After two packed weekends, the dust has finally settled on Coachella 2019 after massive headline sets from Ariana Grande, Tame Impala, and Childish Gambino — and more headline–generating moments than anyone could keep up with.
Music Junkee was on ground in Indio, California for all of Weekend Two — here’s what we learned after three days at the most famous music festival in the world.
Tame Impala may have been flying the flag at the top of the bill, but there were plenty of other Aussie locals bringing the goods to various stages throughout the weekend.
Fisher took over the Sahara stage on Friday afternoon for a set that felt like another step in his seemingly never-ending victory lap (hell hath no fury like a crowd waiting for ‘Losing It’ to drop).
Later that night, RÜFÜS DU SOL brought their lush, widescreen dance to the Outdoor stage, Byron Bay exports Parcels held forth over the Gobi stage on Saturday, and Mansionair rallied a legion of new fans with their propulsive set on Sunday.
Watching Monáe slide and shimmy her way through tracks like ‘Make Me Feel’ brought to mind Prince at the height of his powers.
Musgraves rolled through most of her Grammy Award-winning Golden Hour, proving to the haters that languid country tracks do indeed have a home on Coachella’s main stage. Anderson .Paak, meanwhile, threatened to singe everybody’s eyebrows off with frequent pyrotechnic blasts as he worked his way through new album Ventura.
For the first few years we knew Janelle Monáe, she was Cindi Mayweather — an ArchAndroid, a character that she used as a vehicle for her futuristic funk musings. It was enthralling, but there was always a sense that Monáe was keeping us at arms length, that her robotic surroundings were shields against vulnerability.
Those walls crumbled on last year’s brilliant Dirty Computer, with Monáe delivering an open and loving examination of sexuality, love, and blackness.
Her main stage performance was a celebration: of black excellence, of queerness, of womanhood. Watching her slide and shimmy her way through tracks like ‘Make Me Feel’ (featuring a silhouetted dance opening), ‘Pynk’ (yes, she brought the pants), and old favourite ‘Tightrope’ brought to mind Prince at the height of his powers.
Maggie Rogers truly needed a bigger boat. Her Saturday night set at the Gobi stage had so many punters pouring in that you couldn’t get within 20 metres of the back of the tent. She spun and twirled (barefoot, of course) through a laundry list of her biggest hits, including the genuinely tear-jerking ‘Light On’, and vocal tearing ‘Fallingwater’. If you needed a mid-festival pick-me up, this was it.
After struggling through a slew of technical difficulties last weekend, Lizzo wasn’t about to let anything screw with her set this time around. “Welcome to the church of self love,” she began, to general roars of approval.
The next hour was masterclass in performance: she twerked, she dropped flute solos, she ripped through her verses. Disaster threatened to strike right at the 11th hour, when she missed a cue during closer ‘Juice’. “I’m not letting it fuck up my set again,” she said, before cutting off the music completely and performing the rest of the track a cappella. She pulled it off, of course.
From Billie Eilish’s career-defining set, to Janelle Monáe setting a new standard for stardom, to Rico Nasty fiercely proving why she’s the next big thing, to Maggie Rogers and Lizzo, to Anna Lunoe, to Ariana Grande, to SOPHIE, to Nina Kraviz and Charlotte de Witte, to King Princess and Kacey Musgraves – this Coachella was all about women at the top of their game.
While it can be tempting to plant yourself at the bigger stages and drink in the action, you’ll be rewarded for venturing away from the pack. The Mojave stage featured some of the best sets of the weekend, including Aphex Twin, Four Tet, and the dark majesty of SOPHIE.
The best dance sets of the weekend were found away from the main stages. Charlotte de Witte, Lee Burridge, Nina Kraviz, Nora En Pure, Eric Prydz (as Cirez D) all delivered on the smaller stages – and Idris fucking Elba drew one of the biggest and best crowds of the entire weekend.
If you’ve always considered Coachella an Instagram-first, music-second kind of festival, you’re deeply mistaken.
This is a festival on a mammoth scale — from the sheer size of the grounds (it takes about 15 minutes to walk between the two biggest stages) to the seemingly limitless amount of extra-curricular activities on offer (hang in a Narna-like rose garden? Check. Get your breasts covered in rhinestones? Check. Have a three course meal at a restaurant run by Curtis Stone? Sure.)the colossal nature of Coachella can be genuinely overwhelming.
And yes, while there might be insta-models getting snapped at every conceivable angle, the breadth of incredible music on offer is what keep its blood pumping. Whatever your taste — hip-hop, pop, rock, dance, performance art, you name it — you’ll be satisfied.
So put away your scepticism, and put it on your bucket list.
Feature image via Coachella Facebook.
Jules LeFevre is Junkee’s Music Editor. She travelled as a guest of Warner Music Australia. Follow her on Twitter.