I’ll admit it: I was skeptical as I walked into the Empire Polo Club for the start of Coachella Weekend 2—but a relaxed vibe and above-expectations performances led to a wonderful Friday of music.
Here are some of the things I took in:
• Just after 3 p.m., I found myself at the Coachella Stage watching Los Tucanes de Tijuana for the second time this week. The Coachella performance was much different than the one at Chella—and the Coachella crowd couldn’t seem to get enough. The band played 1994 hit “La Chona” early in the set and also at the end. “La Chona” has become a verb, of sorts, as people like to post online videos dancing to the song, and the Coachella crowd was happy to do so as well.
• Late in the afternoon, I was blown away by Calypso Rose’s set in the Gobi Tent (right). The 78-year-old calypsonian from Trinidad—she announced she’ll be 79 in two weeks—is now the oldest performer to grace the stages at Coachella. Despite falling down last week, she stood right back up as if nothing happened. She can no longer do the crazy calypso dances, but she teased the crowd a few times by pulling up her ankle length dress to her knees and moving a bit. She’s adorable … and she’s fierce. In fact, after her second song, she declared herself the “Queen of Coachella.” She also told the men in the audience to never raise a hand toward a woman, because they spent nine months in a woman’s womb, and they wouldn’t want anyone to hit their daughters—and she spoke from a place of authority, as she’s battled sexism in the calypso scene from men who were intimidated by her or felt inferior to her. It’s a wonder why more people weren’t at her set—because she is a true living legend.
• Anderson .Paak (first below) started off his early-evening set on the Coachella Stage with a blasting performance of “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” from his 2016 album, Malibu—and then was seen performing behind the drums. When I saw him perform at Coachella in 2016, I figured he was only going to become a bigger name—and he’s now a main-stage talent. He joked with the audience that the first-week jitters were gone, so he could relax—and that he was happy to see a turnout bigger than last weekend’s crowd. There were times in the set that felt like a Stevie Wonder set in the 1970s, and there were times that felt like a high-energy rap concert.
• U.S. Girls’ Meghan Remy is a bit eccentric, and the group’s headlining performance in the indoor Sonora Tent was a bit strange (second below). Performing right after punk/hardcore band The Frights was probably not easy for a psychedelic pop band—and the crowd was pretty dismal, to say the least, despite all the positive press the group has garnered over the last year. After about the third song, there was a minute of very awkward silence as Remy stared into the audience and calmly asked: “Are you out there?” The end of the performance was also strange, when she and two other band members got down on the floor of the stage, performed some strange movements, and literally crawled away to conclude the performance … something the audience wouldn’t have known if one of the band members hadn’t walked by and threw some guitar picks to the crowd while waving goodbye.
• As I waited for Lady Gaga’s headlining performance two years ago, DJ Snake’s wild DJ set—complete with a crazy light show accompanying it—offered great entertainment. On Friday, DJ Snake returned to the same stage, with almost the same scenario—playing right before the headliner. This time around, I decided to actually watch rather than just listen, and it was … let’s call it over the top. It was an absolute banger of a set that could probably be heard all the way in Palm Desert. DJ Snake went hard, and—other than an earsplitting number using high-pitched bird sounds—it was flawless.
• Childish Gambino’s intro was the same as it was last week: He started off on a platform about 25 feet off the ground that slowly lowered him down. His eyes were wide, as if he were ready for war, as he walked through the gospel choir accompanying him. After the first song, he took it down a notch, giving the audience two rules: Get down to the performance as much as possible; and put down the fucking phones and live in the moment. He saved his best and newer material for the end, after delighting the crowd with some of his lighter-hearted material.