Twenty years ago, the inaugural Coachella festival took place in Indio, Calif., headlined by Morrissey, Beck, and Rage Against the Machine. Since then, the fest has evolved from a largely alternative rock lineup to one dominated by EDM and hip-hop. But as Coachella 2019 kicked off Friday, a true changing of the guard was felt, as festivalgoers flocked to the Sahara Tent to catch the day’s top draw, K-pop sensations BLACKPINK.
Not only was this the first full U.S. performance by the South Korean quartet, but it was the also the first-ever performance by a K-pop girl group to Coachella. It also marked the first time that any Coachella artist’s set was simultaneously broadcast in New York City’s Times Square. As the group’s slogan says, “BLACKPINK is the revolution.”
BLACKPINK — Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa — put on a spectacular show, accompanied by a full band, that lived up to the hype and pleased both the diehard fans (the Blinks) and the lookie-loos in the packed-beyond capacity tent. They powered through a breathless 13 songs during their precisely choreographed, hour-long set, including highlights like their 2017 hit originally recorded with Dua Lipa, “Kiss and Make Up,” and main rapper Jennie’s special performance of her own feisty single “Solo.” But the most epic moment no doubt came when they tore into the title track from their just-released Kill This Love EP, joined by a fleet of Rhythm Nation-style backup dancers while the adoring crowd chanted, “BLACKPINK in your area!” Suffice to say, the “Kill This Love” ladies killed this performance.
(Incidentally, speaking of BLACKPINK making history: The music video for “Kill This Love” smashed records last week, racking up 100 million views in less than three days — 56.7 million of those views within the first 24 hours — to become the biggest YouTube Premiere of all time.)
The girls seemed genuinely shocked by the turnout and response, with Rosé joking that the crowd size had to be some sort of computer-graphic trickery, some sort of optical illusion, because it couldn’t possibly be real. She also fondly told the audience, “Us coming all the way from South Korea, we didn’t know what to expect — we’re from totally different worlds. But tonight, I think we’ve learned so deeply that music brings us as one.” And Jisoo gushed, “We had so much fun. I think I’ll remember today for the rest of my life.”
The future of music may very be K-pop, but judging from Coachella, the future is definitely female. Friday’s other standout performer was dynamite Dirty Computer diva Janelle Monaé, who brought black girl magic during a supremely lovesexy main stage set that featured 10 songs and no less than five outfits — most notably Monáe’s famous vulva-shaped puffy pants for the brazen LGBTQ anthem “Pynk.” Lizzo and Tierra Whack joined Monáe and her vaginal-trousered backup dancers for a twerk-off on “I Got the Juice,” and the Electric Lady’s entire Coachella set was a thrilling celebration of black queer womanhood. “This is a pivotal moment in our history,” declared Monáe. “Let’s celebrate those who need to be celebrated, and not give a f*** about this administration!” To quote one of Monáe’s songs, “Django Jane,” she let the vagina have a monologue — and the Coachella audience was listening.
Album of the Year Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves rang in Friday’s “golden hour” with a sweet sunset set that also unified the masses. “Sometimes it feels like we live in some crazy times. …but there’s a lot of reality good people out there,” she said, flanked by a band wearing rainbow-striped accessories and capes. “Love really is this beautiful thing that nobody can take away.” And then, as if to prove that women of all ages can enjoy Coachella, for her final number, “High Horse,” Musgraves brought out 90-year-old badass Baddie Winkle, the outrageous “Instagrandma” with nearly 4 million followers who’s been “stealing ur man since 1928.” May all the youngsters at Coachella this year still have moves and fashion sense like Baddie Winkle in seven or so decades.
Another outrageous moment was when a pink-haired Jaden Smith performed his Sahara Tent set on top of a Tesla, suspended 25 feet over the stage; his sister Willow introduced his performance with a crazy aerial stunt of her own. But Jaden got serious for a moment when he offered a shoutout to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, saying, “We just lost a legendary person, an amazing man, a legendary MC, so I want to use this time here up onstage at Coachella to just say, R.I.P, Nipsey Hussle. We love you.”
Main stage acts Anderson.Paak and Childish Gambino also took time during their stunning sets to honor both Hussle and another late hip-hop star, Mac Miller. Paak dedicated his song “Dang!” to both rappers, and an emotinal Gambino told his audience, “I lost my dad this year. We lost Nipsey. We lost Mac. What I’m starting to realize is all we really have is memories.”
Gambino closed Friday in grand fashion, and from the moment he began his headlining performance with the unreleased tracks “Atavista” and “Algorythm,” it was clear that he meant business. “This is not a concert. This is church,” he barked, ordering fans to put away their phones. “If you came here to hear your favorite song, you should go home and do that. If you wanna take Instagram pictures and s***, you should move to the back now.”
Gambino — a.k.a. actor and renaissance man Donald Glover, whose mysterious new movie with Rihanna, Guava Island, appeared on YouTube’s Coachella livestream Friday night and hit Prime Video on Saturday at 12:01 a.m. — did mellow out somewhat later. “I get nervous in front of large crowds,” he confessed. “Usually I smoke [marijuana] before shows.” With that, he headed out into the audience and handed a happy concertgoer a pre-rolled spliff — before making sure the kid was over 18, and even jokingly asking for ID — and letting the fan Bogart almost the entire joint while he serenaded him.
And of course, this moment was captured on several spectators’ cell phones.
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