11 Coachella highlights: Kendrick Lamar is a DAMN good headliner
Kendrick Lamar should get some good mileage out of his new album title, DAMN.., because after hearing him perform some of it as Coachella’s Sunday headliner, that’s also what festival-goers were saying about the Compton, Calif. hip-hop sensation.
The seven-time Grammy winner’s weekend-closing set further helped cement his position as a star — and a consistent and important voice during a time when he’s choosing not to remain silent about recent social and civil rights injustices. Featuring nearly 20 songs, his concert was woven together with a series of videos about one Kung Fu Kenny (played by Lamar), a character he mentions frequently on DAMN.
The 29-year-old performed at least a half-dozen tracks from that record, which dropped last Thursday, opening with the album’s “DNA.” after showing footage of Fox News anchors criticizing his protest song “Alright,” a single he performed later in the show.
Lamar got lots of love from the Indio music and arts festival crowd for new tracks “ELEMENT.,” “LUST.,” “PRIDE.,” “FEEL.,” and “HUMBLE.,” and he, in turn, gave some back in the form of “LOVE.,” which served as the encore of the roughly 75-minute set that featured appearances by Travis Scott, ScHoolboy Q, and Future (all three had their own Coachella sets this year) performing “goosebumps,” “THat Part,” and “Mask Off,” respectively. Lamar also worked in some older cuts, including “King Kunta,” “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and “m.A.A.d city.”
While fans might not have lyrics committed to memory just yet for Lamar’s fresh DAMN. releases, that didn’t stop them from becoming absorbed in the rapper’s undeniable ability to command the stage with his passion and energy. Watching his loyalists is enough to make a newcomer want in on the fandom.
Lamar is just one of the many highlights from Coachella 2017. Read on to see what — and who — else made the list.
Lady Gaga premiered “The Cure”
Mother Monster pulled through in more ways than one for Coachella 2017. In addition to stepping in for a pregnant-with-twins Beyoncé, who postponed her headlining appearance until 2018, Gaga brought a hot new song to share with the desert crowd: “The Cure,” a pop single driven by its electro-chorus.
Gaga has headlined hundreds of shows at venues ranging from the Super Bowl to dive bars, but Coachella is a different animal. Fortunately, so is she, and because of that, she knew exactly what to do to entertain fans of all genres. (Read our full recap of her Coachella set here.)
Drake, The Weeknd, and more made cameos
Drake — who brought out Madonna when he headlined Coachella in 2015 — came out for a surprise appearance at Future’s Saturday set to perform condensed versions of “Jumpman” and “Gyalchester” off his recently released More Life playlist before asking the crowd to help create a “real Coachella moment” as they sang “Fake Love” together.
Elsewhere, people stopped and looked at each other in shock when they heard Lauryn Hill sing the opening to the Fugees’ “Ready or Not” during DJ Snake’s set, where she also got the crowd hyped performing “Killing Me Softly” and 1998 solo song “Lost Ones.”
As for other surprises, the Weeknd dropped in during Canadian rapper Nav’s set to perform “Starboy” and “Party Monster,” along with the duo’s recent collaboration, “Some Way”; Gryffin welcomed Daya to the stage for “Feel Good”; and British singer Dua Lipa surprised the large and lively crowd at Dutch DJ Martin Garrix’s show to perform his single “Scared To Be Lonely.”
A$AP Rocky got the most out of his trip to the festival grounds by pulling double-duty, appearing during DJ Mura Masa’s set — where Charli XCX also stopped by — then later popping up at ScHoolboy Q’s show.
Migos were everywhere
With four surprise appearances in one weekend, it seems hip-hop trio Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset — a.k.a. Migos — are poised to see their star rise. The Atlanta-bred rappers first hit the stage with Future to perform No. 1 single “Bad and Boujee” and “T-Shirt,” later that night getting some time with both the DJ Snake and Gucci Mane crowds to perform the former.
But their weekend wasn’t done there…
DJ Khaled, in his own words, “takes Coachella”
If there’s one thing DJ Khaled knows how to do, it’s how to tease a crowd and build anticipation. Playing 15-30 seconds of a song, then pausing to remind everyone “this is just my intro” — a process that played on loop for several minutes — Khaled promised, “I got so many surprises.” So many, in fact, he said the media would be changing its tune about him and that all the new headlines would read, “DJ Khaled takes Coachella.”
Well, with some 20 minutes left in his 50-minute set, out those surprises rolled. Migos made yet another appearance, again with “Bad and Boujee,” while 2 Chainz performed a few of his own songs, including “All Me” and “Rich as F—,” a Lil Wayne track he’s featured on. Rick Ross, A$AP Ferg, Wale, Swae Lee, and French Montana all also made it to the Sahara tent stage for Khaled’s Coachella takeover.
And because you don’t have to be at Coachella to enjoy it thanks to livestreaming options on Coachella.com, social media got in on the action.
Lorde debuted “Homemade Dynamite”
Like Lady Gaga on the same stage the night before, New Zealand-born star Lorde debuted a new song, “Homemade Dynamite,” Sunday during her first performance at the fest since 2014. The preview offers another peek at the upcoming Melodrama (out June 16), which includes the already-released singles “Green Light” and “Liability.”
“I want you to give the song the biggest f—ing birthday of all time,” she asked of the Coachella crowd before playing the track.
HP and Obscura Digital introduced the Antarctic Dome
While there is intriguing artwork scattered throughout the festival grounds, one structure stands out among the others because of what’s inside: HP and Obscura Digital‘s Antarctic Dome is home to a completely unique visual art experience. Obscura, which has previously created installations on the Sydney Opera House and Empire State Building, developed this exclusively for Coachella. The nearly 8-minute 360-degree animation displays across the entirety of the dome, viewed from a seated, laidback position to maximize visibility. Combining “the pulse of the music and the flow of human movement,” according to a press release, the projected sequences “are driven by data captured from audio analysis and motion capture, setting a new bar for high fidelity immersion.”
See some video (including the full show) and photos below.
HP and Intel also put on a nightly light display with the use of 300 drones, a portion of which you can see below.
Hans Zimmer brought his orchestra (and Pharrell)
In one of the weekend’s more rousing “wow” moments, film composer Hans Zimmer and a full orchestra dazzled the Outdoor stage crowd, playing excerpts from movies he has scored — Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight — but with an added dose of caffeine.
“It takes a special kind of crazy person to bring an orchestra into the desert,” he told the crowd after opening with a snippet of the Inception score. “But it had to be done, didn’t it?”
The stirring instrumentals — Pirates was performed via cello concerto — were often accompanied by a visual show displayed on the screen behind the stage, enhancing an already special experience.
If that wasn’t enough, even Zimmer got in on the “Surprise!” game, bringing out Pharrell Williams to perform his recent single “Freedom.” “He makes the world a better place,” the Oscar-winning composer said of the singer and music producer. “This man is peace and love and freedom.”
Travis Scott was flying high
Texas-born rapper Travis Scott didn’t headline Friday night, but he might as well have for his first fest outing: The crowd at his Outdoor stage show was one of Day 1’s biggest, and the hip-hop-loving scene was ready for his show, which included the 24-year-old performing on the wings of an enormous animatronic bird perched on the stage in a nod to his upcoming Bird’s Eye View Tour.
Performing “Antidote,” “goosebumps,” “Pick Up the Phone,” and the auto-tune-heavy “Skyfall,” among many others, Scott hyped the crowd all the way. “I came for the rage, Coachella,” he proclaimed (via Billboard). “If you not tryna mosh pit … get the f— out.”
Radiohead got “Let Down” by technical difficulties
Their third time as headliners was not a charm for Radiohead: Friday night’s top act was giving fans everything they wanted and expected… until it wasn’t what they wanted or expected. The speaker fuzz and feedback came first, then, total silence. They played through the issues as long as they could before it became necessary to stop so the issue could be fixed. Ironically, the sound went out again as they played their 1997 song “Let Down.”
Francis and the Lights hypnotized
Francis and the Lights singer Francis Farewell Starlite came dressed for the occasion, telling the crowd he always wanted “a tent designed exactly the color of my jacket,” referring to his burgundy ‘80s-inspired get-up that matched the chandelier-accented covering of the Gobi tent where he performed.
When singing, Starlite’s intriguing and emotional vocals were almost hypnotizing, but it’s when he stepped away from the mic that he was the most mesmerizing, bouncing across the stage (and even into the audience — see above) with reckless abandon, possessed with an intoxicating energy that his loyal fans expected and that newcomers couldn’t help but join in on.
Weekend 2 of Coachella kicks off Friday.