Coachella 2019 – All The Best Moments

The rains in the previous months brought a wealth of greenery, exceeding the usual spring freshness in the Coachella Valley. Fortunately, the rains were nowhere to be found in the 20th incarnation of the nation’s premiere music festival.

This year was a turning point for Coachella. Goldenvoice in previous years has managed to stage reunions of notable acts, bringing them to the stage for the first time in years. Previous headliners were lions in the rock pantheon. This year, however, was the culmination of a trend seen over the last several Coachellas: a greater emphasis on acts skewing to a younger audience. That meant more electronic, more rap, more hip hop. The diversity also embraced more women and acts outside the so-called mainstream.

King Princess delivered a great set, leveraging an oversized lounge chair (reminiscent of Lily Tomlin’s big rocking chair). “This is Gaychella and I moved in!” declared lead singerMikaela Straus. She had myriad fans singing along, and her tight band was in good form. Her bassist held down the rhythm section, and was even afforded a solo segment in a 70s throw back. King Princess introduced her “1950” as the song where it all began. The poignant lyrics were very personal and heartfelt.

Meanwhile on the Coachella (main) stage Mon Laferte’s sultry delivery was augmented by the three piece horn section. The sun began creeping toward the horizon, and her intoxicating Latin lyrics were compelling, proving why she is Chile’s favorite export.

Kacey Musgraves luxuriated in the Golden Hour, which she acknowledged by name shortly after taking the stage. Of course, that is also the name of her latest album. Her band, clad in brown workmanlike jumpsuits, gave her a solid framework for exploring her semi-cosmic Americana stylings. “Butterflies” was rendered with a telling introspection. As if in church, she asked everyone to high five the person next to them. Once that was done, she asked everyone to raise both middle fingers, something definitely not seen in most churches. Several tracks from her current album (itself stimulated with an LSD trip) peppered Musgrave’s setlist, with a slippery steel guitar being especially evocative.

A shirtless Mac Demarco evoked Joe Cocker. Both singer’s curly hair and off kilter dancing elicit chuckles, but Demarco has a smoother delivery. His reference to “Pearl Jam is up next” revealed he knew his history. In its previous incarnation on the polo fields that became Coachella, the area was the site of a gig by Pearl Jam; the band wanted to mount a gig independent of the big promoters.

Anderson Paak brought out a yellow clad group of musicians and ripped through a set of thick funk. He moved from behind the drum set after the first track and moved center stage. The sun set and he removed his shades for many of his raps.

Rufus du Sol leveraged a stellar light show, but the trio Khruangbin explored complex polyrhythms on the Gobi stage. With riffs reminiscent of Tinariwen, the songs ebbed and flowed. The guitar sonics shifted between spacey structures like David Gilmour’s and mid-Eastern trilling pioneered by Dick Dale. The bubbles floating in the air were matched by the champagne flutes on the amplifiers.

Janelle Monáe (Robinson) delivered a stunningly sharp set. The costumes, set and choreography were as angular as some of the Prince-like guitar work. Monáe’s confident dance work gets better and better, likewise for her witty raps. Some of the attire was reminiscent of the military motifs seen in shows by Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Her references to influences ranging from Electric Lady to her vagina certainly exuded confidence.

Emily King gave a heartfelt performance on the Gobi stage. With an RnB sound (and logo) that evoked Prince, her band also added a dollop of funk.

Coachella is known for limiting its third party branding, so it keeps a tight rein on activations. Absolut made the cut, and attracted a bunch of folks to its cool tent. Tastings of vodka and selfies were the attraction. As the first beverage in a can at Coachella, Cupcake Vineyards launched their Rosé and  Sauvignon Blanc in a lightweight and easy-to-chill 375ml format. Clearly, ice and beverages are an ideal combination in the desert.

As to the art on offer, back for a welcome return was the roving Spaceman, the mammoth friendly astronaut roved the grounds as if it were a lunar landscape. Also back was the Spectra Tower, a compelling installation that evolved as the daylight shifted into evening.

But my favorite visual souvenir from my last ten Coachellas remains the balloons on strings. Such a great thing.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.