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2023 Coachella: Bad Bunny, the Weeknd, Gorillaz rule Day 1

Welcome to live coverage of Day 1 of the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Friday’s headliner is the Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny, the first Spanish-language artist to top the festival’s bill, and, in another first, one of three nonwhite headliners this year: K-pop girl group Blackpink will take the main stage on Saturday night, and international man of mystery Frank Ocean will close out the festival Sunday with his first concert since 2019, and his first area show since 2017.

The 2023 edition of the wildly popular (and lucrative) festival follows a chaotic few years, for Coachella and more broadly for live music. In 2022, both Travis Scott and Kanye West pulled out of planned headline performances, and the 2020 and 2021 editions were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday will feature highly anticipated sets from Gorillaz, Metro Boomin, Burna Boy, the Chemical Brothers, a reunited Blink-182, Wet Leg, Becky G, Yves Tumor, Kaytranada, Blondie, Doechii and many more, plus the usual parade of surprise guest stars (who gets custody of the Weeknd?), and The Times’ Mikael Wood, August Brown, Suzy Exposito, Kenan Draughorne and Vanessa Franko will be roaming the grounds of Indio’s Empire Polo Club, reporting on all the action as it happens.

3:18 p.m. Greetings from Coachella, where the weather is already hot, the music is already loud and the outfits (costumes?) are already sparkly. Last year was technically the first year back after COVID, but there’s something in the air here that suggests people are ready to party like it’s 2019 again. Music-wise, everything’s leading up to Bad Bunny’s headlining performance tonight, though folks are buzzing too about Blink-182’s surprise reunion gig. “It’s gonna be so many songs that people know, bro,” I overheard one such bro testify in a drinks line, and indeed that’s true enough. Also: Who will Damon Albarn bring to the stage during Gorillaz’s set? The Times crew will be here for it all — stay tuned. — Mikael Wood

3:20 p.m. “There’s only one reason to be at Coachella today — Bad Bunny,” said Hugo Olguin, 42, of Murrieta, Calif.

The Friday night headliner was the catalyst for Olguin and Rocio Luis, 32, of Carlsbad, to make their first trip to the festival. They planned to catch the reunited Blink-182 — added to the festival lineup this week — in the Sahara Tent before staking out a good spot for Bad Bunny.

Even though Coachella only sells three-day passes, Olguin and Luis are attending Friday only.

“We can’t survive three days,” Olguin said. — Vanessa Franko

3:52 p.m. Among the banners trailing airplanes above the polo grounds — a venerable Coachella tradition — is this one promoting somebody’s OnlyFans account. Shrewd! — M.W.

(Mikael Wood/Los Angeles Times)

4:15 p.m. Coachella is always a valuable learning experience in finding out which acts are far more popular than you thought. My first lesson this year: Benee, the New Zealand bedroom-pop singer who had an early-pandemic hit with “Supalonely,” is still capable of filling the not-small Mojave Tent. And “Supalonely” still sounds great. — M.W.

A female rapper in purple outfit performs onstage with dancers.

Doechii performs at Coachella.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

4:34 p.m. Started the day watching Doechii, who brought a healthy crowd to the main stage. TDE’s rising star tapped into her ballroom bag near the end, rapping Beyoncé’s final verse from “Heated,” a cappella-style, before launching into her breezy hit “Persuasive.” Her orange contact lenses were a nice touch to complete the purple crop-top-and-shorts combo. — Kenan Draughorne

4:40 p.m. Security guards are already passing out white light-up wristbands near the main stage ahead of Bad Bunny’s headlining performance tonight. — K.D.

A woman in a dress attends Coachella

Raeya Necochea, 25, of Walnut Creek, attends her first Coachella festival.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

5:10 p.m. I cannot wait for Saba’s upcoming mixtape with producer No I.D. The Chicago rapper released the tape’s first single “Back in Office” yesterday, and blasted it today from the Outdoor stage. And especially after Rolling Loud California, it was nice to see someone rap a whole set without a backing vocal track. — K.D.

A female singer performs onstage

Angèle performs at Coachella.

(Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images)

5:13 p.m. Backstage in the floral-strewn artist compound on Friday afternoon, the 27-year-old Belgian singer Angèle had just arrived a few hours before her highest-profile U.S. concert to date later this evening, at Coachella’s Mojave Tent. In Europe, she’s a superstar of the Francophone pop world: Chanel ambassador, chart topping disco-pop belter with Dua Lipa, easily the most successful Belgian artist since Stromae.

But on Friday afternoon, she was a starstruck first-timer on the Polo Grounds.

“It’s so big!” she said, gesturing towards the craggy mountains out the window of her trailer. “The desert is so new to me. When you come from Belgium, it’s hard to think of yourself as a global artist, but it’s so cool to feel like I’m a part of this.”

This year is an exceptionally multilingual year for Coachella, with headliners from Puerto Rico and South Korea and superstar acts from Nigeria and Spain among many others. There’s an atypically strong Francophone coterie as well: Christine and the Queens, Lewis OfMan, the Blaze, FKJ, Grammy nominees Domi and JD Beck. But among them, Angèle mix’s of high-wattage house bangers, skittering electro-pop and moody jazz-inflected ballads seems most prime for a breakthrough.

“Fever,” the rip-roaring disco duet with Dua Lipa, changed her prospects stateside dramatically. With a few albums of fiery, thoughtful and smoldering tracks under her belt — and a new late-night jazz number, “Sunflower,” in English — Coachella fans primed to scream lyrics back in Spanish or Korean might be ready to hear her out as well.

“When we did some shows in the U.S. last week, I was very surprised they were singing the lyrics,” she said. “Some people came and told me they were Googling the topics of the songs.” — August Brown

A young singer performs onstage with an acoustic guitar.

DannyLux performs at Coachella.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

5:22 p.m. At the Sonora tent, DannyLux fans radiated love for the Coachella Valley native as he performed his first show at his hometown festival. Couples swayed, slow-danced and shouted Mexican gritos to atmospheric cuts from his 2022 EP “Limerencia”; the 19-year-old also commanded a melodramatic singalong to “Jugaste y Sufrí,” his chart-topping hit with fellow “sad sierreño” stars Eslabón Armado. We may be in the desert, but there’s no need for eyedrops when you’re watching DannyLux live. — Suzy Exposito

A singer in a tuxedo performs onstage

Gabriels performs at Coachella.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

5:43 p.m. L.A.-based three-piece Gabriels brought a bit of soul salvation to the desert with its Friday afternoon set in the Gobi Tent.

Singer Jacob Lusk grew up in Compton. This was his first time at the festival.

“Seeing my old coworkers, that was amazing. Seeing my friends and family out in the audience, that was special,” he said after the set.

Lusk is also in the running for sharpest dressed at Coachella. He wore a full tuxedo, even in the desert heat.

“I have planned my outfit months in advance, went fabric shopping, we made it,” he said. — V.F.

6:20 p.m. Hail Sappho! Muna threw a synth-pop dance party at the Mojave Tent, where fans across the gender spectrum cavorted in wholesome queer joy. Their set was crashed by indie-rock supergroup boygenius — Phoebe Bridgers (Muna’s label boss), Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus — who lent their folky voices to Muna and Bridgers’ 2022 delight, “Silk Chiffon.” We duly await their super-supergroup album next year. — S.E.

Two female rock musicians perform onstage.

Wet Leg performs at Coachella.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

6:28 p.m. Big Elastica vibes from the Isle of Wight’s Wet Leg this evening, with the added physical comedy of the band’s two frontwomen, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, one of whom (Teasdale) clearly wants to be a pop star and one of whom (Chambers) clearly does not. — M.W.

7:13 p.m. At the moment, Coachella’s second weekend isn’t sold out — something that hasn’t happened in years. One way to change that — judging by the thousands trying to cram into the Sahara tent right now for Blink-182’s first reunion gig in nearly a decade — might be to announce that the SoCal pop-punk trio is officially on the bill next Friday. — M.W.

7:15 p.m. Coachella and the Grammy Awards often operate in different spheres of the music universe. One is a reliable, tastemaking showcase for the best in new and ambitious music; the other typically rewards commercial success and generally steers toward the middle of the road.

But on Friday, there was a notable overlap of best new artist nominees and the Goldenvoice-curated festival. U.K. indie-rock duo Wet Leg, virtuoso jazz freaks Domi and JD Beck and the Houston independent rapper Tobe Nwigwe were all Grammy nominees this year, and all performed Friday in the span of a few hours.

Under the United Masters umbrella — a distribution platform that’s become home to stalwart major-label resisters like R&B lothario Brent Faiyaz — Nwigwe has carved a one-of-a-kind niche for his heady, gospel-soaked Southern rap. At Coachella, his giant, commanding form ruled over the small-ish Gobi Tent with a bandleader’s panache. Songs like “Lord Forgive Me” and the brand-new “Bravo” pull from his hometown’s dragged-out, heat-warped sonics, but his delivery came fast and furious.

Grammy or no (jazz singer Samara Joy took home the best new artist award), he’s dead set on creating his own lane in hip-hop, and he made a barrel-chested case for it at Coachella. — A.B.

Becky G performs at Coachella.

Becky G performs at Coachella.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

7:30 p.m. Becky G did not simply perform at the main stage this year — dressed in a Dodgers blue sequin bikini and matching low-rise JNCOs, the L.A.-born-and-bred singer threw a bombastic carne asada. After a brief sound snafu during “Fulanito,” she bounced back with her candy-coated disco hit, “Bailé Con Mi Ex.” Then, with a tip of her blue cowboy hat, she ushered in a procession of regional Mexican stars, including members of Fuerza Regida and up-and-comer Peso Pluma, who joined her for a harmonious rendition of their new song “Chanel.” Becky was later joined by Dominican reggaetón diva Natti Natasha for a sensational version of their 2018 duet, “Sin Pijama” — and she tossed her English-speaking fans a bone with a rocking spin on her early hit, “Shower.” — S.E.

7:50 p.m. Coachella’s audience is young enough these days that Blink-182 counts as a legacy act. But this year’s show has a bunch of real-deal old-timers in Blondie, whose frontwoman, 77-year-old Debbie Harry, turned up Friday in a black-leather vest and wraparound shades to sneer “Call Me” like she was giving a lesson in eternal cool (which she pretty much was). — M.W.

7:52 p.m. Whatever else the merits of avant-grade rocker Yves Tumor — and there are many — they’ve won best-dressed act at Coachella so far.

Tumor, born Sean Bowie, straddles all sort of lines in music — welcome at rap-inclined fests like Day N Vegas, but signed to experimental electronic label Warp.

Basically, they’re a rock star, however you choose to define it in 2023. I, for one, have never seen tighter leather pants than the pair Tumor was poured into, a fitting compliment to their bleached, demon-spiked hair, sunglasses so dark they they sat like negative space and lithe stage moves that evoked David Bowie in his peak milk-and-peppers-only diet era.

The rest of their band looked just as great: a guitarist with a bouffant and Gibson Explorer guitar straight out of a Scorpions tour doc; a demure yet captivating bassist with a gigantic black straw hat that looked straight out of Easter Sunday in hell. Coachella has a new fashion icon, and their name is Yves Tumor. — A.B.

8:03 p.m. Burna Boy’s shirt came off four songs into his set, but his smile remained plastered on his face from start to finish during his main stage set. On the heels of his dominant “Love, Damini” album, the Nigerian singer’s joy was undeniable, whether he was high-kicking mid-song or reflecting on his 2019 Coachella set, where his afternoon crowd was “a quarter the size” of tonight’s. “African giant” is tattooed on his left hip; the stellar dusk set proved the title is no exaggeration. — K.D.

A smiling man leans down and plays guitar.

Blink-182 performs at Coachella.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

8:18 p.m. It wouldn’t be a Blink-182 reunion if the pop-punk legends didn’t start with their expletive-fueled deep cut, “Family Reunion.” Once again comprised of the classic Blink lineup for the first time in almost a decade — singer-bassist Mark Hoppus, drummer Travis Barker and singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge — the trio dropped in for a last-minute set at the Sahara Tent. This comes after they were forced to postpone their initial March comeback show in Tijuana due to Barker’s ill-timed finger injury. (It’s also the band’s first show since Hoppus recovered from a life-threatening case of Stage 4 lymphoma.) At Coachella, they resuscitated classics like “Girl at the Rock Show” and “What’s My Age Again?” and served a discourse on cancel culture, a phenomenon they miraculously avoided in the near 30 years since their inception. “We say, F— you, cancellation!” quipped DeLonge, to which Hoppus added, “We say, Just don’t be a d—!” — S.E.

8:45 p.m. DJ and producer Kaytranada brought out Kali Uchis! Alas, her mic didn’t work until the final chorus. At least the 30-foot floating head (with laser eyes) behind the DJ platform was a nice touch. — K.D.

Jamie Principle and Gorillaz perform at Coachella.

Jamie Principle and Gorillaz perform at Coachella.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

10:10 p.m. The surviving members of De La Soul joined Gorillaz to perform “Feel Good Inc.” on Coachella’s main stage Friday night, just two months after the death of the hip-hop trio’s Trugoy the Dove.

Dressed in black De La hoodies, the group’s Posdnuos and Maseo led the crowd in a chant — “I will never let anyone tell me what to think” — before laying into the jaunty 2005 hit, after which a photo of Trugoy beamed out from the stage’s enormous video screens.

Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn brought out several other guests in the band’s set, including Del the Funkee Homosapien for “Clint Eastwood,” Thundercat for “Cracker Island” and the British rapper Slowthai for “Momentary Bliss.”

Also on the scene: Chicago house veteran Jamie Principle, who wore a fetching pink bodysuit as he joined Gorillaz for their song “Hollywood.” — M.W.

Uncle Waffles performs at Coachella.

Uncle Waffles performs at Coachella.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

10:36 p.m. South African DJ-producer Uncle Waffles didn’t utter a word into the microphone for her hour-long set; instead, she let her team of dancers clad in all black do the talking. The first amapiano act to ever perform at Coachella, Waffles battled through technical difficulties to put on a bass-pumping show. The Sonora Tent crowd was certainly smaller than those for Gorillaz and Chemical Brothers — who played at the same time — but the revelers who showed up got what they came for. — K.D.

10:58 p.m. After years of pandemic boredom-drinking, booze culture here seems to have shifted a bit. While you’re never more than 20 yards from a cold beer or mezcal, it’s also L.A.-adjacent, and many people are questioning the coping mechanisms of the last few years.

Heidi Pimentel was working the counter at the New Bar, a non-alcoholic cocktail spot with a Venice flagship and a couple of outposts here at Coachella. At first glance, once could easy sidle up expecting a G&T without noticing.

“We do get drunk guys coming up asking for vodka and when we tell them they go ‘Oh, uh,’ and walk away,” she said. “But then there are pregnant ladies who are like, ‘Thank God.’ ”

The big sellers so far match their alcohol models outside: a mock tequila moving units before Bad Bunny; a floral zero-proof gin. It’s not as busy as the harder spots nearby, but for anyone reassessing their substance intake or pacing themselves during the long, hot weekend, it’s nice to relocate the experience with none of the consequences.

“I’ve been sober six months myself,” Pimentel said. “I think people are really happy to have an option.” — A.B.

John Legend performs with Metro Boomin at Coachella.

John Legend performs with Metro Boomin at Coachella.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

11:45 p.m. As he sort-of-promised by retweeting a fan several days ago, the Weeknd turned up at Coachella on Friday night during producer Metro Boomin’s set in the Sahara Tent.

Dressed in all white that made him look like he’d come straight from the ski slopes, the pop superstar sang his hit “Heartless” and did a bit of what he said was a new song, with his high, cooing vocals over a throbbing trap beat.

Other guests of Metro Boomin included Future, Don Toliver, John Legend, Diddy and 21 Savage, who implored the overflow crowd to give it up for “the greatest producer of our generation.” — M.W.

1:15 a.m. During his headline set, Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny went out of his way to highlight the Black roots of reggaetón. In montages of between-song video clips, he made pointed efforts to highlight Celia Cruz, El General, Tego Calderón and others who laid the foundation for his massive success today. He deftly connected Puerto Rico’s polyglot music to the grim colonial circumstances that brought Spanish, Black and Indigenous people together on his island. It made for a necessary history lesson, and credit where it’s due — if he’s going to enjoy the fruits of his achievement, he has a lot of debts to pioneers before him to pay down. — A.B.

2 a.m. At Bad Bunny’s main stage performance Friday night, the real VIP experience was not defined by class, or a wristband, or a fence, but by language.

“Do you prefer me to speak in English… ¿O en español?” he asked his audience. Although he’s evidently secured English lessons, moved into Hollywood Hills and gone horseback riding with Kendall Jenner, Coachella’s first Spanish-language headliner ultimately decided not to relinquish the language that — in spite of longstanding xenophobia in the American music industry and the United States’ colonialism of Puerto Rico — landed him at the top of the Billboard 100, and subsequently, on top of the bill at Coachella.

Deservedly so, Bad Bunny relished his unprecedented triumphs with a two-hour musical marathon, fashioning several reggaetón and trap numbers (from 2020’s “Si Veo A Tu Mamá” to the anthemic 2018 remix of “Te Boté”) into four-on-the-floor house jams suited for a rave. Between costume changes, fans were treated to a history lesson of reggaetón’s taxonomy, a narrated video montage that highlighted sounds that bubbled up from the unique social context of the Caribbean: Son Cubano, bomba, salsa, as well as reggae from Jamaica and Panama, were all woven into the sonic blend that eventually became reggaetón. Central to this evolution, stressed the narrator, were Black Latinos like 20th century composer Rafael Hernández Marín, salsa queen Celia Cruz, reggae en español pioneer El General and the legendary rapper Tego Calderón.

The presentation seemed somewhat conciliatory, two weeks after a contentious Time magazine interview; when questioned whether colorism has played a role in the global advent of reggaetón, Bad Bunny was quoted stating that he could not speak to something he never experienced. “Because I haven’t seen it or lived it, I can’t say,” he said. “It’d be irresponsible of me to say yes.”

“You don’t know me from Instagram,” Bad Bunny assured Friday’s crowd in Spanish. “You don’t know me from an interview. You can come to my house and have a beer… But you don’t know what’s in my heart.”

To the deep chagrin of Bad Bunny and his fans, the sound on the main stage failed intermittently throughout the night. Technical malfunctions had plagued various sets throughout the day, including Becky G’s, as well as Kali Uchis’ appearance during Kaytranada’s. Bad Bunny took it in stride, continuing songs a capella and trusting his mighty Latino fan base to pick up the slack for the choruses.

One such moment came during a surprise cameo from Post Malone, where his vocals and acoustic guitar kept cutting out; still, the audience waved glowing wristbands in the air as they fiercely shouted the words to “La Canción” and “Yonaguni.”

Luckily, other cameos fared better. Reggaeton veterans Ñengo Flow, Jowell and Randy blazed through the hedonistic lines of “Safaera” and Jhayco appeared for a few songs, from “Dákiti” to his first with Bad Bunny, “No Me Conoces.” (Post Malone continued to nod along politely on stage.)

Technical snafus aside, Bad Bunny gave a historic performance — empowered by the passion of the Latino communities who continue to be affirmed, inspired and galvanized to action by his victories. —S.E.

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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