Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival April 13-15, 2018 | Empire Polo Club | Indio, CA ★★★★½
Well, that's that. Coachella is officially cancelled and from now on, the acclaimed music festival will now be known as "Beychella" as announced by DJ Khaled during Beyoncé's mind-blowing set on Saturday night. This year was a step up from last and my third overall year has been my favorite so far. Not just in musical variety, but in art installations, activations, and food selection. My junior year was a near perfect experience and I break down what I enjoyed, what I didn't, as well as some added tips and tricks on how to maximize your own experience on the Polo fields.
Kicking off the weekend with The Weeknd was actually a very smart move on Goldenvoice's part. It was a nice warm up from Abel to set us up for what was coming from Queen Bey the following day, but I'm getting way ahead of myself. I entered the festival grounds much later than I had wanted to, so I missed out on a bunch of lower-tiered acts I was kind of hoping to see, such as Whethan, Kelela, Cash Cash, SuperDuperKyle, Tank and the Bangas, Kali Uchis, St. Vincent, and of course, the Walmart Yodeling Kid(?)!
My crew and I got there just in time to see either Alan Walker or Daniel Caesar. Since the latter delivered my tenth favorite album of 2017, I made it a priority to see him. Caesar has so much potential to be a headlining name one day and his performance proved that. He's compared to Frank Ocean a lot and it's apparent why. His effortless crooning and ease to please a crowd are two major factors into becoming a big star and I hope to see more of him in the years to come.
A Top Five act for me, Vince Staples, was up next on the main stage. Not only did they give him a large platform this time around, but they gave Staples the coveted sunset set and it worked perfectly with his visuals, which were easily the best of the weekend for me. The large screens became a cluster of stacked televisions that displayed images and videos of what each of his songs were about and that attention to detail was admirable. Opening with his new track "Get the Fuck Off My Dick" and closing with the Kendrick Lamar-assisted "Yeah Right" made for a very solid set from the outspoken rapper. This was my third time seeing Staples and he's still such an underrated live act. I can't wait to see him again.
Another highlight from the entire weekend was delivered by none other Solána Rowe, aka SZA. Though she came out late, which also meant cutting her set short and preventing her fans from hearing "The Weekend", she still gave us a fun-filled set where she transported us to Camp Ctrl. She took breaks to talk to the crowd (about weed, a lot) and brought out Trippie Redd to perform "Dark Knight Dummo" while she bounced up and down on a trampoline. One of the highlights is when she performed "Drew Barrymore" with a compilation of Barrymore clips playing on the big screen behind her. Then, of course, she had to bring out label mates Isaiah Rashad for "Pretty Little Birds" and the G.O.A.T., K. Dot, for "Doves in the Wind" and her current radio hit, "All the Stars". SZA's come a very long way since 2016 when she was deemed a low-bill artist and placed in one of the smallest tents, Gobi, where the crowd was sparse, but still into her. At the time, people knew she was a part of the TDE family, but what we didn't see coming was her exploding in 2017 with "Love Galore" and Ctrl. Congrats to her for skyrocketing to her much-deserved fame and nabbing the sub-headliner slot at Coachella.
The Weeknd closed the first night off with a bang. Literally. He had fireworks. Just when I thought seeing him twice before was enough, he made sure to utilize his headlining spot wisely. I mean, why wouldn't he? He knew he had to step it up this time. His stage was accompanied by a large face and hand that appeared to be himself (still unconfirmed), free-falling, which was probably a nod to his Legend of the Fall. Although he had just dropped a new EP two weeks prior (My Dear Melancholy,) he managed to give us his biggest hits, which the crowd positively responded to. It was actually almost a party until he started crying during "Call Out My Name." Seeing him cry real tears toward the end of his set was not only emotional for Abel, but for the fans as well. And that's what made for an outstanding closer.
Daniel Caesar | B+
Vince Staples | A
Kygo | B-
SZA | A-
The Weeknd | A
The second day was definitely the longest and most stacked day, personally. There were conflicts galore, so I had to make many last-minute decisions on who I wanted to see more, and luckily I ended up with no regrets. I got to the grounds very early at around 1:15 PM because I needed to catch Chloe x Halle at the Mojave tent. They're an act that can really only go up from here since they were signed to Beyoncé's label, Parkwood Entertainment, and they're also actresses on Freeform's Grown-ish, which I'm also a fan of. They were tons of fun and very lively, which was a nice surprise since they seem so soft-spoken interviews. Keep your eye out for these two sisters on the rise.
We had some time to kill before the next act, so we checked out some of the large art installations. My personal favorites were NEWSUBSTANCE's Spectra and Edoardo Tresoldi's Etherea. The former was probably a majority of the crowd's favorite since it was the most dominant, colorful, and interactive. It was a giant rainbow spiral cylinder that you can walk into and up to the top. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go inside ourselves, but just looking at all of the people walking through the piece of art was very cool. The former piece was a set of three different sized cathedral-like buildings that were made entirely of wire and made for a great piece to look at no matter what time of day because of its transparency.
I was also thrilled to see that The Burger Show (right) was at the festival with their own booth. The Burger Show is one of my new favorite YouTube shows on the First We Feast channel and it's hosted by Eggslut creator Alvin Cailan. For those of you who don't know what Eggslut is, it's a famous LA-based breakfast spot (with one location now in Las Vegas) that specializes in simple egg sandwiches. And for those of you who don't know Alvin Cailan, he's a very cool chef that took the time to shake my hand and give me a burger that was so good, yet so simplistic, just how he likes it. From his show, I knew that, to him, a good burger is just the bun, the meat, and the cheese. That's exactly what I was handed. With just three ingredients, it was the best thing I ate at Coachella all weekend.
Getting back to the music, I headed over to Marian Hill's set. They've been on my list for the past couple of years, so it was awesome to see them up close since they had such an early time slot at the Outdoor Theater so there was plenty of room to spare. I was baking in the sun during their set, but I didn't mind because I couldn't get enough of their sound. You can't deny their beats are hypnotizing and you can't help but groove along. Then there was there was the triple conflict of BROCKHAMPTON, Snakehips, and MØ. The first two were near each other, so I decided to catch the beginning of BROCKHAMPTON since they were in my Top 10 must-sees of the weekend, and then catch the end of Snakehips. I'll just have to catch MØ another time. For being a "boy band" of literal boys (I don't think any member is over 21) decked out in bulletproof vests, BROCKHAMPTON packed the Mojave tent and brought the energy. All I wanted from them was to hear "GUMMY" live and I got that and then some. Also, I've seen Snakehips before and this time wasn't any different from the last. In fact, it was a little boring to be honest. It ended up being me staying through to the end of the set just to wait for Louis the Child who was up right after them in the same tent. That tent is the infamous Sahara tent, which, by the way, has moved its location and increased in size.
I saw Louis a few months ago for the first time and the duo really impressed me. I was even able to talk to one of them after their set and let them know that I was looking forward to seeing them on the Polo fields. Leading up to Coachella, they had dropped a banger with Joey Purp ("Shake Something") and I was thrilled when they brought him out to perform it. It's one of my favorite songs of 2018 so far. I stayed at their set a little longer than I had anticipated since they were mixing it up so well, but I had to leave early in order to catch Tyler, the Creator on the main stage. Tyler took me by surprised with Flower Boy in 2017 (my sixth favorite album of the year) and it's what it took to turn me into a fan. His set looked really cool from afar and still sounded good and that's all it really was. Nothing crazy happened and I can't recall any standout moments.
I really waned to catch Jorja Smith at the Gobi tent, but I've had and urgent need to see HAIM live for a while now. Like, years. I know I'll have more opportunities to see Smith elsewhere and that's usually how my thought process works when I'm deciding who to catch when I'm at festivals. If there's an up-and-comer on the bill, then it's usually a safe bet to skip their set and just see them at another festival or at a small, local venue for the low. Anyway, I'm a huge fan of the HAIM sisters and Days Are Gone is one of my favorite albums from the last five years, so it was vital that I watch their entire set. I also loved the fact that they had the slot before Beyoncé. Their 80's pop-rock vibes contrasted nicely with Bey's contemporary R&B sound. Everything about their set was awesome. They told us stories about how 2018 was their tenth or eleventh time at Coachella, how Kesha accidentally got one of them high a long time ago at the festival, they did their signature trio drum solo, and Danielle's facial expressions kept me entertained.
Then it was finally time. The moment everyone was waiting for. A moment over a year in the making since she had cancelled her headlining spot in 2017 due to her pregnancy. After waiting an hour for her stage to be setup and finding a decent enough spot to have the best view possible, Beyoncé come out on the main stage to bless us with her god-like presence. Of the six times I've seen her perform live, Coachella was her Super Bowl. And she's done the Super Bowl. Also, despite the fact that she hasn't released an album in two years, that didn't matter. It was hit after hit after hit with prefectly melded transitions. The theme was also brilliant: An HBCU Homecoming. It was the who sha-bang complete with a marching band/orchestra, a color guard/drill team, and a step team. They were all a part of one big-ass fraternity, BΔK, with Bey as their president. It was almost literally Drumline and Stomp the Yard live. There had to be at least 100 bodies on that stage with her. Being the first black female to ever headline Coachella, it was kind of imperative that she be unapologetic about it and really amp it up.
Bey did not hold back and all of her hard work absolutely paid off. It made fans who had tickets for last year completely forget about her cancellation. She wanted us to just enjoy the moment and have a party with her. Honestly, she could've done her entire two-hour set with no special guests and it would've still been the best set of the weekend, so it was just a bunch of cherries on top when she brought out her sister, Solange, to dance with her on "Get Me Bodied", her husband, JAY-Z, to rap his verse on "Déjà Vu", and her two best friends, Kelly and Michelle, to give us the Destiny' Child reunion we all were praying for. To be in the crowd and see Destiny's Child with my own eyes is a memory that will stay with me until the day I die. That's a big fucking deal for Millennials. It's also safe to say that Beyoncé gave the world a legendary performance that will go down as one of the best in Coachella's 19-year history.
The Burger Show | A
Chloe x Halle | B+
Marian Hill | B
Nile Rodgers & CHIC | B
Chromeo | B-
BROCKHAMPTON | B
Snakehips | C
Louis the Child | B
Tyler, the Creator | B-
HAIM | A
Beyoncé | A+
The final day of the festival was definitely the easiest. After two consecutive days of going hard, I finally got to slow down the pace and enjoy my last few hours on the Polo fields. First up for the day was Aminé, an artist I've highly anticipated after discovering his incredible slapper, "REDMERCEDES", last year. Good For You was a great debut album and "Spice Girl" and "Wedding Crashers" were must-sees songs performed live. Aminé has a wild personality, orange eyeliner and all, and it was hilarious when he performed his mainstream hit, "Caroline", because he cut the part in the song where the N-word is supposed to be and demanded the crowd that "If you ain't black, then don't say it" it in big bold letters on the screen behind him (they still did smh). I would definitely pay to see him live again because he makes it fun and even performs the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" for shits and giggles.
On the way to the Outdoor Theater, we were planning to skip Hayley Kiyoko to catch DeJ Loaf since they were on at the same time, but since the Gobi tent was on the way, we decided to stop by and see how she is live. It's kind of intriguing to see this girl come from the Disney Channel (Lemonade Mouth), to doing a nude scene in HBO's Insecure, to coming out of the closet, to making her own music, which is actually really fucking catchy. I'm glad I caught her last minute because she did a good job for her first time at Coahella. DeJ Loaf had one of those sets where you just wanted to just sit in the back, in the shade, and snack on something, so that's exactly what happened (shout out to watermelon wedges). Her set was pretty chill and it was cool that she brought out Leon Bridges, another very talented artist. She even hopped into the crowd in the middle of her set to hang out with her fans while she was performing, so she earns cool points.
The biggest surprise of the weekend came from the biggest female rapper in the game right now, Cardi B. She had just dropped her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, the week prior to the festival and even co-hosted The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon just a couple days after that in NYC. I have to admit that last year, I was a skeptic, but the closer it got to Coachella and the more I was exposed to her personality, the more of a fan I became. Clocking in at a short 35 minutes on the main stage right before the sunset, Cardi did not waste a minute and made it action packed. She brought out G-Eazy, YG, Chance the Rapper, Kehlani, and 21 Savage to perform all of their collabs. On top of that, she had a bunch of backup go-go dancers to twerk alongside her "pregnant ass." It was a party with Cardi.
We had plenty of time to kill before the next act, so my group and I decided to check out The Antarctic since it's something that we missed out on it last year. The Antarctic is an experience powered by HP (the official tech sponsor of the festival) that puts you in a giant air-conditioned dome. You take a seat on a reclined bean bag and watch an immersive 15-minute visual show, which was pretty much like a long screensaver. That description makes it sound really dumb, but it was actually great and unique. It was like taking drugs without taking drugs or a trip without the consequences.
Once we left the dome, I was a bummed because we waited in line longer than expected and had missed Princess Nokia's set at the Sonora tent, but I'll eventually (and hopefully) see her some other time. We made our way to the Outdoor Theater to check out Miguel and his set was super packed. I didn't get to experience his set under the best circumstances since I had a bunch of trees in my line of sight, but from the sound of it, the dude had talent and knew how to please the crowd. "Sky Walker" was a top song for me from 2017, so it was nice to hear it in the desert. Luckily, I have another chance to really see him at Power 106's Powerhouse in LA in a couple of weeks.
I was kind of very excited to see Migos this year even though they annoyingly came out for everyone's sets last year to do "Bad & Boujee", but now they had "Stir Fry" and "Walk It Talk It" in their rotation. We made our way to the Sahara tent and waited. Then we waited some more. Then it was 30 minutes after they were supposed to come out on stage and they still hadn't done, so we bounced and ended the night with Eminem. Let me be clear: I am a huge Eminem fan and he's definitely a Top 10 rapper. I grew up with him just like every other Millennial, but his Coachella set was just...dull. It fell flat and it seemed like everyone else around us felt that way too. It really sucks when someone with so many classics, that you've never seen live before, delivers a mediocre performance. Maybe I was just tired and irritable, but I just wasn't into it and we didn't have the patience to wait for "Stan", "My Name Is", "The Real Slim Shady", or wait for 50 Cent and Dr Dre. Of course he closed with "Lose Yourself", but that would have been an hour of waiting and it just wasn't worth it. It was good enough to hear "The Way I Am" before leaving the Polo fields early, but hey, at least I can say I've seen him perform.
The Antarctic | B
Aminé | A-
Hayley Kiyoko | B
DeJ Loaf | B-
Cardi B | A
Miguel | B
Eminem | C
Overall, my third year at Coachella has been my favorite one so far and I think that's because my friends and I have finally figured out how to effectively navigate the grounds and how to take advantage of every opportunity. So if you've never been and would like to go one day, follow these tips if you want to have a good time:
1. Learn the lineup. The lineup drop is one of the biggest deals and people get very excited about it, but don't just look at the headliners and first three rows of acts. Really dive deep and listen to at least one song from each artist or band because I guarantee you'll find someone new that you'll want to see.
2. Create your own schedule. Yes, you can create your own on the Coachella app, but there's so much scrolling involved. Yes, you can also wait to get a schedule at the festival, but it's all over the place and there's page flipping, which is worse than scrolling. List everything out yourself and you can set it as your phone lock screen for quick access.
3. Accept conflicts. Once you make new discoveries and make your own schedule, you'll notice that there are acts that overlap. It's bound to happen, but it's your choice on who you want to see more. You can also do what I do and split sets if they're close enough to each other.
4. Hydrate. You're in the desert. This is a no-brainer. But also start doing this a few days before actually heading to the Polo fields.
5. Get there early. Not only are there less people to weave through, but the early sets have small crowds, which means you get to be closer to the front. You can also use this time to check out the art, take cool pictures, get first dibs on merchandise and check out other activities.
6. Get a locker. You're going to buy merch, you're going to bring a jacket for the night time, and you're not going to want to carry that shit around all day. Just do it.
★★★★★ Legendary | ★★★★ Great | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor