Of all the iconic artists to leave us so far this year, the loss of Prince was perhaps the most shocking, and certainly the more honored at this year's second round of Coachella. For as little time as people had to process the news of his passing — Prince died the morning of Thursday, April 21, as many people were preparing to head off into the desert for the weekend — the outpouring of appreciation and recognition of the star's career and larger-than-life persona was truly astounding.
Palm trees doused in purple encased the violet-washed crowd. From bandannas and T-shirts to Prince's venerated glyph painted across bodies and instruments onstage, tributes to the artist could be spotted throughout the nearly 100,000-person crowd — a visual representation of just how profound Prince's legacy truly is.
What really transformed the event from festival to an all-out Prince party, though, was the sheer number of tributes paid by the artists performing. Here's a collection of the various nods to the Purple One seen and heard throughout the festival this weekend.
Pedicabs pumping "1999" zoomed past crowds entering the festival in the early afternoon, setting the tone for the weekend. Girls with glittery Prince glyphs skipped around singing "Raspberry Beret" with watermelon slices in hand, while the words on seemingly everyone else's lips were about the anticipated tributes to come throughout the weekend. It was Coachella, after all, and although Prince's passing was still a struggle to accept for many in the crowd — we overheard lots of conspiracy theories suggesting the Purple One may still be alive — people were undoubtedly ready to get down (like it's 1999.)
The tribute-fest kicked off in the Gobi Tent with a touching homage from soul singer Mavis Staples, who mentioned she had been signed to Prince's label Paisley Park for seven years. She told a few stories about her encounters with Prince before slipping into an a cappella rendition of the chorus to "Purple Rain."
Shortly thereafter, Joey Bada$$ dipped into "1999" on the Coachella stage, projecting The Artist's glyph across a purple screen, kicking off a slew of Prince tributes on the main stage for the rest of the night. Ellie Goulding performed a piano-backed cover of "When Doves Cry," followed by a moving screening of Prince's 2008 Coachella performance of Radiohead's "Creep" across the stage's massive screens. Later, LCD Soundsystem performed Prince's 1981 hit "Controversy" as part of a set that was one of the best dance parties of the weekend.
Meanwhile, on the Outdoor Stage, alternative folk artist Sufjan Stevens played "Purple Rain" and was joined, somewhat unexpectedly, by R&B singer Gallant, who had performed a few lines of "Diamonds and Pearls" earlier with neo-soul up-and-comer Jhené Aiko.
Jack Ü closed out the evening of tributes to His Purpleness by dropping a remix of "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and thanking the man who Skrillex said "wasn't afraid" to express himself to the world. Black-and-white portraits of the late artist blanketed the end-of-the-night crowd in Prince's memory.
"I want everyone to look to the sky," said rapper Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, who took the main stage by storm Saturday afternoon. "Prince, wherever you are, we are burning this to the ground in your name."
Run the Jewels weren't the only rappers to pay tribute to the great one — Ice Cube, whose set was packed due to rumors of another N.W.A reunion, dedicated his entire set to Prince, whom he called "an icon in music and entertainment," as Prince's image stared out from the giant video screens at the massive crowd.
There were rumors that Guns N’ Roses were preparing a Prince tribute — but though Axl dedicated the entire set to Prince and said a few words about his bootlegged LaserDisc version of Purple Rain, the band apparently did not have enough time to prepare a worthy tribute to the late artist's memory.
Though the tributes seemed to taper off a bit on Saturday, Sunday brought some revived purple energy to the festival. Electronic duo De Lux pumped out an unexpected take on"Raspberry Beret" in the Mojave Tent early in the day, and later on the Outdoor Stage, saxophone star Kamasi Washington performed a medley of "1999" and his own song, "Malcolm's Theme."
As the sun finally set on the final night of the festival, Usher emerged on stage with Major Lazer for an incredibly soulful and sexy rendition of "I Would Die 4 U," backed by a screen covered in falling purple rain. Near the entrance, festival-goers built a shrine at the base of the 2008 Coachella lineup poster, the year Prince performed as a last-minute headliner. "Nothing Compares 2 U" was written in glitter framed by purple ribbons, flowers, and beads honoring the late legend.
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