Aside from airline passengers triumphantly removing their masks mid-flight, perhaps no moment has signified the “end” of the COVID-19 pandemic (in America, anyway) than the return of Coachella this April. As one of the first cultural casualties of lockdown in 2020, the annual music and arts festival in Indio, CA suffered its fair share of losses in the three years between stints at the Empire Polo Club.
Gone were all three of the originally scheduled headliners from 2020: Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean and Travis Scott—the latter due, in part, to a disastrous showing at his Astroworld Festival in Houston that led to multiple fan deaths.
Absent, too, were a slew of flashy undercards, from Calvin Harris, Thom Yorke and Lana Del Rey, to FKA twigs, Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Nas X. Not to mention Ye’s late departure, after initially being announced as a headliner for the 2022 edition.
But those changes, however unfortunate, opened up ample opportunity for other artists to shine. Without a second RATM reunion at Coachella, Harry Styles struck out in his own direction in front of thousands of pop-happy fans on the main stage, while those still seeking angsty, heavy-metal vibes got their fill from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at the Outdoor Theatre. The likes of Mannequin Pussy, Amyl and the Sniffers, The Regrettes, Idles, and Turnstile also did their part to keep rock alive by way of live guitar.
Harry Styles & Shania Twain – “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” – Live At Coachella 2022
For those who flocked to the desert for hip hop, Big Sean’s virtuoso performance at the Sahara stage—complete with trippy backdrops off shape-shifting neighborhoods and scenes from his past in Detroit, as well as a guest appearance from long-time friend and fellow Michigander Mike Posner—more than made up for whatever Travis Scott and Ye might’ve brought to the table.
And that’s to say nothing of BROCKHAMPTON’s final performance or 21 Savage closing out Sahara on Saturday, much less Baby Keem bringing out Kendrick Lamar on that very stage or Run The Jewels bringing the noise and the funk as they always do.
Run The Jewels – “Oh La La” – Live At Coachella 2022
Indeed, the art of the cameo—for which Coachella has become so notorious—was alive and well. Emo Nite took full advantage of that, elevating their 2000s-themed LA club night to the world’s marquee music festival with guest appearances from Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, Hellogoodbye’s Forrest Kline, 3OH!3 and Tom Higgenson of the Plain White T’s.
Emo Nite followed in a long and storied tradition of Southern California acts coming of age on a Coachella stage, and was hardly the only one to do so this year. Chicano Batman brought LA’s Latin psych-rock to bear in San Bernardino County. Beyond Kendrick, Compton came on strong, thanks to Steve Lacy’s scintillating Saturday set as well as Vince Staples joining Flume’s main-stage performance one day and centering himself at Sahara the next. Doja Cat became the latest “Valley girl” to bring her 818-born act to Coachella—with a star-making set on the main stage, no less.
Chicano Batman – “Magma” – Live At Coachella 2022
Flume Ft. Caroline Polachek – “Sirens” – Live At Coachella 2022
Doja Cat – “Woman” – Live At Coachella 2022
Billie Eilish and her brother, FINNEAS—both LA natives—hardly needed the shine of Coachella to validate their own meteoric rises, on their own and in tandem. Nonetheless, Billie bringing out Paramore’s Hayley Williams helped her bridge the divide between Millenials and Gen Z.
Billie Eilish – “OverHeated” – Live At Coachella 2022
FINNEAS – “Naked” – Live At Coachella 2022
What Coachella does better than any festival (this side of Glastonbury, anyway) is draw the world’s panoply of music to a single destination. This year’s edition was certainly no exception. From K-pop and Australian rock to British beats by way of Hot Chip and Jamie XX, from Canada’s Carly Rae Jepsen to the brilliant all-around performance of Belgian-Rwandan singer-rapper Stromae, no corner of the globe went untouched.
Jamie XX – “idontknow” – Live At Coachella 2022
Stromae – “Invaincu” – Live At Coachella 2022
And if any did, Swedish House Mafia did their part to fill in the gaps, with The Weeknd in support, to close out the festival.
Truth be told, Coachella was no worse for wear after three years away. The polo fields brimmed with as much beauty and sparkled with as much light and energy as ever before. The ferris wheel spun, the tower of color gleamed, the DoLab bounced and the palm trees swayed through picture-perfect weather during Weekend 2.
What changed, more than anything—even the lineup—was the attitude of gratitude that everyone brought to bear on this year’s edition. If ever Coachella’s fans, faithful, artists, and organizers had taken this mega-festival for granted, the absences from 2020 and 2021 had surely filled all hearts involved with an appreciation for the grand wonderland that has been borne out of what used to be a quaint oasis of sound and spirit.