See the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival through the eyes of The Desert Sun’s visual journalists, who captured Coachella’s performers, festival-goers and art installations throughout Weekend 1.
Brian Indrelunas/The Desert Sun
And yes, “DAMN.” is the title of Kendrick Lamar’s first proper album since “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which hit the streets the day Coachella 2017 Weekend 1 started, allowing Lamar to go into weekend as the headlining artist now trending on Twitter.
But also damn, as in he really crushed it at Coachella.
Lamar was in total command of the stage before he even hit the stage, setting the scene with the first of three truly ridiculous yet oddly entertaining “Kung-Fu Kenny” videos.
Then, he set off some explosions.
And when the smoke cleared, there he was, alone on stage, rapping “DNA.,” the first of seven songs he performed from the just-released “DAMN.” with fiery conviction.
New music, crowd-pleasing hits
It was a bold move, putting the focus squarely on an album people only had at most two days to wrap their head around before he hit the stage. But judging from the crowd reaction, that was all the time most people needed.
After a second new song, “Element,” he reminisced about his last time at Coachella when “good kid, Maad city” was his current effort as an introduction to “King Kunta,” a crowd-pleasing highlight of “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
Then he dusted off two tracks from last year’s “untitled,” an album of “Butterfly” outtakes that felt like what it was, a holding pattern by a artist whose outtakes would go over well in a festival setting.
That three-song journey through his recent past by the set’s first walk-on, Travis Scott on a heavily Auto-Tuned “Goosebumps.”
Special guests slow flow
Before the set was through, we also heard from Schoolboy Q with “That Part” and Future doing “Mask Off.”
Special guests have become a Coachella tradition, and they can be pretty amazing, like when Lauryn Hill joined DJ Snake or Michael McDonald jammed with Thundercat. The most talked-about drop-in of 2017 was almost certainly Drake showed up in Future’s set.
But those were actual surprises.
These three rappers had already played the night before Lamar, so it was only so surprising that they’d stick around to share the spotlight with the next day’s headliner.
And as good as they were, they just distracted from the flow of the performance. Not enough to kill the vibe of what Lamar was doing but enough to make you wonder why.
Between the guest spots and the new material, that left time for a handful of the songs that helped establish Lamar as the critical darling most likely to speak to the masses – “Backseat Freestyle” (which featured a snippet of “Swimming Pools (Drank);” “B****, Don’t Kill My Vibe;” “Money Trees;” “m.A.A.d. city” and “Alright.”
If Future’s set on that same stage the night before felt like the weekend’s hottest hip-hop party, Sunday with Lamar felt like the coronation of a star who’s rapidly become the most ambitious hip-hop star of any real commercial consequence since Kanye West.
Kendrick Lamar setlist
Untitled 07 | 2014-2016
Untitled 02 | 06.23.2014
Goosebumps (Travis Scott)
Backseat Freestyle (with snippet of Swimming Pools (Drank))
B****, Don’t Kill My Vibe
That Part (Schoolboy Q)
Mask Off (Future)
That one New Order song was great
I suppose it’s inevitable at a festival as massive as Coachella that someone has to deal with going up against the headliner. Friday, it was Mr. Carmack. Or Radiohead. I know; tough call. But Sunday’s choice seemed especially cruel.
Post-punk legends New Order went on at 10:20, which by the time they screened a lengthy video of people diving, meant I got to see one song in the Mojave tent before racing across the field in time to catch that Kung-Fu Kenny video.
And this is while Justice, a French EDM act whose fans would almost certainly have liked the electronic dance side of New Order’s legacy, were blasting their beats through the side of the tent from the stage of the Outdoor Theatre while playing to a massive crowd.
But “Singularity,” a driving post-punk highlight of “Music Complete,” an album New Order released in 2015, sounded great. And I hear the set closed with an encore of two Joy Division songs (“Love Will Tear Us Apart,” of course, being the final song) after making its way through such New Order classics as “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “True Faith,” “Blue Monday” and “Temptation.”
Like Saturday, Sunday at the Outdoor Theatre concluded with an EDM act playing to a large, receptive crowd of dancers. This time, it was French electro duo Justice, who sounded as vital as ever a decade down the road from that attention-grabbing debut album that gave the world “D.A.N.C.E.,” which they dispensed with early in the set, after setting the tone with “Safe and Sound.” With the cross from the cover of that release on stage behind them, they also reached back to “Cross” for such classics as “Genesis,” “Phantom” and “Stress.”
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