Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

From Diljit Dosanjh's high-octane set to Bad Bunny's firework performance, takeaways from 2023's history-making Coachella

Frank Ocean, BLACKPINK, Blink-182, and others brought music and created history as the headliners of the first weekend of the premier desert music festival

Published: Apr 18, 2023 12:00:45 PM IST
Updated: Apr 18, 2023 05:40:22 PM IST

From Diljit Dosanjh's high-octane set to Bad Bunny's firework performance, takeaways from 2023's history-making CoachellaDiljit Dosanjh performs at Coachella weekend one on April 15, 2023. Image: Christina House / L A Times via Getty Images

Coachella's first weekend made history, brought back rock and boasted one of its most international slates ever, all while offering no shortage of its customary barely there fashion.

Here's a rundown of the weekend's takeaways:

History-making headliners

Coachella 2023 was the first time none of the premier desert festival's headliners were white, and the three sets ran the gamut of representation while setting historic precedent.

Reggaeton giant Bad Bunny blazed through two hours of his oeuvre while honoring Latino music pioneers, offering his frenzied fans fireworks, special guests—including Post Malone—and a dance break.

The biggest pop star in the world was the first Spanish-language and first Latin American act to headline Coachella: "There's never been someone like me before," he said in Spanish.

The next night K-pop phenomenon BLACKPINK became the first Asian act to headline, exceeding already high expectations for a tightly performed show heavy on effects, as tens of thousands of festival-goers partied to a string of their pop smashes.

And on day three, Frank Ocean closed the weekend in his signature enigmatic fashion, after taking a full hour beyond his scheduled start time to begin. He did not allow press photos and nixed the increasingly customary YouTube livestream.

"Come on Frank, let's go!" shouted one onlooker as the massive crowd grew increasingly twitchy.

He finally appeared centerstage wearing a blue hoodie, mostly turned away from the crowd to perform his track "Novacane," and took prolonged pauses between songs including "Crack Rock" and "White Ferrari."

When Ocean finally spoke, he teased a new album to cries of joy from the audience, but he gave no indication of its content or timeline.

Ocean closed his set as abruptly as he began: "Guys, I'm being told it's curfew so that's the end of the show," he said, and the stage screen cut to black.

Also read: 'Hallyu' goes global: South Korean pop culture booms in Europe


The Rock Show

For years, Coachella's fans have complained that the festival has veered too far from its alt-rock roots; Rage Against The Machine, Beck and Tool headlined the first edition in 1999.

But for all the weekend's eminently danceable sets—Charli XCX, Rosalia and Latto to name a few—rock was alive and well, from legacy acts to the cutting edge.

Blink-182 reunited with its original lineup for the first time in nearly a decade, offering a nostalgic headbanging moment for the droves of 30-somethings reliving the soundtrack to their youths, from "The Rock Show" to "What's My Age Again" to "All The Small Things."

After the set, many rushed to catch a blockbuster show from Blondie, who delivered hits including "Heart of Glass" and "Call Me," and invited guest Nile Rodgers onstage.

Fresh off the release of their album "the record," boygenius—the indie rock supergroup comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus—reunited for a set that ranged from heartstring-tugging to a guitar-smashing vibe.

They had the crowd swaying and singing along to a setlist jam-packed with beloved tracks, including "True Blue" and "The Record."

The trio also got political, voicing support for trans and abortion rights, while also delivering an expletive-laden rebuke of Ron DeSantis, the extreme-right Florida governor considering a run for his party's 2024 presidential nomination.

Also among the rockstars was Ethel Cain, who brought her ethereal, southern gothic brand of folk-rock to the desert, donning a cheerleader skirt and letterman's jacket to lead the crowd through her tracks including the hypnotic hit "American Teenager."

"You guys like a good little yee haw?" said the Alabama native to cheers.

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Going global

Along with Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK, major artists including Spain's Rosalia, Iceland's Bjork and Nigeria's Burna Boy received top billings on the festival's main stage, while India's Diljit Dosanjh and Pakistan's Ali Sethi drew large crowds to their high-octane sets.

It was perhaps Coachella's most globalized lineup yet, reflective of international music trends brought into relief by streaming metrics.

Belgium's Angele bopped through her Coachella debut, as France's Christine and the Queens and Domi and JD Beck, the rising jazz duo comprised of a French keyboardist and American drummer, also played respective sets.

And the elusive electronic producer Jai Paul earned acclaim after playing his first public performance ever.

Thongs to the front

It wouldn't be Coachella without a parade of the trendiest, wackiest, skimpiest fashion of the moment, and 2023 was no different.

High on the trendlist were flowing, mesh or transparent overlays that often barely concealed thong underwear and full-on booty.

Cowboy hats and boots were also big, as were flowing pants paired with crop tops that melded comfort with sexy under the blazing desert sun.

Flower crowns were decidedly out but seventies-style crochet, fringe and halter tops were all the rage, especially in metallics and embellished with glitter and sequins.

And if anyone was still wondering if low-rise pants are back...the answer is a solid yes, especially when paired with a cap-sleeved baby tee in true Y2K form.

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