Janelle Monáe, Childish Gambino, Billie Eilish & Kanye West Deliver Coachella Moments

Coachella 2019
Courtesy of Coachella
– Coachella 2019
When it comes to Coachella and FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out is usually a phenomenon associated with music fans not lucky enough to snag tickets to the event, as they enviously watch the highlights on social media and wish they too could take part in arguably the most famous music festival in the world. But FOMO is a real concern for attendees too, when there’s so many amazing artists to see, art exhibits to check out and food stands to sample. You can’t do it all, especially with set times overlapping, it being a haul to get from one stage to the other, and hours in the sun and performances stretching into the early morning leaving you with a limited amount of energy.
Coachella is what you make of it – it’s about choosing your own adventure and prioritizing the bands you want to see (and making sure to get a churro). As artists like Childish Gambino and Billie Eilish reminded fans, the festival – as in life – is about being in the present moment.
With Coachella annually taking place over two weekends, most fans usually want to attend the first weekend to get a first look at the setlists, production, art and special guest appearances. But Weekend 2 had a special vibe, starting with Friday’s huge full moon overlooking the festival grounds at the Empire Polo Ground in Indio, Calif. There was lots to celebrate – as Mac DeMarco told the crowd Saturday, “Happy 420! And happy Passover to our Jewish brothers and sisters.” And Weekend 2 was significant for being the only chance to catch Kanye West’s “Sunday Service,” held on Easter morning in the campground.  
“I’m really feeling you guys right now,” Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker told fans during the band’s Saturday headline set. “Weekend 2 is where it’s at.”
Besides the undeniable talent of the 2019 artists and the energy of fans coming together to revel in their shared love of live music, the sets that were extra special this year were because of innovative production and the artists sharing their hearts, connecting with fans and creating a moment. Common themes running throughout the weekend included spirituality and self-empowerment, while embracing vulnerability and what it means to be human.  
Janelle Monáe
Courtesy of Coachella
– Janelle Monáe
performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif., April 19, 2019.
Janelle Monáe set the self-love mood with her Friday performance on the Coachella stage, as she sang the lyrics to the Dirty Computer track “I Like That,” declaring: “I feel good / Better than amazing, and better than I could. … Cause I’m crazy and I’m sexy then I’m cool.” After following this with the female empowerment tune “I Got The Juice,” Monáe (who was wearing a sweater with her Dirty Computer album cover featuring her own face on it) addressed the crowd, declaring that she was proud to be young, black and queer. She thanked a series of people, including folks working for LGBTQ rights and Beyoncé for opening doors for people like her. And she added, “One last thing: impeach Trump!”
During her set Monáe was all over the stage – twerking, moon walking, somersaulting, flipping upside down. The crowd was lapping it up, moving to the beat along with Monáe and her dancers. As one fan said to her friend, “It’s so funky!” 
Though the petite singer is just 5 feet tall, her stage presence is massive. And her show proved there was no other stage she could play but the main stage – she was meant to be a star.  
The coolest entrance might belong to Childish Gambino and his a-ha moment. Before he appeared Friday night the huge screens on the Coachella stage showed an electric blue outline of the mountains surrounding Indio, with flashes of lights and the sound of bass similar to rolling thunder coming in. A video was shown with interviews from festivalgoers anticipating Childish Gambino’s set. The crowd gasped and laughed as some attendees talked smack on the multi-hyphenate star, saying things like, “He’s great at a lot of things, master of none” and “No one is coming to Coachella to hear stuff like that.” After the video ended all eyes were on the empty stage and then scanning the area to find out where Childish Gambino’s voice was coming from. Turns out he was in the middle of the crowd on a lift 16 feet in the air. 
The rest of the set Childish Gambino was as close to fans as possible, spending most of his time performing on a catwalk that stretched far into the crowd.   
“The whole concept was he wanted it to be immersive, he wanted to be with the crowd, with the people, to be in it,” tour director Christian Coffey told Pollstar. “One of the challenges was how to start someone 240 feet from the stage with no one seeing him get there. We brought him out to front of house during a change over and he was out in the middle for a period of time before the show even began. While we started the video he got on the lift.” 
Coffey added, “When [the lineup] got announced, people said why is Gambino headlining Coachella? We’ve been the underdog. So we’re not hiding that. Our moment was like, if we’re going to play a video we don’t just want to play a hype video. Let’s be real.” 
Childish Gambino
Alex Hall
– Childish Gambino
performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif., April 19, 2019.

Early in the show Gambino posed a rule to the audience, asking that they put their phones away because, “I don’t want to commodify this moment.” He later added, “I want to have this personal connection with you.” 
A picture could never capture Childish Gambino’s erratic, unstoppable energy anyway, as he showed off his signature jerky dance moves and intense facial expressions while running and dancing up and down the catwalk. Donald Glover has said that after his 2018 “This Is America” and 2019 festival appearance that he’s retiring Childish Gambino and if so, he seemed determined to give his all, pouring every bit of himself into his Coachella set. 
At one point he got down into the crowd saying, “I get it. This is a selfie generation. You need proof you were here.” After searching for someone to take photo with, he asked a woman her name, explaining that he only takes selfies with his friends. 
Childish Gambino admitted to fans he’d been depressed all week and that he feels upset about not giving his all to fans when tickets are so expensive.  
“And then I saw Janelle’s set and I was like, ‘She’s having so much fun. I owe it to being alive to have fun and that’s why we’re here.” 
He went on to share some words of wisdom, saying, “Everyone here is chosen. You could’ve been a rabbit, a palm tree, a koala, a praying mantis. But being human is such a high form of energy. So special. It’s hard not to take it for granted. You can change anything if you want to. I hope everyone feels good and you feel as powerful as you are.” 
The production included seven pods, with 18 lasers around the outside and four points of automation “so they could shift, change and create a sort of architecture on stage,” Coffey explained. “Some [moments] were wide open, some like [during] ‘Awaken My Love’ were tight when he was on stage with the band.”
Whether you were watching Childish Gambino and his dancers on the catwalk, looking toward the stage to admire the innovative production, or admiring the beams of lights that seemed to be shooting down onto the crowd from the heavens, there was always something interesting to feast your eyes upon. 
“I’m really proud of our team, we did some really cool things that hadn’t been done before,” Coffey said. “He performed a new song and we did a single camera shot that was following him. You don’t see that a lot in concerts. … It’s not only a testament to our teams, it’s a testament to Coachella. They were open to suggestions and not shutting anything down. They were a great partner for us.”
Tame Impala’s Parker referenced Gambino’s set during the band’s Saturday headline appearance, asking, “Anyone see Childish Gambino last night? I’ve never been so jealous and inspired at the same time. That goes for so many artists. That’s the thing about Coachella – say what you will but they bring the goods.” 
Billie Eilish
Courtesy of Coachella
– Billie Eilish
performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif., April 20, 2019.
Billie Eilish’s set at the Outdoor Theatre was another stand-out performance, featuring an impressive production with eerie visuals, including baby dolls on fire, that perfectly suited the dark mood of her music. She interacted with the audience throughout, asking fans to form a mosh pit, scream as loud as they possible could, then get down low and jump up. 
Seeing Eilish live, it’s easy to understand why so many young fans look up to the 17-year-old singer. She’s just unapologetically herself, what with her goth-tinged, punk spirit and masculine style, complete with baggy clothes and messy hair.  
Eilish shared, “I used to sit in my room and cry because I wanted this shit so bad. We all live in the moment because it’s the only moment we have. If you’re going to film, don’t watch it [right now]. I want to see your faces. We’re never going to be in this moment again. While we’re here just be here.”
After performing “When The Party’s Over,” and hearing the crowd chant her name, Eilish seemed overcome with emotion and gratitude, like she was about to well up with happy tears as she switched her stoic expression for a giant smile, putting her hand over her mouth. She noted, “If I could stay on stage for the rest of my life, I would. I feel like I’m not here, like it’s not real.” 
And then there was Kanye West’s “Sunday Service,” the first public performance of the rapper’s Gospel series, which took place on a raised hill known as “the mountain” in Coachella’s camping section. 
Kanye West
Jim Joe
– Kanye West
appears at his Sunday Service at Coachella in Indio, Calif., April 21, 2019
Doors opened at 6 a.m. and the show began around 9 a.m., running two and a half hours. Fans gathered early to get a good spot on the grass, willing to skip sleep in anticipation of what Kanye might deliver.  
The whole performance was a surreal spectacle, from the gospel choir members marching in formation on the hill in matching purple outfits to the procession of guests and celebrities arriving to take their places on an adjacent hill, including Kanye’s wife, TV personality and businesswoman Kim Kardashian-West. 
Starting with organ music, the setlist was a mix of traditional Gospel songs, covers including Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life” and Stevie Wonder’s “As,” and Kanye tunes. Most of the show was focused on the choir and dancers. The rapper only performed a few tracks and didn’t start rapping until nearly 11 a.m. At that point he started and stopped the 2004 track “All Falls Down” a few times before getting in the groove. It was unclear whether he forgot the lyrics, was nervous or there were technical difficulties. He also showed off the live debut of the song “Water.” 
Special guests included Chance The Rapper performing “Ultralight Beam” (from Kanye’s 2016 album, The Life Of Pablo) and DMX offering lyrics from “The Prayer VI” as a prayer.    
Kanye West
Sarah Pittman
– Kanye West
at Coachella in Indio, Calif., April 21, 2019.
While some fans were pumped throughout the service, rapping along with Kanye and dancing along with the choir, a number of festivalgoers gave up their spots near the front of the crowd, seemingly disappointed that the service was more of a gospel performance than a Kanye gig. While waiting for Kanye to actually perform one did have to question what the service was all about – was it an ego trip for Kanye to make people wait for him to take the mic (after already waking up early and waiting hours in the blazing sun for the service to start)? Or did he leave most of the performance in the hands of the choir and dancers because the Sunday Service was truly about praising God? 
Initially I didn’t think the show was worth waking up at the crack of dawn and four and a half hours of my time (including arriving early to secure a spot). I thought the length of the show could have been cut in half and I wished Kanye would have performed more songs or even addressed the crowd once. Where’s a signature Kanye rant when you want one? Then again, hours later the show was still on my mind. Love the show or hate it, Kanye was creating art and a moment. The show was a reminder that Kanye will never do exactly what you want or expect him to do – and that’s a big part of his appeal. Plus, anticipating Kanye’s performance kind of misses the point of enjoying the Sunday Service for what it is. After all, it’s all about the present moment.