Soulchella for Two
A Masculine + Feminine Perspective
From stage to stage, the running theme when artists jumped on the mic was to give a special nod to Weekend Two. Maybe it was the desert winds, the full moon glow, or the absence of influencers, but the vibe was right on the second go around and the feels showed up. There are many ways to do Coachella— just as in life, there are many ways to live. While the dominant logic is to snap a photo of the lineup and keep a grounds map in your pocket, a softer approach is to let instinct and flow take over, and let the energy carry you to where you need to be. The outcome of flow was Soulchella; a weekend of artist-observer-exchange that was surprisingly real, even in the corners of All Access. Yet, the experience is only as magical as the experiencer. So, with a masculine and feminine perspective, it’s safe to say that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Masculine: I had never heard of Rosalía before Friday, and I left believing one day she would headline the festival. Her stage presence was that of an A level diva. Her voice had the range of Adele, the emotion of Amy Winehouse, and the only thing she said in English were the interludes (and I don’t speak Spanish). I was stunned. It was the best performance of the weekend, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t fall in love for that 50-minute performance.
Feminine: She’s as cute and as fun as her name is to say. Rosalía’s a snack for any gender and any orientation reminiscent of a ‘90s Britney (post-Disney, pre-Justin, Gen Next dance days) with Sailor Moon’s cosmic powers (pre-Tuxedo Mask days). All six of her dancers had hairy ball antennas on their head and Rosalía’s flowy pigtail antennas screamed pure femininity. She brought out special guest J Balvin, and they serenaded us with “Con Altura” above the dreamy cloud visuals. The two of them apparently have a thing for clouds. As if hairy balls and fluffy clouds weren’t enough, she Spanish flamenco’d her way into my heart when she gave a proud shout-out to her country and culture. So, I guess we both fell in love that day.
M: For the owner of my personal Album of the Year award, the crowd noise pumped into the speakers was unnecessary, but the projected 2021 Coachella headliner did not disappoint for her legions of followers. A late main stage set would have been more fitting as the 17-year -old choked up pedestrian traffic both weekends by the size of her crowd. She was genuine and charismatic, and the big LED stage she shared with her brother, Finneas, seemed unnecessary for her live introduction to many, but for a superstar of her stature, it did fit. She was equally vulnerable and equally propped up; the response was electric.
F: My sister’s name is Billie, and Billie’s are the coolest. This Billie Eilish exudes sister energy so hard you automatically love her because she makes you laugh AND she understands the saddest parts of you. She’s your favorite role model, style icon, multitalented genius that will shade somebody hard for you. Her lyrics resonate for all ages and says what you’re thinking. Even with tens of thousands showing up for her, you were in a living room with fam— especially as she shares the stage with her brother. You know mom was somewhere close, too. Deng, the desert winds almost knocked her over, and I swear the entire crowd was right there with her, lifting her up while she just laughed at the absurdity. She’s collecting a lot of talented siblings, and I wonder with whom she will be singing with.
M: Starting his set with a video homage of his doubters, he challenged himself by bringing people into the state of mind that he didn’t deserve the slot minutes before his first song dropped. Then, he astounded, he strutted, he smoked with the crowd, and quickly showed 70,000 revelers why he might be the most talented person on Earth. According to the intro video, you couldn’t dance to his music, but we danced. He didn’t have any hits, but we knew the words. It set the tone and the standard for a weekend full of incredible performers, and I didn’t see a disappointed soul in the crowd.
F: This man is a daredevil, and he’s following in Kanye’s footsteps in the path of so woke he’s crazy. He had many “look into my foolish eyes” moments, and he pleaded to put phones away yet he stopped to create a selfie moment. He accompanied his enlightenment with a #lgbtqpoc graduation gospel. He exhibited pain-in-chest pounding feels without a shirt on. Observing offstage within the VIP gates, most listeners didn’t know how to dance to a Childish Gambino set, but that’s how Donald started off the show anyway. By showing you testimonials of people who don’t get it. Who don’t get him. However, the real ones or the real crazy ones danced their asses off— and real always finds real. Immense gratitude for covering my dudes Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, “Crazy,” which is a song that was created out of conversations about ways they could make people think they’re crazy. Donald, I have a saying, “Going sane looks a lot like going crazy.” Though, he’s crazy for calling Janelle Monae “big sis” on the mic. You’re older than her, stop playin’!
M: Electric charisma in a bouncing afro, Nicole had the Yuma tent grooving on Friday, and we were all in. A 1942 bottle bounced around behind the DJ booth and the manager was savoring every moment. After many decades of bouncy sets from the legend, I felt honored to catch her grace in the legendary Yuma.
F: Fiiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaa Fest, not Fyre Fest. She’s the real deal— good hair, girl boss, producer, and techno mentor of my dreams. She’s the’s ultimate mood director with 261 episodes under her belt, and as I’m writing this, her sultry voice on episode 261 mentions Coachella and how she wanted to give something different for her 20:00 set. There were straight up bro looking dudes standing on their other bro friend’s shoulders just to get a glimpse of the fun-sized Nicole behind the bulky gear and high stage. Different is great, and different together is bouncy.
M: Woman held the top three spots for best performance for me personally, and Janelle was in the number two spot. She definitely deserved the main stage, and she graced the stage with strong, dancing Queer women everywhere. She empowered them with her rhetoric, as well as her songs.
F: Deng. Her looks. Her fit. Her vocals. Her fun. Her power. Her grace. Her shoutout to Queen Bey for paving the way. Her dedication to the pussy. Her delivery of a juicy show. She’s a warrior paving the way for the rest of us. Keep up!
M: Kanye did something nobody had ever seen before. He made it pop relevant, religious, and didn’t make it about himself… which is crazy to me. It was soul, it was house, it was gospel, it was R&B, it was hip-hop, and it was almost always with a Kanye sonic infusion without a Kanye persona domination. Chance The Rapper, Teyana Taylor, DMX and the 200 person choir became puzzle pieces to a beautiful mosaic of sound that didn’t need a CO2 blast or a lighting package to dazzle the crowd. Kanye and his band took instrumentals of Kanye classics, an old Chicago house track, a slew of ‘70s classics, and augmented them into easily digestible gospel music fit for a festival stage, but with none of the bells and whistles— just a hill and a sound system. It was absolutely a religious experience, and Kanye only deity’d himself on a couple occasions. He might have been hinting that he is “Yeezus” or “Yahndi,” but he didn’t make this performance about him; it was about gospel music and how it could reach the masses. Needless to say, I was impressed.
F: Maybe we’re both biased with this one because of our Chicago roots, but then again, Chicago likes to be a divisive city in almost everything. So, maybe we’re just both Kanye West fans, or fans of moments that shift culture, or fans of unique immersive art— either way, there was no way we were missing Kanye. The shepherds were out all night leading all the sheep into the green pastures early Easter morning. Church clothes sold and resold on the spot, and my zero expectation attitude was excited for the açaí bowls available for breakfast, as well as the harp setup on the hillside stage. You couldn’t even hear the harp one time— and so much happened during the morning hours of Sunday Service that it took days to fully process what I witnessed. The choir of dancers were so channeled to Source that even with the sweats and Yeezys on, the palette didn’t include a drop of sweat. The energy didn’t dip once, and the entire hill vibrated and lifted into a mountain. You can make a mountain out of a hill. Even the back of the merch read, “Sunday Service At The Mountain.” Although, there was one moment of suspect that is worth noting. At the climax of the show when Kanye Omari West was about to have a resurrection moment, he glitched out and we lost him— and what could have been a powerful moment. Omari means “God the Highest.” God, are you there? FREE KANYE.
Regardless of the point of view, it was obvious that the real winners of Soulchella were those standing for liberation from a patriarchal world. Shoutout to the Uber drivers of Southern California that drove into Coachella Valley to cash in on this privileged crowd. Unfortunately, most of them slept in their cars and waited in long pickup lines with no way to know what they were earning. One even sold bottles of 1942 after hours out of his trunk for $400. You can always go back into the app and generously thank your rides for participating. Thank you Southern California for creating an opportunity for artists of all colors and cultural backgrounds to come represent their corner of the world. Special shoutout to Do LaB for the round the clock, dance-it-out human release. What a time to be alive when artists show up for the people, and the people are present.
Again, somewhere in the middle.
—Jessie Oh and Will Runzel