Coachella is never what you think it’ll be.
The headliners weren’t the strongest, but this year’s festival circuit is all about the smaller, lesser-known bands making an impact on festivalgoers and music lovers. And despite the minor dust storm, this was my best year yet.
My first set of the weekend was Zsuzsanna Eva Wardmore, more commonly known as ZZ Ward, a bluesy pop rock act from Pennsylvania who rocked the Mojave tent. Throughout her set, which included hits from her 2012 album, “Till the Casket Drops,” she held the crowd’s attention with her upbeat energy and harmonica playing.
Later Friday afternoon there were a variety of sets to choose from. I ventured into the Sahara tent around 7:30 p.m. to catch The Glitch Mob, a Los Angeles-based electronic music group. The Sahara tent was overcrowded, making it a struggle to get into the mix of people. However, once we were in, the dance party was on.
Flume, a DJ, went on right around 9:30 p.m. at the Gobi tent. He drew such a large crowd that it was nearly impossible to get even close to the tent structure. Most had to listen in from afar.
And then there was Friday’s much-anticipated headliner: Outkast.
Unfortunately, Outkast did not deliver the sing-along set Coachella fans were looking for. However, loyal fans of early Outkast were thoroughly impressed and stoked on the set list. But in my three years of attending Coachella, I have never seen mobs of people leaving the main stage, walking away from a headliner, let alone a reunion of two such well-known hip-hop artists.
Needless to say, the set was not near comparable to the headlining hip-hop set of 2012 that brought Tupac Shakur back to life. When Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre played, the security men in yellow polos had to drag people away from the empty stage after their set.
Day two was a bit of a later start.
Banks, a Los Angeles singer (often compared to Lorde for her incredible voice), jammed for a solid set, ending with her better known hit, “Waiting Game.”
Shortly after Banks, it was back to the main stage.
First it was Kid Cudi. Every person in the crowd, even the people in the beer garden, was on his or her feet.
Kid Cudi’s set list included classics such as, “Mr. Rager,” “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and an extended version of “Pursuit of Happiness.”
Fifty minutes went by between Kid Cudi and MGMT’s sunset performance.
Unlike Cudi, MGMT was not new to performing in Indio during April—they played on the Outdoor Stage in 2010.
MGMT opened with “Weekend Wars” followed by a solid set that included, “Time to Pretend” and “Kids.” With Cudi’s set and MGMT’s energy, I began to lose confidence in Coachella’s headlining picks (Outkast) for this year.
After barely being able to pull my group away from the last few seconds of “Electric Feel,” we fought the crowd over towards the the Outdoor Stage where Lorde was going to be going on.
The crowd was impossible until everyone stood still as soon as they heard the opening notes to “Glory and Gore.”
Lorde’s curly, dark hair blew over her shoulders in the sandy wind as she danced in her two-piece white suite and flat, platform sandals. She played crowd favorites such as “White Teeth Teens,” “Buzzcut Season” and “Royals.”
The 17-year-old New Zealand native blew away the audience, and as always, her voice was breathtaking. Sometimes it is hard to believe she is younger then most of us.
Lorde opened for the next act, Pharrell.
Pharrell delivered the kind of set people go to music festivals for. Sets full of dancing songs and throwbacks with guest appearances.
He appeared in his signature attire, compete with his now iconic Vivienne Westwood hat. Throughout the set, he did not slow down, despite the struggle he had with his voice withstanding the developing sand storm.
Pharrell’s whole set was surprise after surprise, starting with an appearance by Nelly, then Busta Rhymes, Tyler the Creator, Puff Daddy and finally, Gwen Stefani.
The setlist included a few songs from recent years but throwbacks kept the crowd wanting more and more. It was the ultimate dance party. He ended the set with “Get Lucky” and “Happy.”
Late night sets included Skrillex, Muse and a Nas set that featured Puff Daddy and Jay-Z.
For me, Sunday was all about Lana Del Rey.
When she started getting big she fled to Europe and toured there. Coachella was the kickoff to the North American leg of her tour.
She played her most popular songs like “Summertime Sadness,” “Blue Jeans” and “National Anthem.”
She was unbelievable, sultry and sexy throughout her entire performance, keeping the audience’s attention. Her set shined, which I’m sure most people were not expecting after her poor performance on SNL.
She finished her set on crowd level, shaking hands, accepting gifts and kissing fans.
Overall, my third year of Coachella was everything I had expected it to be. I know it may come as a surprise to the many who ringlet their hair and plan outfits for months, but Coachella is about the live music, and this weekend featured was some of the best performances I have ever seen at a festival. It was clear to me the women owned the crowd’s ear this year.