10 times Coachella made us happy to be alive

Our top ten picks of the most mind-blowing moments at the festival through the years. From surprise appearances to pyrotechnics to prop stunts to game-changing live performances.


                            10 times Coachella made us happy to be alive
(Getty Images)

Ever since Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction's reunion on the Coachella stage way back in 2001, the festival has become a beacon for intimate, tear-jerker moments from the music world. Over the years, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has become a usual suspect for providing some of the most breathtaking moments in music festival history. From surprise performances, to larger than life props, to Tove Lo flashing her breasts on stage, Coachella has a knack for leaving fans every year with something they'd never expected to see or would ever probably see again.

With the 2018 edition just a day away (Coachella goes down on the upcoming two weekends i.e. April 13-15 and April 20-22), we bring to you a compilation of the 10 best moments through the history of the festival which, for a few brief moments at least, made us unconditionally happy to be alive.

 

10. Rihanna's surprise cameo alongside Calvin Harris (2012)

EDM was a big hit at the 2012 edition of the festival, and no DJ had a bigger breakout performance than Calvin Harris, who was setting the stage on fire in the Sahara tent long before Rihanna popped up as a special guest. When Rih Rih appeared midway through the set to perform their hit collaborations 'We Found Love' and 'Where Have You Been,' the crowd's reaction was so loud, it almost drowned out the music! Whoever would have guessed that a quiet Scottish producer could bring Coachella to its knees?

 

9. Kanye West's surprise headliner performance (2011)

It's 2018 now and all three headliners (Beyonce, The Weeknd, Eminem) are from the hip-hop/rap genre. But back in 2011, Coachella, with its indie-rock first image, wasn't known for booking mainstream hip-hop acts. But the organizers threw the crowd a curve ball during the 2006 edition of the festival when, just 24-hours before the gates opened, organizers announced that Kanye West would perform on the main stage. Yeezy returned to the Coachella stage in 2011, bringing along a troupe of dancers, featuring guest appearances by Bon Iver and Pusha T, and enough pyrotechnics to light up all of South California. He performed everything from the early hits like 'Jesus Walks' and 'Gold Digger' to 'Dark Fantasy' and crowd-pleasers like 'All of the Lights' and 'Power.'

 

8. Roger Waters' pig takes flight (2008)

Kanye's fireworks display in 2011 still holds no candle to the pyrotechnic ensemble that Pink Floyd's Roger Waters brought to the festival three years ago. For his gig, Waters packed a whole bunch of props and one of them a giant inflatable pig that hovered about the crowd during the song "Sheep." But Waters was surprised to see the graffitied swine (which boasted the word "Obama" on its underbelly) floating off into the night sky at the song's conclusion. The whole affair was reminiscent of the album cover of Pink Floyd's 'Animals', which was created by getting one such floating pig to fly over the Battersea Power Station in Southwest London.

Coachella organizers offered four free lifetime passes and $10,000 to anyone who found the pig, which was ultimately recovered from a Palm Springs country club several days later.

 

7. Kendrick Lamar's live debut of 'DAMN' (2017)

Two days after taking over as the biggest star of the hip-hop world with the release of the highly Grammy-winning album 'DAMN.', Kendrick Lamar lit up the Coachella stage with live debuts of 10 of the album's 14 tracks. As if fans weren't already stoked enough to hear brand new tracks live during the weekend-closing set, Kendrick made the performance even more memorable with a few surprises up his sleeve: ScHoolboy Q for a cover of "That Part," Future for their remix of "Mask Off," and Travis Scott for their collaboration 'Goosebumps' the latter two of which Lamar had never performed live earlier. He got the crowd pumping throughout the entire 19-song set, but it was the back-to-back finale of the visual treat the accompanied 'HUMBLE.' and 'LOVE.' that really sent fans into a frenzy.

 

6. The Cure refuses to stop playing (2009)

You know the performance is pure fire when the organizers have to shut off your speakers to get you off stage! That's exactly what happened with The Cure's set during the '09 edition of the festival. After playing for more than two-and-a half hours, frontman Robert Smith began the band's third encore by informing the crowd that they'd had been instructed to play only one more song. But the band went on to belt two more tunes, much to the delight of their fans. But as the Cure broke into its 1980 hit 'Boys Don't Cry,' Coachella's organizers cut the main-stage speakers. As if that would stop the kings of Goth! The Cure continued to play through their stage monitors, causing the crowd to absolutely lose their sh*t, before they rushed the stage and joined in an unprompted sing-along. Truly one of the most unforgettable moments of the festival in its 16 editions so far!

 

5. Arcade Fire's rain of beach balls on the crowd (2011)

After making their way up the font sizes of the festival's billings for their third Coachella appearance, indie's poster-children Arcade Fire partnered with the Vice/Intel-powered Creator's Project and took the festival's beach-ball-cliche to a whole new level. During a soul-stirring rendition of their hit 'Wake Up,' as the crowd joined in for a stadium-worthy chant, thousands of LED-enhanced beach balls were dropped onto the unsuspecting crowd. As IR transmitters inside each beach ball began a syncopated light show that stretched across the field, the crowd exploded in delight. After the whole breathtaking affair, many audience members left with the hi-tech beachballs some of which were sold for as high as $1000 on eBay!

 

4. Prince transports Coachella back to the 80s (2008)

Three weeks before Coachella 2008 kicked off, organizers announced the addition of Prince as Saturday's headlining act. The Purple one was absolutely clear about what was going to go down over the weekend. "I [came] to party," the artist formerly known as Prince screamed to the crowd. "You are in the coolest place on Earth right now." And just to make sure that was absolutely the case, Prince showed up with more than his arsenal of all-time chart-topping hits ('Purple Rain" and 'Little Red Corvette'). He also brought an all-star 80's entourage that included percussion queen Shelia E. and members of The Time, who kicked off the set with a medley of 'Jungle Love' and 'The Bird.'

 

3. Rage Against The Machine reunite (2007)

As mentioned earlier, Coachella had hosted many reunion gigs on its grounds before, but no reunion gig can even hold a candle to the outright sonic massacre that marked the return of Rage Against the Machine. LA's very own protest rockers, Zack de La Rocha, Tom Morello and company brought their politically supercharged spitfire tracks to the stage for the first time in seven years and performed in front of an estimated 100,000 people, the single largest crowd at the main stage in Coachella's history. The show was intended to be a one-off reunion effort, but thanks to the overwhelming response from fans, the gig promoted a full-scale band reunion. 

 

2. Snoop and Dre resurrect Tupac (2012)

Coachella stoked up fans in 2012 when it reunited hip-hop legends Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to close out both Sundays of its first double-weekend run. The godfathers of hip-hop delivered with a posse of A-list collaborations, which included the likes of 50 Cent, Warren G., Wiz Khalifa and Eminem. However, the single most mind-blowing moment of the night arrived when the duo resurrected Tupac from the grave, thanks to a life-sized, hologram-like 3D projection (a first of its kind at the time) to perform two smash hits for the stunned audience.

 

1. Daft Punk lights up the night with a giant LED pyramid (2006)

Daft Punk's 2006 Coachella set changed the face of the festival forever. (Image Source: Getty Images)

No matter how much praise is showered upon the LED disco spectacle that Daft Punk put up during Coachella 2006, it won't ever do real justice to the performance. The performance came after the release of their album Human After All in 2005, and after several delays marked the French electronic duo's first performance in the USA in 10 years. The Sahara tent was packed as 40,000 people crammed their way into the 10,000-person capacity tent to see Daft Punk play.

The result was a game-changing performance, one that changed the face of the festival forever as it shed its indie-rock oriented image and opened up doors to more electronic and dance artists. As pointed out in the documentary 'Daft Punk Unchained,' the performance finally showed what the rock world wanting electronica was all about, as die-hard fans, as well as newbies, danced the night away. The giant LED pyramid became a trademark for the duo in the following years and the performance not only redeemed Daft Punk's status as dance music's powerhouses, but also elevated the scale of modern concerts to new levels.

Fans overwhelmingly named it the best show in Coachella history. Billboard also agreed. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 20 greatest festival moments ever. Daft Punk member Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo wasn't lying when he said, "At Coachella, we lost our virginity again!