Day 1 of Coachella kicked off 2018’s festival season in typically dramatic fashion, bringing everything from onstage breakdowns to surprise superstar cameos to the Southern California desert. If you weren’t in Indio this Friday, here’s what you missed.
The Weeknd got melancholy for Selena Gomez
“Call Out My Name,” the lead track off the Weeknd’s new EP My Dear Melancholy, is widely believed to be about his ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez. When the sensitive R&B crooner (real name: Abel Tesfaye) broke down onstage while performing that heartbreak ballad live for the first time, he lent credence to that theory. He became visibly choked up during the lines “And when times were rough, when times were rough/I made sure I held you close to me” (a seeming reference to him being there for Gomez during her health struggles) and “I said I didn’t feel nothing baby, but I lied/I almost cut a piece of myself for your life” (which fans have speculated has to do with Gomez’s 2017 kidney transplant).
The Walmart yodel kid was something to shout about
Coachella always welcomes a host of A-list artists, but one of this year’s unlikely breakout stars was 11-year-old “Walmart yodeler” Mason Ramsey, who recently came to fame when footage of him singing at an Illinois Walmart went viral. Chicago DJ Whethan invited the boy to join him in the dance tent after fans pointed out his physical resemblance to Ramsey (“Stop saying I look like the Walmart yodel kid,” Whethan tweeted earlier this month). When Whethan made good on that promise, the audience — which included another Gomez ex, Justin Bieber — went absolutely nuts. “I just saw Walmart Yodel Boy perform at Coachella, my life is never going to be the same,” one fan tweeted excitedly.
— Bieber Tracker (@celebritracker) April 13, 2018
Luke Steele and Daniel Johns were a Dreams-team
The Empire of the Sun singer and Silverchair grunge veteran performed for the first time ever at Coachella (“What could possibly go wrong?” Luke Steele joked), debuting the superstar electro-rock project Dreams on an apocalyptic Mohave Tent stage bedecked with graffiti-stenciled garbage cans, inoperative pay phones, and Commodore 64 graphics. Daniel Johns, unrecognizable from his ’90s teen-rocker days, was a fearsome frontman in a fun-fur coat, sequined skort, and Clockwork Orange-esque single neon contact lens, and he was wielding baseball bats and megaphones and striking bold Jesus poses throughout Dreams’s heady set. The slinky vocoder workouts “Movies” and “Silence” got the tent moving, but it was a post-punk disco shout-along “No One Defeats Us” that made for an instant-classic festival anthem. Expect Dreams to graduate to the main stage at Coachella 2019.
Jamiroquai’s comeback was pure dynamite
“I was really nervous coming out, because I thought people were going to say, ‘Who the f*** is that?’” confessed frontman Jay Kay, standing onstage in his trademark animatronic LED headdress, as Jamiroquai played its first U.S. show since 2005. He needn’t have worried. The British funksters packed the Mohave Tent for their late-night dance party, which featured a random cameo by Snoop Dogg during “Dr. Buzz,” the Napoleon Dynamite-popularized “Canned Heat,” “Cosmic Girl,” and nine other booty-shaking, merry-making classics. Even the omission of the band’s biggest American hit, “Virtual Insanity” (the band briefly started that tune, but cut it due to time constraints) couldn’t bring down revelers’ buzz.
Snoop and #Jamiroquai just Gin and Juicing in Jamiroquai style. It is a #Coachella highlight. Bucket list checked that I never knew existed. #snoopdogg #coachella2018 #video pic.twitter.com/pTvsZoE3fu
— Aaron Wolf (@TheAaronWolf) April 14, 2018
Bleachers brought a Rae of sunshine
Bleachers band leader Jack Antonoff has worked with Taylor Swift, Lorde, Sara Bareilles, Sia, St. Vincent, Tegan and Sara, P!nk, and others, but he declared surprise guest Carly Rae Jepsen his “queen of pop!” when he brought her out for “Hate That You Know Me” and the Love, Simon soundtrack hit “Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song).” These two last collaborated in 2012, but, hopefully, Antonoff will work some of his Midas-touched magic on Jepsen’s next album.
Jean-Michel Jarre delivered a perfect set for the current climate
The French electronic music legend was one of the day’s more political acts, performing “Exit,” a 2016 collaboration with Edward Snowden, while timely footage of Snowden talking about the need for internet privacy appeared onscreen. Jean-Michel Jarre later noted that his ahead-of-its-time album about climate change, Oxygene, was released an incredible 40 years ago, and he hoped it would still “send a strong message to every world leader in their right mind.”
Greta Van Fleet brought the rock
Rock ‘n’ roll is scarce on this year’s Coachella lineup, but Greta Van Fleet, these Robert Plant- and Elton John-endorsed Michigan retro-rockers, resurrected the not-long-ago days when Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC headlined.
Kendrick made some cameos
Kendrick Lamar, who made his Coachella debut in 2012 and headlined last year, wasn’t officially on the 2018 bill, but that didn’t stop him from joining his friends Vince Staples (on “Yeah Right”) and his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmate SZA (for “Doves in the Air” and her show-closing Black Panther soundtrack collaboration “All the Stars”). Perhaps Lamar will make another appearance for “Freedom” during Beyoncé’s much-anticipated Saturday set.
Coachella continues Saturday with X Japan, Nile Rodgers and Chic, David Byrne, HAIM, and, of course, Beyoncé.