Too hot to handle: Standout performances from Coachella 2022

Illustration of the attractions at Coachella 2022.
Angela Bi/Staff

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irt and dust swirled in the sunbeams of Indio, California. Palm trees tilted like graceful parasols as if plucked from a postcard, dotting the perimeter of the vast Empire Polo Club as throngs of people flocked to the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. After a two-year hiatus, Coachella returned with an astonishing three-day lineup spanning genre and acclaim, studded by high-profile artists such as Harry Styles, Billie Eillish, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat.

Yet, the festival’s optimistic rebound was not without snags. Eleven days before Weekend One, headliner Kanye West withdrew from the show, his spot in the lineup filled by Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd. During the festival itself, a few performers, including 100 gecs during Weekend One and Steve Lacy during Weekend Two, encountered technical difficulties in their sets, underscoring the lingering ripples of a pandemic that put the festival industry out of practice.

Between $17 chicken tenders and eclectic art installations, this year’s Coachella felt like a lysergic and intoxicating playground. Sunny optimism soaked the atmosphere, subsuming anxieties — perhaps naively, as the festival operated without any masking, testing or vaccine requirements.

Coachella’s monumental sense of scale dizzied, delighted and disoriented. The atmosphere glittered with the rarity of a gemstone, a fanfare of aestheticized and commercialized bohemia. Like neighboring islands, each stage exuded a unique character from the intimate, ornate Gobi tent to the hangar-like Sahara to the behemothic Coachella mainstage. From April 22 to 24, head arts editor Maya Thompson and deputy arts editor Sarah Runyan navigated Weekend Two of this hedonistic, heady environment, distilling their combined attendance of more than 50 shows to celebrate the top performances.


Phoebe Bridgers

Photo of Phoebe Bridgers in concert

Courtesy: Coachella

A wistful moon hung over the Outdoor Theatre as night fell on the festival’s frenetic first day. It’s a fitting harbinger to herald the melancholic, evocative set from singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.

Bridgers arrived on stage clad in a black dress embellished with a spiderweb of dangling, glinting silver chains. The dark, edgy dress felt like a glamorous reimagining of her playful signature skeleton onesies.

The quintessential elements of Bridgers’ artistry were ripe in her Coachella set. Her lyrics, restless and nimble, devastate in their specificity and unfettered candor. The stage’s screen reflected Bridgers’ penchant for storytelling, projecting an open pop-up book that would flip its pages to depict a quaint scene for each song.

The show assembled tracks from Punisher and Stranger in the Alps, intimately kindling a contemplative mood. Enhanced rhythmic bite in Bridgers’ downtempo ballads kept the songs afloat as they explored sinking feelings. Vulnerability pours out of Bridgers’ music, and the show expertly avoided devolving into the sob-soaked, lugubrious wallowing that can emerge when listening to tracks such as “Moon Song.”

 The pathos of her sound contrasted endearingly with her quirky, reserved demeanor on stage. Glowing under green and purple lights, Bridgers transitioned between songs with pithy, dry one-liners — denouncing the existence of God, confessing her fear of death. In one moment, Bridgers, an artist known for steeping in sadness, slipped into a rare spell of bashfulness and admitted that she’s in love before performing a new song co-written by drummer Marshall Vore. 

Near the end of the set, Bridgers brought out fellow Coachella performer Arlo Parks, and the pair crooned crystalline, heart-melting harmonies in “Graceland Too.” In her Coachella debut, Bridgers cultivated a gentle and cathartic night, saturated in soft-spoken gratitude and under the waning gibbous’ watchful eye.

Maya Thompson

ROLE MODEL 

Photo of ROLE MODEL in concert

Courtesy: Jacob Mulka

Even without gold hoops and a Prada fit, fans fell in love with all of ROLE MODEL’s high-energy performance Friday, April 22. Running from each side of the Gobi stage, the 24-year-old artist — otherwise known as Tucker Pillsbury — basked in the potent energy of the venue. Even in the sultry heat of Coachella Valley, Pillsbury found a way to cool audiences down with his effortless confidence. 

ROLE MODEL’s buoyant bedroom pop is encased in gloss, shining with alacrity. Yet, beneath this polish are candid lyrics that earnestly recount intimate experiences in early adulthood. Throughout his set, Pillsbury’s voice shined with sincerity, delivering lyrics with delight as he reveled in the expansive crowd before him.

Performances of hit songs such as “neverletyougo” and “blind” prompted bouts of audience screams and cheers that made Pillsbury beam. Brimming with exhilaration and allure, the artist punched the air with excitement during the chorus of “blind,” using every pause in its instrumentation to skip across stage and showcase a daring dance move. 

From beneath his dark shades, Pillsbury spoke to festivalgoers as if they were his friends, interspersing quippy anecdotes and shoe tying between songs that made his set feel all the more personable. Waving to audiences with the tips of his fingers and forming hearts with his hands, Pillsbury relished in the crowd’s elation. 

During his final song “forever&more,” Pillsbury jumped from foot to foot, putting his arms over his head and sticking his tongue out with glee. Encouraging audiences to repeat the chorus with him, he reminded them of the night’s headlining act: Harry Styles. “Harry has to hear us!” he yelled, looking at the crowd with hope.

Festivalgoers certainly acceded by reiterating the lyrics “forever, ever and more,” it seemed the crowd was making a silent oath with Pillsbury — to follow his budding career forever, ever and more. 

— Sarah Runyan

100 gecs

Photo of 100 gecs at Coachella

Courtesy: Brian Lima

It’s hard to picture 100 gecs’ music being made by real people.

The titanic hyperpop duo Dylan Brady and Laura Les creates music that humors every fleeting impulse and indulges every intrusive thought; any semblance of sonic convention becomes filtered through the gecs’ hyperactive, maximalist money machine.

Recovering from Weekend One’s technical interruption, 100 gecs returned for Weekend Two in their signature purple and yellow wizard robes to perform a brash, rowdy set. Each song was accompanied by unhinged visuals seemingly plucked from the anal cavity of the Internet. The vast stage initially seemed to swallow the duo and guest drummer, but Brady and Les delivered a performance sufficiently chaotic to subsume the space.

100 gecs opened with their spiraling, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hit song “stupid horse,” off their 2019 album 1000 gecs. The milieu of hyperactivity enlivened the set, even as many tracks were transposed in a lower key to their recorded counterparts. Similar minor sonic differences were eclipsed by the radioactive energy that buoyed the eager crowd. 

As the set drew to a close, the group performed an acoustic, slowed excerpt from the lawlessly rhapsodic track “gecgecgec” in what was probably 100 gecs’ best attempt to be earnest and serene. Yet, the brief respite quickly returned to chaos for the closing track “800db Cloud.” The thrashing drumline exploded like fireworks, a fitting end to a feverish and mind-melting performance.

Maya Thompson

Wallows

Photo of Wallows in concert

Courtesy: Jacob Mulka

Wallows are more than equipped to perform at Coachella. Dylan Minnette, Cole Preston and Braeden Lemasters grew up attending the festival together, camping out on the fairgrounds to watch their favorite artists perform. Now, almost a decade later, Minnette, Preston and Lemasters are playing the music festival from their childhood, still banded together to brave Coachella’s dirt, tears and sweat. 

Thousands of festivalgoers packed the Outdoor Theatre, waiting for Wallows’ charm to reverberate across the fairgrounds. In muscle tees and vintage yellow button-downs, the three artists graced the stage with gratitude, expressing their appreciation for fans stewing under the scorching sun. 

Their performance of “These Days” glistened in the heat, sizzling with upbeat vigor. Lemasters’ and Minnette’s vocals crooned with jubilation and sentimentality, as they scanned the crowd with admiration. Toward the song’s conclusion, they motioned for audiences to clap their hands to the beat. Upon seeing tens of thousands of people euphorically raise their hands high above their hand, Lemasters muttered an incredulous “Wow,” patently overwhelmed by Wallows’ growth since they last played at the festival. 

Hesitant to depart from the stage, Lemasters and Minnette jested with one another: “From dawn to dusk right? That’s Coachella.” After launching into their collaboration with Clairo, “Are You Bored Yet?,” Wallows expressed their final thanks, noting their desire for the song to never cease. 

Minnette leaped from the stage and ran down the center aisle that separated the crowd, holding onto fans’ hands as he sang the song’s catchy lyrics. Jumping and clicking his heels together as he raced back to the stage, Minnette reunited with his bandmates, grinning with elation. 

Wallows’ performance was a heartfelt celebration of how far the band has come. From their humble beginnings as teenagers playing music at sleepovers to performances at some of the largest musical festivals in the world, Wallows has evolved as one of the most promising bands of the decade.

— Sarah Runyan 

L’Imperatrice

Photo of man playing guitar at Coachella

Courtesy: Michael Drummond

Reverence for the past radiates from L’Imperatrice. Sporting warm, monochromatic outfits in varied shades of muted orange, the six-piece French disco band appeared charming and retro. L’Imperatrice exuded polish and playfulness in its lively set, transforming the dirt patch of the Gobi tent into a dance floor.

Blending tracks from Tako Tsubo and familiar fan favorites, L’Imperatrice proved charm comes easy. Vocalist Flore Benguigui imbued a welcoming, joyful and unhurried atmosphere that was unflappable throughout the set. 

Benguigui’s gentle voice bubbled and chimed in her band’s Nu-disco soundscape. Her bandmates, particularly bassist David Gaugué, matched her bright, breezy nonchalance. The milieu was one of freedom and fun when Benguigui encouraged concertgoers to dance without concern for how they may be observed. Danceable and delightful, L’Imperatrice kindled a welcoming show that captivated fans and newcomers alike.   

Maya Thompson

Harry Styles 

Photo of Harry Styles in concert

Courtesy: Pooneh Ghana

Sparking jovial uproar as he sprinted to the front of the stage, Harry Styles adorned the Coachella mainstage with unbridled vitality Friday, April 22. Donning a two-piece hot pink set adorned with bedazzled strawberries, cherries and a brazen “H.S.,” he shone under colorful lights as the opening notes of “As It Was” played, radiating euphoric exhilaration as he skipped with jollity. During classics from Fine Line, Styles encouraged festivalgoers to sing along with him, taking pause to jest with bubbly fans and mutter soft “I love you”s. 

Though most of his set consisted of pumping his arms in the air, waving pride flags and encouraging the crowd to have as much fun as possible, Styles slowed things down to play unreleased tracks from his third album, Harry’s House. During “Boyfriends,” his voice crooned with longing, relaying cyclical bouts of anguish that hushed the bustling fairgrounds.

Slipping into an extravagant feather Gucci coat, Styles slyly smirked as Lizzo graced the stage, belting Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Mirroring Styles’ sumptuous style and sprightly stage presence, Lizzo and Styles were a delightful pair, budding with natural chemistry.

An emotional expression of gratitude ushered in the night’s final song, “Sign of the Times.” Both grandeur and golden, Styles dolefully departed fans leaving both the sky and festivalgoers in a dazzling, glittery haze.

Sarah Runyan

Måneskin

Photo of Maneskin

Courtesy: Youtube

Strapped in leather and lace, Måneskin came to Coachella ready to rock.

The four-piece Italian rock band — bassist Victoria De Angelis, drummer Ethan Torchio, guitarist Thomas Raggi and lead vocalist Damiano David — went viral in 2021 after winning that year’s Eurovision Song Contest for Italy.

Måneskin electrified the Mojave tent under vibrant red lights, opening with the urgent and volatile “Zitti e buoni.” David’s vocals, the range and the rasp, were an inexhaustible marvel. Growling and chewing out his lyrics, the band’s frontman reigned over the stage with fierce and magnetizing prowess.

From ripping off his mesh undershirt to throwing mic stands to the back of the stage, David exuded an explosive bravado that felt e reminiscent of ’70s rock stars, yet refreshingly modern. His bandmates radiated a similar restlessness as the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll was reimagined by and for a younger, equally voracious generation.

Though David’s electric charm naturally attracts the spotlight, each member of the band found moments to shine. Oozing playful sensuality, Måneskin interspersed the set list with hard-hitting, riff-rampant covers, including their viral interpretation of The Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” and The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

As the energy blazed and the concert neared its end, David delivered a fervid denouncement of war, reflecting on the violence in Ukraine before the explosive closing song “Gasoline.” The impassioned, cathartic environment kindled by Måneskin left concertgoers glittered with excitement and warm with catharsis.

Maya Thompson

Conan Gray 

Photo of Conan Gray in concert

Courtesy: Michael Drummond

Gleaming in a high-neck, hot pink pantsuit, Conan Gray enamored festivalgoers at Coachella April 23 with his effervescence and bubbly wit. Confidently strutting across stage in chunky platform heels, Gray began the set with his most upbeat tracks. And much like his bright, sparkling outfit, his performance shined with vibrancy. 

“Wish You Were Sober” and “Telepath” immediately rejuvenated audiences baking in the balmy weather. Gray jumped across stage, bouncing to the beat and inflecting his voice during sarcasm-coated lyrics. Twirling his hair around his fingers and rolling his eyes, Gray sang “Checkmate” with an enticing, scorned attitude that consistently captivated audiences.

“Do y’all mind if I be depressing?” Gray asked halfway through the set. Despite his initial exuberance, the rest of the show consisted of morose postulations that peeled back Gray’s externally ebullient persona. His latest single “Memories” shined onstage, with the singer doting on snapshots of sullen experiences. 

Closing with the ever-adored “Heather,” Gray injected the inner workings of his psyche into pensive lyrics, letting the broad Coachella audience see past his gilded, opulent demeanor. Though Gray may initially showcase a sanguine shimmer, his discography demonstrates much more apathy, a graceful quality exhibited in his Coachella debut. 

— Sarah Runyan 

Surf Curse 

Photo of Surf Curse in concert

Courtesy: Demian Becerra

For Surf Curse, there’s no place like home — unless, of course, that place is Coachella. Donned in baby blue gingham dresses and mimicking Dorothy Gale, the surf rock band brought a slice of the Emerald City to the Gobi stage. Barrels of hay, a toy dog and large cartoonish sunflowers peppered the stage, preparing audiences for the swirling descent into a fantastical realm. 

Walking onstage to Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” the band prepared for a vibrant set that, like the Land of Oz, was full of surprises. “Maps to the Stars” energized the crowd, fueling a flurry of ecstatic desire. The band’s lead vocalist and drummer, Nick Rattigan, vehemently played his drum set, singing with intense ferocity. 

Throughout the performance fans quickly grew impassioned, moshing, crowd surfing and throwing plastic water bottles in the air. Rattigan’s raspy vocals served as a backdrop for a cathartic release of pent-up angst, liberating festivalgoers as they urgently jumped up and down. 

“Freaks,” which gained popularity on TikTok, served as the band’s closing song, putting Surf Curse’s malaise on full display. As the guitars sounded their opening riffs, audience goers shrieked in anticipation, nodding their heads in appreciation before bouncing and fist-pumping to the beat. 

Unlike Dorothy Gale, Surf Curse fans weren’t eager to be whisked from the dream. Chanting together the final lyrics of the song, audiences left feeling wistful and enchanted: “Hopefully, I won’t wake up this time.”

Sarah Runyan

Doja Cat 

Photo of Doja Cat in concert

Courtesy: Greg Noire

With countless quick costume changes, complex choreography and stunning vocals, Doja Cat never fails to prove that she is a performer that can do it all. 

On the evening of Sunday, April 24, high energy dancers engaged in intricate floorwork, arching their backs and stretching their palms to the sky to unveil Doja’s inordinate splendor. Even a space as expansive as Coachella could not contain her ubiquitous spontaneity. 

Performing a medley of tracks from her latest album Planet Her and her 2019 record Hot Pink, Doja entranced audiences with her enamoring presence. Lifting her back leg high into a scorpion position, Doja Cat quickly spewed out the lyrics of “Get into It (Yuh),” sparking cheers from electrified audience members. 

Doja further showcased her sublime dance techniques during performances of songs such as “You Right” in which dancers lifted her above their heads, before twisting her around during elegant partnerwork. Furthering her set’s surprises, both Tyga and Rico Nasty joined Doja onstage, full of irrepressible vigor that aided her already bold stage presence. 

Just as festivalgoers thought her set had concluded, Doja euphorically announced she was taking a shot, lifting a mini red Solo cup to her lips alongside her dancers. Yet, for audience members reveling in her ethereal eminence, Doja’s enchanting presence was enough to intoxicate them. 

Sarah Runyan

Photo of someone performing at Coachella

Courtesy: Michael Drummond

The Marías

Under the blushing Gobi tent, magic seemed to crackle when The Marías took the stage. Bathed in crimson lights, lead singer and the band’s namesake María Zardoya bewitched in a monochromatic cherry set with an ornate bustier and skirt. 

Zardoya, drummer Josh Conway and her band incorporated tracks from their immersive, enchanting debut album CINEMA. The show’s atmosphere straddled hazy dreaminess and the lucidity of daybreak. Zardoya’s sleek bob swayed along with the audience as she moved with tender, cool gracefulness.

The night fell as the concert approached its end, the wry and sensual track “Hush” bleeding into the tender opening of “Cariño,” an exquisite ode to love. In a kaleidoscopic and spellbinding show, The Marías invited audiences into an ethereal reverie until they were whisked into the balmy Indio air.

Maya Thompson

Maya Thompson the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].
Sarah Runyan is the deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].