For the first day of Coachella’s grand return, after taking 2020-2021 off due to the pandemic, the festival and its artists were eager to impress.
From the surprise addition of Arcade Fire (the band performed at sundown at the tented Mojave stage) to the various guest appearances — Anitta enlisted Snoop Dogg to introduce her history-making set (as well as Saweetie and Diplo later on), Phoebe Bridgers welcomed Arlo Parks, Daniel Caesar invited a shirtless Justin Bieber on stage to perform “Peaches” and headliner Harry Styles shocked the audience by bringing Shania Twain out for two of her biggest hits — day one made sure to keep fans on their toes, always guessing what could come next.
Despite any hiccups earlier in the day (major parking delays stalled many, with most citing lack of instructions and signage), all was forgotten by the time Styles took the stage promptly at 11:35 p.m. His high-energy set, during which he debuted new music off his upcoming third solo album Harry’s House, sent fans back to their own homes more than happy — and ready for day two.
Catch up on Friday’s 11 best moments below.
5:20 p.m. — Toward the end of Dom Dolla Sahara stage set, the producer declared: “Kanye, this one’s for you” — nodding to the artist’s cancelled headlining Sunday set, which has since been replaced by one from Swedish House Mafia and The Weekend — before playing the artist’s “I Love Kanye” off his The Life of Pablo album.
5:50 p.m. — Carly Rae Jepsen introduced a new musical era with a debut performance of “Western Wind,” a fittingly breezy pop song about a love that always comes back. “Coming in like a western wind / Do you feel home from all directions? / First bloom, you know it’s spring / Reminding me, love, that it’s all connected,” she sang in the chorus.
6:00 p.m. — Miami rap duo The City Girls took to the Sahara Stage for their Friday night set that included pole-dancers, a twerk contest and a special cameo. Each wearing orange cheeky-bottom two-piece sets, JT and Yung Miami’s camaraderie was full on display as they performed some of their biggest hits like “P—y Talk,” “Jobs” and “Act Up.” As they transitioned into “Twerk,” the City Girls divided their background dancers into two teams — Team JT and Team Yung Miami — to deliver a twerk contest for the duration of the song. Before the set’s end, the rappers brought out the Memphis artist Moneybagg Yo for their “Said Sum” remix. Moneybagg Yo then performed two hits of his own, “Time Today” and “Wockesha,” allowing the City Girls a quick breather before their “Twerkulator” finale.
6:07 p.m. — It’s hard to pick just one best moment from Anitta’s star-studded and booty-shaking performance on Coachella’s main stage. Just days after releasing her latest album Versions Of Me, the Brazilian superstar jumped into her set with a troupe of nearly 20 dancers — and Snoop Dogg, her first surprise guest of the night — to sing “Onda Diferente.” Other guests included Sawetie who joined her for their ”Faking Love” collab followed by final guest Diplo who DJ’d the second half of her set. The crowd grew bigger and bigger by the second with Brazilian flags and soccer jerseys being waved by her zealous fans. “What’s up Coachella? Hello Latinos. Brazil!” she greeted her loyal and new fans. Of course, she performed her global hit “Envolver,” and as you guessed it, fans couldn’t take their eyes away from her as she danced her viral TikTok dance — the one where she drops to the floor and, well, you know the rest …
6:28 p.m. — The Marías tossed in a cover of “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, who frontwoman María Zardoya told the crowd “is my favorite artist.” Within seconds of fans hearing the opening notes of the band’s whimsical take on Spears’ 1998 breakthrough hit, the crowd instantly broke out into Gobi Tent-shaking cheers.
6:42 p.m. — Arcade Fire started its spontaneous set a few minutes early — as if they simply couldn’t wait to perform — opening with the one-two punch of “The Lightning I, II.” In between hits old (“The Suburbs”) and new (the band played an unreleased track off its upcoming album WE), frontman Win Butler recalled the first time the band played the festival in 2005 saying, “We were children.” He later thanked Coachella founder Paul Tollett, whom he fondly referred to as “that mother fucker” while offering a brief history lesson on how Pearl Jam, while boycotting venues controlled by Ticketmaster and rather performing at the Empire Polo Club, helped the festival come into existence nearly 30 years ago.
7:15 p.m. — Fans in tejanas and cowboy boots excitedly made their way to the main stage to watch Grupo Firme make history as the first banda ensemble to perform at the festival. Spotted among the crowd was Voz de Mando’s Jorge Gaxiola, who watched from afar and sang along to the band’s anthems along with the dense crowd. Grupo Firme took the stage around 7:20 after a short video played teasing the songs they’d sing during their 50-minute set, which included “Ya Supérame,” “El Tóxico,” “Yo Ya No Vuelvo Contigo” and a cover of “Tusa.” All the while, the band danced and took tequila shots straight from the bottle (and even a cowboy hat toward the end), cheering to another milestone in their young but fruitful career.
9:15 p.m. — “Hi mom,” said Phoebe Bridgers, before thanking her mom Jamie for driving her to this exact festival for the past seven years. Bridgers recounted one time in particular, in 2011, for which she had bright pink hair and wore a Two Door Cinema Club shirt. Even better than that visual? The artist welcomed Arlo Parks to the stage (“How’s my hair, is my hair crazy?” she asked the moment her friend was within ear shot). The pair performed two tracks off of Bridger’s last album Punisher (“Graceland Too” and “I Know the End”) both of which balanced nicely with the previously-played sad girl bangers like “Motion Sickness” and “Kyoto.” There was also, of course, the live debut of new single “Sidelines,” which she introduced with a grin while saying: “Let’s all imagine a world where people come to a concert to hear new music.”
10:47 p.m. — Daniel Caesar had a peachy keen performance thanks in part to Justin Bieber — a guest performance that was arguably day one’s worst kept secret. The Justice singer came running onto the stage shirtless to perform his Grammy-nominated song “Peaches,” which features both Caesar and Giveon. (“Crazy, right?! Caesar said of Bieber. “He’s been popping’ my entire life!”) While Giveon didn’t perform his verse, the singer is on the bill for day two of the festival, giving Bieber a chance to double up. Prior to his quick cameo, Caesar previewed a new song called “PDNL,” an acronym for “please do not lean,” the lead single off of his upcoming album. He also performed fan-favorites including “Get You,” “Who Hurt You?,” and “Cyanide,” often commenting on how much he missed performing at the festival — and in general — since his last appearance in 2018. Earlier this week (April 12), Billboard reported that Caesar signed to Republic Records.
11:15 p.m.– During Big Sean’s late-night set, the Detroit rapper brought out YG for “Big Bank” and Jhene Aiko for “Beware” and a sensual performance of “I Know.” “Make some noise for my baby, Jhené Aiko,” requested Sean, to which she yelled back, “I love you!” while running off stage. While the cameo unfortunately wasn’t a Twenty88 reunion, the rapper confirmed back in February that a new album by the duo is in the works.
12:27 a.m. — Harry Styles and Shania Twain oozed chemistry as they performed “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” before tackling Twain’s romantic 1997 hit, “You’re Still the One.” As Styles beamed with joy, he told the crowd, and more specifically Twain: “Now I have to tell you, in the car with my mother as a child, this lady taught me to sing. She also taught me that men are trash. But to you, for the memories you gave me with my mother, I’m forever grateful.”
“I’m at a loss for words, I’m a bit starstruck,” Twain replied. “When I was writing this song, you were just a kid. It’s kind of a dream, and very surreal, to be sitting right here with you.”