This year’s festival season finally kicked off on Friday 11th April in Indio, southern California aka the desert aka Coachella. It’s the second year in a row I’ve flown over for it, and if you’re a music head and you <3 live music - I’d recommend you go atleast once in your lifetime.. the vibe is e’rythang, the installations are incredible and it’s unlike any UK festival I’ve been to before (the 35 degree weather and the $7 chilli dogs might be key factors here, plus everyone is just so damn friendly).
There are too many highlights to mention, but there’s a ton of videos online if you wanna get a sense of what went down. I was there for Weekend 2; which has the drawback of all the spoilers (surprise guests etc), but also means you generally get a better set as the artists get to tweak it before doing it all second time. The standout performances for me were…
OutKast - who said the poet and the pimp don’t get along? Well their chemistry onstage says different and after 20 years since the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik I hope for all our sakes they put another 2 decades in. Dope visuals (some kind of transparent cube thing that the pair stood inside and projected different effects over their images), a full orchestral ensemble and all the tunes you’d put in your own personal ‘best of Outkast’ playlist, including solo segments from them both and appearances by Sleepy Brown and Killer Mike (Sleepy was wearing a purple silk number. Hold tight Sleepy). The icing on the cake was UGK’s Int’l Players Anthem where I basically lost my sh!t and had a rap-along with the guy next to me. It all got a bit intense.
Solange - I stan so hard for this woman. Her live show is a real lesson in how to rock an effing stage. The energy from Solange and her band is to the point that you’ve gotta get involved even if you’ve never heard her songs before. If you’re not moving during her set I don’t really know what life has to offer you to be honest. She performed mostly from the True EP with a bit of T.O.N.Y thrown in for sweet nostalgia, but the main clincher was her vocals. Her range is craaaazy. Like neXt level. Hitting some ridiculous notes and dropping some amazing adlibs. I didn’t even know she had it like that. Obviously Losing You turned the Gobi tent into a zoo, but for me it was all about Lovers In The Parking Lot.
Jhené Aiko - all hail queen Aiko. She killed it. It’s fascinating how a support slot on a stadium tour, a hometown crowd, a cup of cognac and some mary jane can transform an artist’s live show (not forgetting it was 4/20 day). In January I stood no less than 15 feet from her at Radio 1’s Future Festival, where she performed a similar set but with wayyy less confidence and sass. This time she ternt all the way up, and did tunes from both Sail Out and Sailing Soul(s), and brought out Kurupt as her special guest to pay homage to the west coast vets by doing a super vibey version of Ain’t No Fun. (RIP Nate Dogg). Finally she ended her set with The Worst and was joined by her 5 year old daughter for a singalong. Too flippin’ cute.
Pharrell Williams - Skateboard P. is. that. guy. So glad this set was less about G I R L; and everything that came before. You forget how deep his back catalogue is and how many hits he and the Neptunes are responsible for. It was a trip down memory lane that included bringing out Urrrsher, T.I, Pusha T, Bussa Buss and Jigga Man (he’s actually in the photoset behind that huge hat being held up in the crowd). Full band business, dancers and lots of kool visuals sealed the deal, and it has to be said that seeing Happy performed live and screaming it out offensively of tune in a crowd of thousands, felt pretty damn good. Kudos.
Nas - Being the 20th anniversary of Illmatic, it was definitely kool to witness the moment, but I’ve seen Nas about 3/4 times already so I can’t say I was blown away by his set. That being said, he takes the crown for best guest appearances. First was Damian Marley, then… Lauryn Hill. ACTUAL. LAURYN. She did Ready or Not, then If I Ruled The World. L Boogie still got it yo, it was definitely something to behold.
Other big sets: Girl Talk, Chvrches, BANKS, Flosstradamus, Big Gigantic, Blood Orange, The Head and the Heart.
Acts I’m pissed I missed: HAIM, Unlocking The Truth, Little Dragon, The Internet, RL Grime, Woodkid, Flume, Warpaint, Sweater Beats.
[Words and Photos by K2rah. Follow me on Twitter @k2rah_]