Weekend Two of Coachella Music and Arts Festival kicked off on no other day than 4/20. And though there were no signs of Snoop Dog, festival goers gladly celebrated the holiday. Those puffs of smoke that occasionally rose over the crowd weren’t just from vaping. It was a high of 90 degrees, a nice warm up to the rising temperatures to come over the weekend.
People could escape the especially toasty late afternoon sun by watching a show in one of the enclosed stages. At the Gobi tent, Moses Sumney performed to a clustered crowd vibing to his songs, that eventually littered out into attendees sitting on the ground, escaping the heat. Sumney set the de facto theme for Coachella Weekend Two 2018: “Beychella! What’s poppin?” His dewey falsetto carried the crowd into dreamy, jazzy rhythms. Highlights included “Make Out In My Car” and the performance of a new song.
Next door at the Sonora stage, a white, seemingly wooden, dome-like enclosure, New Zealand-native Fazerdaze performed to a crowd that mostly filled the venue. Amelia Murray led her band, all in denim-on-denim ensembles. “I recorded them in my bedroom like a year ago,” Murray said about her songs. It was not a big production, lacking intense lighting, dancing and gargantuan set pieces, but the simplicity in being an indie rock band is what steadied Fazerdaze. They were at their best during jumpy tunes, like finale song “Lucky Girl,” when the crowd, whether they knew the song or not, could dance along.
Under the shade of the Mojave tent, Kelela continued in revving up the spirit of afternoon attendees. She kicked off with “LMK,” from 2017s Take Me Apart. She commanded the stage in an all-white ensemble, layered by a sequin bodysuit and topped with a cowboy hat, and her backup singers following such color protocol with their outfits as well. “Are y’all ready to go all night,” she asked. “I’m going to do as much singing as I can. More singing less talking.” She mostly stayed true to her promise, except for once. Before “Enemy,” she explained: “So I wrote this song about somebody who was really mean to me at the time.”
After Kelela, Michigan-bred rock band Greta Van Fleet took the Mojave stage for a performance essentially opposite of Kelela, aside maybe from some sparkle. The ’70s dressed quartet wasted no time and immediately sang “Highway Tune,” the first single off their debut EP. What followed was Greta Van Fleet giving support to the rumors that they are the next Led Zeppelin. Frontman Josh Kiszka effortlessly hit that throaty, high note whenever he could and brother Jake Kiszka matched such skill level on guitar. Even the very long guitar jam at the end of “Edge of Darkness” was never boring.
Kali Uchis brought the crowd to the Outdoor Stage, despite the sizzle of the late afternoon sun. Uchis was a vision of sultry, vibey dance moves, clad in an all-pink getup. Uchis stirred up the crowd in the best way possible with her call to action to support underrepresented groups of people. In introducing “Your Teeth in My Neck,” she said, “This next song I get a lot of questions about. First, I wanna say, fuck Donald Trump and anyone who supports Donald Trump.” Uchis kept the crowd at her fingertips by finishing with “After the Storm.” Tyler, the Creator, one of the song’s features, appeared for his verse, frantically running on stage in a brown newsie cap and fleeing off the second he finished. At the end, Uchis made sure to introduce her band and then closed by saying, “Viva Colombia!”
Over at the Coachella stage, the sincerity of Kali Uchis was not seen in The Neighborhood. Indeed, the band put on a lively performance. The background screen often projected apocalyptic-themed imagery and frontman Jesse Rutherford made plenty of efforts in enticing the crowd. Before beginning with “Prey,” he said, “Coachella! Do you believe in God? Have you ever prayed? Do you ever feel like praying?” He continued to upkeep crowd banter, asking, “who’s smoking on something,” before “You Get Me So High.” At one point, Rutherford mentioned, “Oh that nice desert sun… feels pretty good.” However what was most enticing, yet not followed up on, occurred toward the end of The Neighborhood’s set. “It’s emotional here, you know,” Rutherford said. “We started this band because we wanted to play this.” He went on to explain that after their set last week he got off stage and wondered if he still wanted to do this: “I don’t know what I’m saying. They went on with the rest of the set, finishing with “Sweater Weather” (to the crowd’s delight) and “R.I.P. 2 My Youth.”
Back in the Mojave tent, Bleachers was finishing their set. Introducing his band led to a playoff with the saxophone player and Jack Antonoff, on guitar. Throughout the battle, Antonoff instructed a chorus of “ohs” from the crowd. He closed with two of Bleachers’ arguably most popular songs. During “I Wanna Get Better,” Antonoff came down from the stage to get into the crowd as much as possible, with only the barricade between his shins and fans. For “Don’t Take the Money,” the audience continued jumping with as much enthusiasm as before. Antonoff stood atop an amp to finish, just as the sun was setting.
With the sun behind the mountains, most Coachella attendees had made their way into the festival grounds. It became clear what kind of fan you were depending on the stage you were at at this time. At the Main Stage, a younger, fairly Millennial crowd flocked to see Vince Staples. Indeed, this sort of crowd was at the festival to hear their favorite music, but they were also definitely attending for a cultivated experience. Staples began by saying, “Coachella… I have something to tell you all,” and then plunged into “Get The Fuck Off My Dick.” He later mentioned, “At the Vince Staples show we don’t stand still,” commanding dancing instead of Snapchatting.
Over at the Outdoor Stage not much later, The War on Drugs played to an audience that probably had the opportunity to be at the early years of Coachella, when much of the line-ups were rock-based. The War on Drugs’ set was a feel-good moment of Day One. It was just a band on a stage illuminated by a cool 180-degree ring of flashing lights. When spotlights flashed out on the audience, you could see a sea of movement, especially during songs like “Under the Pressure” that inspired dancing.
With the sun officially down, it was time for the first big DJ act of the night: Kygo. Kygo’s set featured a variety of feel-good, EDM-tinged tunes for people to dance along, even if just passing through. Kygo had a variety of guests, including Justin Jesso for “Stargazing” and Ariana Grande performed her new song “No Tears Left to Cry.” Parson James, the feature on “Stole the Show,” laid the foundation for the set by noting they were there for a good time, but also to honor the life of Avicii. After finding out about his death earlier that day, Kygo tweeted Avicii was the reason why he started making electronic music.
St. Vincent kicked up the rock ‘n’ roll up a notch with a display of her many guitars and musicianship skills. If it wasn’t enough that she was a master guitar player, she also did her 13-song set in a red leo with thigh-high boots to match. The intriguing visuals of St. Vincent and faceless characters paraded the three screen, whether dancing, talking on the phone with a praying mantis or robotically working out. It’s obvious she knows it takes more than a stellar performance to captivate a crowd. She told her fans a story: “I have a good friend here tonight who’s decided to take acid for her first time and see this show and if any of you are in that boat it was all a dream and everything’s going to be fine.” She then played a revved-up “Slow Disco.” Other songs included “Cheerleader,” “Sugarboy” and “New York.”
Back at the Main Stage, Sza appeared to be having a much better set than the previous weekend. She admitted on Instagram: “Last week kicked my ass.” But that did not get her down. She appeared confident, cooly talking about how “Drew Barrymore” is about “a shitty ass party I went to for no fucking reason.” The vulnerability continued as she wondered if the crowd also didn’t like high school or that with obstacles, comes strength. One of the greatest highlights of her set, possibly that night, was when Khalid appeared during “20 Somethings.” The two also sang Khalid’s summer smash “Young Dumb and Broke.” “Nobody better represents my high school thoughts and college thoughts,” Sza applauded.
Back at Mojave, Soulwax played to a crowd looking to dance to a different beat. The crowd wasn’t packed into the tent, the way people so often can be at these late-night dance music sets. An oversized mirrored head was the main feature of Soulwax’s set design, with a miniature one to match at the very front and center. The alternative dance sounds pulsing were magnified by the rest of the set: exploding lights, cubes that looked like half of an iPhone charger, the band members in white button downs and black slacks, looking like waiters. It was as if the entire set was building up for the very end. The smaller head began spinning. Lights were at an epileptic level and the drums picked up speed. Then it all just stopped. Had everyone been sitting, there would have been a standing ovation. Across the field, electronic instrumentals played on as well. Jean-Michel Jarre’s cinematic sounds vibrated the grounds, which you could feel in any nearby port-o-potty. With just a few warped noises, Jarre changed the entire mood of his songs in a flow that went from slightly anxious to happy to invincible-feeling. The crowd was small, but no doubt they were appreciative of the electronic pioneer.
The Weeknd culminated day one of the festival. With no special guests, Abel Tesfaye displayed a performance that embodied his too cool, popular kid-in-school persona. He made sure to keep the crowd happy by playing the popular “Starboy.” Tesfaye subscribed to the manual for being a pop star. Over the course of his nearly two-hour set, he made attempts to get the crowd to sing along (and on their own), jump and replaced lyrics with “Coachella.” During “Reminder,” he sang “I come back to Coachella” instead of “I come back to my city.” There were also a plethora of pyro action and fireworks that fizzled out before exploding. Tesfaye made sure to include his biggest hits, such as “Earned It,” “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Often.” However, the vast area surrounding the Coachella Stage began to clear out before his set was over. On a high note, The Weeknd closed with “The Hills.” He bowed to the crowd and said, “I love you Coachella! Thank you!”
Tomorrow’s temperatures are supposed to top that of the first day, but with Beyonce headlining Day Two, the only wonder is if she’ll be able to top herself.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela