Coachella is the festival season’s initiating behemoth; it’s packed with artists from various genres and a must for all music lovers. If there was a time to bring out special guests, showcase new music, or debut new technology, Coachella is the place to do so; case in point: Tupac hologram in 2012. But let’s focus on this year’s groundbreaking sets where four artists completely changed the Coachella game: Calvin Harris, Sia, Guns ‘N Roses, and Parov Stellar.
His 18 Months megahits “We Found Love” with Rihanna, “Sweet Nothing” with Florence + The Machine, his opening song for this year’s set, and “I Need Your Love” with Ellie Goulding have topped radio charts and garnered millions of plays on Spotify. But rewind to 2007 … people barely knew who Calvin Harris was in the United States. His disco dance debut album was met with mixed reviews but favorites like “Acceptable in the 80’s” and “I Created Disco” helped him break into American stardom, leading to his first Coachella performance in 2008.
Calvin Harris isn’t the first main stage electronic artist, but he is the first premier headliner for his genre. He plays significant role in establishing electronic music in pop culture, producing music widely recognized that he has exhibited the power of EDM in drawing as big of a crowd as rock headliners have done in the past (Calvin Harris drew the 2nd biggest crowd in Coachella history in 2014). Collaborating with Kelis, Ne-Yo, Example, John Newman, Haim, and those aforementioned, Calvin Harris has tapped into a spectrum of talent and each of their fan bases. His past triumphs did not overshadow this year’s performance however. Playing new and old hits to a new stage design for his upcoming tour, Calvin Harris brought special guests Big Sean for “Open Wide,” John Newman for “Blame,” and Rihanna for their 9x platinum throwback.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Sia until around 2014 when she released “1000 Forms of Fear,” or unless you’ve seen her live at Coachella in 2008 or 2010 (back when she showed her face!). Before chart-topping anthems like “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart,” the Australian singer and songwriter had several small runs as leading vocalist that never really satisfied her creative desires. She found love in songwriting, retiring after her fifth studio album to write songs for artists like Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Rihanna, and David Guetta, whose “Titanium” unwittingly skyrocketed her career.
Fast forward to 2016 where she delivers a Coachella set that completely changed the game. Sia’s dressed in white with her signature oversized wig, now half black and half blonde in reflection of her new album “This Is Acting,” and an oversized bow. Her dancers effortlessly glide across the stage in interpretative dance, amplifying the emotional nature of her songs and elevating the art of her voice. Whoever said crack is whack is completely mistaken. Mirroring onstage dancers, Kristen Wiig, Paul Dano, and Tig Notaro guest-star on screen in superior interpretations of “Birds Set Free” and “Diamonds.” Visually dramatic and emotionally theatrical, her musical performance redefines what it means to execute a theatrical concept that fervently conveys the artistry of lyrics to a live crowd. Her set was performance art, and that’s something you never see at a music festival.
Guns ‘N Roses
Guns ‘N Roses is one of rock’s biggest band with the biggest bad reputation. Everyone knew the band members hated each other, so when rumors spread about their reunion everyone quickly thought, “not in this lifetime.” Even their headlining announcement at Coachella 2016 had everyone skeptical whether or not Axl Rose or Slash would actually show up.
To much surprise, Guns ‘N Roses started off Saturday night on time and a broken ankle did not stop Axl from perfectly hitting those notorious high notes. At 54 years old, confined to Dave Grohl’s rock throne, and only relying on his chops, Axl Rose has still got it. Suddenly we all quickly shift our bitter disbelief and throw our horns up in the sky, singing along to “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Spanning 23 years, the Guns ‘N Roses reunion is the biggest rock and Coachella history. Coachella in recent years have brought back artists like Rage Against the Machine and Outkast, as well as LCD Soundsystem from a short hiatus, but GnR, who brought out ACDC’s Angus Young for a special guitar riff, shockingly affirms that not all bad things must end.
Parov Stelar is a name any music lover should know. Marcus Füreder caught his first break in nightclubs in Austria in the mid-late 1990s, and has produced several songs under the electronic umbrella over the decade. Parov Stelar is among the first to produce electronic swing in Europe and is known for his detailed approach to music production.
A clever synthesis of old and new, his music casts magic, making you boogey even if you don’t want to. Take the rhythmic groove of swing music and mix it with synthesized funk and driving percussions of electro and you get electro swing, whose founding father is nonetheless Parov Stelar. To top that off, his live performances feature intoxicating vocals from Cleo Panther, trumpet melodies from Marc Osterer, and saxophone solos from Sebastian Grimus. Never before has Coachella embraced this melting pot of sounds, both on opposite sides of time and style yet surprisingly works when fused together. This year he was at the Gobi Tent but there’s no doubt that he can draw a large crowd for the Coachella Stage.