Far away from the moshpits, wellies and port-a-loos that we have come to expect as a staple of any British festival is Coachella, the antithesis of this experience.
Being removed from the sensibility that festival is about the music and the atmosphere, Coachella has found itself as a cultural mouthpiece for artists as well as attendees. The internet finds itself inundated with an array of articles about the ‘best Coachella looks’ as well as celebrities that heavily Instagrammed in designer outfits, the same cannot be said about the best bucket hats and wellies worn to Reading an Leeds.
It is a far more visual display, as far as performances go; huge backup dance troops and enormous screens built behind every set. At times, this comes as a detriment to the music – during Vince Staples’ energetic performance the rapper was barely visible under a cloud of smoke and flashing visuals, which obscured him from view.[pullquote]The 13 band members filled the stage with a relentless energy, supported by a full orchestra[/pullquote]
Yet when done effectively, the aesthetic of a performance can add to it something unique. Eminem’s headline set was a visual delight for hip-hop fans; reuniting with Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent and performing tracks from the likes of Tupac, his set defined an era of rap music.
Beyoncé’s set, while not seeing the typically crowd pleasing set list that normally fills headline festival slots, created a narrative for Beyoncé that sees a continuation from her Lemonade album. The song ‘Lift Every Voice’, a black power anthem, going into ‘Formation’ shows the level of awareness that she looked to present in this headline set.
Even Beyoncé herself seemed swept up in it, her usually composed stature broke for a second after her intro; standing upon a yet further raised stage with a huge brass orchestra below, she broke into a small smile as even she could appreciate the volume and magnitude of her performance. Also seeing a beautifully choreographed backup dance troop, an array of star-studded guests and a reunion with Destiny’s Child, this set defined the weekend.
The breakout, self-appointed ‘boyband’ came with an energetic and more visceral sound than is typically found at Coachella. As the 13 band members filled the stage with a relentless energy, supported by a full orchestra on stage to give a truly unique live sound, they were still able to bring something political to the stage: each member wore a Kevlar vest with a slur emblazoned on the front. The band’s frontrunner Kevin Abstract sported ‘faggot’ on his, while Ameer Van donned the racial slur ‘nigger’, proving this is a band with a lot still to say.
22-year-old rapper Post Malone gave a performance like a seasoned veteran, though a more stripped back, with little visual enhancements and a limited band. He managed to fill the stage with his presence and energy, as the crowd carried him with their exceptional volume during hits like ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Go Flex’. Post needed not sing, as the crowd sang every lyric of the song back at him.