Memes came to life at the Sahara tent, which was fundamentally redesigned this year to increase capacity and allow fans a closer view of the myriad LED screens lining its stage wall. Electronic performances claimed a significant slice of the festival’s pie, whether it was Soulwax’s three drummers or Alison Wonderland going back to her orchestral roots.
Here are five of the top highlights from Weekend One.
ODESZA Defies Expectations With Drones & Cinematic Live Show
To say ODESZA came into Coachella with a lot to prove would be an understatement. Some industry observers raised eyebrows when the Seattle duo was announced as direct support to Eminem’s festival-closing Sunday set on Coachella’s main stage. Despite their lack of a recognizable radio hit or A-list special guests, the group managed to captivate their sizable crowd with an ambitious and cinematic stage show that plunged viewers into deep space from the onset. Guest singers Leon Bridges, Naomi Wild and WYNNE complemented a brass section and 12-piece drum line that injected energy into the electronic outfit’s performance and were crucial in helping it translate to the massive stage. The kicker? An unprecedented array of 420 Intel Shooting Star drones flying in synchronized fashion to form ODESZA’s signature geometric logo and dropping jaws across the festival grounds — MATT MEDVED
Kygo Draws Massive Main Stage Crowd for Star-Studded Set
Kygo’s star has risen considerably since playing Coachella’s Gobi Stage back in 2015, so expectations were high for his first main stage turn. Despite being admittedly nervous prior, the Norwegian producer and pianist succeeded in delivering a standout set to one of the main stage’s largest crowds. He was aided by no shortage of special guests: Julia Michaels sang “Carry Me” and Jamie Foxx delighted attendees with Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” while OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder drew deafening cheers by teasing 2005 smash “Apologize” as a prelude to his Kygo collab “Stranger Things.” Flanked by guitarist/songwriter Andrew Watt, Rita Ora filled in for Selena Gomez on “It Ain’t Me,” and Conrad Sewell (“Firestone”), Parson James (“Stole the Show”) and Justin Jesso (“Stargazing”) took the helm on their respective hits. While official estimates hadn’t been released at press time, Kygo’s feat immediately drew comparisons to Kaskade’s record-breaking 2015 crowd on the Coachella Stage. — M.M.
Alison Wonderland Brings Cello to the Dance Floor & REZZ Shoots It to Outer Space
Stand up for this Friday double feature and stay standing until they say sit down. Alison Wonderland came to the table with nothing but a home run on the menu. The Australian artist started her set with an emotional cello performance that bridged the gap between her childhood musical ambitions and her modern electronic career. She surprised the audience with live collaborations with Trippie Redd, an MC who appears on two tracks from her recent LP Awake. Even her dad was spotted in the audience filming her powerful moment, so be sure every heart in the place melted. Then, it was time for faces to melt as mysterious, funked-up techno queen REZZ brought her space-age psychedelia to the Sahara tent’s massive light system. It was spellbinding. — KAT BEIN
?Whethan Brings Out Walmart Yodeling Boy & The Internet Goes Wild
April has been an ode to Mason Ramsey, aka Walmart Yodeling Boy, who became a viral sensation overnight thanks to a video of him singing Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” in cowboy couture at his local Walmart store. Sahara Tent performer Whethan took to Twitter shortly after the video went viral, saying, “stop saying I look like the walmart yodel kid.” Fast-forward to his Friday afternoon set and the yodel kid himself was brought out onstage to perform “Lovesick Blues” in front of thousands of festival attendees. The epic moment immediately trended on social media and struck up a series of headlines. Plus, the resemblance between Whethan and Ramsey is uncanny… — DAVE RISHTY
Illennium Drums Up a Mosh Pit With Emotional Live Set
The LA-based producer has come a long way, and he took to Coachella’s Sahara tent Sunday to prove it. Joined by two of his best friends, aka his live band, he brought the dreamy tracks of his future pop LP Awake to new dimensions. The tent’s monster lighting rigs built the heat with flaming graphics as Illenium played the phoenix. The crowd sang along, and even started a mosh pit to his blend of electronic dance and pop rock, and oh, can these boys bang the drums. — K.B.