When pundits look back at next year’s 20th anniversary of Coachella, they’ll remember 2018 as the year of Beyoncé.
DJ Khaled renamed the festival “Beychella” in an announcement during her headline performance Saturday night and fans were still buzzing Sunday over the Queen Bey’s remarkable set.
Jerome Clement of Los Angeles said he didn’t come to the festival as a big Beyoncé fan. But he became one.
“Seeing her set up her performance like that, it was like a story unfolding,” he said. “It was a highlight of my year. It was like a Super Bowl performance.”
“Beyoncé was a powerhouse,” added Richae Kater of San Francisco, attending her fifth Coachella festival. “She killed it. I’ve been coming to Coachella for years and I’ve never seen a performance like that.”
Beyoncé, who talked of planning her multi-dimensional, multi-genre program for more than a year after canceling her 2017 appearance due to her pregnancy with twins, performed almost two hours with guest appearances by her sister, Solange, her husband, Jay-Z, and her original group, Destiny’s Child, right up to the 1 a.m. curfew.
But not everyone was impressed by Coachella’s first black female headliner. Riley Morrison of Helena, Montana, said she liked The Weeknd on Friday and Post Malone on Saturday, but thought Beyoncé’s set was overwhelming with its scores of singers, dancers and orchestral musicians. She said, “Her music kind of sucks” and the festival is “a little intense.”
“We’re from Montana,” she said as she traversed a polo field with a friend, “so we don’t have ,anything like this.”
Lucille Meredith of Jersey City, New Jersey added, “It was good. I’m not a huge Beyoncé fan. I came mainly for the experience. Overall, it’s what I expected – a lot better than I expected.”
Sunday’s lineup featured highly anticipated hip-hop appearances by Cardi B, the only woman to have more simultaneous top 10 singles on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart than Beyoncé, with five earlier this year, and Migos, a sensation of the 2017 Coachella with surprise guest appearances on multiple stages.
Cardi B, showing a baby bump in a bejeweled, all-white jump suit, drew a crowd that filled the Coachella Stage field like a headliner for a set that was scheduled to be just 35 minutes instead of the usual 45 to 60 minutes. She gave an apparent explanation when she said, “I got pregnant just like that!”
But it didn’t stop her from singing and moving suggestively, accompanied by more than a dozen singers, dancers, guest rappers and aerialists. She appeared to be blasting money at the crowd as she sang her new single, Money Bag, which she introduced Monday on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“Let me tell you something,” she told the huge crowd, “if God puts you somewhere, he’s the only one who can take you off.”
The evening featured competing twilight sets by the rock band, Portugal. The Man, which recently won a Grammy for their hit, Feel It Still, and Kamasi Washington, the jazz saxophonist who made a name for himself playing with Grammy Award-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar.
But the most anticipated set of the night was by the rap headliner, Eminem. At one time compared to Elvis Presley for his pioneering role as a white man in a predominantly black art form, Eminem has rejected any possible designation as a hip-hop king and was just one of many guest rappers with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the 2012 Coachella. But after Beyoncé opened her set in elaborate garb and embraced her role as an R&B queen, fans wondered if Eminem might step up in his first Coachella headlining show.
Christie Margaris of Los Angeles, who was wearing a blouse with Eminem images on it, said she didn’t think the real Marshall Mathers would be able to top Beyoncé’s production, which she said “blew us away.” But she said it would be hard to choose between her and Eminem.
“He’s been relevant for 20 years and he’s going to make it special because he doesn’t tour very often,” she said.
Art and safety
The festival opened with concern over the possible use of drones by Indio police, but drones became more of an artistic element than an oppressive security tool. The 360-degree augmented reality show in The Antarctic dome followed a drone through a vortex into other-worldly spaces, accompanied by music by the electronic duo, ODESZA – who also happened to precede Eminem on the Coachella stage.
The punk band FIDLAR (an acronym for (expletive) It Dog, Life’s A Risk), also did a song about wanting to be a drone.
FIDLAR, playing in the large Mojave tent, was an appropriate band for this last Coachella before its 20th anniversary. Singer-guitarist Elvis Kuehn and drummer Max Kuehn are the sons of the keyboard player for the pioneering Long Beach punk band T.S.O.L., which was the first band ever booked by the Goldenvoice producers.
They performed songs about their struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, such as Alcoholic and 40 Ounce On Repeat, as fans slam-danced and crowd-surfed, just as other fans have done to the music of T.S.O.L. for 40 years.
On one song, titled Bad Habits, they sing, “Oh no, I’m becoming my dad!”