As a regular attendee of Coachella for the last 7 years, I’ve seen plenty of changes at the festival. 2018 was no different. The last few years have seen the festival transition from something big to something enormous. With this growth and scale some plenty of improvements, as well as inevitable challenges.
At the end of the day, Coachella may rightfully own the title of one of the biggest festivals in the world. The stages and overall production value has increased substantially. It is now a truly multi-genre festival, ranging from dance to hip hop to rock to indie. Artists now plan their festival seasons around Coachella, and debut their new stage setups and tracks in the desert.
Below are some of my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the music from this year’s fest.
The Sahara tent is massively improved this year. The stage and tent now resembles those seen at Ultra, meaning that they are much wider than they are long. Overall, the entire stage and accompanying screens are much larger as well. Overall, this meant that the tent never felt like it was too full like it has in years past.
Beyond Sahara, there is a near constant option for dance music. The DoLab, Yuma, and the Heineken House are all heavy on the DJ end, not to mention the DJ parties that happen in the campgrounds.
The growth in the festival’s popularity means that anyone in the world will play this festival, even as just a featured guest. It’s not just an indie rock fest anymore: you can get surprise guests from the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, to the freakin WalMart yodel kid. Artists now plan their release and tour schedules around the festival, which means that the surprises are going to keep coming. So don’t rule out that Daft Punk performance just yet…
With the tent change at Sahara, one of the most iconic views of the festival is now gone: sunset looking directly west. With the old design, the entire back of the tent was open and you would clearly see the entire Coachella landscape, mountains, palm trees, and ferris wheel included.
With the increase in the size of the festival, as well as the number of attendees, the ability to hop around between stages has been severely limited. It used to be that you could count on seeing acts back to back to back, even with little to no overlap. These days, that is almost impossible. With the stages pushed back and relocated, it can now easily take 20 minutes or more to navigate the maze of installations, people, pop ups, markets, bathrooms, and more.
Beyond the festival experience itself is the music. Hip hop saw another increase in presence this year, but that’s to be expected given the dominance of the genre over the last few years. Despite this growth, dance and electronic is still omnipresent, with three areas almost exclusively dedicated to the genre: Sahara, Yuma, and The DoLab.
Must see sets from the best in dance and electronic.
Friday Top 3:
Highlight: Alison stepping to the side of the DJ booth to sing vocals on her track “Easy”
Highlight: Jamie Foxx making an appearance to sing Kygo’s remix of “Sexual Healing”
Highlight: Who knows if Weekend 2 is in the cards, but seeing the WalMart yodel kid live means we have officially reached peak Internet
Saturday Top 3:
Highlight: A daytime dance party at the main stage proves that Chromeo’s four-time billing at Coachella is no accident; their old hits are just as relevant today as their new releases
Highlight: Debut of recently released “Forever” with collaborators Elohim and Medasin was a light break from an overall heavy, heavy set.
Highlight: This fast-paced set was punctuated by the entire crowd belting the chorus to “All My Friends” … how about bring out Chance next weekend, guys?
Sunday Top 3:
Highlight: The Intel/HP drone show, which was teased for the festival crowd on Friday, was a fitting addition to “A Moment Apart”
Highlight: Utilizing every single inch of the massive Sahara screen’s, Illenium’s visual intro to “Crawl Outta Love” rivaled any graphic / music combo of the weekend
Highlight: The bitbird leader brought the energy (and the crowd) for his Coachella livestream
LA party crew Brownies & Lemonade put on an all-star show at the Heineken House. If you haven’t been to one of their parties, it might be a good time to book a trip to LA.
Those that also went Weekend 1 — let us know what you think. For those of you going Weekend 2, we’re extremely jealous.
Photo credit: Jeff Zeller