Coachella 2016’s Top 5 Sets

This giant sign greeted festival goers the past two weekends in Indio, CA. Photo by R&R Studios.

This giant sign greeted festival goers the past two weekends in Indio, CA. Photo by R&R Studios.

Coachella 2016’s Top 5 Sets
by Brandon King
There are many music festivals that showcase what the event can be – Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Ultra Music, Rock the Bells, etc – but Coachella stands above them as something different. A festival that since 1999 has been a beacon in the California desert, not just to musicians of all different kinds, but to a diverse range of all type of artists period.
The six day festival just concluded and, while I thought it was a step down from last year, I still had a lot of fun with the festival, and there were a good amount of standout performances that I think set the bar for festival performances. 
So today, I give you my personal top 5 Coachella 2016 performances (that I was able to see)!

5. The 1975 

As someone who thought The 1975 were an interesting art-pop group, I was looking forward to seeing their set this year because I missed it back in 2014 – and they brought a really great show this year. Matthew Healy is an excellent frontman who knows how to play a crowd without sacrificing musical prowess (even if half the time you can’t understand what he’s saying). The rest of the group has palpable synergy with one another, with in-sync grooves in both guitar tones and rhythm section. The gospel backing singers they brought out were a great touch, adding another dimension to the set. Overall, a really well done set for a group I have a lot of hope for. 

4. Of Monsters and Men

For a band with six members and at least as many touring members, you would think that their performances would be messy and all over the place. Yet somehow, OMAM managed to improve upon almost everything from their set from 2013. One of my criticisms that year was that, while vocalists Nana Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Porhallsson are both fine singers, they seemed to lack a bit of chemistry with one another, whereas this year, I felt like they really improved the on-stage structure of the dual vocalists. Each one both got moments to shine and both felt like they were confident throughout. The band has a a really balanced sound, but I am still wondering how the acoustic guitars feel like the most potent instruments in their set. Some of the horn parts I felt were a bit dull, but that’s really the only immediate error I can think of.

3. Ice Cube

When I heard Ice Cube was going to perform this year, I had very high expectations. Let me tell you, the guy didn’t disappoint. Cube himself is such a presence on stage, as if the audience bends to his control. His vocals hit hard and even the lighter songs in the set feel like one huge party. Then there’s the guest spots and goodness I had to control myself watching. Seeing Snoop Dogg come out was treat enough, and he was solid. But to see a miniature N.W.A reunion of Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Dr. Dre (along with Eazy-E’s son playing his role) was jaw-dropping – I’d say even more so than the Guns N’Roses reunion (which was great, but to see everyone in N.W.A giving it their all was something I didn’t feel GNR did entirely). Overall, a true experience to behold and made the hip-hop fan in me scream like a little fanboy.

2. Matt and Kim

I don’t really care for Matt and Kim that much. I remember them being thrown around in music circles a couple of times, but never really got into them. After this performance, that’s probably going to change. These two expel so much positive energy that I was smiling almost the entire way through. Their interactions with one another are just amazing to watch and sometimes even hilarious (Kim’s crowd surfing is something else entirely). Their musical prowess, while very minimalistic, surprisingly worked for me just because of how likeable they were. The crowd was absolutely insane, going along for the entire ride. It was just pure Coachella fun and I want to watch that set over and over again.

1. Run the Jewels

Last year, I discovered Run the Jewels by a friend’s recommendation, and I was immediately hooked; their Coachella performance last year basically confirmed myself as a fan (they brought out Travis Barker – that alone was enough). So it’s highly unlikely they could improve for this year, right? Somehow, they did in spades. From the very start, they were introduced by Bernie Sanders (yeah, THAT Bernie Sanders) and you could tell this was going to be something different. To put it simply, the set was amazing beyond words. Killer Mike and El-P have just as good chemistry as ever, playing off each other’s wordplay and upping each other every time, but never feeling like one was “above” the other in terms of skill. The songs always packed a punch, whether in terms of energy or emotion and that’s not something you often see in festival sets. They even brought out Nas and it didn’t feel overcrowded – it felt totally organic. These guys form a truly unique hip-hop act that is potent, energetic, accessible, and a force to be reckoned with to other live acts. If you can somehow find video of their set, you will not regret it; easily my favorite act of the weekend.  
Comment below what your Top 5 were from this year’s festival and here’s to a great festival next year!