British pop group Years & Years made quite the splash on the main stage in the afternoon of Friday, when thousands of festival attendees were still filing in. Lead singer Olly Alexander was captivating during hits like "King" and "Desire," prancing about the stage and carrying an impassioned mashup of Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" and Drake's "Hotline Bling."
Whether quivering through a ballad or busting a move on the crackling house jams, French pop provocateur Christine and the Queens put on an arresting show built around her underrated self-titled debut album from last year. For the unfamiliar, she dropped Technotronic's “Pump Up The Jam” for a mid-afternoon dance party, and no complaints were made.
While LCD Soundsystem was reuniting on the main stage on Friday night, Rae Sremmurd took over the Sahara Tent, gracing the normally-EDM space with their all-the-way-turned-up strain of rap. The crowd may not have been ample, but the pair made the best of it, lighting up the night with tracks like "My X" and new single "Look Alive."
Even LCD haters had to cop to the obvious: The band sounded pretty damn great at Coachella. With James Murphy leading the charge, the major reunion of this festival season kicked off in high definition with beloved dance tracks like “Yeah,” “Losing My Edge” and “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House.” That “beloved” might refer to a pretty small crowd (LCD Soundsystem played to one of the tiniest audiences for a headliner in years), but those who could say “I was there” knew that they had watched something special.
Here’s a case of a classic band knowing exactly how to win over a crowd after spending decades winning over hundreds of them. The long-running punk rockers ruled Coachella in a straightforward manner, flashing a bunch of …And Out Come The Wolves material, saving the biggest hooks for last and inspiring multiple mosh pits with a suite of hyper-aggressive tracks. Frontman Tim Armstrong jumped into the fray for the set-closing “Ruby Soho,” a triumphant visit to the legions of fans looking for some quality hard rock at Coachells this year.
His set may have been gravely overcrowded—Guns N' Roses maybe drew half the size of his audience—but Zedd hit all the right notes during his night set on Saturday. The hits were plenty, and the crowd soaked up everything from "Break Free" to Daft Punk's "One More Time" (which, coincidentally, was played during Calvin Harris' set the following night). But the most special moment of the performance was when Kesha, who's avoided the spotlight in the past few months due to her ongoing legal battle with Dr. Luke, made a drop-in to sing "True Colors," a surprise that the Internet spoiled just a few hours prior.
M83 has morphed back into a weirder electronic act with its new album, following some unexpected mainstream success with the single “Midnight City.” On the Coachella main stage, M83 played both “Midnight City” and some of the more idiosyncratic selections from Junk, as the oddball “Do It, Try It” flowed into the epic “Steve McQueen.” Somehow, Anthony Gonzalez and crew pulled it off, and the trippy jamboree stuck with the audience members long after the neon lights had stopped shining.
Country music is a rarity at Coachella, but raw musical talent is in ample supply. Chris Stapleton is certainly that, and whether you were a diehard fan waiting to hear Traveller live or a passerby with some time to kill on Sunday night, the GRAMMY winner probably knocked your socks off. The crowd certainly fell in love with Stapleton’s gritty guitar, syrupy voice and dynamic storytelling, and especially enjoyed whenever he would serenade his wife, Morgane, onstage. Stapleton was a country star before Coachella, but he just (rightfully) won over a whole bunch of new fans.
An introduction from Bernie Sanders was just the icing on the cake for Run the Jewels, who appeared at Coachella last year but finally made it onto the main stage in 2016. Their set was invigorating and charged, with guests including Gangsta Boo, DJ Shadow, Boots, Gary Clark Jr. and Nas stopping by to embolden one of the most lit performances of the weekend.
Arguably the most shockingly spectacular performer at Coachella this year, Sia didn't even have to leave her podium—where she remained for the entirety of her evening set— to be the most compelling performer of this year’s festival. Her artistic vision stretched beyond the music itself: She ran through all of the hits, including "Breathe Me," "Titanium" and Rihanna's "Diamonds," and took form in an aural assault, with dancers including Kristen Wiig, Paul Dano, Tig Notaro and Maddie Ziegler either gracing the stage to deliver jarring dance routines or appearing on screen in pre-taped performances. It was goosebump-inducing, masterful and the essence of an artist whose music lives beyond the recorded form.