The best and worst of Coachella 2018: A recap of 'Beychella' from someone who didn't see Beyoncé

Over the years, Coachella has grown from a niche festival with rock roots into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. At no time was that more apparent than Saturday night, when Beyoncé delivered on the hype that’d been building for more than a year and performed an instant classic of a headlining set. “Beychella” attracted thousands of eyeballs through online streams in addition to the roughly 100,000 attendees packing Coachella’s main stage as all other performances came to a halt.

But I wasn’t there to see it. That’s right -- I attended Coachella for the sixth time this past weekend and didn’t go to what was perhaps the most anticipated set to ever take place at the festival, even when there weren’t any other alternatives on the Polo Grounds. And I don’t regret it.

I can already hear the BeyHive swarming to tell me how I missed out on the experience of a lifetime -- and I don’t exactly disagree. It seems like it was amazing, and Beyoncé deserves the respect of anyone who considers themselves a music fan. But I have my reasons, which will be revealed below in a recap of the best and worst moments of my sixth trip to Indio, California, for a Coachella that will be remembered for marking a historic shift in the festival’s culture.

 

Related: See the best pictures from Coachella

 

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Day 1

Staying in a house roughly two miles from the campgrounds in Indio (as my group did) can be a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, you don’t have to travel nearly as far to the Polo Grounds as the many people who stay in Palm Springs about 45 minutes away. Unfortunately, it also makes you feel a bit confined to the surrounding area, away from most of the pre- and post-parties.

My girlfriend and I had the option of attending Goldenvoice’s Day Club PS pre-party at the Hilton Palm Springs each day, but with it mandating at least a 90-minute round trip, we elected to get ready for the festivities with friends in the comfort of our Airbnb. We’d end up making up for that laziness later on in the weekend.

Highlights: After a surprisingly breezy process to enter the Polo Grounds around 3:30 (this wouldn’t be the case every day), we bop around and check out the new layout implemented by Goldenvoice this year. The Sahara tent is now directly next to the entrance and oriented so that it’s wider than it is long, with the option to enter at any location. This is a vast improvement on trying to squeeze yourself through one of several crowded openings alongside sweaty college kids and the rest of the rave crowd, as was necessary in years past. It also makes more sense to have the Sahara between the Yuma tent and Do LaB, the other two stages focused primarily on dance music.

The first show we check out is Greta Van Fleet, a Michigan rock group that’s been exhaustively compared to Led Zeppelin and was even invited to play at Elton John’s famous pre-Oscars party this year. From watching this set, you wouldn’t know that rock’s influence at Coachella has waned -- the Mojave tent was filled to the brim with fans of all ages. Led by frontman Josh Kiszka and his uncanny vocal resemblance to Robert Plant (it took no more than 10 minutes before I overheard the Zeppelin comparison from an awed Generation X fan), Greta Van Fleet fed off that energy and seemed motivated to make classic rock fans out of a new generation.

Jamiroquai drew a tough set time against headliner The Weeknd in the British funk act’s first U.S. show since 2005, but nevertheless played to a jam-packed Mojave tent. And he didn’t disappoint, providing fans with perhaps the most unexpected surprise guest of the weekend in Snoop Dogg. The Doggfather was mostly inaudible as he smoked a blunt and mumbled his way through a revised version of “Gin and Juice,” but his presence was a thrill all the same. The true highlight of the performance was “Canned Heat,” the jubilant 1999 disco tune given a second life after it was featured in the 2004 indie film “Napoleon Dynamite.”

But the most innovative performance of the evening undoubtedly belonged to 69-year-old electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, who’s finally embarking on his first U.S. tour after roughly four decades of revolutionizing how synthesizers are used in music. Coachella founder Paul Tollett hyped Jarre’s show as this year’s version of Hans Zimmer’s universally praised set from 2017, and specially updated the Outdoor stage for it by installing three huge screens for the Frenchman’s famous LED light show.

Different versions of that spectacle have attracted more than 1 million people to Jarre’s shows on several occasions, setting the Guinness World Record several times over. However, there weren’t even 1,000 people present as his set kicked off at 10:30. The pull of SZA at the main stage, as well as fellow dance music figures Soulwax and Alison Wonderland, proved too strong for many Coachella goers. It was certainly the smallest crowd I’d witnessed at the beginning of an Outdoor stage set in six years at Coachella.

But Jarre’s showmanship wowed those who did show up. He played a “laser harp” that featured five vertical lines of colored light, which beautifully distorted when he played them to create different sounds. And in a moment made for virality, he devoted a couple minutes to a short video message from Edward Snowden about the importance of online privacy, imploring the crowd, “If you aren’t going to stand up for it, who will?" It’s unfortunate his message didn’t directly reach a bigger audience, but everyone in attendance will likely spread the gospel of Jarre for him.

Related: The best sets from Coachella 2018

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Best performances at Coachella 2018

Jamiroquai

The UK funk act drew a massive crowd in the Mojave tent for their first US concert since 2005 — no small feat, since they played opposite Friday headliner The Weeknd — and didn’t disappoint, bringing out Snoop Dogg for a revised version of “Gin and Juice” before running through hits such as crowd favorite “Canned Heat” and “Cosmic Girl."

(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Coachella)

Greta Van Fleet

Don’t tell these guys that rock doesn’t have a place at Coachella anymore — Greta Van Fleet filled every inch of the Mojave tent on Friday. The Michigan quartet has been dubbed the modern successors to Led Zeppelin, in part thanks to how frontman Josh Kiszka’s voice has an uncanny resemblance to Robert Plant’s. But Kiszka’s bandmates showed they too have the chops to make classic rock fans out of a new generation.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )
St. Vincent

St. Vincent leader Annie Clarke shredded throughout her magnificent Friday night set, highlighted by back-to-back renditions of “Los Ageless” and “New York” from last year’s Masseducation album, cementing her status as a bona fide rock star. 

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

Jean-Michel Jarre

A very sparsely attended set as it kicked off, the French electronic music pioneer’s intricate laser show and progressive synthesizers quickly drew a bigger audience at the Outdoor Stage. Never one to shy away from political statements, he devoted a couple minutes to a short message from Edward Snowden about the importance of online privacy, imploring the crowd, “If you aren’t going to stand up for it, who will?"

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Vince Staples

The Long Beach native took over the main stage — or in his words, the “white people” stage — as the sun set on Friday night for an electrifying performance that featured perhaps the most notable special guest of the weekend in Kendrick Lamar. His visual setup, segmenting the three screens behind him into more than 50 miniature ones to display different images, was also one of the most entrancing ones of the weekend.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

Soulwax

This Belgian trio has been active since 1995, but they seem perfectly made for the current phase of electronic music where live instrumentation is all the rage. Their live setup gave listeners a thrilling mix of rock and dance music to provide an energetic segue into Friday night’s headliners. 

(Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)

The Weeknd

Three years after he let surprise guest Kanye West take over his set for a solid chunk of time, Abel Tesfaye kept the main stage all to himself this time for his Friday night headlining set. The talented singer put on an emotional performance that brought himself to tears and oscillated between contemporary hits such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” and fan favorites from his earlier EPs that preceded his rise to superstardom. 

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

Moon Boots

Moon Boots’ melodic yet throbbing selections from behind the decks stood out among the many DJs populating the Yuma Tent, an air-conditioned haven that serves as the de facto warehouse party venue of Coachella. 

Credit: Instagram/@moonbootsmusic

Nile Rodgers & CHIC

Rodgers, a legendary musician who’s helmed albums for David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk and more, showcased the absurd depth of his production catalogue alongside his disco group CHIC. Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and Diana Ross’ “I'm Coming Out” had the audience grooving, as did CHIC’s own hits “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” Their slowed-down, piano-driven take on “Get Lucky” — which Rodgers wrote about his battle with cancer — was a beautiful, poignant moment amid a dance-heavy set that proved to be an ideal main stage opener for Day 2.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

FISHER

This Australian former pro surfer turned DJ had the Do LaB at its wildest on Saturday afternoon with 75 minutes of riotous house selections, including his breakout singles “Stop It” and “Crowd Control."

Credit: Instagram/@followthefishtv

HAIM

The three Haim sisters effused awe at being tasked with playing on the main stage directly before Beyonce at the festival they grew up attending as fans, then proved they deserved that lofty billing with a shimmering performance as imagery of their native San Fernando Valley glistened on the giant screens behind them. This year might’ve marked the first year Coachella didn’t feature a rock headliner, but it’s not hard to imagine this trio eventually returning to fill that role.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

Maceo Plex

A techno stalwart, Maceo Plex delivered a rare live performance from the Gobi Stage on Saturday night to satisfy festival goers who were pining for a grimy, minimalistic electronic set rarely seen outside of the festival’s Yuma tent.

Credit: Instagram/@maceoplex

Beyonce

The pop queen delivered a performance for the ages during her only scheduled live show in 2018, with some critics declaring it to be the best Coachella has ever seen. From Destiny’s Child reuniting to the stunning choreography and tribute to HBCU marching bands, Beyonce put on a spectacle that even had the notoriously mellow Coachella crowd ready to join the BeyHive. 

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

David Byrne

The 65-year-old showed off impressively synchronized choreography with his live band and had the Outdoor Stage bouncing with the tracks that sprung him to stardom in “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down The House.” It was as close to a Talking Heads reunion as anyone could hope for.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

ZHU

Electronic producer ZHU pulled the biggest crowd of the six surprise performers at the Do LaB stage throughout the weekend, and he kept every last person dancing on Saturday night with a techno-heavy set that included his standout tracks “In The Morning” and “Dreams.” 

Credit: Instagram/@Zhu

Fleet Foxes

Like many guitar-driven acts these days at Coachella, this folky band from Seattle didn’t draw much of a crowd to their nighttime set at the Outdoor Stage. But their warm sound and relentlessly positive stage presence made the Polo Grounds seem like an intimate venue, not an outsized one.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

Yaeji

The Korean producer/rapper might’ve seemed like an odd fit for the dance-heavy Yuma tent, but she showcased her DJ chops and expertly mixed in the throbbing beats at the heart of her innovative tracks, which proved to be club-ready in the dark confines of the Yuma. 

Photo credit: Instagram/@kraejiyaeji

Alt-J

British rock group Alt-J came out of the gates firing at the Outdoor Stage on Saturday night with energetic tracks such as “Deadcrush” and “Fitzpleasure” and didn’t let up from there, ensuring their fans would stay throughout their third Coachella appearance — even if it meant missing the beginning of Beyonce. 

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Brockhampton

The 14-man rap collective that’s branded themselves as “The internet’s first boy band” enthralled the packed Mojave tent with a high-energy set featuring songs such as “GUMMY” from their first three albums, all of which were released in 2017. Each member wore a black police vest adorned with a different identifying word, ranging from “Fiend” and “Maestro” to more controversial terms such as “N*****” and “F*****” — presumably an attempt to reclaim the expletives thrust upon them over the years.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella )

Cardi B

Rap’s newest breakout superstar paid homage to late TLC front woman Lisa Lopes with her giant pigtails -- and to her pole-dancing past by employing nearly a dozen voluptuous women who performed acrobatic moves on a monkey bar-like structure. Chance the Rapper, YG and G-Eazy all dropped in to perform their features on Cardi’s new album “Invasion of Privacy,” and a crowd-pleasing twerk from the pregnant tour de force showed she can still get down, even with a bun in the oven. 

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella)

ODESZA

The two-man electronic act warmed up the main stage crowd for Eminem on Sunday by providing a visually striking show -- complete with a drone fleet used to form a painting in the sky -- that perfectly aligned with their atmospheric sound. They didn’t bring on USC’s marching band as they did three years ago in the Gobi tent, but a dozen drummers lined up across the front of the stage for several songs and provided extra depth to a performance that already would have been quite the spectacle.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

Kamasi Washington

Washington, whose profile rose after providing saxophone for Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Kill A Butterfly,” proved the Coachella crowd knows how to appreciate modern jazz by drawing a healthy crowd to the Outdoor Stage for a graceful performance that was the perfect vibe for Sunday evening.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella)

Eminem

The final show of the weekend sent fans home on a high note, as Eminem exhibited the same airtight flow that helped skyrocket him to the top of the rap game nearly 20 years ago. Nate Dogg stayed by his side throughout nearly the entire show and essentially served as his MC, while 50 Cent, Skylar Grey and Dr. Dre each stepped out and shared the spotlight with Slim Shady for a few songs. 

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)
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Lowlights: There really wasn’t too much to complain about music-wise on Day 1. Perfume Genius didn’t seem too appreciative of his relatively small audience at the Gobi stage, and stormed off in a huff as soon as he sang his final note at 10:20 pm. But he still displayed his commanding stage presence and didn’t experience any hiccups that I saw.

My girlfriend and I also left the Do LaB minutes after arriving there at 9:15 p.m. for a surprise guest, who turned out to be R.L. Grime. But that was more about us growing old and not being able to handle bouncy trap music than any shortcoming on the DJ’s part.

What was easily the worst aspect of Day 1 was the disastrous process of exiting the Polo Grounds. Anyone taking an Uber (the exclusive rideshare sponsor of Coachella) had to walk through a winding path that took nearly an hour to traverse out of the campgrounds. Most of that time was spent in a rectangular area that couldn’t have been more than 30 yards across on either side, but only featured one way out in a corner that bottlenecked into a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare.

Once we finally escaped that calamity, we made our way to the Uber line and were told by workers that it was a 2+ hour wait. My group was rather lucky as our house was located about 2 miles from the festival, so we decided to walk. But with one of our friends suffering debilitating back spasms (she was eventually spotted limping by a covert rideshare driver and offered a lift home after we got far enough from the gridlock traffic), we didn’t return to our Airbnb until 3:30 a.m. after the final act had ended at 1 a.m. It was an awful experience that shaped how we approached each night’s final hours differently for the rest of the weekend.

 

Day 2

Highlights: After meeting up with friends to pregame at their campsite -- and avoiding the Uber gridlock by enlisting a Lyft to take us to an unofficial drop-off zone -- we entered the festival a little after 4:00 pm to see former surfer turned DJ Fisher at the Do LaB. When he dropped his breakout singles “Stop It” and “Crowd Control,” it was easily the wildest we’d see that area party all weekend. In fact, Fisher was so obviously popular that Goldenvoice changed the Weekend 2 schedule and decided to book him to play the Yuma tent on Friday, forcing two other DJs (B. Traits and HITO) to share their time on the decks.

Canadian group Alvvays graced the Mojave stage with a shimmering indie-pop display. Lead singer Molly Rankin’s haunting yet delicate voice mixes perfectly with the band’s dreamy sound, with singles that match the aesthetic of the 1960s (“Marry Me, Archie”), the 1980s (“Dreams Tonite”) and today (“In Undertow”). Alvvays were sadly cut off during their last song after taking the stage 15 minutes late due to apparent audio issues, but they still managed to play all their hits and justify their surprisingly late set time.

The final set of Day 2 we witnessed on the Polo Grounds was ZHU’s surprise appearance at the Do LaB. Though Fisher might’ve elicited most energetic crowd there earlier in the day, ZHU attracted the most people to the independently-booked stage and threw down engrossing remixes of his own cuts ("Faded," “Working For It,” “Dreams”) and other intense techno tracks. It was personally my favorite set of the weekend, but it likely came as a surprise to those expecting more laid-back offerings. But, hey -- it's Saturday night at Coachella!

Related: See all the stars who went to Coachella this year

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Stars at Coachella 2018
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Stars at Coachella 2018
my ladies for life
Early Riser 🧠
#yeezyseason7
pre-cardi lunchin 🌭🍋🌵
When you’re 5’1” and Beyoncé comes on
Chiltas got her daisy dukes on today with @wrangler @wrangler_europe #summerofwrangler
I’m not a regular mom I’m a cool mom
the 60s started it. #chella18
@shaniatwain is so dope in real life. @theweeknd @frenchmontana @nav @belly @dude_br0
“I could buy designer but this @FashionNova fit” 🎶
Meanwhile at #Coachella (📷: Getty Images)
📀📀📀 Had so much fun celebrating the announcement of my friend @itsjeremyscott’s @moschino collaboration with @hm this weekend in the desert !! 🌈🌵📀🚨🚧 captured by our epic friend @ronyalwin 📸
Reckless 🌴@FashionNova #ad
Such a lovely day with @RachelZoe & all these beautiful, talented & inspiring women. 👯‍♀️👯‍♀️👯‍♀️👯‍♀️ #GirlBoss Baes
Coachella Main Stage. 8.45.
She’s back ⚡️
Coachella moments
Yes boots or no boots? Throwing an after party for Chella let’s goooo @ffrecords
Celebrating @houseofharlow1960 x @urbandecaycosmetics collaboration in the desert 🌞🌵🌈
Fav @gretavanfleet
COACHELLA BABY. TWO OF MY FAVORITE PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. @coltonlhaynes @ameliagray 🦋
Celebrating my beautiful, fashionable friend @RachelZoe at #Coachella. 🌴👯‍♀️🌴
About last night 🍔 🍟 ❤️ @revolve #revolvefestival @grlfrnd_denim @maneaddicts
cotton candy cream kylighter ... 💕
the wind you guys, is this necessary?
💚 @revolve #REVOLVEfestival #REVOLVEambassador
Coachella Day 3: currently driving back to LA so here’s a pic of @nickviall being awkward
#BarbieTingz #ChunLi
Day 2️⃣ get into the groove ✴️🔆🌅⭐️✨ #festival
came thru drippin’
They don’t make a sound
Another magical night in a Moroccan oasis under the desert sky all wearing @shoprachelzoe #ZOEasis2018 #coachella🌴☀️ #livingthedream 💫✨xoRZ
Rita Chelita 😍
☀️ Fun day with @sinfulcolors_official @ultabeauty #SCVanessa #OmbreAllDay ❤️ #ad
it ain’t nothin
me... right now🕺🏻🕺🏻🕺🏻🕺🏻 @revolve #revolvefestival @grlfrnd_denim @caraasantana
Boo thang on a Sunday 😍
💚
The Jar has arrived. I love these ppl too much. #coachella2018
Windy chella I’m coming!
Happy lady because it’s my FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR!! 🌞🌵🌻🌴 lets go 5th year in a row! #coachella
👾
🖤
this is not my outfit
Find your own version of a turn up #coachella 🌵🌞👯
#revolvefestival
These are some good times ...✌️🎡🎶 @omega #OMEGATresor #omegamychoice
Backstage ‘Nannigans!!
MY GIRLS!!!! Tonight couldn’t have been more magical!!! ❤️ #Coachella2018 #BeyChella 📸: @ravieb
denim blue 🆗
all smiles today with @levis
Day bathing 😍🐶
when u finna run outta hangers.
drag.
Hat swap - ok they’re both his! @jamiroquaihq it was a pleasure 😊
Coachella Day 2: awkwardly pushing the limits of fashion
“I’m ready to be home” Necklaces: @itsirisjewelry thanks @rebeccalaurastyle for putting me on
Skylark Tylark
#MoodAF ✨🔥🦋🔥✨
Finding flowers and never letting go. #faux #freezing lol
The stars align ... ⭐️🌈⭐️🌈⭐️🌈⭐️
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Which finally brings us to Queen Bey. My girlfriend and I entertained the idea of watching her Coachella coronation after ZHU, but decided against it for a few reasons.

The first was an intriguing alternative, even though it wasn’t at the main event. Framework rented out the HITS Desert Horse Park to host an indoor-outdoor post-party featuring DJs Maceo Plex, Pachanga Boys and Jackmaster that lasted until 4 a.m. Neither my girlfriend nor I had ever attended a Coachella afterparty, and Maceo Plex had unleashed her favorite set on Day 1.

Related: Coachella Weekend 1 party roundup

The second was the sheer magnitude of the #BeyHive. By the time we finished watching ZHU, an innumerable mass of people was stacked up in front of the Coachella stage, with the main viewing area, the beer garden and the VIP zone all seemingly near capacity. Watching a show at the main stage from the back of the pack isn’t exactly ideal.

The third and perhaps most significant reason is that my favorite part of Coachella has never been to see the headliners on the main stage amid a sea of people. Those shows have disappointed (Outkast, LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead in 2017, Calvin Harris) more often than they’ve lived up to the hype (Arcade Fire, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg). Instead, I crave a more intimate experience that I can share with just a few friends, like a cherished secret.

You can find the fourth and final justification in the Lowlights section of Day 1. If we stayed through Beyoncè, we’d have to compete with an even more intimidating mass of people to find our way home.

Instead, we waltzed our way through an eerily empty campground before a Lyft picked us up in the same informal zone we’d entered Coachella earlier that day. We made it shortly after midnight to Framework, where the decorations made it seem like we’d entered a warehouse party with the theme of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Long, spider-like legs and Slinkies descended from the ceiling while dark figures shifted around rhythmically on the dancefloor and red lights hung up on the walls flickered to the beat.

With no desert dust inside, we were able to rest our lungs and dance our hearts out for nearly four hours, with the occasional break outside to observe the colorful scenery of the famous celebrity-laden Neon Carnival afterparty just hundreds of yards away. We even once heard Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” playing over the booming speakers.

But I waited to watch Beyoncè’s actual performance online when I returned home Monday, and I’m glad I did …

Lowlights: … But it would’ve been cool if Coachella’s exits strategy flowed well enough to let me witness both Beyoncé and an afterparty. You’d think they’d have this down by now.

Related: Inside the best 2018 Coachella parties

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Inside all of the Coachella 2018 parties
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Inside all of the Coachella 2018 parties

Nicki Minaj attended TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS presented by Palms Casino Resort and PUMA on Friday, April 13.

(Credit: TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS/Al Powers – Powers Imagery)

Rihanna was seen at Poppy nightclub's launch party for Kylie Cosmetics' KOURT x KYLIE launch and Pizza Boys Radio on Apple Music's Beats 1 in collaboration with BMW i.

(Credit: Krave Studios)

Kendall Jenner attends #REVOLVEfestival Day 1 on April 14, 2018 in La Quinta, California.

(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted at The Levi's Brand Presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 14, 2018 in Thermal, California.

(Photo by Cassidy Sparrow/WireImage)

Whitney Port, Olivia Culpo, Paris Hilton, Rachel Zoe, Victoria Justice, Sara Foster and Eerin Foster attended Rachel Zoe's 4th Annual ZOEasis, presented by Belvedere Vodka's new Ginger Zest flavor, at Parker Palm Springs on April 13, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Belvedere Vodka)

Kylie Jenner, Chance the Rapper, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott and Jordyn Woods attended TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS presented by Palms Casino Resort and PUMA on Friday, April 13.

(Credit: TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS/Al Powers – Powers Imagery)

Victoria Justice partied at Republic Records and Dream Hotels present The Estate at Zenyara sponsored by Batiste Dry Shampoo and Tanqueray No. TEN on April 14, 2018 in Coachella, California.

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Dream Hotels)

Kourtney Kardashian and Younes Bendjima attended Cash App's Friends Keep Secrets on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Cash App)

Blake Griffin and Paris Jackson attended The Levi's Brand Presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 14, 2018 in Thermal, California.

(Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)

"Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Erika Jayne struck a pose in the BMW i photo shoot at the brand's "Powered Paradise in The Desert" party on Friday hosted by Poppy nightclub, Kylie Cosmetics and BMW i for the launch of KOURT x KYLIE and Pizza Boys Radio on Apple Music's Beats 1.

(Credit: Elyse Frelinger / Lingerfree Photography)

Jasmine Sanders, Terrence J and Amber Rose attended ShoeDazzle's Dazzle in the Desert on April 15, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for ShoeDazzle)

Darren Criss attended the second night of TAO x REVOLVE - DESERT NIGHTS presented by Palms Casino Resort and PUMA.

(Credit: TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS/Al Powers – Powers Imagery)

Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner hung out in the DJ booth at Poppy nightclub's launch party for Kylie Cosmetics' KOURT x KYLIE launch and Pizza Boys Radio on Apple Music's Beats 1 in collaboration with BMW i.

(Credit: Krave Studios)

Charli XCX performed at the Lucky Brand Desert Jam on Saturday, April 14.

(Credit: Michael Simon/startraksphoto.com)

Alessandra Ambrosio attended the American Express Card Members Club at the 2018 Coachella Festival on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.

(Credit: Rachel Murray via Getty Images)

Diddy and Nicole Scherzinger attended The Levi's Brand Presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 14, 2018 in Thermal, California.

(Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)

Nicole Richie rocked Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low Tops at the #REVOLVEfestival Day 1 on April 14, 2018 in La Quinta, California.

(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Laverne Cox stepped out for the American Express Platinum House at Parker Palm Springs on April 14, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for American Express Platinum)

Paris Hilton was spotted at Poppy nightclub's launch party for Kylie Cosmetics' KOURT x KYLIE launch and Pizza Boys Radio on Apple Music's Beats 1 in collaboration with BMW i.

(Credit: Krave Studios)

Nicki Minaj and Kourtney Kardashian attended TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS presented by Palms Casino Resort and PUMA on Friday, April 13.

(Credit: TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS/Al Powers – Powers Imagery)

Emily Ratajkowski and Kendall Jenner attend #REVOLVEfestival Day 1 on April 14, 2018 in La Quinta, California.

(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Brandi Cyrus attended the Lucky Brand Desert Jam on Saturday, April 14.

(Credit: Michael Simon/startraksphoto.com)

Julia Michaels performed at the American Express Platinum House at Parker Palm Springs on April 14, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for American Express Platinum )

Former "Bachelor" Nick Viall stopped by the Batiste Dry Shampoo Braid Bar at The Levi's Brand Presents Neon Carnival with Tequila Don Julio on April 14, 2018 in Thermal, California.

(Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)

Emily Ratajkowski attends #REVOLVEfestival Day 1 on April 14, 2018 in La Quinta, California.

(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Erika Jayne attended JustFab's Fab for Festival event on April 14, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for JustFab)

Brooklyn Beckham shot hoops at Cash App's Friends Keep Secrets on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Cash App)

Patrick Schwarzenegger, wearing Lucky Brand, attended the Lucky Brand Desert Jam on Saturday, April 14.

(Credit: Michael Simon/startraksphoto.com)

Kellan Lutz and his wife, Brittany Gonzalez, shared a smooch the GBK Productions Coachella Influencer and Celebrity Lounge over the weekend.

(Credit: GBK Productions)

Olivia Culpo partied at Republic Records and Dream Hotels present The Estate at Zenyara sponsored by Batiste Dry Shampoo and Tanqueray No. TEN on April 14, 2018 in Coachella, California.

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Dream Hotels)

Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton were lovey dovey at the second night of TAO x REVOLVE - DESERT NIGHTS presented by Palms Casino Resort and PUMA.

(Credit: TAO x REVOLVE – DESERT NIGHTS/Al Powers – Powers Imagery)

Celebrity stylist Brad Goreski attended the American Express Platinum House at Parker Palm Springs on April 14, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for American Express Platinum)

Darren Criss partied at Republic Records and Dream Hotels present The Estate at Zenyara sponsored by Batiste Dry Shampoo and Tanqueray No. TEN on April 14, 2018 in Coachella, California.

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Dream Hotels)

Justine Skye sipped 3 Olives Vodka at the Hilton Palm Springs Day Club on April 13.

(Photo: Eric Reed, AP)

Jasmine Tookes attends #REVOLVEfestival Day 1 on April 14, 2018 in La Quinta, California.

(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

"Vanderpump Rules" stars Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix shared a smooch at JustFab's FabForFestival Pop-Up on April 15, 2018 in Palm Springs, California.

(Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for JustFab)

Former "Bachelor" star Nick Viall nursed his Coachella hangover at #REVOLVEFestival with Bai Antioxidant Water.

(Credit: Bai)

Andrew Taggart of Chainsmokers attended The Levi's Brand Presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 14, 2018 in Thermal, California.

(Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)

Stephanie Shepherd attends #REVOLVEfestival Day 1 on April 14, 2018 in La Quinta, California.

(Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Chance The Rapper and Jhene Aiko attended The Levi's Brand Presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 14, 2018 in Thermal, California.

(Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)

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Day 3

A long night out meant a late entrance into the festival just before 5 p.m. on Sunday (we weren’t alone -- it took us more than an hour for our Lyft to weave through the rest of the late arrivals and drop us off by an entrance). Even then, we were still feeling sluggish.

Highlights: Thankfully, Cardi B gave us a shot in the arm. Even though I’m not entirely sure where she allocated the reported $300,000 she spent on her stage set (do visuals, dancers and a makeshift set of monkey bars for them to hang from really cost that much?), her 30-minute performance was full of enough spunk, special guests and sing-alongs to function as a spiked shot of espresso.

Seattle electronic duo ODESZA were tasked with warming up the main stage crowd for Eminem on Sunday, which is a pretty lofty assignment for a group without a massive radio hit. But they handled it with aplomb, putting on a cinematic show featuring a 12-piece drum line and striking visuals that perfectly aligned with their atmospheric sound. The peak involved a synchronized fleet of 420 drones flying above the stage to arrange themselves in different formations, including ODESZA’s six-pointed logo, in what was a genuinely breath-taking sight.

Related: The best Coachella 2018 sets

Lowlights: Before Eminem’s finale at the main stage, my girlfriend and I took advantage of our backstage Do LaB passes for the first time all weekend and got a close look at Black Madonna and Jackmaster switching off tracks in a surprise back-to-back (b2b) set. I’d seen each of the house music icons DJ a couple times before, and this was the least inspiring outing for both. The pair didn’t seem to have a ton of chemistry, and the energy just wasn’t there with most Coachella goers likely preparing for Eminem, Migos and the other closing sets.

While I certainly wouldn’t consider Eminem’s set to be a complete disappointment -- he hasn’t lost his airtight flow or signature percussion-like cadence -- it took 50 Cent coming out halfway through the set for the crowd to fully embrace the moment. To be sure, “In Da Club” banged and was probably the most well-received moment of the set. But what does that say about Slim Shady?

When Skylar Grey appeared to aid Em in “Walk On Water,” a person near me could only wonder, “Where’s Beyoncé?” Grey also stepped in for Dido and Rihanna on “Stan” and “Love the Way You Lie,” and while she capably filled their shoes, it also felt a bit anti-climactic.

We also have to address that cringeworthy “Mean Tweets” segment, assisted by a pre-taped Jimmy Kimmel. Though it was endearing on a personal level to see Eminem give the audience a few laughs at his own expense, it also interrupted his momentum and ended up being a little too brutal. When one tweet insinuated that no one had been paying attention to Eminem since 2003, and the rapper only replied that he “wasn’t mad at that,” it felt like he’d lost some of the gruff bite his fans adore him for.

 

Coachella has taken a lot of flak over the past few years for allegedly being a haven for spoiled, white millennials. But the booking of Beyoncé marked a cultural shift that welcomed a more diverse crowd to the Polo Grounds. And that’s huge, because Coachella is perhaps the most important music event in the United States due to the significance artists put on it.

This is the festival that started the trend of musicians bringing along countless special guests to their shows, featured an unprecedented Tupac hologram and now can lay claim to hosting the most talked-about performance by the most iconic performer of our generation. Every publication from the New York Times to Cosmopolitan covered it, and deservedly so.

Related: Beyoncé and yodeling kid are Coachella's most tweeted-artists

But while the festival’s attendance cap has grown to 126,000 from 99,000 over the past couple years, Coachella has not capably adjusted to accommodate such a swath of people migrating to Indio, California (population: 88,488). The town doesn’t possess the public transportation that other festivals such as Chicago-based Lollapalooza does, and the festival’s shuttle system and exclusive deal with Uber leaves thousands of people wandering the streets hours after the final note has been played.

And it’s likely only going to be worse on Weekend 2 -- the festival announced Wednesday it would delay the opening of its on-site camping until 3 a.m. on Friday morning due to severe windy conditions forecast for Thursday. I do not envy the poor souls who will be rushing at the wee hours of the morning to budge through a long line of cars and set up camp instead of getting a good night’s sleep.

Perhaps their spirits will be raised by the prospect of witnessing the performance of a generation on Saturday night in a deeply communal experience. But some, like me, will decide to do something only they can remember -- and that’s okay, too.

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