Each weekend of Coachella comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Weekend 1, of course, offers that first-taste excitement, rife with surprises, spectacle, parties, run-ins, and ye olde bragging rights (and this year, a short-lived window of what briefly felt like pre-COVID normalcy). But it’s also overrun with influencers and industry ilk — not everyone’s bag — and there are inevitable logistical kinks still being worked out.
Weekend 2 is for the heads. What it might lack in novelty sheen and clout (or add to anxiety with rising COVID cases), it makes up for with a generally smoother operational flow, warmed up artists, and a crowd that cares more about seeing than being seen. Plus, you get to reap all the pro-tips and recommendations from folks who came the weekend before to make the most out of your time (wink wink).
KCRW’s intrepid music staff ventured into the 125,000-person crowd of the polo fields last weekend to hand pick Coachella’s can’t-miss musical offerings and gather some key dos and donts for surviving and thriving at the megafest’s great return.
Spiritualized (5:40, Sonora)
Easter was last weekend, but plan on going to church with this one. Heavenly sonic conjurer Jason Pierce, a.k.a. Spiritualized, is back with a magnificent new album “Everything Was Beautiful,” and this release day set in the intimate confines of the Sonora will be one for the books (and worth lining up early for). Expect no fewer than nine people on stage, including a chorus of backup singers and at least three guitars, as Pierce and co. veer from the contemplative to the ecstatic to the chaotic with a famously stirring, explosive live performance to give you your weekend dose of transcendence. — Andrea Domanick
City Girls (6 p.m., Sahara)
This is lowkey the party event of the weekend. The Miami duo carry the torch for the Magic City’s rich lineage of twerk-worthy booty bass, established most prominently by 2 Live Crew. There will undoubtedly be asses shaking across the stage, throughout the crowd, and into the polo field when JT and Yung Miami go on to get things turnt up. No need to check your watch when it’s time for the twerkulator. — Travis Holcombe
IDLES (6:45, Mojave)
Hit up this set from electrifying UK punks IDLES for a gut punch of everything you’ve missed most about live shows: Battery-charged stage antics, rhythms you feel in your teeth, shout-along choruses with fellow fans, and fists pumped in defiant joy as an act of resistance. Anthems like “Danny Nedelko,” named for a Ukrainian immigrant, are true songs for the people, spiritual palliatives that will leave you recharged to keep fighting upon return to the real world. — Andrea Domanick
The Avalanches (9:25, Gobi)
It’s strictly good vibes only on this blissful dancefloor conjured by legendary Australian sample gods The Avalanches. Smooth, swaying grooves and effervescent melodies make for a warm bath of sound in which to rechristen yourself for the weekend of dancing in crowds ahead. The duo’s workup of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” was a particularly triumphant high point, triggering smiles and a moment of shared presence reminding us all that we made it, we’re here. — Andrea Domanick
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (12 a.m., Outdoor)
After Tame Impala took a turn for pop, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have taken up the mantle of the greatest (Aussie) psychedelic rock band in the world. They’re not just limited to psych rock, either. On “Infest the Rats' Nest,” the prolific King Gizz dove into thrash metal territory, and on 2021’s, “Butterly 3000,” they toyed with indie pop. With the band releasing its 20th(!) album in 12 years — and second this year alone — today, you never really know what you’re going to get, but guaranteed to be a face-melting good time. — Travis Holcombe
L’Imperatrice (3:45, Gobi)
For the past 25 years, nobody has done disco better than the French. From Daft Punk, to Justice, to Polo & Pan, and now to L’Imperatrice, the French just know how to make disco sound good and prove over and over again that le “French Touch” is real.
The cool thing that sets L’Imperatrice apart is they’re a live band with something like six people onstage making indie pop-adjacent disco tunes that make you feel like all's right with the world (as you very well should when you’re lost in a disco groove). — Travis Holcombe
Turnstile (7 p.m., Mojave)
I’ve admittedly never gotten that into Turnstile’s music, but you don’t have to to be totally floored by this performance. Leave genre and preconceptions at the door and prepare to get conscripted as the band schools you with a deep understanding of why their live shows have earned a cult-like following. — Andrea Domanick
Disclosure (7:10 p.m., Outdoor)
If Coachella has an unofficial house band, it’s Disclosure. I first saw the (then-unknown) brothers Lawrence at the (then-tiny) Gobi tent up against the Chili Peppers in 2013, and from the first track knew it would be the last time they’d be on a stage that small. Their subsequent rise has mirrored that of the festival’s, and having seen them every time since, I planned on catching them for just a song or two out of nostalgia on the way to dinner. We stayed the whole time. The first drops of “White Noise” hit like a clarion call to a lost tribe, assembling tens of thousands of fans to revel in the sunset, each other, a live brass band on stage, and why we loved them in the first place. — Andrea Domanick
Molchat Doma (9:15, Sonora)
Molchat Doma hails from the embattled Republic of Belarus, but serves as a welcome reminder that a country’s government doesn’t speak for its people, offering support of Ukraine in social media posts and calling their country’s fealty to Vladimir Putin a disgrace.
Nor does said government speak for its people’s music. Molchat Doma’s “Sudno (Boris Ryzhy)” became a huge viral hit in 2019, and I am dying to see how hard that song will go off when they start playing it in the desert. If you’re a fan of dark wave post punk, you will want to be there. — Travis Holcombe
Stromae (10:45 p.m., Outdoor)
Stromae, who stopped by MBE this week, delivered one of my top four favorite Coachella performances of all time in 2015. I’m not even a huge fan of Stromae’s music, if I’m being honest, and I’m not even totally sure what he’s singing about most of the time, but I’m telling you, Stromae excels at every facet of putting on a killer live performance. There’s a style and grace to his live setup that’s hard to pin down, and feels closer to a cool opera than something you’d normally see at a music festival. — Travis Holcombe
Hot Chip (10:50 p.m., Mojave)
The thing to understand about dance icons Hot Chip is that they’re a band, and low key (high key) one of the best doing it live. Since breaking out in the early ‘00s, they’ve come to embody the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethos, releasing muscular album after muscular album exploring all facets of electronic sound. Not only does this translate to a tight, well-oiled machine on stage, but it’s hard to imagine a group of lads who have more fun doing it. Their Coachella set sees them serving up hit after hit, and leaning into live instrumentation more than ever (Alexis Taylor, as it turns out, can absolutely shred). With a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and a new psychedelic, Devo-esque track on the docket — plus the just-released single “Down” — expect big things in store from their forthcoming album “Freakout/Release.” — Andrea Domanick
Yola (2:55, Outdoor)
I’m pretty sure the first night I discovered “Faraway Look,” I listened to it no less than 25 times. I was transfixed. So much power, so much soul that I can’t even imagine what it must be like to see her perform that song live, but I’ll be there in the front row, ready to absorb Yola’s thunderous voice with an arm primed for goosebumps. — Travis Holcombe
Viagra Boys (4:20, Sonora)
When it comes to these Swedish synth-punks, you’re either a crazed fan, or you think everything about them is juvenile and stupid — at least, that’s been my experience with the listener feedback on the most polarizing band that I play on my show.
I have been an unabashed fan since the first time I heard “Sports.” My one and only time seeing them live was at the Echo in 2019, where they made the floor bounce to such a degree that I actually felt a tinge of panic that we might all fall into the Echoplex in a pile of rubble and gleefully chaotic punk joy. True to form, their Sunday afternoon performance at Coachella was my favorite set of the weekend, across all stages. They debuted a new song (see above) and played with an intensity and swagger that got the mosh pits on both sides of me stirring on several occasions. — Travis Holcombe
Michael Bibi (7 p.m., Yuma)
I don’t need to tell you to go see Fatboy Slim at 8:30 p.m. in the Yuma. Obviously go do that. But I’d be remiss to not share the hack of heading there the set before to check out UK dance fixture Michael Bibi. Not only will you avoid the nightmarish line and scramble for Fatboy, but you’ll get a simmering, delicious set of Bibi’s tech house to writhe to while making eyes at strangers in the shadows, or cooling off with a drink in the tent’s clutch indoor bar. — Andrea Domanick
- Wear a mask: Masks, they do a lot more than just protect you from COVID! The grounds of the Indio Polo Fields are really beautiful and well-manicured. The parking lot is decidedly not. With all the dust being kicked up by feet and tires, I was glad I had my N95 on hand for those long treks from and to the parking lot. It also came in handy on Saturday night when the winds started blowing through the festival, keeping me from turning me into an allergified, sneezing mess. I'd definitely recommend having a mask or some kind of lower face covering handy to limit inhaling nostrils full of dirt every day. — Travis Holcombe
- Get there early: OK, we’re all a little rusty. It’s easy to forget that between traffic, security lines, and traversing the absolutely massive festival grounds, actually arriving at Coachella and getting your bearings takes longer than you think. Being late to that afternoon set you wanted to catch is a bad vibe to start the day. Pull up early (2-3 p.m. is a nice pre-traffic sweet spot) for time to explore the grounds, sip a drink in the shade, and maybe even discover your new favorite artist. — Andrea Domanick
- Hydrate like heck (bonus edition): Always have a bottle of water that you’re sipping from. You might not be thirsty, but that arid desert air will suck you dry if you’re not constantly hydrating. Water is $2 and you can save the bottle and fill up for free at the hydration stations set up around the festival. For maximum effect, hit up a Vons or RiteAid on the way and grab a box of Pedialyte Sport powder packets — your sore muscles will thank you for the electrolyte boost throughout the day, and especially the morning after. — Travis Holcombe + Andrea Domanick
- The DoLab: The DoLab is pure, an unchanged bastion of the Coachella of yore that feels just as at-home and underground at the festival today. Hit it up for a shaded, outdoor breather from the crush of the main tents, featuring a delightfully chill crowd, live painting, anything-goes dancing, and the blessing of the water mist gun on stage. Oh, and not to mention a masterfully booked lineup of some of the finest international DJs in the game. Pick a set and you can’t go wrong. — Andrea Domanick
- Play Coachella Bingo: Stuck in traffic? Overwhelmed? Chanel your return-to-festival anxiety into a bingo card with your squad. My squares included: “Couple crying and yelling,” “Someone dropping all their food,” “Throwing up, no help,” and “Someone from the cast of ‘Modern Family’” (is baby Lily of Coachella age now!?). Make your own here. — Anna Chang
- Check out some fabulous LA-based artists on frequent rotation here at KCRW: Omar Apollo, Baby Keem, the Marias, Cuco, and Chanel Tres all delivered knockout sets. — Anna Chang
- Get your untz untz on: Contrary to my usual preference for live bands at Coachella, the electronic acts really shined this year. From Floating Points’ technoey, lyricless grooves to Disclosure's banger-after-banger set, to Jamie XXs live footage of dancers in the crowd filtered through an x-ray effect, the visceral experience of live electronic music hit different after two years away. Get sweaty and “find dancing” at Fred Again and then close out your Sunday with the liberating collaboration between Honey Dijon and The Blessed Madonna. You’ll end the weekend on an extremely high note. — Anna Chang
- Check out the Sonora: The Sonora tent was my go-to spot throughout Weekend 1. Not only is it centrally located, never too crowded, temperature controlled, and furnished with couches and bean bags, but it was consistently the best curated stage. Amyl & The Sniffers, Ela Minus, black midi, Altin Gün, Molchat Doma, and Skeggs all threw down excellent sets there, but my favorite show of the entire weekend across all stages was Viagra Boys' Sunday afternoon performance. — Travis Holcombe
- Attempt to meet your friends “at the third speaker on the right” or any vague meeting spot. There quite literally could be 300 people in any given area – and when the lights go down, it’s nearly impossible to find each other. Instead try the “jungle gym”, this year’s main art structure in the middle of the grounds, ten minutes before a set starts. Walk over together. And remember, if you don’t end up finding your friends, just let go and enjoy the set with the comfort of knowing everyone else is doing the exact same thing. —Anna Chang
- Sleep on the Gobi and Mojave stages (located right next to each other). This year they were serving up all the tasty treats, back to back. In fact, should your legs get wobbly at any point, you wouldn’t go wrong simply floating between the two… —Anna Chang
- Throw away your lemonade cup. The cute little lemonade stands stationed everywhere charge $13 per drink. Apparently, it’s so steep because the festival charges the vendors $7 per cup! That’s precious refillable gold right there. —Anna Chang
- Forget to layer up! As cute as your booty shorts and bikini top look during the day, it’ll come back to haunt you at night, especially when the winds kick in. The desert does tend to drop temp at night, but this year it felt particularly chilly. Pro hack: If you don’t want to deal with carrying a bag or getting a locker, turn your extra garb in to the lost and found at the start of the day and come “find” it when the sun goes down. —Andrea Domanick +Anna Chang
- Fret about missing acts you wanted to see, because between the heat, transportation delays, conflicting set times, and there being only one of you. Compromise is inevitable and par for the course. Stick with your crew, welcome spontaneity, and enjoy the ride. —Anna Chang