Coachella Weekend 1 is officially a wrap but the memories of the desert wonderland are still fresh. With three top-notch headliners — Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar — and an eclectic line-up that featured composer and producer extraordinaire Hans Zimmer, The XX, DJ Khaled, Marshmello, Future, DJ Snake among others, the Indio, Calif. festival catered to all musical tastes. Below, the Billboard staffers on-site rehash their top moments.
Experiencing Lady Gaga’s piano version of “Edge of Glory”
Until “A Million Reasons,” Lady Gaga‘s collection of songs were much more club-worthy than tear-jerking. When she played “Edge of Glory” at Coachella, though, she opted for a piano version that made both her powerful vocals and the song’s emotional lyrics really shine, and all you could do was cry (well, at least that’s what happened to me…). Her whole set was a journey through all that is Gaga, from the dancing to the sequins to the all-or-nothing performance, but her piano medley was the biggest reminder that Gaga has one of the most dynamic voices in pop music today — and there was just something about hearing that voice sing a typically upbeat track with only a piano behind it.
Kendrick Lamar channeling Kung Fu Kenny
The word “dull” could never be associated with the always daring Kendrick Lamar and his headlining set at Coachella, three days following the release of his album DAMN., was the antithesis of snooze fest. Not only was his set perhaps the most visually stunning of the headlining acts (at one point, he performed in an illuminated cage while he rapped in front of a fiery display at another), Lamar and his TDE label delivered a martial arts film starring his alter ego, Kung Fu Kenny, that ended on the appropriate note: a sample of Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—er is a Star,” which appeared on K.Dot’s “Wesley’s Theory” off To Pimp a Butterfly.
Radiohead defying technical issues
Whatever the source of the sound issues that plagued Radiohead’s headlining set on Friday night, they were tragic and frustrating for fans who could see (but not hear) the band pouring their hearts into the performance during the affected portions. A lesser or more mercurial artist might have folded and left the stage for good in disgust, blaming the festival and dashing the hopes of those in attendance. But frontman Thom Yorke lightened the mood by blaming “f–king aliens” and the band powered through the difficulties with crowd-thrilling classics like “Creep” and “Paranoid Android.” As Beats 1 host Zane Lowe remarked on Twitter after the fact: “Challenged yet defiant Radiohead. Brilliant. Just brilliant.”
The Weeknd making a cameo
Whispers of the Starboy’s surprise appearance during XO label signee Nav’s set swirled before the Saturday evening show (he was also hanging with Drake and French Montana backstage) but nothing could prepare Abel Tesfaye loyalists for his three-song performance at Coachella’s intimate Gobi stage. After being spotted with girlfriend Selena Gomez, showing PDA on the festival grounds earlier in the day, the 2015 Coachella headlining alum performed his turn-up anthem “Party Monster,” his illuminating track “Starboy” and the Nav duet “Some Way.”
DJ Snake bringing out Lauryn Hill
DJ Snake made the biggest splash at Ultra Music Festival by bringing out Future, and the Parisian DJ/producer made sure to rise to the Coachella occasion for his Saturday night set on the Outdoor Stage. Snake was not only joined by Migos to perform their viral Hot 100 chart-topper “Bad and Boujee,” he unveiled a surprise performance from Lauryn Hill. Hill performed both Fugees (“Ready or Not”) and solo (“Lost Ones”), but it was her chills-inducing rendition of “Killing Me Softly” that crowned the performance. Snake later took to social media to proclaim that his “dreams became reality” in that “legendary moment.”
Lorde covering snippet of Kanye West’s “Runaway”
With her sophomore studio effort Melodrama sure to be a summer staple when it drops in June, Lorde has been firing off gems like “Green Light,” plus her latest Coachella premieres “Homemade Dynamite” and the album’s title track. But perhaps even better than her hazy performance in Indio, Calif. was her side commentary. Before launching into another newbie titled “Liability” (which she performed recently on NBC’s Saturday Night Live), the New Zealand singer-songwriter explained, “It’s a song about, f–king, just feeling like you’re a pain, a tax on everyone at one point another which I feel all the time.” She noted how the song reminded her of the lines from West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cut “Runaway,” before singing “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes, let’s have a toast for the scumbags.”
Hans Zimmer performing “Circle of Life” live
This was a moment that was basically expected the second Hans Zimmer was announced to be part of the Coachella roster, but until you hear it in person, you have no idea just how surreal it is (at least as a child of the Disney Renaissance). He has so many prolific songs in his repertoire that there were several moments of nostalgia in his set, which also meant that there was no way to really know when he’d be playing what. “Circle of Life” was right in the middle, and when that iconic “Naaaaa” began amidst a sunrise-colored backdrop — with a full choir to sing the entire track — to say it was chill-inducing is in understatement.
Marshmello drum battling with Travis Barker
From Drake and Pharrell to Migos the hip-hop world definitely provided the biggest and most thrilling surprise guests of the weekend (even including The Weeknd). But that doesn’t discredit what the DJs on the bill brought for this year’s Coachella: Gryffin bringing out Daya, DJ Snake having Lauryn Hill, Dillon Francis with G-Eazy. Marshmello added to the famous guests Sunday night (April 16) by having Blink-182’s Travis Barker take the drums during his set, eventually challenging him to a drum battle which was easily one of the most unexpected yet awesome parts of the weekend — even though Barker handily prevailed. Marshmello wasn’t done there — the masked artist also brought out A$AP Ferg, Black Youngsta, YouTube star Lele Pons, who co-starred in the music video for “Summer,” and guitarist Andrew Watt to debut a new song.
Sampha and NAO prompting the body rolls
Every R&B junkie deflected the heat to see Sampha on Friday (April 14) at the Mojave Stage and NAO at the Gobi Stage on Sunday (April 16). Both British singers performed crowd-pleasing sets in the late afternoon with highlights off their Process and For All We Know albums, including “Timmy’s Prayer” and “Bad Blood,” respectively. No surprise guests needed — each singer-songwriter brought the grooves to the desert and offered Chella-goers a few reasons to slow down.
Migos popping up on four different stages
If you and your squad mobbed to sets from Future, Gucci Mane and DJ Snake on Saturday (April 15) as well as DJ Khaled on Sunday (April 16), chances are you’ve committed the lyrics to “T-Shirt” and “Bad and Boujee” to memory because Migos made four different appearances over the weekend. Despite not beng booked for their own slot on the bill, their frequent appearances made them the real festival MVPs.
Richie Hawtin unveiling his new CLOSE live show
Richie Hawtin has never been one to sit on his laurels. Over the course of a multi-decade career spanning varied locales like Detroit, Berlin and Ibiza, the Windsor native has always prioritized pushing things forward by evangelizing new technologies and broadening the boundaries of live electronic music performance. He delighted techno fans with his latest CLOSE live show concept on Coachella’s Mojave Stage, combining, digitizing and manipulating multiple video feeds of his onstage controller setup, which included his purely analog PLAYdifferently MODEL 1 mixer.
Partying at The DoLab stage
Unless you’re going to Coachella for the lesser-known artists, you’re likely spending most of your experience at the Coachella, Outdoor, Mojave, Gobi and Sahara stages. But like the colorful, almost carnival-like DoLab tent is by far the coolest looking of the bunch, and the inside allows for a multi-level dance party for the beat-making artists who, like the tent, are probably far too under-appreciated.