Coachella is still the best place to discover music that you otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t. For example: on Friday, the first day of this year’s festival, the handful of hip-hop acts that I saw were mostly by accident (as the hip-hop editor, I would normally prioritize those, right?). But on my editor’s recommendation – and as a function of most of the rap acts being booked at the far-flung Sahara tent – I spent as much time taking in pop and indie acts as I did rappers (a random sighting of Tyler The Creator at Faye Webster notwithstanding).

From the headliner, Lana Del Rey, to artists I had little to no experience with (hi, Chappell Roan!), my experience was younger, more melodic, and hey, let’s face it, whiter than in past years – though still surprisingly diverse. For what it’s worth, Sabrina Carpenter’s late afternoon set brought a level of storytelling that made her unfamiliar music that much easier to engage with.

Philip Cosores

And sets like that of The Beths’ certainly did remind me of adolescent Saturdays spent watching The Adventures Of Pete And Pete on Nickelodeon, while the Deftones kicked me all the way back to my mid-’90s skate rat days. I could feel my nostalgia for that era peaking along with my anticipation for more of that feeling at future sets from No Doubt and Sublime (Beach til I die, y’all).

Philip Cosores

Crowd-wise, you would probably be forgiven for thinking Beyoncé was giving a reprise of her memorable 2018 Beychella performance with all the country-western paraphernalia permeating the crowd. Cowboy hats and boots adorned just about every combination of ‘chella ensembles you could imagine – and a few that left almost nothing to the imagination. Those looks eventually gave way to “baked potato chic” thanks to the insane high winds as the sun fell and folks opted for the warmth of thermal foil blankets over trying to maintain the cute of cutoff shorts and mesh dresses.

Chappell Roan
Philip Cosores

Of course, there was still plenty of my usual wheelhouse to check out. Lil Uzi Vert took to the big stage like a duck to water, complete with a headset mic like mid-’80s Madonna. They put it to good use with some crowd-pleasing voguing, and while it would have been nice to see a little more world building from Uzi‘s set, they pushed the boundaries of what future rappers could do with the big stage and proved worthy of the primetime set by sheer crowd draw alone; the field in front of the stage was so empty at first, that my editor and I actually remarked on it. Three songs later I couldn’t move more than a couple of inches in any direction. Let that be a lesson to Coachella’s bookers…hip-hop is still a huge draw at the festival, even when it seems absent.

Lil Uzi Vert
Philip Cosores

The trick to finding it this year was broadening horizons and checking for other cultures. Young Miko, a Puerto Rican rapper brought a surprising update to the traditional New York boom-bap sound, while Bizarrap found tons of space in his EDM-centric set for Latin trap and remixes of Travis Scott classics (and a surprise Shakira appearance). My Spanish isn’t as good as it should be for someone born and raised in Los Angeles county but even if I couldn’t catch every bar, I definitely caught a vibe – and so did the overflowing crowds at both sets.

Shakira and Bizarrap
Philip Cosores

Meanwhile, the award for “Most Dramatic Set” undoubtedly goes to Peso Pluma, who enraptured social media with a seemingly incongruous combination of traditional Banda music and hip-hop-influenced dancing. Bookended by verbal interludes by MORGAN FREAKING FREEMAN, Peso illuminated an oft-overlooked and misunderstood cultural artifact. What is more hip-hop than that?

Peso Pluma
Philip Cosores

However, if there was a runner-up on that category, I’d be more than happy to give it to Lana Del Rey for pulling up through the crowd on the back of a motorcycle at the head of a line of bikers who rolled in to the sounds of her unreleased song “Jealous Girl” (which is still somehow a hit). She even went all-out with a hologram of herself that ruffled a few unlikely feathers.

Lana Del Rey
Philip Cosores

A lot has been made of whether or not Coachella has fallen off in recent years (it’s a circular discussion, one we’ve heard for the past decade). Friday proved that there’s still plenty of road ahead – and that the festival is still the best place to discover your new favorite music, as long as you keep an open mind.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

Posted in: Pop