12 Moments in Coachella History That Will Go Down in Pop Culture's History Books

With this year's Coachella Music Festival postponed, it's time to relive the magic of Beychella, *NSYNC's reunion, Tupac's hologram and more unforgettable moments.

By McKenna Aiello Apr 12, 2020 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Top Coachella Moments in Pop Culture History

As the old adage goes... Don't cry because Coachella is postponed, smile because it happened. 

With this year's annual music festival pushed to October because of the coronavirus crisis, the 250,000 attendees expected to make their way to the desert this month are suddenly left with ample time on their hands to reminisce about past Coachella moments that made the star-studded extravaganza what it is today. 

Event organizers are encouraging music lovers to stay inside and participate in "Couchella." A documentary tracing Coachella's 20-year history is dropping Friday at 12 p.m. PST on YouTube, and will include never-before-seen footage, celebrity interviews and performances from the past two decades. 

So if you've been lucky enough to snag a Coachella wristband within seconds of them selling out, or have mustered the strength to brave Indio, Calif.'s scorching temperatures, you'll understand why it's become a unique tradition for so many.

You'll Never Believe What Coachella Looked Like in 2010

Check out 12 of Coachella's most memorable moments of all time below:


One word: Beychella. In 2018, the music legend made her highly-anticipated return to the stage after cancelling the year prior due to pregnancy, and not a single second of the 26-song set disappointed. Not only did the performance pay a visually striking homage to historically black colleges and universities, but Bey reunited Destiny's Child for the first time in several years, and brought out sister Solange and husband Jay-Z as surprise guests. The performance also became the subject of a Netflix documentary titled Homecoming.

Tupac & Snoop Dogg

The legendary rapper never lived long enough to see the first Coachella festival take place in 1999, but he metaphorically rose from the grave to "perform" alongside 2012 headliners Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. The eerily lifelike hologram, which took months to create and received the blessing of Tupac's mother, had all 80,000 attendees in awe when it proclaimed, "What the f--k is up Coachella?!" Footage from the late artist's final performance in 1996 was used to bring hits like "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" and "Hail Mary" to the main stage.

Ariana Grande & *NSYNC

In what marked the beloved boy band's first performance in several years, the pop star reunited JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick during her 2019 headlining set. "This has been a dream of ours. Thank you for sharing this with us," JC told the sold-out crowd as they brought back "Tearin' Up My Heart."

Daft Punk

We have this electronic music duo to thank for one of the most unforgettable sets in Coachella history. As the story's told, more than 40,000 managed to squeeze into the 10,000-person Sahara Tent in 2006 to witness the elusive French DJs set a new standard for live concerts. Even more than a decade later, fans are still holding out hope for Daft Punk's return to the desert.


It's estimated the artist raked in $5 million for his headlining performance in 2008, a hefty but well worth it price to have music royalty join the Coachella lineup only two weeks before the fest kicked off. Prince's showstopping set included hits like "Purple Rain," "Little Red Corvette" and "1999," but it was his unexpected cover of Radiohead's "Creep" that became the weekend's most buzzed-about moment. His 2016 death cast a somber shadow over that year's Coachella gathering, and sparked several tribute performances. 

Amy Winehouse

The British singer was just 23-years-old and riding the success of her best-selling album Back to Black when she flocked to Indio for her very first Coachella in 2007. "This is the one thing that everybody said to me," Amy gushed onstage, "'Wait until you get to Coachella.'" It would ultimately be her last, as Winehouse pulled out of her 2009 performance slot due to legal drama. Two years later, the rising star would succumb to alcohol poisoning.

Kanye West

Whether they're cut short over impassioned rants or he's dressed as a life-size Perrier bottle, the rapper is no stranger to courting controversy with his live shows. But when 'Ye headlined Coachella in 2011, not a single critic could deny he delivered one of the greatest hip-hop sets to date. Backed by nearly 20 ballerinas and a massive ancient-Greek era sculpture, West glided through career classics like "Jesus Walks" to sentimental deep cuts like "Hey Mama." 


Though the world-famous pop star has never formally performed a solo set at Coachella, her surprise appearance during Calvin Harris' 2012 performance had music lovers belting out "We Found Love" in unison. Since then Rih-Rih's become an unofficial Coachella headliner, turning out practically every year to ~allegedly~ roll joints atop her security guard's head or rock a crystal Gucci bodysuit. 

Kacey Musgraves

Country music's golden girl went viral in 2019 when the crowd failed pretty miserably at Kacey's call-and-response. "Let's see if Cali can bring the 'Yee-Haw' to me," Musgraves yelled out. "So when I say, 'Yee,' you say, 'Haw.'"

On the third attempt, the singer had had enough, telling the crowd, "I didn't say f--king 'Yee'!"

Guns 'N Roses

Axl Rose was confined to a Game of Thrones-inspired throne after breaking his foot just days before the classic rock group reunited for their headlining slot in 2016. The ill-timed injury didn't inhibit the lead singer from properly welcoming Coachella to the jungle like only GN'R knows, of course. 

Jay-Z & Beyoncé

The superstar made history when he became the first rapper to headline Coachella in 2010, marking a major shift in the types of genres the festival welcomed into its otherwise exclusive fold. It also didn't hurt that Hov brought out the one and only Queen Bey for an encore rendition of "Young Forever," in addition to fan-favorites like "99 Problems" and "Empire State of Mind."

Drake & Madonna

The Queen of Pop caused quite a star when during the rapper's headlining set in 2015 she came out and planted the kiss heard 'round the world on Drizzy's lips. Though his less-than enthused reaction to the smooch made more headlines than the actual performance did, Drake later cleared the air on social media. "Don't misinterpret my shock!! I got to make out with the queen Madonna and I feel [100] about that forever," he wrote at the time. 

It's still unclear how the new dates (Oct. 9, 10 and 11 and Oct. 16, 17 and 18, 2020) will impact the original lineup, which featured more than 150 artists and headliners Frank Ocean, Travis Scott and Rage Against the Machine.

(This story was originally published on Friday, April 10, 2020 at 4 a.m. PT)

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