Coachella 2019 - Festival Review

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

April 12-14, 2019 | Empire Polo Club | Indio, CA

★★★★


The weather was perfect and the women artists ruled the desert on Weekend One of the most well-known music festival in the world. The lineup was stacked and the art installations were incredible sights to see. The big question is: Did any 2019 headliner's set come close to topping Beyoncé's Homecoming set from last year? Definitely not. She has set a bar so high that future Coachellas will now be compared to 2018, but 2019 still had its own highlights with musical conflicts that were simpler to pick from and the best overall layout of the festival that I've seen thus far.

Layout

Let's take a brief moment to appreciate Goldenvoice's latest layout of the festival:

As you can see, the central area of the map was reserved for major art installations and they moved the Indio Central Market from the middle of the action to the very east side of the venue, making for better traffic flow and more room to breathe. They lined up the Mojave, Gobi, and Sonora tents, making it easier to stage hop, move the Antarctic to an area of where its less of an eyesore, and gave the Heineken House a whole new look where you can semi-see and hear the action even if you're not inside of it. Also, the new Sahara tent is a blessing. The best kept secret to getting a good spot is to go all the way around tom the right side near the restrooms. There's plenty of room to spread out over there.


Conflicts

Every act that I chose to see was seemingly a smart decision and every set was nothing less than satisfying. Of course, there were a good amount of sets that I had to miss out on due to factors, such as arriving too late to the venue or due to the conflicts I mentioned earlier. This is always inevitable, but this year in particular was not as bad as previous ones. Here's a list of acts I had hoped to see, but unfortunately, had to miss out on:


I went ahead and listed six of the best sets I saw from each day and gave them special awards. Without further ado, here were the best acts of each day:


FRIDAY

Best Use of the "Golden Hour" Timeslot: Kacey Musgraves

You can't make an album called Golden Hour and not expect to play at that time on the main stage. Fresh off her win for Album of the Year at this year's Grammys, Musgraves seemed to have established a huge fan base in such a short amount of time. Closing out her set with "High Horse" started a fun, funky, country-disco party.


Best Energy from the Smallest Person: Tierra Whack

I'm really glad I picked Whack over Smith or dvsn. Walking into the Mojave tent and seeing this little woman jumping around all over the stage in a neon green jumpsuit was very entertaining. It sounded like she was really testing the bass in there, too.


Best 90s R&B Party: Ella Mai

I've seen Mai before, but that was pre-self-titled debut. Now with a string of 90s-inspired hits, I felt like I was at a party. All that was missing was my red Solo cup. Also, Mai's voice in a festival setting was amazing.


Best International Set: BLACKPINK

Leading up to Coachella, I was hesitant to see the insanely popular Kpop group, but after a little bit of research, they became a must-see. Their ability to sing on-key and execute complex choreography blew me away.


Best Bang For Your Buck: Janelle Monáe

Monáe had one of the better sets for the entire weekend. She made a 50-minute set feel like 90 with multiple wardrobe changes, great visuals, and dance breakdowns. It was an homage to her influences like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Prince.


Best Overall Performance: Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino gets the award for best set of the entire weekend and is the human embodiment of the word "performer." He knew how to work the stage and work the crowd (he shared a joint with a lucky fan...who didn't even puff, puff, pass!). When he covered Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", that's when I knew he won. The overall quality of the production gets an A+.


Honorable Mentions: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Khruangbin


SATURDAY

Best Hit-After-Hit DJ Set: Murda Beatz

Murda Beatz somehow made a daytime set in the desert feel like a Las Vegas, hip-hop nightclub. The hitmaker played many of his creations and a lot of other crowd pleasers.


Best Set in the Smallest Tent: Maggie Rogers

The Gobi is technically the smallest "open" tent and she really knew how to have a good time on stage. I was pleasantly surprised to see how big of a crowd she was able to draw and they were all really into it.


Best Nostalgia Factor: Weezer

Weezer is one of those bands that you have to see when they play a festival of this magnitude. Rivers Cuomo even said that this may be their last Coachella ever, so to be a part of that audience was a treat. They played every single one of their hits, but it was when Chilli of TLC came out to help on "No Scrubs" that made it worthwhile.


Best Gen-Z Set: Billie Eilish

Only 17 and securing a spot on the Outdoor stage is an astounding feat. Though production delayed her set by 30 minutes, she was still able to rock it out once she hit the stage. The floating bed was dope, but my only critique is that I wish she had more energy with her vocal performance.


Best Laser Show: Tame Impala

I've always heard that Tame Impala puts on a great show and I can confirm that rumor. Not only do they sound great in a live setting, but catch them for their laser show. I didn't realize that many lights and lasers could fit on one stage.


Best Set Design or Best Set to Smoke To: Kid Cudi

Cudi's sound has never been of this world, and he made that apparent with his Sahara-closing set on Saturday night. He transported us to a different planet and had a blast on that stage. Also, how could you not hit the vape pen when the pianos of "Marijuana" come on?


Honorable Mention: Virgil Abloh


SUNDAY

Best 100% Pure Hip-Hop Set: Pusha T

Pusha, to me, was the only real rapper booked at Coachella. Obviously, there were plenty of them, but none of them compare to the Virginia native. Outfitted with a giant crack rock behind him throughout his set, Pusha was nonstop, spitting bar after bar.


Best Set to Twerk To: Lizzo

Not that I did, but I would completely understand if one started to twerk along with Lizzo during her set. You could tell that she was just excited to be a part of Coachella and she didn't take once take a break for a breath. Respect.


Best Sunset Set: Zedd

I'm so glad they gave Zedd the sunset set on the main stage. After seeing him a dozen time, it was nice to see that he premiered a brand new set for Coachella, including a really cool ring that circled his decks.


Best Feel Good Set: Khalid

The most laid back set of the weekend goes to Khalid. The 21 year old has been on the airwaves for two year now, not once showing any signs of slowing down. Each song he performed made me realize "Damn, this kid's got so many hits in such a short amount of time." He also brought out the most special guests I saw all weekend, so that's an added bonus.


Best Hot Mess: Ariana Grande

Don't get me wrong, it was still a generally good performance overall. However, with microphone issues for her special guests and being off-tempo for a good portion of her set, it was a borderline catastrophe. Luckily, in the end, she was able to recover and close out the weekend on a high note.


Best Set Within a Set: *NSYNC

The biggest treat of the weekend was the reunion of *NSYNC (sans Timberlake) during Grande's set. When they sang "It Makes Me Ill" and "Tearin' Up My Heart", I felt like an elementary school kid again and I'm sure a majority of the crowd was able to relate.

BONUS REVIEW

Sunday Service

April 21, 2019 | The Mountain | Indio, CA

★★★★½


People have asked me how Sunday Service was and only one word comes to mind: spiritual. After seeing the videos week-after-week on Twitter and Instagram, I knew I had to be a part of that one day. I'm glad I made the impulsive decision to witness Sunday Service firsthand on Easter. Sure, it started off slowly, but Kanye always knows how to win the people back. With a two-hour set in Lot 4 with the sun beaming down on our faces, he made it feel like Heaven. I was at church.

★★★★★ Legendary | ★★★★ Great | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor


#Coachella #ChildishGambino #TameImpala #ArianaGrande #KanyeWest #FestivalReview #MusicFestival

© Justin Recio 2019