Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Beyoncé, X Japan, Mason Ramsey & More: Coachella 2018 Weekend One
Looking at social media this weekend, all of the music talk centered around Beyoncé's career-defining performance at Coachella on Saturday night. And rightuflly so.
— BET (@BET) April 15, 2018
Whether it was her precision opening that featured 100 dancers in perfect choreographed unison, the surprise appearances of husband Jay-Z and sister Solange, or the reunion with former Destiny's Child band mates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, the combination of Queen Bey and Coachella proved uncontainable for pop culture. (And so did the hashtag #Beychella.)
"This is a very important performance for me," she told the crowd in between performances of "Sorry" and "Bow Down/I Been On." "I'm happy to be back home on the stage tonight."
If Beyoncé — who made history as the first-ever black woman to headline Coachella — had given the exact same performance at another festival, say Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza or New Orleans Jazz Fest, would it have had the exact same impact? No, according to her fellow Coachella performers.
"It's few and far between where there's a setting where there's so much focus. Coachella is the epitome of that. The world is watching, so the artists really put the focus in," says Odesza's Clayton Knight. "It's a cool thing to be part of and history in the making in a lot of ways. Whatever happens this weekend sets the tone for this year almost."
The Neighbourhood’s Zachary Abels concurs.
"It feels a little different. There's an aura around it," said Abels while at the KROQ House. "You feel like you're someplace special."
Outside of Beyoncé dominating this weekend's headlines, per usual, Coachella offered an abundance of moments that stirred up social media.
— Yoshiki (@YoshikiOfficial) April 16, 2018
For starters, there was the typical plethora of big-name guest stars. Just on night one, GRAMMY winner Kendrick Lamar made surprise appearances with both Vince Staples and SZA; Steve Aoki joined Alan Walker; and Carly Rae Jepsen played with Jack Antonoff and Bleachers. For her Sunday Coachella set, Cardi B brought out Chance The Rapper, G-Eazy and Kehlani for her reported $300,000 set.
One-off collaborations like these are part of what make Coachella so unique according to Odesza's Harrison Mills.
"I think what's cool about Coachella is because there are so many eyes on it, it can create collaborations you would never think of, like just celebrities in the crowd seeing acts they would never see otherwise cause their lives are so intense," says Mills.
— Greta Van Fleet Updates (@GVFDaily) April 14, 2018
Proving Mills' point, Justin Bieber posted a photo hanging out with up-and-coming rock stars Greta Van Fleet. Maybe the photo-op doesn't represent a potential musical pairing per se, but given Bieber’s staggering 98.6 million followers and the photo's 3 million-plus likes, it equated to tons of exposure for the Detroit rockers. And it happened at Coachella, of course.
There's no question the proximity to L.A., and the fact that the festival has become the epicenter of glitz and glamour in the music world for the two weekends, plays a big part in Coachella's lofty status. It's a chicken and egg question as to whether the celebrities have helped make Coachella or Coachella was so big already and that's why artists like Madonna were willing to play it as far back as 2006.
Coachella has transcended music to also become a major event for fashion. For an artist like X Japan's Yoshiki, the marriage of music and fashion that takes place is part of what excited him to travel all the way around the world be one of the major rock acts on this year's bill.
"Coachella is not only one of the biggest festivals in the world, but very edgy [and] fashionable," says Yoshiki. "I love the style, so we wanted to do something unusual. I'm heavily influenced by David Bowie, so fashion wise I wanted to do something exciting."
— X Japan (@XJapanOfficial) April 16, 2018
Speaking of exciting, X Japan's set featured hologram technology that allowed them to feature late band members Hideto "Hide" Matsumoto and Taiji Sawada for a set that also garnered plenty of chatter.
As for other weekend one highlights, David Byrne masterfully showcased Talking Heads' classics like "Once In A Lifetime " and " Burning Down The House"; Chic and Nile Rodgers got funky with classics such as Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" — two songs Rodgers produced and co-wrote, respectively; Illenium, one of the top young electronic artists in music, incited thousands of festivalgoers to dance in frenzied joy; and Tyler, The Creator created a series of new worlds with every song — including "Boredom" and "911/Mr. Lonely" — to a stunning visual showcase that was as much live cinema as music.
— paul.psd (@pauldonatelli) April 13, 2018
Then there was the "yodeling Walmart kid," Mason Ramsey, who traded up his YouTube star status for a chance to perform alongside DJ Whethan on Friday afternoon.
With such a diverse lineup of talent — from the jazz of Kamasi Washington to the folk-pop of First Aid Kit and the plethora of dance music, including icons such as Jean-Michel Jarre — Coachella even turns the performing artists into fans.
"Whatever happens this weekend sets the tone for this year almost." — Odesza's Clayton Knight
"I went to see St. Vincent, saw Vince Staples bring out Kendrick, that was a really cool. Beyoncé [was] the thing to see ... David Byrne, I’m a big fan of Talking Heads," says English singer/songwriter Declan McKenna, who performed at his first Coachella.
That is Coachella, where, as Odesza says, everybody has to up their game. And that was shown time and again this past weekend. For some, like Illenium, it is a coming-out party. For Haim, who performed in front of tens of thousands thanks to being the direct support for Beyoncé, it was the best night of their lives, according to Este Haim, who told a hilarious story about her unique experience being at Coachella for Prince back in 2008 with her close friend Kesha. Playing the main stage of what they called their "hometown festival" topped that, she told the audience.
For so many artists, who live and attend shows in L.A., Coachella represents a major goal. "It's a big thing growing up in L.A. — everybody wants to go to Coachella," says Sage Chavis of the L.A.-based Regrettes.
If weekend one is any indication, Coachella's reputation as the most unique festival going in music looks to be secure.
"It's like no other festival I've ever been to," says McKenna.
(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)