The first weekend of Coachella 2016 managed to pull off an Internet-era miracle in that the majority of the weekend’s surprise guests were genuine surprises. But it wasn’t all about cameos from April 15-17 in Indio, California. The desert fest also astounded the old-fashioned way: simply by putting remarkable artists onstage and letting them do their thing.
From Sia’s performance art to Chris Stapleton’s knockout country rock to Disclosure’s star-studded evening, here are our 11 favorite moments from Coachella 2016 weekend 1.
11. Run the Jewels Rocks the Main Stage, With the Help of Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders’ bromance with Killer Mike reached Coachella via a video message introducing Run the Jewels’ set early Saturday evening. “One of the highlights of running for president over the course of the past year has been getting to know Killer Mike,” the candidate announced. “El-P, keep up the great work and let’s get to know each other better in the months to come.” It’s rare for an artist to be asked to perform at Coachella for two consecutive years, but the Sanders intro assured Mike and El’s set (this time on the main stage) upped the ante after last year’s appearance.
10. Jack U Brings Out Kanye West, Post Malone, Kiesza & More
Skrillex and Diplo turned the clock back to 1984 with an energetic stage show that channeled the original Apple Macintosh, performing atop a giant computer and loading up special guest “programs” like Kiesza and AlunaGeorge on the Outdoor Stage’s LED screens. Fresh off his microphone-marred performance with A$AP Rocky, Kanye West caused the crowd to erupt by simply appearing in front of the stage during “Power,” before Post Malone closed out the show with a mash-up of his viral single “White Iverson” and “Where Are U Now.” While Justin Bieber was spotted hanging backstage at the show, the pop star did not join the duo to perform their joint hit as had been rumored.
9. Sia‘s Performance Art
Sia’s voice — issuing forth from beneath a bushy black-and-white wig — was one of the most powerful instruments in action throughout the entire first weekend of Coachella. But aside from her vocal domination, Sia’s Sunday night set was one of the weekend’s most visually intriguing too. Appearing either onstage or onscreen (or both in some cases — it wasn’t quite clear), Maddie Ziegler, Paul Dano and Kristen Wiig performed interpretive dance movements to bring Sia’s emotional lyrics to life.
8. Halsey Surprises With Brendon Urie Cameo
After telling her Coachella crowd there was “one f—ing band” that changed her life growing up, Halsey brought out Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie on Saturday night to duet on her generational anthem “New Americana” and Urie’s iconic “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” It was a teenage dream come true for Halsey, and a strange, wonderful desert dream come true for everyone in attendance that night.
7. Disclosure Delights with Sam Smith, Lorde, AlunaGeorge & More
Disclosure’s third Coachella appearance was their most memorable, featuring a revolving door of marquee featured artists on the main stage. The Lawrence brothers showcased their live musicianship by providing an infectious electronic backdrop to their surprise guests. After Lorde created a stir when she bounded onstage for “Magnets,” Sam Smith drew cheers when he appeared to finish off their set with “Omen” and “Latch,” extending a joint-appearance streak that dates back to Coachella 2013. Also on deck were AlunaGeorge for “White Noise,” Kwabs for “Willing and Able,” Jillian Hervey for “Hour Glass” and Brendan Reilly for “Moving Mountains.”
6. Chris Stapleton Brings Country to Coachella
Stagecoach Festival won’t hit Indio for another two weeks, but country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton looked right at home during his Sunday night set on the Gobi Stage. “I spent a long time in vans pulling trailers,” he reflected, introducing his track “The Devil Named Music.” “We’re not doing that anymore. Thank you for that.” No kidding. Since his surprise album of the year win at the 2015 CMAs, his debut LP Traveller has been a staple in the upper reaches of the Billboard 200, and the well-received Coachella set became another feather in the big man’s cowboy hat.
5. Kesha’s Surprise Appearance With Zedd
The Coachella weekend was full of buzzworthy guest appearances, but none was more poignant than the Free Kesha movement hitting Zedd’s Saturday night set. Kesha emerged triumphantly to a swell of support on the Outdoor Stage to sing Zedd’s 2015 song “True Colors.”
4. The Chainsmokers Shock & Awe With G-Eazy, Third Eye Blind, Walk the Moon & Tiesto
Boasting a tremendous new stage production setup and plenty of special guests, The Chainsmokers were the Sahara stage’s clear Sunday highlight. Perched atop their three-tiered LED rig, the New York duo opened their set by teasing hit single “Roses” to widespread cheers. Their set featured numerous noteworthy appearances, including G-Eazy for “Me, Myself & I,” Tiesto for “Split (Only U),” Third Eye Blind for “Jumper” and Walk the Moon for “Shut Up and Dance.” Featured singers ROZES and Daya also handled vocal duties on “Roses” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” respectively. The Sahara back and side stage areas were a virtual who’s who of the dance music industry, with artists like Martin Garrix, DJ Snake (fresh off Tchami’s performance), SNAILS and Louis the Child mingling with top managers and agents.
3. Reunited LCD Soundsystem Moves the Masses With “All My Friends”
Surprise guests need not apply. James Murphy and Co. commanded the Coachella main stage’s attention just fine on their own, showing off their analog electronic wizardry and live cohesion by seamlessly transitioning between fan favorites like “I Can Change,” “Someone Great” and “Losing My Edge.” But it was their inevitable finale “All My Friends” that brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance. After Murphy’s voice cracked with emotion on the ending refrain, a spellbound audience slowly filed out while attempting to process what they’d seen. “I can die happy now,” said one young lady.
2. Guns N’ Roses Bring Out AC/DC’s Angus Young
Axl Rose’s rumored collaboration with AC/DC on their upcoming tour was confirmed just hours before Guns N’ Roses (just in the infancy of its long-awaited “classic lineup” reunion) took the main stage on Saturday. But no one expected that Axl’s impending gig would start that very night. Noting that his broken foot prevented him from running around the Coachella stage like a madman, Axl promised to bring out a friend as a consolation prize. That guest was the eternally energetic Angus Young, who simultaneously did the duck walk and scorched the stage alongside Slash with AC/DC classics “Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Riff Raff” — both of which Rose delivered with impressive hellfire.
1. Gallant Duets With Seal
Considering The Weeknd (once the torchbearer of alt R&B) is now a fully-fledged hitmaker, it’s time for someone new to step up to the plate and reshape R&B in an inventive, compelling fashion. That artist is Gallant, and on Friday evening at Coachella, he proved there’s more to him than stellar songwriting chops: He’s also an astonishing live performer, with a falsetto that would make Prince proud and a backing band that somehow makes his shyness a musical strength. It was already a top-notch set, but when Seal came out to perform his 1991 hit “Crazy” and trade vocals with Gallant on the latter’s instant classic “Weight in Gold,” Gallant’s Coachella set emerged as the weekend’s finest moment.
–Reporting by Joe Lynch, Matt Medved and Chris Payne