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Three years after going dark in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is back. Festivalgoers are once again descending on the desert over two long April weekends (April 15-17 and 22-24) for music, fashion and flower crowns. Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd with Swedish House Mafia (filling in after Kanye West dropped out last-minute) serve as this year’s headliners; also among those taking the stage in Indio are Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Phoebe Bridgers, Lil Baby, Flume and Maggie Rogers. Pre- and post-show, the party spills over to pop-ups by festival regulars Neon Carnival, Revolve Festival, Bootsy Bellows, Tao and Soho House.
Also making his Coachella return is Big Sean, who will perform his first solo set after appearing with Calvin Harris in 2016 and with 2 Chainz, YG and DJ Mustard in 2019. Ahead of his show, the “Wolves” rapper — currently at work on two new albums — spoke to THR about his rehearsal strategy, fashion prep and crowds in the pandemic era.
How do you feel about coming back to Coachella?
Man, I feel like it’s gonna be a lot of fun. I feel like it’s something that a lot of people have been waiting on, especially festival-goers.Coachella is a top-tier festival in the world, you can’t really mention festivals without Coachella so I feel like people are excited and just turnt up.
What’s the vision for your performance?
I wanted to give people an experience. It’s definitely a very intentional set. One of the things I have on my side is that I’ve been here so long that I have some nostalgic songs and some songs that I feel like will take people back and bring up some good memories.
What kind of prep are you doing?
I haven’t performed in a long time anyway, so we’ve been going over it. We’re going to start intensely rehearsing pretty soon, but I also kind of just want to keep it raw. I don’t want to keep it too organized and like, “Oh, hit this dance move and do that and do this,” I just want to keep it raw and authentic. That magic that you get from live shows, sometimes you take that away when it’s too contrived and too rehearsed. It’s not an awards show, it’s more of an exchange of energy, and I respect that and love that about Coachella.
Are shows and crowds feeling different than they were pre-pandemic?
The energy is still there and the love of live music and performance is still there, but I feel like the world has been through a lot, personally and together, and it still is going through a lot. People do need an escape, which I’m glad this is, but just the state of the world — how fucking high gas is for people, how the food prices are going up, everything’s going up and people’s salaries aren’t going up — is devastating. I think that also affects festivals, because some people who may have really wanted to attend the festival may not get to go because life is just not giving them any breaks.
Fashion is a big part of Coachella. Do you have specific looks planned?
I’ve been talking to a few people, just hitting up people. One of my friends is [creative director] Matthew Williams over at Givenchy, I’ve been talking to him. I’ve been talking to my friends Verbal and them over at Ambush. And I’ve also just been talking to Black designers as well, just to see which direction I go with. I put some thought into it, for sure.
How does doing a festival show compare to one of your tour shows?
I think one of the best parts about going to a festival, and checking out an act that you may not go see their concert just by themselves, is the discovery aspect of it. I always keep that in mind for the many people who haven’t seen me perform live, maybe [hearing] songs that they never heard that they might really like. I’m putting care into each and every song — even though some songs might be five years old, it might be the first time people are hearing it. I want to give them that experience the best way I can.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
A version of this story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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