The Best possible, The Mess And The Relaxation: Coachella 2024

Lana Del Rey Welcomes Billie Eilish At Coachella
Lana Del Rey Welcomes Billie Eilish At Coachella

The 2024 edition of the Coachella festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, Ca., may not have felt quite as buzzy and hyped as in years past, but there was a wealth of great music on offer no matter where you turned. No Doubt and Sublime reunited, Taylor Swift partied with Ice Spice, Olivia Rodrigo, Childish Gambino, Will Smith, Billie Eilish and A$AP Rocky all made surprise appearances during their friends’ sets and, thankfully, the weather topped out in the tolerable low 90s. Here’s the best, the mess and the rest of what we saw on the grounds this year.

No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal exchange a smile at Coachella (photo: Ashley Osborn)

The Best:

No Doubt – Thanks to years of acrimony, the prospects of a No Doubt reunion have seemed grim for sometime. As such, all eyes were on their unexpected return to the stage on April 13 for the first time since 2015. Thankfully, the 80-minute set was triumphant, covering most of Gwen Stefani and company’s biggest hits and even a rarity or two (“Total Hate ’95,” “Different People”). For good measure, they brought out surprise guest Olivia Rodrigo to join them on “Bathwater” — the kind of feel-good, multi-generational moment for which Coachella has long been known. Throughout, candid moments from No Doubt’s video archive were projected behind them, leaving one to wonder if Coachella will be their grand sign-off. If so, they did so in style. – Daniel Kohn

More from Spin:

Sublime – Though slightly less heralded than their Stefani-led Southern California ’90s ska/pop running mates, Sublime was another major storyline heading into Coachella, as the group was performing their first major show with late frontman Bradley Nowell’s son Jakob on vocals (technically, it was their first gig under the Sublime name in 28 years). At times, Nowell, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh almost resembled athletes coming out with too much energy and then overcompensating to reel it back in, but the audience didn’t seem to mind. Dusting off “Romeo,” a song not heard the band’s backyard party days in Long Beach, was a pleasant surprise, and by the time they closed with “Santeria,” it is easy to see why Wilson and Gaugh wanted the charismatic younger Nowell to follow in his father’s footsteps. – DK

French Electronica – If you walked by the Outdoor Theater on April 12 during the resurrection of Justice, how are your eyes? No one would be surprised if they melted out of your skull, leaked down your cheeks and mixed with happy tears while you just stood there screaming “wow.” In their first performance since 2018, the Grammy-winning Parisian duo debuted a massive stage production that was so bright and powerful, it might have woken the aliens of the next inhabitable star. It was an incomprehensible array of moving fixtures, flashing strobes, glittering LED screens and bright spotlights, and it fit beautifully with the band’s emotional and aggressive mix of tunes, which included a handful of IDs from the forthcoming album Hyperdrama. That same stage became a vortex of darkness 24 hours later as fellow Frenchman Gesaffelstein made his own live stage return. Building off the Vantablack-drenched persona he sported at his last Coachella set in 2019, he stood between two erupting shards of black crystal, holding court in a glittering black suit and a hard-black mask, staring into the crowd with glowing eyes. He mixed the new wave goth-tinged tracks of his latest release, Gamma, with the hard-hitting industrial hip-hop of his past, pummeling the massive crowd with unforgiving noise. It was two days of light and dark in perfect symmetry, as only the French can do. – Kat Bein

Justice at Coachella 2024 (photo: Julian Bajsel)

Tyler, The Creator – Main stage performances at Coachella have become an art in themselves. You’ve got to have an expensive and eye-catching stage production, a host of A-list cameos and special guests, a huge blast of fireworks and enough chutzpah to hold the attention of some 50,000 exhausted festival-goers who can see the screens of at least three or four other stages in their direct periphery. These top slot sets make and break legends, and on April 13, Tyler, the Creator proved he can still break the mold. His performance felt simultaneously larger than life and incredibly intimate, working seamlessly between raucous renditions of his biggest hits and quiet moments of heartfelt honesty. Sometimes that meant pausing the show to catch his breath, or telling everyone who ever made fun of him for saying “I’m going to headline Coachella one day” to an expletive-laden kiss-off. Like a madman, he worked the ‘campground in a giant canyon’ stage while drinking from a Thermos and eating a sandwich during “IFHY,” brought out friends and inspirations Donald Glover, A$AP Rocky, Charlie Wilson and Kali Uchis and then told the audience how much he used to hate Donald Glover and A$AP Rocky, because life is funny that way. It was inspiring and impactful, and more than a little bit of fun. Plus, he exited the stage flying through the air, as if carried off a cliff by the wind. That’s how ya do it. – KB

Quasar Stage – Coachella welcomed a brand new stage during weekend one, and it certainly made an impression. The Quasar stage, named for the highly luminous objects at the center of galaxies, looms just left of the iconic Ferris Wheel. In the daylight, it’s pretty neat, but after the sun goes down, its cutting-edge LED screens can be truly appreciated, turning the stage in a brightly burning beacon of house music beats luring passersby toward a hypnotizing sense of nirvana. It’s a bit unnerving, like you’re approaching a sacrificial temple and might never make it back. That sort of “we’ve got you now” energy seems inherent to the concept, because the stage only hosted two acts in a single day — giving DJs a chance to perform marathon-style sets that speak more to club culture than the usual festival fare. Simply stated, Quasar is for the heads. – KB

The Mess:

Grimes – What’s the easiest way to tell when a DJ is actually mixing live? When something goes wrong, of course. By now, you may have seen the clip of Grimes losing her shit and cussing on the mic at Coachella’s Sahara tent. She was performing a DJ set Saturday evening, but soon found a bunch of her tracks set to double their original BPM. After telling the audience she “wasn’t good enough at math” to fix the issue, she eventually cut her set short, walking off mid-song. She later apologized to fans online, saying she let someone else organize her USB. You know what would have helped avoid this whole disaster? If Grimes would just stop trying to be a DJ and go back to being Grimes. – KB

The Underwhelming Undernarrative – The mumbling began as soon as Coachella announced its 2024 lineup. Despite a No Doubt reunion, a new stage, some Grammy-winning headliners and the rest, the big talk this year was that it was kind of a dud. In practice, it was honestly a lot of fun. We had a good time, but after 23 years of constant expansion and ceaseless one-upping energy, it does beg the question: can Coachella go anywhere from here? It used to be a festival with a distinct identity, bringing the cutting edge of alternative music to a grand stage in the desert. That soon transformed into a pop culture spectacle affording a giant platform to acts across genres, where up-and-comers are placed under a bright spotlight while the biggest names on the Billboard charts have a chance to pull off their craziest stunts. Now the audience is trained for it, and they’ve got no patience for anything typical. Happy faces become bitter hoards just because they can, and when the unexpected becomes not just expected but demanded, where else can one go but crashing back down to Earth? – KB

Blur – Sandwiched between Sublime and No Doubt, Blur returned to Coachella for the first time in 11 years. The set was fine by their standards but the vibe was not, and singer Damon Albarn clearly noticed. Trying to lead the crowd in a singalong of “Girls & Boys,” he snapped at the lack of energy,”You’ll never see us again, so you might as well fucking sing it.” – DK

Billie Eilish (in blue jersey) parties with friends at the Do Lab

The Rest:

Billie Eilish – When the news leaked that Eilish was going to hit the Do Lab’s dance music-oriented stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, no one really understood why or how. Is she a DJ now? Apparently not. The recent Oscar-winner did indeed appear at Do Lab, but it seems she wasn’t really behind the decks so much as she was enjoying a good time and taking the opportunity to debut a new song from her upcoming album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT . It was honestly hard to tell what was going on and it still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but go on girl, have fun. – KB

People Watching – Is Coachella the “Influencer Olympics?” Yes, and who cares? Do you know how hard it is to make 90,000-plus people happy? That’s nearly impossible, but as we walked the dusty expanse, practically all we saw were giant and sloppy smiles plastered across sun-kissed faces for three days and nights. From couples kissing under the bright lights to friends dancing to long-loved songs, kids and their parents sharing in the magic of Deftones or the Rose, and this one guy absolutely living to Victoria Monet in a tank that read “I’m not the girl next door, I’m the crazy bitch down the road,” everyone seemed to be having a darn good time, and that sort of joy catches. Yes, every time you walk by the installations, you’re going to come upon an Instagram boyfriend and a wanna-be model photo shoot, but perhaps if you squint, you’ll realize that parade of peacocks is in itself the main art installation. Coachella is a grand spectacle, and you are in fact the grandest spectacle of them all. – KB

The Schedule – In years past, Coachella’s gates would open before noon and music could be heard emanating from most of the stages as the crowd ambled in. Strangely, the programming for main Coachella Stage and Outdoor Theater didn’t start until 5 p.m., leaving a giant gap for early attendees. Truthfully, a lot of folks don’t arrive until around that time of day, but those who showed up earlier missed those “I remember when” moments of seeing a favorite act in front of a manageable crowd. – DK

Sublime’s Jakob Nowell surveys the Coachella crowd (photo: Q. Tucker)

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