But the greatest evidence of Coachella’s community feel came on its first Friday when one of the festival’s most legendary bands, Arcade Fire, showed its concern for its fans. The Canadian band opened with its new single, “The Lightning,” but quickly stopped when front man, Win Butler, noticed a fan in distress. With the memory of 10 fans dying during a stage rush at Travis Scott’s show at the Astroworld Festival last year in Houston still fresh in people’s minds, Butler yelled “medic.” When it appeared the fan was OK, Butler was cheered for his caution. Then Arcade Fire’s new music was embraced. The band didn’t play material from its 2011 Grammy Award-winning album, “The Suburbs,” until its fourth song. But by then the packed Mojave tent audience was delighting in its fun props, its enthusiastic playing, and its five-part harmony and unison vocals, which had the audience singing along to every word.
Butler introduced another new song near the end of the set and with it came another human moment. He dedicated “Unconditional (Lookout Kid)” to his son and, while singing “There are things that you could do/ That no one else on earth could ever do/ That I can’t teach you, I can’t teach it to you,” Butler choked up and stopped again. But he gathered himself and followed with the band’s classic singalong, “Wake Up,” making it their last song at Coachella ’22. Sadly, Arcade Fire chose not to return for the festival’s second weekend.
A common theme among the almost 200 acts at Coachella was how good it felt to return after the pandemic. Producer El-P of the rap duo, Run the Jewels, quipped Sunday afternoon, “And, per my request, it’s 1000 degrees out.” As if to make amends, Goldenvoice moved them the next Friday to 8:10 p.m. in the Mojave tent, offering shelter from a highly unusual storm.
Despite the war in Europe and the general relief over declining COVID-19 numbers, there wasn’t a sense of partying like it was 1939. That’s either because Goldenvoice made this a seamless progression from past festivals, building on its constant quest for Coachella moments, or that many fans simply hadn’t seen enough festivals to realize things were back to normal.
Harry Styles elicited Justin Bieber/Beatlemania-type screams for his Friday night headliner set — highly unusual for Coachella and reflective of his younger audience. Styles has star quality, but his touted duets with Shania Twain were less than compelling and even his giant hit, “Watermelon Sugar,” fell short of being a Coachella moment.