Ryan Adams ended his sunset set at 2015’s first weekend of Coachella on Sunday evening, after a great finale of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Come Pick Me Up”, by hoping that fans were reasonably satisfied, and that might have been a running theme for the festival. With the exception of Run the Jewels (which, uh, some of us missed because we were watching an unexpectedly bad set from Belle and Sebastian), the 16th Coachella settled neatly into an inoffensive realm between the unforgettable and intolerable, where expectations and investment factored in greatly to the takeaways.
From a historical standpoint, there was some pleasure to see the festival stay firm in support of artists they have invested in at all points of their career. All of the second-billed artists, The Weeknd, Tame Impala, and Florence + the Machine, made it to the main stage for the first time, after previously performing key Outdoor Theatre, and all lived up to the increased faith from the fest. Others, from Jenny Lewis to Desaparecidos’ Conor Oberst to Jack White, are desert veterans whose repeated appearances speak to the appeal of Coachella. Year after year, the prestige of the festival is as much a currency as the actual performances. Acts like Drive Like Jehu or Ride may not have filled their tents, but simply appearing there ahead of any other festival is a shot to their relevance, a springboard back into the music conversation.
Of course, if you are going to talk about packing stages, Coachella was again fought and won by DJs. During Kaskade’s main stage performance, the polo fields were a virtual ghost town, to which Jamie xx reaped the dividends, his heavy beats acting like fishing nets for Kaskade fans returning to the Sahara tent. Others, from Nero to Flosstradamus, stood as significant arguments that the face of Coachella has completed its metamorphosis, that the caterpillar and butterfly that became the face of the festival through art installations was simply a metaphor for what the festival has now become on a larger scale.
Still, the mantra of attendees making their own experience held true, and whether that meant enjoying Lykke Li or Brand New in packed Mojave tents or subtle, sparsely populated but nonetheless awesome appearances from Squarepusher, Angel Olsen, and Touche Amore, the idea that there was something for everyone felt ever more relevant and true this year. All demographics were present at Steely Dan’s first Coachella performance, and while Sturgill Simpson’s classic Stagecoach country sound and Joyce Manor’s Warped Tour pop punk didn’t feel out of place, audience sizes that begged to differ.
And while the idea of special guests has been a recent staple of Coachella, this weekend felt light, with Madonna’s awkward as fuck visit to Drake the most notable, Bryan Ferry’s stop by an excellent Todd Terje the most sensible, and Jenny Lewis’ reunion with Blake Sennett from Rilo Kiley the most important. By now, YouTubes of all these spots have made the rounds. With no late adds of note either, Coachella chose to rest on its laurels this year, which, with laurels like Coachella has, can’t be seen as a mistake. Sometimes being reasonably satisfied is enough. Even as we list 41 acts from worst to best, none were terrible. None blew it. None were literally the “worst.” But, despite reasonably satisfying, some were better than others.
Click ahead to see Coachella’s first weekend acts from worst to best.