The first weekend of Coachella 2016 is in the books and was chock full of memorable moments. In what has become expected, the surprise guest performances were plentiful. Rihanna, Big Sean and John Newman joined Calvin Harris, Angus Young joined Guns N’ Roses for a couple of songs during the band’s reunion appearance, Kanye West jumped on stage with A$AP Rocky then Kanye joined Jack Ü, who was always joined by Kiesza, Ice Cube brought out Snoop Dogg, Common, his son O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sam Smith performed “Latch” with Disclosure, while Lorde performed “Magnets” and Aluna Francis sang on “White Noise” with the British duo, Skrillex made an appearance during Snails, Brandon Urie of Panic At The Disco joined Halsey, Zedd brought out Kesha as well as Sydney Sierota of Echosmith, Grimes was joined by Janelle Monae, Seal performed a couple of songs with Gallant, while Jaden Smith performed with Lido. Many praised the performance by Sia, whose set showcased live actors performing to her songs as they synced up to the screen visuals on the side of the stage. Aside from the guest appearances, the festival delivered in showcasing some great up and coming talent and emerging acts.
Now-festival staples, Wolf Alice, Zella Day, Run The Jewels, Vince Staples and Robert Delong performed tight sets with great energy, which kept the crowds engaged. Prior to the set by Run The Jewels, a video introduction by Bernie Sanders to the rap duo was played as the crowd cheered enthusiastically. Sets by G-Eazy, in which Bebe Rexha came on to perform their chart-topping hit, “Me Myself and I”, BØRNS, CHVRCHES, Jack Ü, Matt and Kim, the Chainsmokers and Halsey had overflowing crowds with festival-goers posting numerous videos of the set, the dancing crowd and ambiance onto social media.
Side projects of notable band members of Arctic Monkeys and Black Keys resonated well with the crowds. Led by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets performed a no-nonsense set of material from their debut album, while Black Keys frontman, Dan Auerbach, spearheaded a lively set by The Arcs.
It was hit and miss with the smaller veteran punk bands, as The Damned played to a small crowd that barely filled the Gobi tent. Rancid performed mid-afternoon on the main stage to a small but enthusiastic crowd on Sunday but it seemed that the majority of the crowds were in the tents as Joywave and Thomas Jack had enthusiastic audiences. The early 2:40 start time for The Vandals didn’t affect the seminal punk band’s strong performance but it seemed many would wander into the tent and wander out after a song or two.
The headliners were solid as LCD Soundsystem kicked off the weekend Friday with a strong set. The recently reunited band was focused and performed a cover of “Heroes” by David Bowie. A couple of weeks before their Coachella performance, Axl Rose suffered a broken foot, which forced the lead singer to use a modified version of the “throne” setup that Dave Grohl used during last year’s Foo Fighters tour. Guns N’ Roses two-hour set might have been constrained by Axl’s lack of stage movement, but it seemed the crowd was there for the hits as the audience began to wander off mid-way through the set after “Welcome To The Jungle”. By the time “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was played, there was some notable more elbow room than the beginning of the set. Calvin Harris brought out the aforementioned guests but the audience was engaged throughout as the visuals spanned the entire stage from both side screens.
Overall, the chatter of potential surprise appearances, which has made Coachella the main topic of conversation, have become somewhat predictable since many of today’s music showcases guest vocals. It notably felt more crowded, even though the attendance cap of 99,000 was the same as last year and only a slight increase from 2014, where the cap was 96,000. Earlier this month, the Indio City Council approved the increase of the attendance capacity from 99,000 to 125,000 for future years. As the unofficial first major festival of the year, there’s no sign of Coachella slowing down and the event still provides a major opportunity for artists to reach new audiences. Coachella 2016 definitely fulfilled that mission statement.