Skip to content

The Best, the Mess and the Rest: Coachella 2023

North America's most important music festival had it all
Coachella, after dark (Credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella)

Another year, another Coachella. The mega festival returned to the Southern California desert for its 24th year (and 21st edition).  As North America’s most prominent festival, Coachella continues to flex its influence and its importance as a cultural touchstone.

The festival, as usual, was full of surprises, notably the last-minute additions of James Blake, ODESZA and the reunited Blink-182 to its lineup. Additionally, artists such as The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Tyler, the Creator, Diddy, Don Toliver, and many more made surprise appearances.

Here’s the best, the mess and the rest of what went down in Indio this weekend.

The Best

The Crowd


The crowd takes in the action (Credit: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

For the first time in a number of years, the crowds weren’t there just to take photos. Coachella used to be a place where you could see Frank Ocean or Phoenix perform on a smaller stage and trace their journey to a headlining spot. Impressively, the stages were packed well before sundown with fans listening and taking in the music. This festival is the most important tastemaking event in America culturally, and it’s nice to see that audiences are engaging in what made it so impactful in the first place. –Daniel Kohn



Blink 182
Mark Hoppus is very happy to be at Coachella (Credit: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

While Coachella has been leaning more and more towards modern pop in recent years, the fest tilted back into rock on the opening day of 2023 with the last-minute addition of Blink-182, reuniting the classic lineup for their first live performance in almost a decade. With singer-guitarist Tom DeLonge back in action, the trio slipped easily into their old roles, bouncing on the big Sahara stage – previously reserved for the fest’s dance music acts – with over an hour of pop-punk hits (“Rock Show,” “I Miss You,” “What’s My Age Again?” etc.) and dirty jokes. Unsurprisingly, Blink drew the biggest daytime crowd of the weekend. –Steve Appleford



Bjork being Bjork (Credit: @santiagraphy)

While Coachella is fueled by musical trends of the moment, some things are eternal. Count among those mainstays the beautifully eccentric Björk, the Icelandic avant-garde singer who returned once again to the stage where – since the very first Coachella in 1999 – she’s dazzled several times before. This year, she did so with an orchestra that sent her songs (“Quicksand,” “Isobel,” et al) into the desert air as waves of lush, emotional sound. She stood on white platform shoes in otherworldly attire of sparking black and white, looking more alien angel than a typical pop star. –SA

The Chemical Brothers


Chemical Brothers
Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers bring the thunder (Credit: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Coachella)

As an alumnus from the first Coachella, the Chemical Brothers are an important link to the festival’s upstart days. Their Friday night set at the Outdoor Theater showed that they’re no nostalgia act. With striking visuals, A+ stage production, and yes, block rockin’ beats, the Chems played a full 90-minute set between Gorillaz and Bad Bunny’s sets, and the energy attracted fans of all ages.


The Mess

The Still-Missing Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean is a man of mystery, going years between albums and major concert appearances, so his closing set at this year’s Coachella was highly anticipated by the 100,000 on-site. But the soulful pop visionary doesn’t make it easy, first by not allowing his performance to be shared worldwide on the festival’s YouTube live stream. Then his stage design emphasized a massive video screen above all else, with intimate blown-up views of Ocean on the mic, while he and his band were physically tucked into a garage-shaped opening visible only to fans positioned directly in front. It wasn’t as frustrating as the fest’s OutKast 2014 reunion, obscured and trapped within a large stage cube. But even with some beautifully crafted sounds both understated and explosive, Ocean was simply way too far out of reach. –SA

The Rest

Towering Monuments of Art


The art of Coachella (Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Coachella)

Coachella has always been as visual as it is musical, decorating its grassy polo fields with gigantic works of art since its 1999 debut – that year offering art pieces imported from Burning Man. Coachella now commissions one-of-a-kind works from around the world that stand tall day and night, including the colorful large robot-like statues of Sri Lanka-born Kumkum Fernando and Los Angeles artist Maggie West’s large photo-based sculpture of flowers. French artist Vincent Leroy’s bouquet of globes moved and shone during the musical performances on the nearby main stage, adding to the festival’s endless audio-visual delights. –SA