The conversations leading up to Coachella Weekend 1 usually begin with a guessing game: Who’s bringing out who? Who’s performing what? Who will exceed expectations? For this year’s festival in Indio, California, kickoff day (Friday, April 14) came with two surprise guests, unsuspecting show-stealers and technical difficulties for the night’s biggest act. Run through the Day 1 notes from on-the-ground staffers below.
3:05 p.m. The Lemon Twigs welcome Todd Rundgren on stage for “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” marking one of the first guest spots of this year’s festival (Zipper Club, who had Curt Smith join them for “Mad World” went on an hour earlier). The artists share a clear power-pop kinship, and the through line shown through as frontman Brian D’Addario glowed every time he looked at Rundgren. — Jeff Miller
4:20 p.m. Eyes closed, Sampha emerged in a haze of stage fog combined with marijuana and cigarette smoke (appropriate given the time). “Plastic 100°C” and “Timmy’s Prayer,” off the British crooner’s impressive debut Process, kicked off the alt-R&B happy hour at the Mojave stage. Decked in a green bomber that read “Peacemaker,” Sampha chose an appropriate ‘fit as his 45-minute set became instant bonding grounds for afternoon Coachella-goers on Day 1 (one man seated on the ground sprayed water fans on sweating passersby while a woman complimented her neighbor’s outfit). By the third song, the jacket came off to reveal the introverted singer in a white tee and sometimes flexing his dance moves and entrancing sorcery on the piano. Sampha even treated the crowd with his steamy interlude on Drake’s More Life titled “4422.” — Adelle Platon
4:45 p.m. Big Gigantic‘s saxophonist Dominic Lalli’s announcement that the group would be debuting a new song “Friends” featuring singer Ash is met with a swell of cheers. “Thanks for the best afternoons we’ve had in our lives” he hollers while beaming. “You couldn’t slap the smile off his face,” an attendee says.— Matt Medved?
5:17 p.m. Who knew a flute could get people dancing? Bonobos created all sorts of vibes with several instruments (trombone, trumpets, keyboard) during their Coachella stage set, even getting people just walking by to bust a move. — Taylor Weatherby
5:27 p.m.. “Don’t y’all understand I wanna bring what’s real?” Raury delivered equally chill and mellow vibes as Sampha — but with more body language and uplifting stage commentary. In his fringe-y white ensemble, the motivating singer/songwriter/musician offered the crowd an escape. “We don’t get to lose our minds that often,” he said before dropping a beat, prompting everyone to scream. He also debuted a new track titled “In The Night.” At the end of his set, he laid down on the stage, morphed into an impromptu life coach and said, “Sometimes I just wanna stay here on the ground, feeling sorry for myself but we can’t do that, Coachella.” He stood up. “We gotta stand up on our own two feet and face the world.” — Adelle Platon
5:57 p.m. “Shit, this is a big stage. My legs are so short, I don’t think you understand how long it takes to run from one end to the other,” Broods‘ vocalist Georgia Nott told the crowd after starting off by commenting on how hot it was on the festival grounds. When it came to her performance, though, Nott’s vocals and energetic antics completely concealed that she may have been struggling with the stage size or the heat. After performing one of the group’s biggest songs, “Free,” a fan gushed, “She is a boss, she’s a f–king boss.” In fact, she’s such a boss, she inspired Scandal’s boss, actor Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Grant, a.k.a. Fitz) to check out her set from the V.I.P. section. — Taylor Weatherby
?6:06 p.m. Francis and the Lights’ Francis Farewell Starlite emerged onstage in a red jacket, dancing to the Throne version of Drake’s “Pop Style” to open the show and rapped along to Kanye West’s verse. Some stand outs from his set were “See Her Out” and “I Want You To Shake.” — Alexa Shouneiya
6:21 p.m. “Can’t have Coachella without me coming to say hello,” the Glass Animals‘ lead singer tells the Coachella stage audience as he rides a security guard’s shoulders into the crowd — while wearing a walking boot — before starting a dynamic rendition of the indie rock band’s biggest hit, “Gooey.” — Taylor Weatherby
6:30 p.m. Crystal Castles‘ new vocalist Edith Frances screams through a face full of electric green hair that matches the hue of the LEDs behind her while the drummer’s maelstrom churns behind her. — Matt Medved?
6:54 p.m. “We can’t believe we’re playing with the sunset. California is the best place on earth,” Oh Wonder‘s Anthony West said as the daylight faded about 15 minutes into the British duo’s set. Amidst a set list featuring awe-inspiring renditions of “Drive” and “Body Gold,” West’s counterpart Josephine Vander Guchthis added, “This is our first time at Coachella and bloody hell does it exceed our expectations — there’s a lot more palm trees than I imagined!” — Taylor Weatherby
?8:12 p.m. While folk-rocker Father John Misty is sort of a prodigal son of Coachella at this point, it’s too bad his graduation set on the main stage was witnessed by so few — perhaps it was the traffic from LA or maybe it was his scheduling against Phantogram, who ended up drawing one of the bigger crowds of the day. Even so, he confidently preened through his entire 55-minute set to let the crowd know that he was going to put on one heck of a show no matter who was there, creating an almost religious experience for his set-concluding “Honeybear” by dropping to his knees. — Jeff Miller
9:02 p.m. “Chella, how you doing? We’ve missed you. We do not have the words to say how happy we are to be here,” Oliver Sim of The XX first addresses the crowd after a few songs. During the hour-long set, the English band kept mostly to the tunes, adding simple, yet sincere commentary like Romy Croft’s admitting that she was “a bit nervous.” Yet, one of the most stand-out parts of their show was when Croft took the mic for a solo performance of, fittingly, “Performance.” — Taylor Weatherby
7:13 p.m. Banks hit the Gobi stage and a roar crescendoed. Her sexy set, complete with modern dancers and a sparkly red number, marked a comeback of sorts to Chella. “This is such a crazy feeling. Coachella was the first festival I ever did three years ago and I’m back. if you know this song, sing with me,” she teased before performing crowd-pleaser “Trainwreck.” — Adelle Platon
7:47 p.m. Over at the Sahara stage, Mac Miller set the evening party off right by performing the Miguel-assisted “Weekend” and several other crowd pleasers. — Adelle Platon
?8:11 p.m. Richie Hawtin kicks off his CLOSE live concept straddling the gap between flickering Ava LIV synth behind a minimal pulsing strobe light. Cheers erupt as the constant backbeat evolves to incorporate hi hats and snares in syncopated patterns over foreboding synthscapes. Hawtin’s visuals contort video feeds of his own onstage controller setup, which includes his purely analog PLAYdifferently MODEL 1 mixer and a step-sequenced Ableton Push, into overlapping red and white illuminated outlines, deconstructing into firework fizzles, strobe flashes and swirling geometric after images above his pounding techno backbeat. — Matt Medved
9:39 p.m. Blending mixtape cuts (“Skyfall” and “Upper Echelon”) with Hot 100 party-starters (“Pick Up The Phone” and “Antidote”) and a slew of Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight entries (“the ends,” “way back” and the finale “goosebumps”), Travis Scott‘s eclectic set list turned Indio into the rodeo. Trippy jumbo-screen projections, a bird stage prop and incessant, Auto-Tuned screaming made La Flame’s energy all the more fiery. “I wanna see the f–king rage, Coachella,” he said. “I came for the rage, Coachella. If you not tryna mosh pit, if you not tryna lay on the ground, get the f–k out.” ?— Adelle Platon
10:23 p.m. The Sahara tent presents quite the traffic jam for those who are hoping to see Empire of the Sun. Fans who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the stage amongst the chaos witnessed quite the show, as the Australian electronic duo had almost like tribal dancers throughout the whole show. But even audience members who may have been a little peeved by being so far back couldn’t refrain from fangirling (and going absolutely crazy) over the band’s megahit, “Walking on a Dream.” — Taylor Weatherby
11:04 p.m. Headliner Radiohead experiences some serious sound issues, first cutting out completely and then loud explosions of random speaker sounds, to which Thom Yorke quipped “F–ckin aliens again.” Those “aliens” decided to stick around for the whole show, as the technical difficulties occurred a few more times. The band played through the trouble, though, and when there was silence, fans filled the awkwardness with encouraging cheers — that is, other than a group who couldn’t help joking, “Unmute! Unmute!”). — Taylor Weatherby
11:40 p.m. You’d think the party would be winding down, but that is not the case at the Sahara tent, where Dillon Francis just begins his DJ set to an insanely huge crowd that finds men dancing in trees and loud screams every time the beat drops. About halfway through his set, Francis played a mash-up of Calvin Harris’ “Slide” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” intro-ing with, “This song goes out to Beyonce since she couldn’t be here.” G-Eazy makes for one of the only surprise appearances of the Day 1 festivities, joining Francis for their new collaboration, “Say Less.” — Taylor Weatherby
12:56 a.m. D.R.A.M. performed the Day 1 finale “Broccoli” by initially singing it in ballad form before launching into the original (unfortunately sans a Lil Yachty cameo). Before he exited the Mojave stage, he called out the momma’s boys and girls in the crowd. “If you love your momma,” he said, “say yeahhhh!” — Taylor Weatherby