Coachella 2016: Calvin Harris and Rihanna close out the weekend
As the first-ever DJ to headline the fest, Harris brings guest stars and high energy to the desert
Calvin Harris became the first-ever DJ to headline Coachella when he closed out the fest on Sunday — but he didn’t do it alone. With guest appearances from Big Sean, Rihanna, and John Newman, the Scottish turn-table wiz and producer ended the weekend for a sea of delighted ravers.
Big Sean was the first unexpected arrival, emerging from under Harris’ booth as their collab “Open Wide” began. Following a quick hello to the crowd, he launched into his hit, “I Don’t F–k With You,” and if you thought people would be tired of shouting that chorus at the top of their lungs, you’d be wrong to the tune of 99,000 strong.
Rihanna appeared with the DJ during his Coachella debut back in 2014 so maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the live-stream touting a “major guest appearance” for Harris’ set meant that she would appear. (Sorry, Swifties.) Rih popped up on a second stage, out in the crowd, about halfway through the show to sing “We Found Love.” With her red, white, and blue tassel coat she was, in multiple ways, the bright spot of the set. It wasn’t hard to feel the twinge of disappointment when after just the one song she threw the limelight back to the host. “Calvin Harris, take it away!” she yelled before disappearing as quickly as she came. (Taylor Swift even caught the moment on video.)
And for his final song, John Newman joined to sing “Blame” off Harris’ 2014 collection Blame. The singer’s live vocals were underwhelming, but backed by fireworks and Harris’ bonkers LED light display, it wasn’t hard to focus elsewhere. In between the comings and goings of the other stars, Harris threw down with the rest of his catalog, a near split of traditional house tunes and trap. But a few of the songs, like “Deep Down Low” and “Lean On,” were repeats from Major Lazer’s afternoon set on the same stage, which took away some excitement from what should have been the biggest show of the day.
And ultimately, while Coachella loves dance music — Harris, Zedd, the Chainsmokers, Flume, and Jack Ü drew the biggest audiences over the course of the weekend — it still feels anticlimactic to have the final notes played at the fest be those same ones that echo through all the major clubs each weekend.
Elsewhere on Sunday:
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros‘ early evening set suffered at the hands of organizers. They began at the Outdoor Theater well enough but their music was quickly overrun with boom-thwacks, big drops, and the echo of “Major Lazer!” from the stage next door. Frontman Alex Ebert got fed up quickly. “We might as well just play ‘Home’ now,” he said, visibly frustrated. “That way you guys can at least sort of hear it and get out of here.” It was a real bummer considering the 10-piece band is a festival circuit favorite.
Another star who tried to play over the Caribbean-infused EDM beats? Newly minted country hero Chris Stapleton, who filled the Gobi Tent impressively, given the sets he was up against. His feathers were less ruffled than those of Ebert, however. Just once did he remark, “Well, it sounds like something else is going on,” when the sound-bleeding got particularly bad. Other than that he just focused on his strength: Pick a guitar and sing the blues.
But…that Major Lazer set was bananas. Diplo wasn’t hard to find at Coachella 2016 — along with the show today, he also played the Outdoor Theater Friday night with Skrillex as Jack Ü, and curated the Heineken House line-up Sunday afternoon (it featured sets from Mad Decent Block Party cohorts Party Favor, Bro Safari, and Valentino Khan) — but he always seems to be having the most fun when flanked with Walshy Fire and Jillionaire. The same might be said of his crowds, as they were never more willing to go absolutely ham with the dance moves than in front of Major Lazer. Sean Paul made an appearance, and this time he remembered the words to his tune. But the real star was Danish pop vocalist MØ who helped the trio round out their show with the 2015 earworm, “Lean On.”
UK-alt rockers Wolf Alice have earned their reputation as one of the best live bands touring and Sunday afternoon as they tore through one of the better guitar sets of the weekend, they didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, not that many fans were there to catch it. Most of the crowd seemed split between seeing tropical house’s new breakout Thomas Jack and hurrying to secure a spot at Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim’s main stage show.
But a major highlight came from U.K. band The 1975, who put on a set that was completely perfect for a Sunday afternoon at Coachella: As the heat finally began to break and the sun began to slant, fans drifted in to see the rockers. Most of them danced, some fans lay down, and others performed MDMA-enhanced twirls. The foursome on stage played the Outdoor Theater just one year ago, but with their second album I Like it When you Sleep…, frontman Matt Healy is a different man — happier, dancier, and, occasionally, more thrashing than ever before.