After a two-year hiatus, Coachella made its long-awaited return this weekend with headliners Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, and Swedish House Mafia (with the Weeknd). Also along for the ride: the festival’s usual run of surprise cameo, including Justin Bieber, Rico Nasty, and Gorillaz; new music from the likes of Styles, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Megan Thee Stallion; eyebrow-raising fashion (hello, disco-ball jumpsuits!); and a fresh brand-related influencer scam to fuel another Netflix doc. Here’s a quick rundown on everything you might have missed in the desert (or on the livestream). The festival will return for round two next weekend.
HIGH: Doja and Rico audition for headliner status.
We got absolutely lifted watching Rico Nasty emerge from Doja Cat’s flaming stage in a latex devil costume to rap “Tia Tamera.” Doja’s set was already a trip, contorting her pop alchemy into heavy-metal magic. When Rico came in matching her energy, the women all but demanded higher lineup placements going forward, especially when you remember they already devoured “Tia Tamera” during Rico’s 2019 Coachella set. For her first time on the bill, Doja left it all onstage, previewing two unreleased songs (one for Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis), doing spon-con for Taco Bell, and getting motorboated by Taco Bella herself. She’s living más — just hopefully not for the last time. — Zoë Haylock
HIGH: Anitta brings Brazilian pop to the desert.
Anitta has been a force in Latin America for years, but she made it clear at Coachella she is on her way to becoming a main pop girl everywhere else. The Brazilian superstar — who dropped her explosive new album Versions of Me days before the festival — delivered a mind-blowing set with top-tier twerking, three outfit changes, and even a brief cameo from Saweetie for their hit “Faking Love.” The only downside to the performance? Diplo’s presence in the third part of the set. — Ilana Kaplan
WHOA: Festival scamming season has returned.
Remember Fyre Festival? It’s back, and it’s in a crop top. Much like the ill-fated 2017 Fyre Festival fiasco, Revolve Festival started as an idea to one-up the typical festival experience. Now in its fifth year and timed to complement the main Coachella lineup down the street in Palm Springs, the fast-fashion website Revolve — known for its elaborate influencer press trips and that one blonde model — returned this year after a brief COVID hiatus with more photo ops and musical performances (Jack Harlow, Ty Dolla $ign, Bia, and Willow, to name a few) for influencers from TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and other social-media apps to attend and post from. But what the fashion site and content mill forgot to include was a plan to herd hundreds of people from a dusty parking lot to the festival. First-hand accounts from the three-day fest flooded TikTok’s For You page with complaints ranging from lack of water and shade, rudeness and disorganization, and an absence of overall security and basic safety measures. Reports claim that certain influencers were trying to pull rank on others, cutting one another in line because they have more followers. According to accounts, some influencers were invited to attend for free, some were obligated to post, and others paid for a wristband. Celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Chloe Bailey, and Shay Mitchell seemed to have no problem entering and exiting the event. Revolve has not yet responded to the dozens of videos now seen by thousands on social media. Hey, at least they weren’t trapped on a tiny island. — Morgan Baila
LOW: The Weeknd to Coachella: How do I make you love me?
When the Weeknd yelled, “Are you trying to end the night right now?” he might’ve been just ad-libbing a standard pump-up prompt to the masses. But it sure felt like he wanted more out of the sea of phones in front of him, exhorting the crowd to be a bit more enthusiastic for his Ye-replacing mash-up set with Swedish House Mafia. We get it — it was a long three days, and the DJ trio took the stage half an hour late. Hey, at least Drake was cheering him on? — Dan Reilly
HIGH: Harry and Shania’s sweet serenade.
Not only did Harry Styles give us a future ancient proverb to live by (“Men are trash!”), he also brought out his (and everyone else’s) idol Shania Twain for two duets. In a plunging rainbow-sequin jumpsuit, Styles harmonized with the Canadian country star for a swoon-worthy throwback performance of her impassioned ballad “You’re Still the One” and gave all girls what they wanted with a playful rendition of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” —I.K.
LOW: Those Coachella YouTube hosts.
Somehow, a festival filled with social-media influencers skilled in first-person video production managed to recruit a group of extremely awkward on-camera hosts for its Coachella livestream, including an influencer by the name of “the Therapy Gecko” who paints his face green and dresses up as a reptile (I just aged ten years writing that last part). That means anyone watching at home was likely subjected to an endless run of boring between-set interviews with artists looking like they’d rather be anywhere else (pour one out for Masego, forced to hear Soulection’s Joe Kay basically describe him as the next coming). Next time, just hire Nardwuar. — Alex Suskind
HIGH: Phoebe and Arlo forever.
Coachella wasn’t the first time we heard Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks’s angelic voices harmonize. (Remember that haunting “Fake Plastic Trees” cover?) But the two indie rockers reunited during Bridgers’s dazzling set Friday for chilling harmonies on Punisher tracks “Graceland Too” and “I Know the End.” And if that wasn’t enough, Bridgers debuted her starry-eyed new single, “Sidelines,” which was written for the Hulu series Conversation With Friends, based on Sally Rooney’s novel of the same name. Even if you were watching from home, you probably swayed with a lighter in hand (or, uh, got down) to her gothic fever dream. —I.K.
HIGH: Arcade Fire surprises and surprises.
The big surprise of the late set-times reveal wasn’t a terrible conflict but a new artist: Arcade Fire joined the lineup at the last minute. The former headliners had such an itch to get back out to the desert while promoting their upcoming sixth album, WE, they took a 5:45 p.m. tent slot, reportedly only for weekend one. But Arcade Fire brought the massive energy the band is known for — just as they’ve done at New Orleans block parties and impromptu New York shows along the WE rollout — including during the downright jovial debut of WE standout “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid).” It’s amazing what this band can do with some doo-doo-doo-doos and car-dealership blowups. — Justin Curto
HIGH: The 2NE1 reunion.
K-pop fans were already in for a treat with 88Rising’s showcase, which featured Jackson Wang, Utada Hikaru, NIKI, and more stars from the collective’s esteemed rank performing in what felt like a mini-festival of its own. But the crowning moment came during CL’s closing solo set, which ended with a reunion with her 2NE1 bandmates, Bom, Dara, and Minzy. The quartet, which last performed together in 2015 and officially called it quits in 2016, didn’t show any signs of rust with a scream-inducing performance of their hit “I Am the Best.” Could more be on the way? — D.R.
WHOA: Isaiah Rashad responds.
No one would blame Isaiah Rashad for not responding to the sex tape that leaked earlier this year, appearing to show the rapper with other men. Instead, Rashad was saving his response for his big-stage moment. The rapper, who returned after a yearslong hiatus last year with The House Is Burning, opened his Coachella set with a video montage of responses to the leak. “The purpose of doing that was trying to embarrass him. But, however, it backfired,” one host said. “I’m glad that he can finally be himself,” said another. Rashad later thanked his supportive audience, saying they “kept me alive these last couple months.” — J.C.
HIGH: Gunna’s Coachella fit is now Popeye canon.
WHOA: Brockhampton isn’t quite done.
Brockhampton warned us that they were close to the end last year after the trailblazing rap group released high-mark Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, billed as its second-to-last album. This year, the group moved up the end, canceling all tour dates except Coachella with no word on that promised final album. The vibe was celebratory throughout the group’s set with rowdy performances of old hits including “Boogie” (even if Kevin Abstract forgot his words) and new ones such as “Buzzcut.” It culminated in the announcement that the group has one more album up its sleeve, per a clip that played once the band left the stage. We’ll cross our fingers for the drop next weekend. — J.C.
LOW: Travis Scott still showed up.
An upside to Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) dropping out of Coachella: No longer were we under the threat of a “surprise” Travis Scott appearance, as the rapper previously hinted at. But Scott was still a presence during Coachella weekend, performing a DJ set at a nearby after-party Sunday night, per TMZ. One of Scott’s first public performances since the crowd-crush tragedy at Astroworld was reportedly associated with the chaos of Revolve Festival, according to E! News. Regardless, he was one of the last people we needed to help kick off festival season. — J.C.
WOAH: Danny Elfman’s wonderfully crazy performance
It was easy to look at Danny Elfman’s inclusion on the Coachella lineup and think, Well, that should be interesting. As it turned out, “interesting” would be a massive understatement. The heralded composer and former Oingo Boingo leader brought an orchestra and a band that included Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland and drummer Josh Freese for a mix of his old band’s tunes and highlights of his film and TV career — with Billie Eilish helping out on one Nightmare Before Christmas rendition. But the apex was the insane, metal-tinged version of the Simpsons theme, featuring Elfman showing off his tatted physique and shredding along as the animation played on the big screen. Nobody else even came close to bringing that level of chaotic pageantry to Coachella. — D.R.
HIGH: Tons of new music.
It was a given that some acts, particularly Harry Styles, would treat us to new material during the weekend, but knowing it was coming and experiencing it are two very different animals. We got to hear the first performances of Styles’s dancy, mid-tempo cut “Late Night Talking” and acoustic beauty “Boyfriends” as well as Phoebe Bridgers’s “Sidelines.” Arcade Fire played a few cuts from upcoming album WE, Carly Rae Jepsen debuted the breezy new single “Western Wind,” and Doja Cat unveiled “Vegas,” from Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic Elvis. That’s a pretty great haul of new tracks, especially considering most festivals now take place well into an artist’s album cycle. — D.R.
HIGH: Megan Thee Stallion b/w Lil’ Kim.
Speaking of new music, please drop this now, Meg. — A.S.