Coachella 2014: Lorde Makes Desert Debut

 Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

"This is actually the first big thing I ever booked," a windswept Lorde told the packed crowd surrounding the outdoor stage. "I said … holy f---, we booked Coachella. I was screaming on the phone. We are so lucky to be here. This is mental."

Last May, when Lorde (nee Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor) initially got the desert gig, she was just a quirky New Zealand teen with a dream. Now that she's taken up residence near the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, with the indomitable "Royals" having spent nine consecutive weeks at number one last year and follow-up single "Team" creeping toward the Top 5, there's nothing standing between Lorde and the big stages.

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Given a time slot at Coachella Saturday that effectively made her an opener for Pharrell Williams, the 17-year-old alternative pop phenom drew a headliner-sized, baby-faced crowd to the festival's second-largest outdoor stage. Girls in bohemian, strappy tank tops with glo-sticks around their necks sat high on broad, pliant shoulders, dotting the crowd like so many desert palms.

"Glory and Gore" opened the show, setting the tone for a string of darkly buoyant, percussion-heavy tracks (there was no guitarist present) that translated better and provided more energy in a festival environment than skeptics might assume. The crowd was rapt, dancing and singing along to "Million Dollar Bills" and "Tennis Court" in a chorus of thousands.

Lorde herself looked like a benevolent warrior princess, coiled and gracious in a white flowing dress and long brown hair blown back by the desert wind. Throngs of supporters hung on every odd girl out narrative or sharp social critique, and she thanked them in kind for making the wildest dreams of a "kid from New Zealand" come true.

This article first appeared on Billboard.com.

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