The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, America’s preeminent music festival, is finally back this weekend after two years of COVID-19 pandemic delays, safety policy changes and months of headliner tumult.
The festival runs April 15-17 and again April 22-24 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio.
Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and a pairing of EDM stars Swedish House Mafia and the Weeknd are headlining the three nights of Week 1. Swedish House Mafia and the Weeknd replace Kanye West, who pulled out just weeks before the show.
The Times’ Mikael Wood and Suzy Exposito will be reporting live from the polo grounds, providing instant reactions to all the must-see performances. Check back here throughout the weekend for the latest from the 21st edition of Coachella.
5:50 p.m. “How the f— you weirdos doing?” Surprises abounded at the Emo Nite DJ set: Between rowdy singalongs to My Chemical Romance and Papa Roach, the DJ duo of Morgan Freed and T.J. Petracca welcomed to the Sahara stage Plain White T’s singer Tom Higgenson for a campfire-style chorus of “Hey There Delilah.” Hellogoodbye frontman Forrest Kline also made a cameo — he not only dropped the 2005 nostalgia bomb, “Here (In Your Arms),” but spoke almost completely in autotune, delighting many a former scene queen. — SE
5:43 p.m. Slow-burn R&B felt like a tough sell at go-go Coachella during Daniel Caesar’s slightly sleepy set last night (at least until a shirtless Justin Bieber popped in and inspired the deployment of several thousand camera phones). But Long Beach-born Giveon fared better today in a laidback yet vivid performance in the coveted Saturday-sunset slot. “I heard they’re live-streaming this, so I’d like to do a song for my exes,” he said to introduce the delightfully petty “Still Your Best.” “You know who you are.” — MW
5:20 p.m. Inside the Gobi tent, Grammy nominee Arlo Parks and her band, encircled by sunflowers, provided a jazzy dream-pop oasis amid a windy desert day. Friday night standout Phoebe Bridgers stopped by to join Parks on the song “Black Dog.” — SE
5:00 p.m. Sporting a hot-pink chiffon gown that billowed dramatically in the desert wind, Cali-born vlogger and balladeer Conan Gray may have been “dressed like bubblegum,” but he had much more to offer than sweet, sunshine-y platitudes. “Y’all might be at Coachella but I can tell y’all are depressed!” he said, arrestingly twee in his delivery, before launching into danceable, trauma-informed catharsis pop. — SE
4:12 p.m. One sign of how quickly new pop stars are made these days: Holly Humberstone telling the crowd gathered to see her in the Mojave tent, “This next song is the first song I ever put out, a little over two years ago.” The song was “Deep End,” about a rough patch her younger sister went through not long ago, and if the characters were young, the emotional wisdom felt as old as can be. — MW
4:00 p.m. Nothing hits like a cold brew and some power-pop on a Saturday. At the Outdoor Theater, Chicago punks Beach Bunny amped up the crowd with feel-good songs about ditching bad-vibe dudes. They kicked off what should be a superb day at Coachella for anyone who ever got picked last in gym class. Must-sees include Angeleno indie-rockers Inner Wave, as well as Mannequin Pussy, Turnstile — and the Emo Nite DJ set, if you’re looking for a meet-cute soundtracked by Fall Out Boy. — SE
3:27 p.m. Greetings — again! — from Coachella, where it’s still hot (85 degrees according to my dust-covered iPhone) and where Harry Styles may have turned on a generation of teenagers to Shania Twain last night. This evening’s headliner is Billie Eilish, back at the festival after a star-making turn here in 2019 (when she herself was a teenager). But as always there’s plenty more to look forward to, including performances by Megan Thee Stallion, Holly Humberstone, Giveon, 100 gecs, Danny Elfman and the hip-hop boy band Brockhampton, which claims it’s breaking up after Coachella. Stay with us to see how it all goes down. — MW
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1:00 a.m. Harry Styles had new songs and a new friend to show off in his headlining performance Friday night at Coachella.
Having treated the massive festival audience to a welcoming nature video of various animals, uh, enjoying themselves, the 28-year-old English heartthrob opened the show with “As It Was,” the very a-ha-ish lead single from his upcoming album that recently set a record for the most streams in one day on Spotify. Later he did two unreleased cuts from “Harry’s House,” which is due out next month: “Boyfriends,” an acoustic ballad with lush Laurel Canyon-ish vocal harmonies, and “Late Night Talking,” which had a kind of crisp ’80s pop-funk vibe.
Introducing the former, he asked who in the the crowd had a boyfriend and who hadn’t; then he said, “To boyfriends everywhere: F— you.”
As has become the custom for Coachella headliners, Styles brought out an unannounced special guest Friday in pop-country icon Shania Twain, who wore a sequined dress to complement Styles’ sequined jumpsuit. Together they did two of Twain’s ’90s classics: “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” and “You’re Still the One.”
Between tunes, Styles said, “In the car with my mother as a child, this woman taught me to sing. She also taught me that men are trash.” Twain said she was “a bit starstruck” to be performing with Styles and added that it was “surreal” to sing “You’re Still the One” with him, given that she wrote it when he was “just a little kid.” — MW
11:35 p.m. The most fun thing I stumbled upon tonight: an exhilarating set by South Korean hip-hop trio Epik High, who in 2016 became the first Korean act to perform at Coachella. “I see my bandmates have decided to speak English tonight,” said Tablo. “By the end of the night we’ll have you speaking Korean.” I don’t know what Koreans call the analog for Spanglish — Koreanglish? — but Epik High executed it with panache, bringing the fire from Seoul to the States. — SE
11:01 p.m. Styles wasn’t the only former teen-pop star at Coachella on Friday night: About an hour before he took the stage, Justin Bieber made a cameo during Daniel Caesar’s set to sing their hit “Peaches.” The Biebs seemed excited to be here — so excited that he went without a shirt to go with his jeans and red Phillies ball cap. And compared with the sleepy-smooth rendition of “Peaches” the singers did on the Grammys a couple of weeks ago, this take had a bulked-up power-soul vibe. — MW
10:05 p.m. There’s a secret sushi bar at Coachella. … First you find the hidden entrance. Then you emerge into a blissfully air-conditioned room where the sushi chefs behind the counter from Sushi by Scratch Bar restaurants are going to make your dinner right there for you. The night starts with a hot towel because you’re going to eat with your hands. There’s otoro torched with pineapple and brown sugar, Canadian spot prawns with a prawn-head butter, lots of sake overflowing in the cups. It was 16 courses of sushi plus dessert. … And now back to the madness. — Jenn Harris
9:55 p.m. Emerging in a bedazzled skeleton dress, Phoebe Bridgers teased her set with a clip from Disturbed’s nü-metal anthem “Down With the Sickness” — and then swanned onto the stage to perform her own fiddle-laden “Motion Sickness.” The festival goths can have a little malaise, as a treat. —SE
9:11 p.m. Hard to say who had the better look during Lil Baby’s main-stage set: Gunna, dressed more or less as Randy Quaid in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” or Lil Baby himself, ‘80s-jock resplendent in a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off. — MW
8:06 p.m. If you’ve done any driving through Los Angeles County lately, you may have noticed the “Soy el tóxico/Soy la tóxica” bumper stickers on various trucks — “I’m the toxic one,” they declare — and I suspect many of those drivers were throwing down at the Grupo Firme set Friday night, shouting along to the lyric “Voy a ser tu ex, el tóxico, el innombrable!” (I’ll be your toxic, unmentionable ex!) from “El Tóxico.” It was a fitting follow to the Mexican ensemble’s thunderous brass band cover of 2020 breakup ballad “Tusa” — originally sung by Sunday Coachella performer Karol G. — SE
7:56 p.m. Spotted among the thousands crammed into Arcade Fire’s surprise gig Friday evening: 24-year-old Finneas and 88-year-old Lou Adler. (How’s that for a broad-based following?) At Coachella ostensibly to drum up some buzz for its upcoming album, “We,” the Canadian indie-rock band opened with the LP’s slow-building lead single, “The Lightning I, II.” But then it was one oldie after another: “Rebellion (Lies),” “Ready to Start,” “My Body Is a Cage.” They even played “Everything Now,” from the reviled (if low-key excellent) 2017 album of the same name. At one point, frontman Win Butler, very Bono-esque in a black leather vest, gleefully reminded the crowd that Coachella was born out of a 1993 gig Pearl Jam staged at the Empire Polo Club as part of its anti-Ticketmaster campaign; at another point he stage-dove just like in the good old days. — MW
7:16 p.m. Having to choose between Anitta and City Girls’ sets felt like an affront to baddies everywhere, which is why I teleported between the two. Anitta, the biggest Brazilian act in the world right now, brought a taste of Rio to the Coachella Stage. Backed by a baile funk-rock band and an intricate set made to look like a favela, she breezed through her hits — in three languages, no less! — including “Envolver,” her first No. 1 on the Billboard Global Songs chart.
Meanwhile, at the Sahara Stage, hip-hop duo City Girls’ heat rivaled that of the desert. The Misses 305 took a few turns around the stripper pole during a spirited callback to Floridian rappers Splack Pack in “Scrub the Ground,” and they powered through an extended mix of their 2021 smash “Twerkulator” — stoking a feverish twerk-off between revelers of all genders. — SE
6:23 p.m. One way to understand Carly Rae Jepsen’s relationship with her audience: They love her precisely because she never achieved the pop stardom she once seemed destined for. When the singer took a tumble in the Mojave tent during her song “Boy Problems,” the place erupted not in gasps but in cheers. — MW
5:47 p.m. Best thing I’ve seen so far: Ari Lennox, fronting a killer live band filled with women, mashing up her and Jazmine Sullivan’s “On It” with D’Angelo’s deathless beefcake-soul jam “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” A slow jam for all ages and persuasions. — MW
Omar Apollo at the Outdoor Theatre, sporting a hot fuschia suit: “Where my homosexuals at?” He looks and sounds resplendent. After a marathon of funky guitar cuts, Apollo sings his original ranchera song “En El Olvido,” off his new album, “Ivory.” His sadboy groove is beginning to sync up nicely with neighboring performer Lennox, who is leading a guided neo-soul meditation at the Coachella Stage. — SE
5:14 p.m. Fashion scene report: It must be Harry Styles Day, because psychedelia is back, baby! I’m seeing loads of orange sherbet and canary yellow flower-power garb. The mood board is giving Twiggy, Lady Miss Kier and Tavi Gevinson in her “Style Rookie” era. And while there’s no mask mandate here, festivalgoers may be wishing they packed some for the dust. — SE
Fun fact revealed by Mika as he played the main stage: His song “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)” was inspired by a night out at Costa Mesa’s Butterfly Lounge, which bills itself as a size-acceptance nightclub. — MW
3:53 p.m. Big month for Arooj Aftab: Less than two weeks ago, the Brooklyn-based Pakistani singer and songwriter was at the Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, where she was nominated for best new artist (and lost, inevitably, to Olivia Rodrigo). Today she brought her meditative, slowly unspooling melodies to Coachella, where she was backed by a four-piece band that included a harpist. In the cooling shade of the Gobi tent, the music felt like a balm for the noise and hubbub of the weekend to come. — MW
2:02 p.m. Greetings from Coachella, where it’s sunny and 84 degrees, the masks are few and far between and the friendly bartenders ask if you’d like Absolut Grapefruit in your Absolut-and-grapefruit. (Seems like too much grapefruit, but it’s early.) Excited to be back for the first Coachella in three years. By my math, this’ll be my 10th time at what we in the media like to call the world’s most important music festival. Harry Styles’ debut here figures to be today’s big story, but I’m psyched to see plenty of other stuff, including Phoebe Bridgers, Lil Baby, City Girls and Omar Apollo, who’s got an A+ billboard on the 10 Freeway advising folks that heterosexuality can be cured by taking in his set. — Mikael Wood
… And this will be my third Coachella! The artistic range this year is worth noting: I’m raring to see hometown heroines the Regrettes with a side of Code Orange, followed by our friend Omar Apollo; after that, I’m sprinting to catch Anitta and Grupo Firme on the main stage, then bounding back to the Mojave stage for Idles (see Randall’s write-up below). Judging by the physical demand of previous Coachellas, I made sure to pregame this time by stopping by the chiropractor’s office and getting my back cracked like a glow stick — something I’m told is not allowed on the premises. Shoutout to Dr. Colleen in La Quinta! — Suzy Exposito
12:53 p.m. Arguing with your friends over which artists to see today? Let The Times’ music experts help. Here, a few of our writers’ picks for Friday’s standout sets:
Idles (8:10 p.m., Mojave)
A searing post-punk band from Bristol, England, who sound like some ferocious mix of the Fall, the Birthday Party and Gang of Four, Idles has likely bloodied more moshers across its 13-year career than any other act at Coachella. At the center is the roughneck bark of Welsh-born singer Joe Talbot, whose skill at harnessing his testosterone to indict toxic masculinity in “Never Fight a Man With a Perm” is propelled by a snake-eating-its-tail riff progression generated by his four bandmates. The band arrives at the polo grounds in support of its fourth album, “Crawler,” a moody, atmospheric record that’s bound to pound the festival into submission. — Randall Roberts
Snoh Aalegra (10:35 p.m., Mojave)
This Swedish R&B singer with a timeless voice could have played it safe and geared her music toward Grammy-voting nostalgists. But she took a welcome left turn on last year’s “Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies,” working with misty and psychedelic productions (one song is literally called “Tangerine Dream”) from Tyler, the Creator, jazz-rap polymath Terrace Martin and the Neptunes. Her songs never sit still long, but you could follow her voice anywhere — including the main stages at hip-hop festivals such as last fall’s Day N Vegas, where her live set charms were made manifest. — August Brown
Harry Styles (11:35 p.m., Coachella Stage)
It’s been years since Coachella booked a boomer icon like Paul McCartney or Roger Waters, but with Friday’s headliner, the festival might be getting something better: a classic-rock-obsessed 28-year-old beloved by millennials and Gen Z. Styles’ first two solo albums channeled David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac and led to a public friendship with Stevie Nicks; his upcoming “Harry’s House,” due next month, appears to move his frame of reference forward a decade or so: “As It Was,” the album’s lead single, borrows the tick-tocking synth-pop groove the Weeknd previously borrowed from A-ha’s mid-’80s “Take on Me.” Gen Z approves: According to Spotify, “As It Was” set a new record for the most streams (8.3 million) ever recorded in the U.S. in one day. — Mikael Wood
12:26 p.m. If Styles wasn’t enough pop heartthrob for one Coachella night, TMZ is reporting that Justin Bieber will join Daniel Caesar onstage later this evening to perform their hit “Peaches.” On Thursday, in other Canadian-related Coachella news, Arcade Fire announced that they would be making a pop-up appearance at the Mojave tent at 6:45 p.m.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.