Highlights of Coachella 2024

05/05/2024

Ruby Thorpe (she/they) explores some standout performances from this year's Coachella festival

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Image by Paige K. Parsons

By Ruby Thorpe

Despite not going to Coachella, I avidly watched the YouTube streams from home to keep up with the stacked line up. Here are my thoughts on the headliners plus a couple other sets I watched from this year’s festival:

Lana Del Rey
As soon as Lana Del Rey entered Coachella weekend one with a motorbike procession, I knew I was in for a treat. However, some energy seemed to be missing. It might have been the massive crowds or a mistranslation over the stream, but she seemed tentative throughout her performance. Despite this, she did put on a show with a gothic stage set and a setlist that demonstrated the breadth of her discography, really bringing something for everyone.

Many of her biggest songs had very different instrumentation like ‘Summertime Sadness’ and ‘Ride’ which took away from the impact of the originals. This did work in the case of ‘West Coast’ and ‘Born to Die’ where the changes translated well for a festival performance. Weekend one saw her bring out Billie Eilish to perform ‘Ocean Eyes’ and ‘Video Games’ which was such a treat; meanwhile for weekend two, Del Rey was joined by Camilla Cabello. She performed her new hyper pop song ‘I LUV IT’ which seemed like an odd choice when sandwiched between two very maudlin songs.

The highlights of the set included the beautiful incorporations of a choir into the outro of ‘The Grants’, ‘Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’ and ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’. Certainly, the acoustic and piano half of the set was so much better as she grew in confidence and allowed her talent to shine through. I am looking forward to seeing her at Reading Festival this year.

Tyler, the Creator
A stark contrast to Lana Del Rey, Tyler, the Creator brought an immense amount of energy to the stage by beginning his set by flying in and bursting through the side of a caravan. The crowd made the set so much better by knowing every word and being as excited as Tyler for him to be headlining. The variation of his music was truly showcased here with a contrast between ‘BEST INTEREST’, which is incredibly danceable and ‘POTATO SALAD’ which is more rap heavy. Tyler truly packed as much as he could into his set by shortening ‘She’, ‘Tron Cat’, ‘Yonkers’ and ‘Tamale’ as well as some more deep cuts like ‘Odd Toddlers’ which has not been played since 2013 to really bring out songs from throughout his career.

He also brought out many guests, which made the performance very special with Kali Uchis joining for ‘See You Again’, Charlie Wilson during ‘EARFQUAKE’ and A$AP Rocky for ‘Who Dat Boy’. However, the stand out appearance was Donald Glover’s first live performance since 2019 during ‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME’ and his subsequent hints at a world tour and new music.

‘NEW MAGIC WAND’ was a brilliant closer and even 90 minutes after the set began, the atmosphere was electric. This song really exemplifies Tyler, the Creator as a musician and the artistic flair he has as he was seen walking up walls during the bridge before being flown off stage. The fact you can tell that Tyler put his all into the performance made it stand out to me as his enthusiasm was so infectious. This was one of my favourite sets of the weekend and was the perfect pick to headline this year.

Doja Cat
Doja Cat shone through as the closer for the weekend; she has one of my favourite openings to a set with ‘Sutcho’, featuring The Joy, before launching into ‘Demons’. There were so many highlights to the set with seamless choreography, quick costume changes and perfected verses that left me speechless. The energy never ended either as she delivered hit after hit with ‘Tia Tamara’, ‘Streets’, ‘Attention’ and ‘Gun’. The quality of the instrumentation and extra touches added to the set to link songs really demonstrate how much thought was put into this performance.

This Coachella seems to be one for many guest appearances with 21 Savage, Teezo Touchdown and A$AP Rocky being brought out once more for ‘n.h.i.e’, ‘MASC’ and ‘URRRGE!!!!!!!!!!’. In my opinion, I think this made the set more rounded as the only place of improvement would be including more songs from my favourite album of hers, Planet Her, however there was a feature of ‘Need to Know’ on the set in weekend two.

She ended her set with ‘Wet Vagina’ which saw her and her backup dancers going out with a bang while dancing on the b-stage which was covered in mud. Every song had its own concept and showcased Doja’s immense talent with such a polished performance. Although maybe not a family friendly show, Doja Cat is an absolute powerhouse of a performer and is the perfect example of a Coachella headliner, maybe explaining why tickets are so expensive. You could tell that she really put her all into the set and I wish I was seeing her on her UK tour this year.

Other artists' sets to check out:

Faye Webster
Anticipating my Webster show in May, I could not have been more excited to watch this set, especially with the live debut of songs from her new album, Underdressed at the Symphony, that was released this March. If there is one thing that Webster does, it’s staying consistent with the quality of the music – I have always preferred a gig with a fully live band. I expected her to play more of her well known songs, but she chose to showcase her new tracks such as ‘He Loves Me Yeah!’ and ‘Wanna Quit All the time’ which are two of my favourites. She also brought out her childhood best friend, Lil Yachty, on weekend two to sing their song ‘Lego Ring’, creating such a warm atmosphere throughout the tent.

As a fan of Faye Webster since 2020, much of her discography is very unappreciated with the crowds only knowing a few songs. However, if you want to explore further into her work and move on from ‘Kingston’ and ‘Right Side of My Neck’, this set is the best place to begin.

Chappell Roan
Chappell Roan’s recent rise in the charts left her with two fully packed tents for both weekends of Coachella. The crowd could be heard singing along with her, creating an electric atmosphere that I could not find at many other sets this year. Roan fully deserved this with the show that she put on during weekend two which saw her dress as a sparklingly pink butterfly, inspired by Lady Miss Kier. With breath-taking vocals and a jam-packed set list from her 2023 album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess and her new track ‘Good Luck, Babe!’ this is not a set to miss. After telling the audience “I’m your favourite artists’ favourite artist. I’m your dream girl’s, dream girl” she rightfully crowned herself this Coachella’s Queen of Queer Pop.

Sabrina Carpenter
The highlight of her set was the debut of her new single ‘Espresso’ which had everyone singing along. Opening for Taylor Swift really gave her some well deserved recognition and I am still left wondering how she manages to dance so well in her platform heels.

The Japanese House
Weekend one saw a whole host of technical difficulties for Amber Bain, however, she still managed to put on a show. With my current favourite album of 2023, In the End it Always Does is always gorgeous when performed live with ‘Friends’ and ‘Touching Yourself’ being my songs of the summer in 2024.

Reneé Rapp
Bringing out the cast of ‘the L Word’ to introduce you on stage will always be iconic. Featuring an appearance from Ke$ha to sing ‘Tik Tok’ is even more so, but this does not overshadow Renee Rapp’s effortless vocal range which she displayed over her 45 minute set. Definitely another one to check out for all the pop lovers.

Bleachers
The reign of Jack Antonoff is never ending with his work with Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Olivia Rodrigo, Florence and the Machine and Clairo slowly shaping pop music today. Bleachers, however, bring something a little different to the table. If you like Being Funny in a Foreign Language by the 1975 (also produced by Jack Antonoff) definitely give this set a watch.

No Doubt
Reunited for their first performance in a decade, No Doubt really put on a high energy set which was full of fun. They brought out Olivia Rodrigo to sing ‘Bathwater’ and included some big hits such as ‘Just A Girl’ and ‘Hey Baby’.

Suki Waterhouse
Even after giving birth less than a month before weekend one, she gave a gorgeous performance with perfect vocals, making both her and her music absolutely lovable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first time watching this year’s Coachella and if you made the most of it, it might even be worth the $500 minimum for a ticket. The line up was completely full of talent with the likes of Blur, Deftones, Peggy Gou, The Last Dinner Party, RAYE and Jungle but my favourite sets overall were Faye Webster and Tyler, the Creator. I think they both brought their best to the festival and really made an impact, setting the bar high for all performers.