Riding high on a new #1 Billboard album this week with DAMN., Kendrick Lamar proved he deserved his spot atop the Coachella bill once again to close out the second Sunday (Apr. 23) — and the final day — of this year’s huge music festival in Indio, California. Freed from last week’s guest spots and often alone on the massive Coachella stage, Lamar delivered once again with a confidence and flow that most other rappers could only dream of, demanding the audience sing along to singles like “B-tch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and new songs like “ELEMENT,” which, clearly, his audience had spent some time with over the course of the week since its release.
Though his set was essentially a guest-less repeat of last week’s (one notable exception: “i” replaced Future’s “Mask Off”), Lamar was on even more sure footing onstage, prowling throughout and nailing a balancing-act magic trick during “Pride,” his ninja-like delivery abetted by, well, actual ninjas. Despite a windy night, his production — which includes a massive overhead screen — was intact, and the only downside of the setup is that his band remains hidden; for an artist responsible for propelling the careers of instrumentalists like Kamasi Washington and Thundercat, it’s a bummer that as he’s become more famous his collaborators have become more faceless.
With temperatures once again nearing 100 degrees, the early part of the day was full of artists giving their all — and fans just trying to find a way to cool off. Lee Fields and the Expressions start alongside peers like Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires, playing ’70s soul with a taste of horns and a bit of James Brown, a perfect way to start off a mainstage day.
Grouplove trotted out new tinsel costumes and a repeat performance of their cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” (as well as a song from their record store day EP, “Little Mess”). British songstress NAO seemed honestly shocked that so many in the audience knew every word to her belted-out songs, humbled over the course of the set. And Devendra Banhart‘s folksy meanderings were perfectly placed in the Outdoor Theater, with stony smoke enunciating the songwriter’s sometimes retro-sounding tunes.
Composer Hans Zimmer — whose first-weekend set of scores from his classic films, played by a 40+-piece orchestra was the buzziest of the fest — drew a massive crowd of millennials who’d grown up on The Lion King and The Dark Knight, both of which were once-again represented by suites of music from them (unfortunately, Pharrell Williams didn’t reappear for a repeat of his first-weekend guest spot).
Zimmer’s out-there status and popularity on the field opens up a new possibility for Goldenvoice in orchestral/composer-type bookings going forward; here’s calling a similar appearance by Danny Elfman on the field next year. DJ Khaled last week promised to change Coachella forever with a cavalcade of guest stars; this week he could barely chance the Sahara tent for the night, with Yo Gotti and Kent Jones his only guest marks (a rumoured Mariah Carey appearance did not occur).
The French electro duo Justice closed out the Outdoor Theater with a massive crowd and an extraordinarily produced set, featuring eight free-dangling lighting rigs, each with four internal rigs that rotated through a host of LED and bright-light effects. It ranked with Daft Punk’s famous pyramid and Skrillex’s enormous spaceship among the most-impressive EDM sets in the fest’s career, with even nonbelievers moved to dance long before the duo lit up their trademark cross during “We Are Your Friends.”