Perfect Day at Coachella (Unsplash) by Eric Ward is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Despite being overpriced, overcrowded and overshadowed by influencers, Coachella remains one of the most important musical landmarks of the year. In fact, the two-weekend festival in California’s Coachella Valley has developed a reputation as the trend-setter of music festivals.

Coachella highlights some of the year’s biggest names and is historically one of the most profitable events in the music industry. This year’s festival featured performances from Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, Sabrina Carpenter and various others. Of course, shows in the desert never occur without a mishap or two, and what better way is there to celebrate Coachella 2024 than to reflect on the iconic festival’s strangest gaffes over the years?

1. Frank Ocean performs a messy, controversial set

Frank Ocean was mired in controversy when he headlined the festival in 2023. With the show not only starting an hour late, fans noted that their view of Ocean was predominantly obstructed by light fixtures and dark lighting on the stage and that the pacing of the show felt bizarre, with Ocean barely singing for most of the set. Ocean appeared to be very low energy, leaving fans disappointed and discouraged after the artist’s highly-anticipated return from a six-year performance hiatus. Ocean’s performance will go down in history as one of the most notable let-downs on record at Coachella.

2. Billie Eilish meets Justin Bieber during Ariana Grande’s set

Though undeniably strange, this is one of the more charming examples on this list. In an iconic turn of events, singer Justin Bieber surprised super-fan and singer Billie Eilish during Ariana Grande’s headlining set in 2019. Eilish once said she “only wanted to become famous so [she] could meet Justin Bieber,” and in a video of the interaction, 70,000 fans watch Eilish hug her childhood idol for an uncomfortably long period of time without saying a word. It’s safe to say Eilish’s performance at Coachella wasn’t the real highlight of her weekend.

3. Grimes is exasperated over technical difficulties

This list would be incomplete if I neglected to include a notorious example from Coachella 2024. During her performance this year, singer Grimes struggled with immense technical issues during her set, resulting in a set described as “disastrous” by CNN. Videos show the performer audibly yelling in frustration at the problems with her music’s speed, and she even opted to end her set early. Videos of her meltdown quickly went viral on social media, and she issued a subsequent apology on X (formerly Twitter) apologizing to fans for the “sonic chaos.”

4. Kanye West brings Easter Sunday to the desert

Rapper Ye (known as Kanye West) left an indelible mark on Coachella history with his bizarre performance in 2019. West, known for his use of religious themes and elements of gospel in his music, took advantage of his slot to bring his Sunday Service performance series to the desert. Original songs coupled with a strange abundance of covers complemented West’s performance setup: the stage was shaped like a hill, with West standing at the top leading a congregation and choir like a messiah, leaving some fans amused and others mystified. According to Pitchfork, “the choir seemed as perplexed as the audience often was.”

5. Vanessa Hudgens chooses not to attend

While not necessarily a gaffe on the festival’s part, one of the biggest misfortunes of both Coachella 2023 and 2024 has got to be the absence of beloved actress Vanessa Hudgens. Dubbed the Queen of Coachella for her fun-loving spirit and commitment to wearing over-the-top outfits to the festival (typically sporting a wild-west theme, oversized glasses and jewelry, no matter the year), fans online mourned the loss of her presence on social media in 2023. Hudgens had announced her pregnancy a few months prior to this year’s festival on social media, telling fans: “No Coachella for me this yearrrr. Hope y’all are having the time of your lifeeee.”

6. Clown Core takes the stage

Some online fans have crowned musical duo Clown Core the strangest band of Coachella 2024. Known for their avant-garde jazz and electronic music, the true identities of the group members remain unknown — the duo performs in clown masks to hide their faces. As the two began their set this year, the words “The Earth is flat” flashed across the screens, only augmenting the situation’s absurdity. Some curious fans chose to stick around, while others reportedly headed directly to the exits.

As you can see, just because Coachella might be the one of the most famous events in the music world, it proves neither flawless nor conventional. Perhaps its blunders help keep music fans entertained. If you’re lucky enough to attend, not only will you get to see music’s biggest acts, you’ll surely be in for a surprise, as you never really know what you’re going to get at Coachella.