Coachella 2023: The most memorable moments in Coachella history
It is officially time for Coachella 2023, as we are only a few weeks away from an all-time historic lineup in the desert. Every year, it never fails that the festival provides iconic moments that make the world collectively say “wow.” But then there is also an even smaller number of special instances that seem to stop time entirely. Below are the most memorable moments in Coachella history.
Along with its location, impact on fashion, economic boom, and many other factors, Coachella has also made a name for itself by providing those rare moments that make people ask, “Do you remember where you were when…” for the rest of their lives. It’s considered lucky if you have just one of these moments during a 20-year span at a festival, but Coachella impressively pumps them out every single year as if it’s easy. And what is to be promised an outstanding Coachella 2023, it is only right to go back and look at some instances that made this festival what it is today.
Whether it’s history-making moments on the main stage, iconic solo performances on the Gobi stage or even a band reuniting after years of a hiatus, there is no magic that Coachella can’t create. While there are so many instances to pick from, here are just a few of the most memorable moments that came to life in the desert.
1. Beyoncé introduces Beychella to the world as she becomes the first black woman to headline Coachella (2018).
Now if we did happen to be ranking these moments, this would undoubtedly be the unanimous #1 selection by a wide margin. Not only did this performance change the course of the festival for the foreseeable future, but it changed all of pop culture as we know it. A year removed from having to withdraw from Coachella due to the pregnancy of her twins, Beyoncé fulfilled her destiny and became the first black woman to headline the event. According to the 32-time Grammy winner in her featured documentary about the performance, ‘Homecoming,’ Beyoncé had to undergo a strict diet after her pregnancy just to be able to fulfill the intense physical demands of the show. Honoring black culture, the show featured an HBCU marching band on the stage alongside Queen B. One of the biggest surprises came when Beyoncé brought out Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to create a Destiny’s Child reunion.
2. Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre resurrect the late Tupac Shakur in a hologram (2012).
A first of its kind, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre made the world question reality when they surprisingly displayed a life-like performance of Tupac as a hologram. Still to this day when watching it back, it is breathtaking how natural the hologram still looks and feels. The way Tupac interacts with both artists and the crowd of Coachella (in his own natural voice mind you) makes you honestly believe he is there in person. The New York-born rapper who tragically died in a shooting in 1996 performed “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” before vanishing into the night. Although met with mixed emotions in the aftermath, it was undeniable that a new era of performing had been introduced.
3. Daft Punk brings the Pyramid to the desert (2006).
The recently broken-up electronic music legends changed life in the Sahara tent nearly 20 years ago. As they brought in their own stage design with the Pyramid, the duo ushered in a visual show that inspired the way electronic artists carry out their performances today and provided an experience that is still trying to be topped. With two of the greatest albums in history under their belt in ‘Homework’ and ‘Discovery,’ Daft Punk left the jaws of 40,000 people on the floor.
4. Kanye West brings a new style of artistry to the Coachella stage (2011) and brings his highly popular “Sunday Service” to the hills of Indio (2019).
This is a two-in-one. Before the controversy, Ye had some of the most memorable moments in the desert. First, beginning with what many consider one of the greatest hip-hop performances of all time in 2011, Ye (Kanye West at the time of the performance) showed the world how fashion, art and music could merge into one 2 hour slot to make something truly special. Coming off of one of the most coveted albums of all time, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,’ this was Ye at his apex. Partnering with best friend and the late designer Virgil Abloh to design an iconic stage structure, Ye proved his overall artistry as he delivered an experience that showcased him as a rapper and producer. The next moment came in 2019 when Ye’s highly demanded “Sunday Service” took over Easter at Coachella. Ye showcased a full choir, a band with horns and percussion and an organist to a crowd of nearly 4,000. Coachella had never seen anything like it before.
5. Billie Eilish youngest ever headliner to perform at Coachella (2022).
It’s quite amazing what the 21-year-old superstar has already accomplished in her career. From earning the “Big Four” awards at the Grammys to hosting Saturday Night Live, there isn’t much she hasn’t experienced. One of those massive moments happened last year as Eilish became the youngest headliner in Coachella history, a record previously held by Ariana Grande. From the Outdoor Stage to the Coachella stage in just three years, not only did Eilish live up to the hype that surrounded her show that year but contended for one of the best shows of the entire weekend. With her brother and also Grammy-winning artist FINNEAS, Eilish took the crowd on an emotional and energetic journey, as well as even some very rare choreographed dance sequences. Not to mention, Eilish might have won the festival when she brought out Khalid for their song “Lonely,” Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn to sing with Eilish on “Getting Older” and then a rendition of the Gorillaz track “Feel Good Inc.” and lastly, Paramore’s lead singer, Hayley Williams, to duet an acoustic version of “Misery Business.”
6. Amy Winehouse makes her debut at the Gobi Stage (2007).
It’s a rare occasion when the most iconic show of Coachella does not take place on its main stage, but in 2007 you could easily make the argument that what Amy Winehouse did on the Gobi Stage was second to none. The late artist appealed to so many with the subject matter in her songs. Taking over with her soul and jazz while riding the success of her album ‘Back to Black’, a 23-year-old Winehouse made the famous comment, “This is the one thing that everybody said to me. Wait until you get to Coachella.” This would be Winehouse’s only Coachella performance as she pulled out of her scheduled return in 2009 and tragically died two years after that. To this day, this set is described as one of her career-defining moments.
7. Jay-Z becomes the first rapper to headline Coachella (2010).
One year before Kanye West took the stage, Jay-Z changed the landscape of the festival as he broke the genre barrier in front of the world. Before HOV performed, the headlining slots were thought to be reserved for only bands and pop singers, but 2010 changed everything. Turning the main stage into a massive party, Jay-Z ripped through his all-time great catalog including his newest album at the time ‘The Blueprint 3’ while also bringing out his wife, Beyoncé, to sing “Forever Young.” Also featuring a production design that is still hard to comprehend, Jay-Z put hip-hop onto a new level after that night.
8. Perry Farrell saves Coachella and sets a precedent for future editions. (2001).
It might sound strange given what it is now, but at one point even Coachella’s future was uncertain. After losing $800,000 after their first edition the time had come for Coachella to have their 2nd festival and were in trouble of not being able to afford a headliner (which in return would have made ticket sales very difficult). However, the famed lead-man of Jane’s Addiction, Perry Farrell, arguably saved the festival in two ways. He first reunited Jane’s Addiction to play together for the first time since 1997 as the Coachella headliner while deferring the paycheck so Goldenvoice could afford the show and recover from their losses. He also at the same time, established the festival’s identity as a place where bands come to reunite. A tradition that has lived on to this day. Without this moment, it’s hard to tell where Coachella would be today.
9. Björk is the first female to headline the festival (2002).
The Icelandic singer had the honor of breaking the ceiling off of Coachella and becoming the first female headliner of Coachella. A more than deserving opportunity, Björk gave the crowd an incredibly calculated and visually compelling show filled with dancing and an out-of-this-world costume design. She captivated the audience with lasers and synths, going from an emotional to a playful vibe and everywhere in between during the 75 minutes. Not to mention she did it all while pregnant. This show still stands tall 20 years later.
10. Prince makes his Coachella debut for an unprecedented $5 million fee (2008).
A naturally born entertainer, Prince never misses, and it felt that 2008 was the perfect time for the legend to finally take the Coachella stage. With just his electric guitar, Prince rocked the desert with a 24-song set list including an all-time historic eight-minute cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” What many don’t know is that it was only weeks before that Prince confirmed he would play Saturday night. Before then, Goldenvoice’s co-founder Paul Tollett, who had already put Prince’s name on the lineup poster after the musician had approved, was forced to remove his name entirely after Prince told Tollet he would never play the festival. It’s reported that the last-minute confirmation would cost Goldenvoice an unheard-of $5 million booking fee, but when you watch the show, you see why they believed it was worth it.
11. Guns N’ Roses reunite for the first time at a major event since 1993
This moment was another flex of power and influence from Coachella. After two years of hard work, the promoters of the festival were finally able to convince Guns N’ Roses to reunite for the first time at a major festival since the early 90s. To see Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan share the same stage for the first time in nearly 25 years was a magical moment that only Coachella could ever create. And if the reunion wasn’t enough, they also brought out the famed lead guitarist of AC/DC, Angus Young. Even though Rose was bound to a chair that resembled the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones due to a leg injury, it did not stop GNR from putting on a show only they know how to do. If you didn’t believe that Coachella could pull off the impossible, you certainly did after this.
Honorable Mentions: BROCKHAMPTON’s final show together in 2022, Rage Against the Machine reunion in 2007, Madonna and Drake kiss on stage in 2015, Ariana Grande reunites NSYNC, Lady Gaga turns the mainstage into a club in 2017, Outkast returns in 2014, Paul McCartney defies the city curfew in 2009, Wu-Tang clan reunites in 2013.
Will Coachella 2023 provide moments like the ones above? With the artist they have set to grace the stage, it is a high possibility.
Check out the entire Coachella 2023 lineup below. Join the Weekend One Waitlist here or purchase Weekend two passes here.