By Ramon Gonzales
Regardless of what direction home is, the trek back from Indio affords plenty of time for reflection. The calm of the car ride back to reality is a stark contrast to the sea of humanity that is Coachella. Sometimes, you can still feel the beat pulsing throughout your body. The miles logged traveling between stages finally sets in and while your body is recovering, your mind is still trying to process the sensory overload of three straight days of music. The final day of the first weekend proved especially memorable in what panned out to be a full day and late night of performances that felt historic. Considering the kind of physical toll a festival like this can take on the fans, it would be safe to assume the final day would unfold at a leisurely pace, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the highlights.
There’s no point in saving this for the end. The critical praise K.Dot has received for his performance on Sunday all fall short of really conveying just how momentous his 90-minutes were. Lamar had just released his full-length DAMN 72 hours prior to his headlining set and already 90-thousand people could sing every word of the six songs he debuted live. From “DNA,” to the incredibly fluid U2 collab in “XXX,” to the Mike Will Made It banger “Humble” these are songs that haven’t had time to cool from out of the oven and already had become crowd favorites. Kendrick would enlist the aid of Schoolboy Q (for a Kanye-less version of “That Part”), Travis Scott (“Goosebumps”), and even give Future the stage to do “Mask Off” solo, but the features were only a footnote to a performance that only needed Kendrick. Equipped with stage production that was fluid and succinct, the swift transition between “B***ch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Backseat Freestyle,” “m.A.A.d city” and a sorely needed version of “Alright,” asserted Lamar’s rank as the gold standard of hip hop. It should be noted however that Kendrick’s delivery and deft ability to incorporate narrative into his sound is also what allows him to blur genre divides. Kendrick’s time on Sunday at Coachella marked the arrival of a generational voice and a benchmark in the festival’s history.
When the composer was listed as part of the Coachella lineup, there was an excitement that was admittedly fueled by at least some curiosity. Responsible for the score of some of American cinema’s most beloved films, the festival crowd that spent three days straight raging and dancing, stood fixed and focused for Zimmer’s evening set at the Outdoor Theatre stage. Running through some five suites with a full orchestra, the scores of Inception, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Dark Knight all culminated with an uproar at the end of each selection. It was a sight to behold watching all walks of life stand shoulder-to-shoulder in admiration of such layered, dynamic arrangements. Among the biggest responses Zimmer earned on the evening included an appearance by Pharrell Williams to perform his tune, “Freedom.” The duo collaborated most recently on the score to the film Hidden Figures. The other direct hit with the flood of fans happened when “Circle of Life” from The Lion King began. Surreal.
She hasn’t performed since 2014 but for Lorde, her Sunday night performance showed zero signs of ring rust. Under a wash of neon LED light and at-times, in, under, and in front of a plexiglass box to reiterate the theme of her upcoming Melodrama full length, the pop superstar proved ever endearing with every f-bomb she dropped between tunes. Genuinely stoked with her chance to perform for the Coachella crowd, Lorde even unveiled new music and performed an energetic single in “Homemade Dynamite.” Helming the direct support slot before the finale of the weekend, Lorde covered all the bases by including the essentials like “Tennis Court,” “Royals,” and a version of “Green Light” that managed to get fans like Lil’ Yatchy grooving on the lawn.
During peak afternoon heat on a particularly hungover third day, Grouplove hit the stage and convinced their faithful there was plenty of reason to continue the party. In secession the band would wish Ian Mackaye a happy birthday, run through a blaring version of “Sabotage” from the Beastie Boys (a regular selection during most Grouplove sets), and managed to blanket the Indio desert with some feels for a sweeping version of “Welcome To Your Life” that sent a wave of arms into the air. Tunes like “Traumatized,” “Tongue Tied,” and the band’s closer “Colours” were shining examples of how a variety of influences can come together to make something lively and dynamic. The kind of fun the band has onstage isn’t something that can be faked and from the looks of it, it was contagious.
The word legendary is often misused. A closing set from New Order that included both “Decades” and ‘Love With Tear Us Apart’ from Joy Division would merit at least that legendary label. With a set that included hits from seminal releases ranging from Power, Corruption and Lies, Brotherhood, and Substance, each selection felt just as important as the previous. Though the nostalgia was heavy, the band could have easily ran through the motions and scored a hit. However, songs like “The Perfect Kiss,” “Your Silent Face,” and even some of the newer material in selections like “Tutti Frutti” and “Plastic” flexed the outfit’s enduring relevance and especially evident vigor. Easily one of the most impressive showings of the entire weekend, New Order remains as influential and important as ever.