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The first weekend of Coachella 2022 kicked off on Friday.Callie Ahlgrim
  • Insider’s music team attended weekend one of the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
  • Some highlights included seeing Harry Styles and easily getting close to the stage for earlier shows.
  • But there were also negative aspects of the experience, like traffic and apathetic crowds.

We got to witness Harry Styles’ first-ever Coachella performance with our own eyes.

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Harry Styles was the festival’s Friday headliner.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA

Harry Styles was our favorite headliner of the weekend. He did it all: launched the show with his delectable new single “As It Was,” sang two duets with Shania Twain, gave “boyfriends everywhere” a hearty “fuck you,” and got a Coachella crowd to scream along to a One Direction hit.

Although it was Styles’ first time on the festival stage, you never would’ve known it. He oozed enthusiasm and confidence from every sequin.

The topography contributed a lot to the overall feel of the festival.

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The scenery at Coachella is stunning, especially as the sun sets.Callie Ahlgrim

There’s a reason why Coachella is the quintessential destination for Instagram lovers. It’s very difficult to gaze around at mountains and palm trees in every direction and feel completely unmoved.

The skyline of Indio, California is simply magical, particularly when accented by the festival’s signature Ferris wheel and art installations.

Many artists performed new or unreleased songs during their sets.

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Megan Thee Stallion’s Saturday performance was widely praised.Rich Fury/Getty Images for Coachella

For many musicians, joining Coachella’s iconic lineup is an honor and career milestone. They often seem eager to make their performances feel special, and one surefire way to do that is to give fans a taste of new music.

The first weekend in April also tends to kick off festival season, taking place at a time when many artists are gearing up to release summer singles or full-length projects.

This year, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat both debuted new songs, while Styles performed two unreleased tracks from his forthcoming album “Harry’s House.”

Coachella provides a unique opportunity for artists to bring out other musicians during their performances.

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Rico Nasty and Doja Cat.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella

Another way to make a performance feel special is an unexpected cameo. This is a strategy that’s wholeheartedly embraced by Coachella performers, almost to the point where it’s expected.

Headliners Styles and Billie Eilish opted to pay homage to their forerunners by bringing out Twain and Damon Albarn, respectively.

Several others asked collaborators to perform their hit duets, like Doja, who welcomed Tyga for “Freaky Deaky” and Rico Nasty for “Tia Tamera,” as well as Daniel Caesar, who was joined by Justin Bieber for a low-key rendition of “Peaches.” The Australian producer Flume enlisted a star-studded collection of guests, including Vince Staples, Caroline Polachek, Beck, and Tove Lo.

Arlo Parks’ surprise appearance for Phoebe Bridgers’ finale was especially enjoyable.

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Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

Bridgers and Parks haven’t released any songs together, so when Parks joined Bridgers onstage to sing “Graceland Too” and “I Know the End,” it was a genuine surprise and thrill. Their voices meshed beautifully and we could tell that both women were having a blast.

The daytime crowds are looser and more relaxed, so more dedicated fans can easily make their way to the front.

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Japanese Breakfast performed at the Mojave stage on Saturday.Demian Becerra/Courtesy of Coachella

Although people would pack together and push to the front for evening performers and headliners, we found this wasn’t true for earlier shows.

Many audiences were more sparse and relaxed than we expected, presumably because Coachella is so huge and there are so many artists to see, everyone is spread out. We were able to get super close to celebrated artists like Arcade Fire and Japanese Breakfast, both of whom performed before sunset, without much effort at all.

Aside from Sunday night, nearly every set started and ended on time.

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Karol G took the main stage on Sunday.Ashley Osborn/Courtesy of Coachella

Coachella is a massive production and well-oiled machine. For the majority of the weekend, artists arrived onstage exactly when they were supposed to.

The festival crew was able to dismantle sets and build new ones remarkably fast, so fans had very little time to wait in between performances.

For example, Doja fans only had to wait about 40 minutes after Karol G left the stage, despite the latter’s complex set design.

Doja Cat’s elaborate, rock-infused show was proof that she’s ready for headliner status.

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Doja Cat took the main stage on Sunday, right before Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd.Valerie Macon//AFP via Getty Images

Believe it or not, TikTok’s favorite songs sound even better and more addictive live. Doja threads her hit-packed setlist with punchy drums and electric guitar riffs, including a punk-rock version of her No. 1 smash “Say So” that convinced us she was born to make the next “Live Through This.”

Beyond the music itself, Doja gave fans a true performance, complete with multiple costume changes and elaborate choreography.

Girl in red gave an energized performance which led to an epic stage dive.

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Girl in red performed at the Mojave stage on Saturday.Charles Reagan/Courtesy of Coachella

Girl in red, whose birth name is Marie Ulven Ringheim, admitted during her set that she wasn’t feeling her best — but had she not said anything, no one would have been able to tell.

Her energy levels were up from the very second she hit the stage, continuing to give an impassioned performance of her hits, including “We Fell in Love in October,” “Serotonin,” and “Bad Idea!”

For her final song, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” she fully transformed into a rock star by shredding on her guitar and capping off the set with some crowd surfing — despite being warned against it.

“I was specifically told, ‘Maria, there’s not enough people to stage dive. Don’t do it.’ So I’m not going to do it,” she said, before inspecting the audience and deciding to give it a try anyway.

While the entire set was incredible, that finale took the experience up several notches, making it one of the standout sets of the entire weekend.

Maggie Rogers gave our favorite performance of the weekend.

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Maggie Rogers is gearing up to release her sophomore album.Courtesy of Coachella

Due to her set time, Rogers potentially had a lot working against her — Sunday was by far the hottest that it’d been all weekend, the crowd was fully exposed to the beating sun, and by day three, people were utterly exhausted.

But all of those issues faded into oblivion the second she strutted out to “Give a Little.”

Throughout her set, Rogers delivered an inspired mashup of “Retrograde” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” came through with powerful vocals, and commanded the stage with ease.

Absolutely everything about Rogers’ 45 minutes on the Coachella stage was electric.

Of course, your spot in the crowd can make or break your experience at a concert. However, much to our delight, there was no better audience than the one that showed up for Rogers on Sunday. Everyone around us was fully immersed in the experience, shouting every word and, at one point, chanting, “Maggie! Maggie! Maggie!” between tracks.

We were all so engaged with the performance that it came as a genuine shock when she announced the final song. It’s criminal she wasn’t given a full hour onstage.

On the downside, there’s a lot of traffic while arriving to the festival, and not many signs to point you in the right direction.

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A photo of Coachella’s camp site taken in 2011.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Much of this drawback depends on when you try to arrive at the festival, but some of the traffic we encountered was baffling.

The Coachella website explicitly tells fans not to trust GPS and to follow their directions instead. But there’s not much in the way of signage when approaching the grounds.

If you come from the wrong direction, you may find yourself driving in circles, constantly rerouted by unexplained traffic cones, blockages, and lines of cars with no end in sight.

On Sunday, after leaving Palm Springs at 2 p.m. and driving 40 minutes to Indio, it took us an additional 90 minutes to get inside a parking lot.

Although we’ve heard good things about Coachella’s shuttle service, it only operates from local hotels, whose rooms sell out extremely fast and cost a pretty penny. The shuttle itself isn’t cheap either: a weekend pass will put you out $84, plus fees.

As for using ride-hailing apps, that plan can be a tricky gamble. One festivalgoer we spoke to tried to call an Uber and was forced to wait for over an hour. Around 2 a.m., she gave up and begged a friend to pick her up.

Walking to and from the parking lot was perhaps the worst part of the experience.

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On Friday, we even got lost returning to the car because there are so many lots.Callie Ahlgrim

Renting a car to drive to and from the festival made the most sense for our schedule and budget. But we did not anticipate how painful parking would be.

Each day, it took at least 20 minutes to actually get inside the festival after exiting our car. That may not seem like a lot, but in 90-degree heat with blisters on our feet, it felt like an eternity.

After a long day of walking and dancing, returning to the car was even worse, especially since the headliners didn’t finish performing until around 1 a.m. By then, we were drained.

We both developed blisters on our feet throughout the weekend.

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We sat as much as possible in between sets to save our feet.Callie Ahlgrim

Due to the sheer size of the festival grounds, attendees need to walk a lot.

When you’re spending multiple hours on your feet for three days in a row, it’s inevitable that your feet will be aching by the end, but the odds of getting a blister go way up, too.

We each developed several blisters on the bottom of our feet throughout the weekend, so the only day we weren’t traipsing around in pain was Friday.

On Saturday morning, we stopped at a store to buy Band-Aids, ibuprofen, and gel insoles for our shoes to help ease the pain. However, we were able to do this because we were driving to the festival each day — if we were camping on-site, we would likely have had to suffer.

The dust is no joke.

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The return walk to the car was especially dusty.Callie Ahlgrim

Before setting out to the festival on day one, we saw a TikTok video of a woman advising festivalgoers to bring a face covering and a Neti pot because “the dust is not a little game.”

When we got there, though, we were surprised that the grounds were covered in grass and foolishly believed the dust wouldn’t be an issue.

However, the path back to the parking lot is a completely different terrain and was insanely dusty at night.

After making the long trek back to our car every evening, we’d spend the entire 45-minute drive to our Airbnb in Palm Springs coughing and sneezing.

The lineup has so many artists that overlap is inevitable.

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FINNEAS and Orville Peck both performed at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday.Ashley Osborn/Kirby Gladstein/Courtesy of Coachella

Coachella’s set times weren’t released until Thursday, one day before the festival was scheduled to kick off.

Of the many artists we were excited to see, several were scheduled for the same time on different stages: girl in red and Rina Sawayama; Kim Petras, FINNEAS, and Orville Peck; Japanese Breakfast and Arlo Parks; Denzel Curry and Jessie Reyez; Holly Humberstone and Beach Bunny.

It was easy to justify the high cost of attendance when the lineup was released, thanks to the promise of seeing an abundance of great performances. But in reality, we were only able to see a fraction of what we’d hoped for.

The apathetic attitude of some crowds was a major mood-killer.

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Not everyone is at Coachella just for music.Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Coachella is billed as far more than a music festival — it’s an experience at the intersection of fashion, celebrity, and art. Thusly, there are plenty of people who aren’t there to sing and dance.

This apathy was obvious to us from the jump. At several shows, we were surrounded by people who were either completely immobile or infuriatingly chatty, even when we were very close to the stage.

During Bridgers’ emotional performance, for example, many people in the audience were talking all the way through her songs — to the point where people on Twitter noticed the volume of their conversations in our videos.

“The people talking through this… i would’ve lost my shit,” one person said.

Look, we knew the desert would be hot — but wow, it was hot.

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People sought shelter from the sun anywhere they could.Callie Ahlgrim

I, Callie, have been to various music festivals across the country. They nearly always take place in the summer, so I was prepared for a sweaty experience.

But the heat at Coachella was an entirely different level. Immediately upon arriving, the sunlight felt oppressive. It was sometimes difficult just to walk across the field without getting exhausted, and despite drinking five or more bottles of water per day, I repeatedly felt dizzy.

When the sun went down, we experienced major temperature whiplash.

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Coachella’s iconic Ferris wheel lights up at night.Callie Ahlgrim

Again, we know this is how the desert works, but it got significantly colder at night. The smartest choice was to bring a jacket, but given the heat during the day, that was a tedious task.

The festival abruptly removed all vaccine and COVID test requirements, which seemed unwise.

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Some people wore masks, even though they weren’t required.Callie Ahlgrim

Although experts say the risk of contracting COVID in an outdoor setting is far lower, the densely packed crowds at Coachella seem to negate that benefit. It would’ve made us far more comfortable if we had some assurance that our fellow patrons were vaccinated — or, at least, had recently tested negative for the deadly virus.

There were already several security checkpoints to get into the festival, so it doesn’t seem like adding one more to approve vaccination cards would’ve caused much trouble.

Sunday’s joint headliners were 35 minutes late, and The Weeknd didn’t arrive until after Swedish House Mafia had performed a full set.

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The Weeknd replaced Ye as the Sunday headliner.Beth Saravo/Courtesy of Coachella

It was Sunday night. We were tired. And we were told The Weeknd would arrive at 10:20 p.m.

Instead, he showed up around 11:40 p.m., after Swedish House Mafia took the stage 35 minutes late and performed a more-or-less-complete setlist.

As many of our fellow festivalgoers agreed, we were under the impression that Swedish House Mafia would act as more of a DJ for The Weeknd’s headlining show, or their performances would be weaved together.

But by the time The Weeknd finally materialized to perform hits like “Blinding Lights,” “The Hills,” and “Starboy,” we could barely summon the energy to tap our feet.

Follow along with Insider’s Coachella coverage here.

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