Coachella is one of the first big festivals of the year and every time without fail it delivers surprises, triumphs and failures. It’s also often a sign of what to expect for the year to come in festivals. This year they reunited LCD Soundsystem and Guns ‘N Roses as the festivals headliners while EDM megastar Calvin Harris was promoted to the top spot.
While there were a handful of failures, Coachella mostly served up winner sets this year, many by artists who are yet to announce Australian tour plans. I spent Weekend Two navigating clashes to check out the best and here are the highlights that need to tour Australia ASAP.
The Sia that played the main stage at Coachella is not the same Sia we’ve ever seen tour in her home country. Apart from bagging a bunch of hits written by superstars, she’s sobered up, figured out what works for her and redesigned the way pop music can be consumed.
Her Coachella set was one of the single-most beautiful festival performances, an amalgamation of dance, music and acting that challenged what a festival set can be. Hidden behind her trademark fringe Sia delivered a powerful performance but it was the stage show going on around her that really went above and beyond.
With wonderkid Maddie Ziegler leading the performance, it was an anxious, sad and liberating display of human emotion set to a backdrop of pop hooks designed to swell the heart. Sia’s videos are amazing but the live performances added another dimension where the popstar, usually out front in lights, took a backseat and let others speak for her in spectacular fashion.
Christine & The Queens
Christine & The Queens is a French artist that released an English version of her debut album last year. She’s a kooky, gender-challenging character that is distinctively French but also has a universal appeal. She’s never toured Australia before but after Coachella it’s something we need to see very soon.
Her day one performance stuck in minds for the entirety of the weekend because it was the weirdest but also one of the most inventive and captivating. She danced expertly, giving a moving but energetic tribute to Prince and seemed like she genuinely wanted to be nowhere else but on that stage. She also brought an element of performance art to the set, carrying a bunch of flowers on stage, only to drop them one-by-one while singing “how could you be so heartless?”. It’s rare you see something this intriguing on a festival stage where you can marvel and dance while watching something completely new.
It hasn’t been too long since Dr. Dre collaborator Anderson .Paak visited Australia but he hasn’t come since the release of his formidable album Malibu and quite frankly, it just needs to happen again.
Based off his Coachella performance, it’s pretty hard to argue that Paak isn’t one of the greatest performers in the world right now. He has a voice both velvety and gravelly and a stage presence that recalls Prince, Kendrick Lamar and James Brown simultaneously. He brought Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre on during the set but his own material was more than enough to thrill. Carry Me had him drumming while freestyling about his first pair of Jordans which was one of the most skillful displays all weekend. Despite all his accomplishments recently he was stoked to be playing to a full Coachella tent and was confident but gracious the whole time.
Diplo and Skrillex have toured Australia multiple times separately but they’ve never done a full collaborative tour as Jack Ü. Their Coachella set was a throwback to dial-up internet and chunky, white computers with a stage that looked better than most all weekend.
The pair are some of the best hypemen around and while the set pulled upon a pretty unadventurous collection of electronic tracks, the energy they exuded paired with their own songs like Where Are U Now were enough to make it electric. Say what you want about DJ sets at festivals but there’s a certain art to taking crowds on a 45 minute journey through drops and euphoric choruses and Diplo has the formula down.
They were a big early contender for Splendour this year but were soon snapped up by Northern Hemisphere festivals pretty quickly. Hopefully they will find time to play another festival here because five years after their break-up the reunited crew are in fine form.
They played a groovy, rousing headline set at Coachella with frontman bringing that disheveled businessman charm to the stage. They basically left not one hit unturned moving from later classics like I Can Change to earlier cuts like the deadpan Losing My Edge. It was a no frills performance but their catalogue is so strong they didn’t need any of the bells and whistles that Sunday night headliner Calvin Harris relied on. The closing three songs Dance Yrself Clean, a cover of Bowie’s Heroes and All My Friends . Remained unbeaten all weekend.
AlunaGeorge haven’t been in the country since Listen Out in 2013 but with a new album I Remember on the way plus a bunch of Flume collaborations a return can’t be too far off.
Aluna Francis is an excellent frontwoman and she was able to command Coachella’s gigantic dance tent with ease. She moved through their collaborations with Flume, Zhu and DJ Snake but it was their own I’m In Control that resonated best. They’re bursting with energy and all their songs are off-kilter takes on the pop formula which sound just as good live as recorded.
Miike Snow took a little break in between album two and three but they’re back with a new fire that needs to spread to Australia ASAP.
Led by Andrew Wyatt they brought a set that relied heavily on their great third album iii, giving us a little more gusto live than on the record. They were backed by horns which made tracks like Paddling Out and Genghis Khan all the more thrilling while a few electronic detours during Animal made the song fresh again. Miike Snow have so many singalong worthy songs that it’s easy to get so caught up in the set that it feels as if it’s flashed by in minutes. That’s a good thing. It means they’ve been successful at writing perfect pop songs.
Gallant released his debut album Ology a few weeks ago and it shouldn’t be long until word spreads about how brilliant it is. He’s already worked with artists like Seal, Jhene Aiko and Sufjan Stevens and might just be one of the best R&B singers around right now.
His Coachella set was a vocal masterclass with his howling falsetto filling every pocket of the tent. Weight Of Gold is his hallmark song with a chorus built for the masses but it was some of the faster-moving songs like Shotgun that resonated best with the festival crowd. He’s such a striking performance that even if you hadn’t heard his name before you walked in the tent you’d find more than enough to captivate you throughout. After his set he joined Sufjan Stevens for a stirring cover of Prince’s Purple Rain further proving his ridiculous vocal chops.
Guns ‘N Roses
At this stage we have no idea whether the newly reunited rock legends will make it to Australia but if Coachella proved anything it’s that they’ve still got plenty left in the tank. Their headline set from Welcome To The Jungle to Sweet Child ‘O Mine rumbled from start to finish.
Axl Rose may not be in his prime anymore but his voice packs a severe punch, even while perched on his throne. A bunch of covers kept the singalongs going but Knockin On Heaven’s Door was the standout, a rare stripped moment in a set that was mostly at full acceleration. Rose’s new band AC/DC headlined last year but Guns ‘N Roses seemed to bring more fresh excitement. Maybe he should just ride with them for a while before jumping ship.
Alessia Cara bagged a hit this year with her anti-party anthem Here both in Australia and internationally but her album Know-It-All proves there is plenty more where that came from.
She’s from the same ilk of Taylor Swift’s good-role-model crew but she’s got more of an edge to her. Think of her as the dark, creative teen rather than the Regina George type at high scool. Her Coachella set proved exactly that. She’s got a wicked, smoky voice and pop tunes that sit somewhere between Rihanna and Jhene Aiko. She stopped the set at one point to tell girls (and guys) to stop doubting themselves when they look in the mirror but her