There is a first time for everything, Coachella included. All it took was saving up from a real job and not having any sports obligations, but 2018 was finally the year I got to experience the hype of California’s iconic festival.
The top of the bill this year may have not been stacked with critical darlings, but it was loaded with commercial powerhouses – something that ended up being must-see in itself. Beyonce’s performance is being revered by everyone and their mother, The Weeknd had more than enough bangers to supplement his hour-plus show and Eminem proved to be as worthy a headliner as either of the stars on the two nights before him.
The big names showed out as expected, but the smaller artists played just as important of a role in shaping the festival vibe and making it so great. Desert sun, overpriced food and live music aren’t the only recipe for an epic weekend, but a reliable one for sure. Here are five takeaways from my first time at Coachella.
Rap is king
Everywhere you go – the west coast, the east coast, overseas, the internet – rap music dominates the lifestyle of millenials and generation Z. This year’s Coachella was a celebration of hip-hop’s commercial power over the music industry at large. All three headliners are directly tied to the culture in one way or another, and the rest of the lineup was littered with variety of rap acts, big and small, that drew crowds ranging from solid to massive.
Popular groups like Brockhampton and Flatbush Zombies packed out tents and threw down sub-hour sets that were as crazy as anything the festival had to offer all weekend. Post Malone and Migos each came out to thousands of people waiting to sing songs they had likely already heard hundreds of times. Even Eminem, who many critics would say has been bad longer than he’s been great, erased any such doubt in the minds of fans as he recited through all-time classic songs and brought out iconic figures like 50 Cent and Dr. Dre to tear up the stage. You can bet it’s all going down the same way for Weekend 2.
The future of contemporary R&B is in good hands
Amid rap’s rise to commercial power, modern R&B has come along for the ride, utilizing hip-hop’s popularity to reach similar audiences, create big collaborations and produce music that blurs in between the sounds of both genres. A few of contemporary R&B’s brightest young stars took the Coachella stage to great reception, including Kali Uchis, Daniel Caesar, SZA and many more.
Uchis, who is coming fresh off the release of a strong debut album just this month, is naturally a fantastic performer. Her confidence and swag alone are going to make her a major player, and now that she has an array talented and connected artists in her corner (Tyler, the Creator; Sounwave; Kevin Parker), future success, both commercially and critically, seems inevitable. SZA’s set, unfortunately did not go over as well with fans, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that last year’s stellar Ctrl earned her the penultimate set of the night on Friday.
Rock isn’t dead but it’s pulse is faint
Not a lot of people care about a good guitar solo these days, but modern rock has still been able to strike a chord with younger audiences through its adapted forms, like folk rock and bedroom pop. At this year’s festival, guitar-heavy artists, such as St. Vincent, The War on Drugs and Fleet Foxes, were still on the scene, but their presence felt far less important than it should have been. They still gave phenomenal performances, but the minds of the masses were elsewhere during the three days. There’s still a lot of great rock records being released every year, but its impact in the mainstream continues to be minimal due to the current power of other genres.
You can’t rule out the intensity of a good EDM set
Robot music. No real instruments. Repetitive. It’s all true in a sense. But if you find yourself criticizing mainstream dance music and have never given it a chance at a festival or rave, you’re missing out on a big party. Now that I’ve seen a fair share of DJs, there’s definitely a distinction between those who are talented and those who are not. Out of the two big name artists I saw on the main stage, Kygo paled in comparison to ODESZA, but the energy in both their sets was undeniable. The DoLab also had some vibrant, low key sets from lesser knowns and was my favorite spot to take in the electronic acts that we saw. My advice: give in to the trance. It’s a lot more fun to just turn your brain off and give in to the massive vibrations.
The party itself is worth going for, but the music (good or bad) is what elevates Coachella into a one of a kind experience
The energy at huge music festivals is indescribable. The closest thing I can compare it to is a big time college football game, sold out with over a hundred thousand fans, except they’re all cheering for the same team. The vibe of the crowds and warm desert air adds up to an amazing feeling, one that I’ll hold onto until I return next year. But even when I consider how great it was just to be at Coachella and soak in its atmosphere, the moments that stand out are the ones in front of a stage, watching a performance.
These types of festivals don’t just offer fans the chance to see a number of their favorite big name artists, but also the chance to witness things that they otherwise would likely never see. Anyone with a pulse could have guessed that Eminem would bring out Dr. Dre or Beyoncé bring out Jay-Z, but the act of it actually happening is what takes the performance to the next level. The music itself always makes the experience all the more memorable.