I told myself I wasn’t gonna do it. I’m washed and I was finna be in bed, scarf on, knocked out. But sure e-fucking-nough, come 1:20 am CT, I was wide awake and flipping my shit because the screen went black and Beyoncé WAS COMING!!
Beyoncé, why? Why’d you have to do me like that? Like I knew to expect greatness but I still wasn’t ready. Beyoncé put Coachella and the rest of us on notice a year ago when she postponed her First Black Woman to Headline Coachella status for maternity leave. And in that year off, she planned a hell of a fucking show.
The woman who shaded the Country Music Awards by inviting the Dixie Chicks to perform with her gave one of the Blackest sets at one of America’s whitest music festivals. In the middle of the night, Queen Bey drop-kicked me out of the comfort of my New Orleans bed and back through time to a warm April Friday on The Yard at Howard University. If I closed my eyes I could almost hear the Qs hopping over at the sundial. Bless.
Beyoncé’s Coachella army, decked out in epauletted yellow sweatshirts with the Beyoncé royal crest (Beta Delta Kappa), featured female and male dancers, a choir, Beyoncé’s regular band Suga Mama, a Vanta Black all-star HBCU marching band, an all-Black woman string section, Les Twins, Solange, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, five costume changes, several live stream camera operators, one HELL of a sound technician, and JAY Z. We got a formal opening with The Black National Anthem leading straight into Formation (which I will go up for Now and Forever). In two hours time, she took us through a halftime show, battle of the bands, probate, step show, CSA/ASA party, and I lived for every moment of it.
Gif set credit to: Beigency
The level of detail and coordination that had to have gone into an undertaking like this must have been borderline maddening. Every moment needed to be strictly choreographed. No, not just the dances, which were a lovely blend of fresh and familiar which had me ready to dance my partner off the edge of our bed. Every movement, entrance, exit, step, nod, and sway had to be noted and set. Performing on risers while blinded by stage lights ain’t no joke, especially when you add a 35 lb sousaphone. Sure, insurance’ll pay for it but that’s bad for morale.
But the thing that stuck with me most were the songs themselves. Beyoncé took us through hit after hit from her first solo single to the latest track where she out-raps some rappers. We even got a DC3 reunion out of the deal (which could’ve only been topped by a DC5 reunion). I was surprised by how many visceral memories each song brought up, by how much Beyoncé’s discography plays like a soundtrack for my life. Hell, I still remember the choreography for Baby Boy and how I wore that shit out my freshman year.
I’ll admit, I was hoping for some new music. With the way Parkwood has been slapping us in the face with releases these past few years, how could I not? But the lack of fresh tracks didn’t leave me unfulfilled. Beychella felt like a trip down memory lane as each track tugged up an image as clearly as a snapshot. The two hours traffic of that stage felt familiar and like home even through the screen of an iPad. And Lawd, was it glorious.