The first day of Coachella (Friday, April 12) brought mild temps, little dust and several breakout festival debuts: King Princess deemed the weekend “gaychella” and performed new material; Rosalia established herself as a force to be reckoned with in live music; and BLACKPINK brought high-level production and precision choreography to the desert (and even posed for a photo backstage with Diplo who later played the same stage).
Meanwhile, Janelle Monae welcomed Lizzo and Tierra Whack to her mainstage set and DJ Snake surprised the crowd with a live performance of “Taki Taki” from himself, Selena Gomez, Cardi B and Ozuna. And finally, Childish Gambino closed out the night with fireworks, theatrics and a whole lot of shirtless dancing.
Below is Billboard’s hour-by-hour recap of all things that went down as weekend one, day one of Coachella kicked off.
4:21 p.m. — Rocking out onstage in a silky cream corset and black Dickies pants, King Princess (Mikaela Straus) performs standout indie-pop singles from last summer’s EP Make My Bed like “Upper West Side” and her first hit “1950” (“The song that started it all,” she says), as well as her latest synth-pop single “Pussy Is God.” Between tracks, she takes breaks to sprawl out on an enormous yellow couch onstage — so tall it requires a set of stairs to get up there — while visuals of wigs literally flying play on the screen behind her. “Are you ready to summon the rock gods?” she asks the crowd. After delivering some blistering guitar solos, she may well have been referring to herself. — TATIANA CIRISANO
5:53 p.m. — Kacey Musgraves floats onto the main stage, wearing a red fringe dress and silver high heels. “Holy shit, Coachella! You guys look beautiful this afternoon,” she exclaims, before correcting herself: “Excuse me, you look beautiful this golden hour.” The recently crowned Grammy winner for album of the year, for her album titled Golden Hour, had “Butterflies,” “Oh, What A World” and “Lonely Weekend” in rotation, much like the ever-spinning, giant disco ball behind Musgraves on stage. The singer later revealed her mom was watching the live streamed performance from Texas: “Hey, fam!” — GAB GINSBERG
6:03 p.m. — American Express cardmembers are checking out an exclusive piece of Ariana Grande merch in the on-site lounge. The cozy shirt reads, “BLACK CARD IS MY BUSINESS CARD” on the back, in a nod to her hit “7 Rings.”
6:43 p.m. — Tierra Whack runs across the Mojave tented stage — which is flanked by blue and yellow papier-mâché looking creatures and balloons that spell out Whack — as the sun sets over the valley. Wearing neon yellow head to toe, Whack runs through every Whack World track as trippy visuals (like an animated version of her face being smooshed down) play on the screen behind her. “This is my first time here, I’m feeling fucking good,” the rapper says halfway through her set. And later, her DJ Zach reveals that she dropped her first-ever merch today. For an over-stimulated festival crowd, her set offers the perfect remedy: quick hits back-to-back-to-back. — LYNDSEY HAVENS
6:43 p.m. — Ahead of DVSN’s romance-fueled performance, Nineteen85 (a.ka. The production half of the R&B duo) got the crowd going with an onslaught of turn up songs that he actually produced — from Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” to DJ Khaled’s “For Free.” But the biggest highlight of the set was a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle, with fans shouting out lyrics to soon-to-be rap classics like “Last Time That I Checc’d” and “Hussle in the House.” — BIANCA GRACIE
7:22 p.m. — On the main stage, Anderson .Paak asks the audience to join him in celebration — “I just dropped an album, welcome to my release party.” Indeed, the California MC released his fourth album Ventura hours before stepping onto the main stage, just a few months after his fall 2018 release, Oxnard. The Free Nationals join the California native onstage, as he effortlessly maneuvers between mellow jazz vibes and funk rock. When it came time to perform his hit “Bubblin,” he asked, ever so humbly: “Remember when I won a Grammy [for this]?” Don’t worry, Andy, we remember — and if there were ever a perfect soundtrack to dusk at Coachella, this is it. — T.C.
7:50 p.m. — At the Mojave tent, a group of six nearly identical dancers circle a woman in red with mesmerizing flamenco-inspired choreography. At the center? “Me llamo Rosalía,” says the Spanish singer, who really needs no introduction. “Coachella, can I practice my English with you?” Melding traditional sounds from Barcelona with hip-hop and pop, the 25-year-old made waves last year with her fiery Spanish-language album El Mal Querer, and now joins a seemingly unprecedented number of Latin acts at this year’s festival. Between El Mal Querer hits like “Pienso En Tu Mirá” and dramatic closer “Malamente,” she stood her own performing recent collaborations like her haunting “Barefoot In The Garden” with James Blake (off his album Assume Form) and reggaeton banger “Con Altura” with J Balvin and El Guincho. All this was accented with killer dance moves, with Rosalía nailing every shake and hand motion in splashy red gaucho pants and a black studded bra. “I come from Barcelona, from far, far away, right?,” she says, at one point moved to tears. “And it means so much to me and to my people to be here sharing this with you.” Will she pop up onstage with fellow performer Balvin at tomorrow’s set? We’ll find out. — T.C.
7:59 p.m. — Ella Mai glows with confidence for her debut Coachella performance, which took place at the Outdoor Stage. The British singer, rocking a Nike overcoat and flowing dark tresses topped with sparkles, runs through fan favorites like “Shot Clock” and “Trip.” She later unexpectedly throws in a mashup of “She Don’t” from her self-titled album and one of Lauryn Hill’s classic tunes, 1998’s Doo Wop (That Thing).” — B.G.
8:39 p.m. — BLACKPINK’s Jennie takes center stage in the Sahara dome, busts a move as backup dancers fan out behind her, and immediately becomes a trending topic on Twitter. “It’s an honor to be a part of Coachella,” she tells the crowd earlier in the set. — G.G.
9:05 p.m. — Australian dance trio Rüfüs Du Sol go hard on the Outdoor Theatre Stage, treating fans to an extended version of “You Were Right” and cuts from their highly-acclaimed third studio album Solace. Cheers erupt as the first notes of “Underwater” emit from the starry-lit stage, and the band keeps that momentum going throughout the set. — G.G.
9:48 p.m. — Kacey Musgraves may have had the largest disco ball of the day, but Khruangbin has the most (upwards of 10), all of which pair perfectly with the three piece, Houston-based band’s disco-colored slow jams. With less than 20 minutes to go in their set, guitarist Mark Speer uses half their remaining time to deliver a searing and smooth riff medley of hip hop hits from “Gin and Juice” to “Got Your Money” before veering into rock and pop with The Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump It” — proving this trio can truly do it all. — L.H.
10:12 p.m. — Back on the main stage, Janelle and her dancers perform Dirty Computer cut “Pynk” in the now famous pants from the song’s music video. And later, as she nears the end of “I Got the Juice,” she has a surprise up her sleeve. Lizzo and Tierra Whack are invited on stage for dance solos, proceeding to prove to the hyped crowd that they do indeed have the juice. — G.G.
11:25 p.m. — DJ Snake ends his rowdy set with the ultimate surprise guest trio: Selena Gomez, Cardi B and Ozuna for their collaboration “Taki Taki.” The performance marked Gomez’ return to the stage in over two years. Both Cardi B and Ozuna performed at Coachella last year. After the explosive performance that ended with glitter cannons, Gomez and Cardi B embraced in a hug.
11:27 p.m. — Childish Gambino appears on a towering structure above the crowd near the middle of the grounds to begin his headlining set. Shirtless and with the bleach in his beard mostly grown out, he says: “This is my church, I feel at home up here.” Following the premiere of his anticipated Guava Island mini-film the day prior, many fans were hoping that Gambino would also debut a new song to add to the day’s excitement, but instead, he hits on a more somber note: “I lost my dad this year. We lost Nipsey, we lost Mac [Miller].” Throughout the set, during which he stopped side-stage to hug Janelle, who was watching, the multi-hyphenate surely didn’t disappoint with his electronic-based party-starter that fit right into the light-hearted vibes of last year’s Summer Pack EP and set the tone for the days to come. — B.G.