Festivals

Coachella 2016 Friday Weekend 2 Recap: Prince Tributes by LCD Soundsystem, Jack U, Ellie Goulding & More

DJ Skrillex of Jack U
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

DJ Skrillex of Jack U performs onstage during day 1 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 2 at the Empire Polo Club on April 22, 2016 in Indio, Calif.

LCD Soundsystem -- the Brooklyn electro-rock band in the midst of a successful reunion tour -- may have been the headliner of the first day of the second weekend of this year's Coachella festival, but there's no question that the entire day was about Prince, the legendary musician and performer who tragically, suddenly died the day before the festival's second weekend. LCD -- led by singer/frontman James Murphy -- led the charge with a pummeling, funky version of "Controversy," but it was literally impossible to avoid both overt and subtle references to Minneapolis's son all day.

 

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The festival's trademark palm trees -- which usually are part of a constantly-changing light-show through the night -- glowed Prince's trademark purple hue for the entirety of the evening, as did the floodlights throughout the venue. Before LCD took the stage, the three massive main-stage screens played the entirety of Prince's version of Radiohead's "Creep," recorded in that very spot in 2008 -- a performance that many consider among the festival's defining moments; as it ended, a quote from Prince from that night appeared on the screen: "From now on This is Prince's House."

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Clearly that was true. Tributes, like Prince's music, crossed genres: hip-hopper Joey Bada$$ played some of "1999," dance duo Jack U finished their set with a montage of Prince moments, Ellie Goulding teased "When Doves Cry," and legendary soul singer Mavis Staples, who had an early afternoon set that may have been the first moment of tribute on the festival grounds, recounted a lengthy story about meeting the icon for the first time before he signed her to his Paisley Park label. She asked for a moment of silence -- and then followed that with an a cappella version of the chorus of Prince's signature song "Purple Rain."

 

Jack U paid tribute to #Prince at #Coachella | Video: @mattmedved

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An extended version of the same song was performed later in the night on the Outdoor Theater stage by the unlikely duo of artsy provocateur Sufjan Stevens and R&B wunderkind Gallant, who used his inhuman falsetto to hit impossible emotional highs lost on some of the younger audience members rushing towards the front for Jack U (if anything represented a battle of Coachella generations, it was this.) And Gallant himself earlier in the day sang a portion of "Diamonds and Pearls" with guest Jhene Aiko, who told Billboard that they hadn't even had time to practice. No worries: of course, even while tentative, it echoed with emotional resonance.

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Of course, there were artists who succeeded without altering their set purple: Austrian samba-meets-EDM group Parov Stelar tore down the Gobi tent with a set that mixed blasts of horn punctuation with breakbeat percussion and high-energy vocals; the group garnered an extremely deserved, rapturous set-ending round of applause that led to an unusual-for-the-fest tent encore. And early nu-emo band the Front Bottoms proved they weren't just a clever name -- they were also a rock band with actual hooks, giving them a leg up on many of the other younger acts on this year's bill. 

Listen to Prince's Legendary 2008 Coachella Performance

Still, today's fest was a reminder that when someone of Prince's stature in the music world dies, sometimes the best way to grieve is to celebrate; this was a party he unquestionably would have approved of.