey’s one-of-a-kind dance moves and all of her impactful pop hits. However, you are reading an EDM news blog, so therefore, we’ll stick to examining Coachella through a more EDM-focused lens.
I went to Weekend 2 this year, as I usually do, and the festival was a blast, as it always is. Like all previous Coachellas, the festival grounds were massive and expansive. Despite the festival’s gargantuan scale, the festival was still accessible. Beer gardens and concessions were well placed, the art installations were immaculate and provided a futuristic, almost Mad Max type vibe to the desert landscape. Most importantly for EDM fans this year, Coachella finally did something about the Sahara Tent. While the Sahara Tent has become one of the most iconic venues in dance music over the years at the festival, with EDM expanding into the mainstream over the past six to seven years, it has also become, for lack of a better word, a clusterfuck.
The Sahara Tent’s much needed expansion not only included increasing its size, but flipping it horizontally, so that the main entrance faces where people will be coming in from the main festival. If you were able to get close for the many EDM luminaries who graced the tent over the weekend, you were treated to one of the most impressive productions on the planet. In year’s past, not getting a prime spot meant being subjected to staying outside the tent and missing all of the production. This year, the tent was designed for exactly this kind of overflow, and one could easily catch all of the visuals and hear crisp sound well outside the tent. The adjacent beer garden also offered excellent views of the Sahara. Great job by Coachella and Goldenvoice for addressing this issue and making the Sahara tent a party again!
The other huge event that had an impact on Weekend 2 of Coachella was of course, the passing of EDM pioneer and legend Avicii. His presence was felt the whole weekend over the course of countless tributes to the Swedish producer and DJ. If you’re a regular reader of our site, you’ve no doubt followed all of our coverage of his death. There’s no need for me to elaborate on this, so we’ll get back to the music.
I arrived at the festival on Friday just in time to check out Cash Cash inside the Sahara Tent. The iconic trio had a solid crowd for 3:30 on Friday, and I was excited not only for them, but to check out the Sahara. They dropped the perfect EDM set with progressive, electro, and bass to truly christen the new tent. After a pit stop with friends to check out throwback rock band Greta van Fleet in the Mojave Tent, I made my way back to the Sahara for Alan Walker. Alan had his initials, AW, set up as the foreground of his stage design. Alan actually played a softer, lower tempo set, that focused more around tracks like “Alone,” “Tired” and of course “Faded.” Iselin Solheim came out for live vocals on Faded as Alan was joined by other “Walkers” clad in face masks and hoodies just like the Norwegian producer.
Alan had nothing on the next act though, as Coachella veteran and So Cal bounce icon Deorro absolutely brought the house down. Accompanied by a giant inflatable panda on stage, Deorro assaulted the crowd with lasers, insane visuals, and his inimitable sound. With highlights like “Be Yourself,” “Offspring,” “Existence,” “Yee,” “Bailar,” and “Flashlight,” Deorro has been at the top of the game for so long; it was awesome to see him just dropping banger after banger in the Sahara. The tent was built for artists like Deorro.
From there, it was off to the mainstage for Kygo. Kygo recently brought his ‘Kids in Love’ tour on the road, and he played all of the hits from his outstanding album, as well as standards from his previous offering Cloud Nine. Although he didn’t have as many special guests as Weekend 1, Kygo still delivered a blissful performance, that, sorry, put the crowd on Cloud Nine. From his new collab “Remind Me to Forget” with Miguel (shout out to Miguel for joining Kygo live), to “First Time” with Ellie Goulding, “Carry Me” with Julia Michaels, “Stay” with Maty Noyes, and live performances of “Stole the Show” with Parson James and a surprise appearance from Ariana Grande, Kygo delivered a stellar performance. Kygo displayed not only his talent as a producer and true tastemaker, but as a live performer as well. Kygo’s live set is second to none.
I changed the vibe up from there, venturing over to the Outdoor Theatre (second stage) to check out rocker St. Vincent, but I was mostly killing time before The Weeknd. Fresh off the heels of releasing his latest EP, My Dear Melancholy, The Weeknd lived up to expectations and seamlessly flowed from hit to hit. Opening up with his new collab with Kendrick Lamar, “Pray for Me,” off The Black Panther soundtrack, he went straight into “Starboy.” From there, he got into grimier songs like “Low Life” and “Might Not” (shout out to Belly for live vocals). I got everything I wanted from The Weeknd. Wow, that was a lot for one day!
My group and I got a little bit of a later start on Saturday, but that meant we got prime position for electro-funk duo Chromeo. Dave 1 and P-Thugg made the crowd melt with all of those sexy and sensual Chromeo sounds. Dave 1 played a chrome-colored Les Paul guitar while P-Thugg held down the MOOG Synthesizer. They had clear, crystal blocks lining their stage setting the perfect backdrop to songs like “Night by Night,” “Come Alive,” and “Jealous.” Chromeo was the perfect way to get Day 2 going. There wasn’t nearly as much EDM on this day; I saw the tail end of Snakehips set at Sahara, that was about it. Honestly, the best set I caught pieces of that day was probably veteran rocker David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame (ask your parents), who brought an eclectic and eccentric mix to the Outdoor Theatre. Post Malone closed out the Sahara tent and he was thoroughly enjoyable. He had a lot of material with the release of his second album beerbongs and bentleys. I already discussed Beyonce earlier.
I made the most of the final day and got into the Sahara tent early. I caught the tail end of Giraffage’s set, and got a nice spot for San Holo. I have mixed feelings about San Holo; his live guitar playing was outstanding, as he perfectly matched his songs to his plucks of the strings. The visuals were nice for that early in the afternoon and the vibe was great. However, his song selection did not stray at all outside the future bass genre. I understand that’s what he was building the set around, but throw in a filthy dubstep banger to break things up, perhaps.
Most of the Coachella attendees found themselves at the mainstage for Cardi B after that. The Bronx rapper has skyrocketed to fame behind her single “Bodak Yellow” and she has quickly become one of the most ubiquitous female rappers on the planet. Her short 35-minute set was actually perfect for that time slot and got the party going on the final day in the desert. I went back over to the Sahara Tent to catch some of Illenium’s set, but all the EDM fans, and mainstream fans as well, were gathered at the main stage for ODESZA.
Outside of Beyonce’s set (regarding her context in pop culture and the world at large), ODESZA had to have put on the best performance of the weekend. The Seattle duo brought their massive ‘A Moment Apart’ tour to Coachella mainstage, and their production was well served by the incredible scope of it all. Accompanied by a full drum line and horn section, as well as stunning, next level visuals, ODESZA blew the crowd away. Featuring live vocal performances from Naomi Wild and Masionair during the set. ODESZA thoroughly impressed with their musicality, precision, and attention to detail. For two guys playing some keys and drum pads and to make it sound so grandiose is incredibly impressive. As far as live electronic music goes, ODESZA is the gold standard.
Eminem closed out the evening from there, the Detroit rapper also put on an impressive performance, as he was accompanied by his own live band and string section. His backdrop evoked his home city and Eminem ran through his expansive song catalog with ease and poise. He called upon Skylar Grey to join him for vocals on his mega hit “Stan,” but that was only the beginning of Em’s set. Both 50 Cent and Dr. Dre came out to join Eminem for a couple of songs. 50 Cent for his massive hit “In the Club” and Dr. Dre for “Forgot About Dre” and “Chronic 2000” with Em filling in for Snoop Dogg on the latter track. If you came of age during the TRL-era like I did, Eminem is a keystone artist and someone who’s impact cannot be overstated. He may not have broken the internet like Beyonce but Eminem still delivered a powerful performance.
Just like that, it’s over. Fans get to wait for months and speculate as to who might be the next set of headliners. Coachella is a venerable festival and brand, there is no speculation about its future. It will return next year, it will sell out early, it will be a big thing. I definitely recommend everyone check out Coachella at least once, but if you went this year, and don’t want to return to the desert next year, I don’t blame you, Coachella is not for the faint of heart. This year lived up to the hype, though just up to it, I wouldn’t say it exceeded it.