The Six Best Coachella 2019 Sets, Ranked
If you weren't crying during Maggie Rogers' set, you were in the minority.
After two weekends and dozens and dozens of sets, Coachella has finally wrapped up for another year.
And as we mentioned in our review yesterday, if you’ve always assumed that Coachella was an Instagram-first, music-second kind of festival, you’re deeply mistaken. The festival is a career high point for most artists around the globe, and they’ll go the extra mile to make sure the performances they deliver are memorable.
We’ve wrapped up six of the best below, dive in.
#6. Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish’s Coachella set was always going to be big. She’s coming off one of the biggest debuts in recent years with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and she’s been selling out shows across the globe (including Australia, where she’ll arrive very, very soon.)
Her performance on Weekend One was marred by a slew of technical difficulties, but last Saturday night was thankfully free of hiccups. Opening with the guttural funk of ‘Bad Guy’, she bounded and thrashed her way across the stage, the hectic winds whipping her long hair across her face.
The crowd was immense — stretching back nearly 100 metres from the stage — and they didn’t stop screaming for the full hour, with every movement from the singer prompting a fresh wave of screams.
“I promise you if I could stay up on this stage for the rest of my life I would. Forever,” she told the crowd towards the end of the set, visibly moved. “I feel like I’m not here. Like this isn’t real.”
#5. King Princess
“I forgot some of the words there,” Mikaela Straus told the crowd after wrapping up her recent single ‘Pussy Is God’. “I’m really stoned, I’m not going to lie.”
Forgetfulness aside, King Princess’ early Friday afternoon set was rock solid, attracting a bumper crowd in the Mojave tent (including producer Mark Ronson, who stood snapping photos like a proud dad while wearing some KP merch.)
She quickly tore through all the tracks on 2018 EP Make My Bed – the set highlight was the thumping ‘Talia’ – and premiered some tracks from her upcoming debut album, due out later in the year.
She bid farewell by wishing everyone a happy 4/20 for the following day: “The real shit is yet to come,” she joked. “I brought my bong.”
“What the fuck is happening in there?”, an over-awed punter remarked as they stood outside the Mojave tent on Friday.
“I don’t know, but it looks weird as fuck,” their friend replied.
It was definitely weird as fuck, and utterly brilliant; SOPHIE’s Friday night set was a masterclass in performance. Dressed in a long black dress and latex gloves, she stood frozen behind her decks for the full hour, the only perceptible movement being her hands lightly moving over the controls.
The highlight? Having her twist ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ into ‘Is It Cold In The Water’ as the closer.
It might have bewildered the casual punter, but for the devoted…this was the best it got.
After tech issues derailed her set last weekend, Lizzo wasn’t going to let anything screw with her this time around. And with her critically acclaimed new album Cuz I Love You having dropped just a couple of days earlier, there was an additional layer of hype coursing through the crowd.
“Welcome to the church of self love,” she proclaimed, before working her way through her laundry list of hits like ‘Tempo’, ‘Good As Hell’, and ‘Soulmate’. She gave a nod to a few of her heroes as well, throwing in slivers of Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls’, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’, and TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’.
The only slip up came right at the end, when she appeared to miss a cue during the opening bars of single ‘Juice’. “I’m not letting it fuck up my set again,” she told the crowd, before cutting the music entirely and singing the rest of the track a cappella.
She crushed it, of course.
#2. Maggie Rogers
You got the feeling while watching Maggie Rogers’ Saturday night set at the Gobi tent that you were witnessing something truly special — a ‘moment’ in music that would be talked about for years to come.
Perhaps it was the fact that you couldn’t get within 30 metres of the outside of the tent, such was the size of the crowd. Or perhaps it was the two-minute applause at the end of each track that threatened to carry Rogers’ set into overtime. Or perhaps it was the sight of people standing, awestruck, with tears openly streaming down their faces, during heady tracks like ‘Light On’ and ‘Fallingwater’.
Or perhaps it was just Rogers herself, whose on-stage presence is both powerful and gentle — and whose vocals could blow barnacles off the rocks.
“Let that be something that gives you permission to dance a little harder, to sing a little louder,” she said, encouraging the crowd to cling onto these fleeting and precious moments. “All of this only matters if you let it, so let it in.”
#1. Janelle Monáe
Until recently, there was always the sense that Janelle Monáe was keeping the public at arms length. Her early releases utilised her alter ego Cindi Mayweather – a messianic android who rules over a fictional world called Metropolis. It was a sumptuous concept, but there was a wish that one day, Monáe would dismantle her robotic surroundings and reveal herself. With Dirty Computer, she did just that.
The record is a stunning and proud examination of queerness, blackness, and womanhood in the modern age, and it shot Monáe to a new level of superstardom.
Her Friday night main stage appearance was a sheer triumph: featuring multiple costume changes (she even donned her own merch, a power move if there ever was one), and silhouetted dance breaks that recalled Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.
Single ‘Make Me Feel’ was a highlight, with Monáe appearing at the top of a white pyramid surrounded by dancers, in a recreation of the song’s now-iconic video. And then there was ‘PYNK’, complete with the famous vagina pants.
Towards the end, she remarked to the crowd how momentous it was to have a queer black woman on Coachella’s main stage, and she thanked her counterpart Beyoncé for leading the way for black women.
“And one last thing,” she added. “Impeach Trump.”
Jules LeFevre is Junkee’s Music Editor. She travelled as a guest of Warner Music Australia. Follow her on Twitter.
All photos via Coachella Facebook