Kacey Musgraves looked out from the main stage of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and took in the sea of people gathered to watch her play as the sun set on Friday evening.
This was her first time at the annual desert blowout, she told the crowd — the latest step in a successful crossover effort that’s made something of a pop star of this psychedelically inclined country singer.
“Needless to say, I’m very excited,” Musgraves said. Yet her hope was that everyone, including herself, could focus on the beauty of the right-here-and-now and “forget about everything else.”
Introducing her song “Mother” just a few minutes later, Musgraves acknowledged that her audience extended beyond the boundaries of Indio’s picturesque Empire Polo Club — specifically to her native Texas, where she said her mom was watching Coachella’s livestream on YouTube.
Musgraves wasn’t the only one with that kind of information in mind. A marquee performance by Childish Gambino relied on exquisite images designed for close inspection rather than viewing from hundreds of yards away.
A year after Beyoncé’s instant-classic performance at Coachella 2018 brought new attention to this already closely watched event, it was easy to sense the widespread awareness of that online scrutiny during the 20th-anniversary edition, which featured Childish Gambino and Tame Impala as headliners on its first two nights and was expected to close late Sunday with Ariana Grande. Coachella will repeat this coming weekend in the same place with essentially the same lineup.
As the first major festival in an increasingly crowded season, Coachella is accustomed to the spotlight; indeed, it’s what transformed a once-scrappy rock-heavy gig into a lifestyle destination (not to mention a cash cow for the company behind it, Los Angeles-based Goldenvoice).
But Beychella, as last year’s extravaganza quickly became known, raised the creative stakes with its thoughtful and heartfelt reimagining of a halftime show at a historically black college. By putting on such an unforgettable performance — one she’s revisiting in a hotly anticipated Netflix documentary due Wednesday — Beyoncé pushed other artists to create event-like moments more ambitious than a typical festival appearance.
That certainly seemed to be the case with Childish Gambino, the alter ego of actor Donald Glover, who began his set by informing the audience that what we were witnessing wasn’t a concert but an “experience.”
And so it was: With mobile cameras feeding carefully composed close-ups to enormous video screens as Glover sang, danced and descended into the crowd at one point to find someone eager to smoke with him, the show felt more like a mini-movie than a live performance; the cinematography, if that’s the word to use, was as gorgeous as that on Glover’s brilliant FX series, “Atlanta.” (True to his auteur’s sensibility, Glover barred The Times from photographing the show.)
The problem was that, unlike Beychella, Childish Gambino’s set — with R&B and rap songs that rarely transcended Glover’s obvious admiration for Drake, Kanye West and Parliament-Funkadelic — seemed optimized for YouTube, not for the tens of thousands watching and listening on the ground at Coachella.
Ditto a historic performance by Blackpink, the first K-pop girl group to play the festival, that was simulcast on a digital billboard in New York’s Times Square. The music was sleek and vivid in the established K-pop fashion; the performers nailed their moves with style and precision.
But little about the show felt uniquely tied to the type of time-and-place moment that Musgraves had described earlier. The women knew that the crowd in front of them was dwarfed by the masses following along on social media, which made you feel a bit like someone with a ticket to the Super Bowl or the Oscars.
Sure, you’d made it into an exclusive space. But everyone watching from outside was enjoying the spectacle in the manner for which it was designed.
Other artists peppered their sets with stunts seemingly designed to gain traction online, be it Musgraves’ bringing out Baddie Winkle, the 90-year-old Instagram personality, during her song “High Horse,” or Weezer welcoming Tears for Fears and TLC’s Chilli to join the band for wink-wink covers of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “No Scrubs,” respectively.
DJ Snake convened three unannounced guest stars — Cardi B, Selena Gomez and the Puerto Rican singer Ozuna — for a version of their collaborative hit “Taki Taki.” And Janelle Monáe addressed the outsiders in her fan base with a moving speech about the importance of being oneself “even if it makes others uncomfortable.”
Of course, Coachella isn’t exactly known for its outsider population. Though it might be unfairly thought of as a rich kids’ retreat, the festival inarguably attracts an audience sure of its own cultural cachet. Which means that the real misfits Monáe was appealing to probably weren’t in Indio on Friday night.
What, then, was to be gained by actually schlepping to Coachella?
One answer was confirmation that the Billie Eilish phenomenon is real. For weeks the 17-year-old L.A. native has been breathlessly hyped in the media as the new face of a new kind of teen pop: darker and weirder while also funnier and more self-aware.
But any suspicion that the story of Eilish’s popularity had outgrown her popularity itself was quelled Saturday night when she received a deafening hero’s welcome by a crowd she’d kept waiting for more than 30 minutes after her scheduled start time.
It was also a thrill to stand on the polo field and get a feel for the pride many clearly took in performances by the numerous Latinx acts at Coachella this year, including Rosalía, Mon Laferte and Los Tucanes de Tijuana.
On Saturday, J Balvin, the Colombian reggaeton star, used a portion of his main-stage set to “pay homage to the OGs,” as he put it, with loving renditions of N.O.R.E.’s “Oye Mi Canto” and Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” — songs that rightfully landed here like the foundational texts they are.
There was even, believe it or not, a you-had-to-be-there gig by a guitar band in Australia’s trippy Tame Impala, which took advantage of Coachella’s insanely powerful sound system to deliver a sensory overload that simply couldn’t be accessed via livestream. (Grande, the festival’s remaining headliner, was scheduled to perform late Sunday, after deadline for this article.)
Had Tame Impala masterminded a capital-E Event? Nah, and the result probably won’t be remembered for long.
But after so much high-level strategizing, it felt good to take in what was happening right in front of you.
On Game of Thrones, humanity has plot armor.
There’s no way humans should win this battle. Jon Snow et al. face impossible odds, and yet … HBO The Best College Gymnast in America Is Also the Most Hated What Happened to Winter on Game of Thrones? Even Instant Replay Couldn’t Ruin the Most Exciting Soccer Match of the Year The Stormy Story of…
I can’t tell you how Game of Thrones ends, but I’m pretty sure I can tell you how it doesn’t. From the beginning, the series has depicted a world in which attempting to appeal to others’ sense of a higher purpose is the quickest way to get yourself killed. (Just ask Ned Stark’s severed head.) Viewers have known from the beginning that humanity is facing an existential threat from the army of undead known as the White Walkers, but the show’s characters have discovered the looming crisis only gradually, and they’ve been slow to reckon with the little they do know. Now, with the Night King’s masses marching south from the sundered Wall, there’s no doubt that the threat is real. And yet, with only five episodes of Game of Thrones remaining, the human race is resolutely failing to rise to the occasion. Jon Snow’s attempt to form an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen has created dissension instead of unity, with some northern houses deserting the cause and others, like poor little Lord Umber’s, left unprepared and undersupplied. Despite having pledged her troops, Cersei is merely lying in wait, hoping that the rival armies weaken each other enough for her to conquer whatever remains.
There is only one plausible conclusion to this saga, and it’s that humanity does not survive. Westeros’ various factions either never get it together at all, or they realize, too late, that even the divisions between them that have lasted for centuries pale next to the gulf between the living and the dead. In the first season, Cersei explained the struggle for power to Ned Stark—who, at that point, still had his head—as one in which “you win or you die,” and the years that followed have uncovered little evidence of a third option. No one’s negotiating peace with the Night King.
The facts on the ground in Westeros are different than those in our world, but human nature is constant across universes, and what we’ve seen of Game of Thrones’ take on it is unsparingly pessimistic—and entirely warranted. The series’ utility as an allegory of climate change can be overplayed, but to the extent that it reflects our ability to band together in the face of looming catastrophe, it’s all too accurate. Last year, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that irreversible changes could set in as early as 2030 and that preventing them would require a massive and unprecedented transformation of the global economy. Faced with a clear deadline and overwhelming scientific consensus, we’ve done … “nothing” seems not too strong a word. There’s nothing remotely approaching the kind of unshakable public resolve that would move politicians and industry to prompt, decisive action. Some of us are pretty upset about the whole thing, but others are either too flush with fossil-fuel cash or too busy drinking from Liberal Tears mugs to admit the problem exists. (As I am currently writing about a popular television program rather than chaining myself to the doors of the Environmental Protection Agency, on a global level I’m not accomplishing much more.)
What little we know about Game of Thrones’ final season suggests the series will at least flirt with the possibility of mass extinction. The episode-length Battle of Winterfell will likely fall in the season’s third episode, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who’s directed the series’ previous blowouts. (Given that the troops are already assembled, it seems unlikely the show would wait until the fifth episode, also directed by Sapochnik, to play that card.) That means the human armies will make a do-or-die stand at Winterfell, and unless the series plans to spend three full episodes on the comparatively unimportant question of who ascends to the Iron Throne after the Night King’s defeat, my guess is that humanity will lose that battle. And since every human killed is not just a loss for one side but an undead addition to the other, that ought to be the ballgame. As a viewer, I’m rooting for Jon Snow and co. But if I were an Essos gambler laying a bet, I know whom I’d put my money on.
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There’s just one problem. The show that became famous for its willingness to kill off seemingly essential figures has grown less and less likely to do so. Even before Jon Snow came back from the dead, viewers had begun to develop a sense of which characters were essential to the series’ endgame, and thus impossible to kill off. You didn’t need Ramsay Bolton or even Littlefinger to tie up the story’s loose ends, but it’s impossible to imagine Dany or Jon getting axed for shock value. There was no chance the High Sparrow would dethrone Cersei for good or that Arya would fail the Faceless Men’s tests. The show’s core characters had acquired what fans call “plot armor,” which meant that any time the odds seemed truly hopeless, when they were backed against a wall and there seemed to be no way out, we knew the question wasn’t if they’d escape but only how.
Now that the series is almost over, individual characters are finally losing their invulnerability. (For all we know, any of those essential figures could buy it in Episode 2.) But there’s still one suit of plot armor left, and it’s the biggest and clankiest of all. I don’t know which humans will survive till the end of Game of Thrones, but I feel certain humanity will—that the series will end in a Westeros in which the Night King has at least been beaten back, if not wholly defeated. The logical endgame to the precepts Game of Thrones has espoused is the Night King grinning on the Iron Throne, surrounded by his army of the dead, but HBO hasn’t invested close to a billion dollars to tell a story whose moral is that humanity is screwed. Victory will come at a cost, but that cost will be paid; life, of one sort or another, will go on. There are, unfortunately, no such guarantees in our world. We might lose our battle, and there will be no one left to appreciate the plot twist.
Watch Game of Thrones on Sunday nights. Then listen to recaps with June Thomas, Sam Adams, Dan Kois, and other Slatesters every Monday.
‘Star Wars’ actor Mark Hamill says Luke Skywalker
Mark Hamill, known for his role as the iconic “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker, revealed this week that the Jedi Master didn’t die a virgin—at least according to his own imagination.The 67-year-old actor was responding to a question asked on Twitter a day after the Star Wars Celebration fan experience wrapped up in Chicago, telling fans…
“Make up your own backstory,” Hamill wrote. “It’s undetermined, but in the one I made for him myself, the answer is: no.”
Hamill’s answer led fans of the space opera to sound off, many of them mentioning Mara Jade, a character from the Legends series in the Expanded Universe (EU) of “Star Wars” media, such as books and video games. In these stories, Jade and Skywalker are eventually married and have a son, Ben Skywalker.
However, the EU was deemed non-canon, or no longer part of the official story, when The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012. In other words, Luke was single again.
But many of the “Star Wars” fans seemed to take Hamill’s advice, leaving it up to their imaginations.
Jordyn Woods Says She’ll ‘Always’ Love Kylie Jenner
Jordyn Woods I’ll ‘Always’ Have Love for Kylie 4/19/2019 12:50 AM PDT EXCLUSIVE Jordyn Woods is hesitant to come right out and say it, but the message is very clear … she’s still got love for Kylie Jenner. Jordyn and her mom, Elizabeth, were at LAX Thursday when we asked Jordyn if the support she’s received…
I’ll ‘Always’ Have Love for Kylie
4/19/2019 12:50 AM PDT
Jordyn and her mom, Elizabeth, were at LAX Thursday when we asked Jordyn if the support she’s received from Jada Pinkett Smith and family helped her through her ordeal with the Kardashian-Jenner fam … she tells us it’s bigger than that. Much bigger.
It gets real interesting, though, when our guy asks if she hopes to rekindle her friendship with Kylie — she gives a rather broad answer … before Mom comes to the rescue.
Check it out for yourself … Jordyn eventually says she’ll “always” love her former BFF, but it takes some coaxing. Her mother’s much more direct.