MEGAN PINCKNEY | 4/19/2018, 5:22 p.m.
This past weekend, I stood in a crowd of nearly 100,000 people in a desert two hours southeast of Los Angeles and witnessed Beyoncé claim her throne as the greatest entertainer of our generation in a two-hour long performance that will certainly be looked back on as a historic moment for American culture.
It was the annual Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival, a three-night, two-weekend revelry that showcases the best, as well as emerging talents in electronic, hip-hop and indie rock music. Since its official inception back in 1999, Coachella has cemented its impact and legacy as one of the most significant musical events in the world when it became the first reoccurring festival to gross more than $100 million. It is the second-most in-demand concert ticket in the entire world, trailing only Belgium’s Tomorrowland festival. In recent years, Coachella has soared even further in popularity thanks, in part, to young Hollywood’s invasion of the festival. So, it seemed fitting when one of the biggest festivals in the world announced that one of the biggest acts of all time, Queen B, would be headlining their 2017 shows. However, nature took its course and Beyoncé was forced to pull out, only months before, because of her pregnancy with twins, Rumi and Sir.
With all the time that had passed and the amount of anticipation that had been built up, I think we all knew that Beyoncé was going to make the wait worth our while by putting on a dazzling performance equipped with angelic vocals and choreography that we’d all be trying to emulate the next day. But what I had failed to prepare for was her boldness, her own sense of greatness. She took the stage of a gritty festival in the middle of a Southern California desert and turned it into a platform to be unapologetically Black.
Her show was slated to begin on the main stage at 11 p.m., so by 10 p.m. people had already begun packing into the surrounding area. At exactly 11:11 p.m. the lights dimmed and an announcement welcoming us to Beyoncé Homecoming 2018 was made. Then, almost immediately, we heard the pattering beat of a drumstick on a snare drum. At first it started slowly, but then, as the camera revealed the drummer was female, the beats gradually moved faster and faster as the camera got closer and closer to her face. She’s mean mugging the camera, exuding the same amount of energy through her pursed lips and eyes as she is with her hands—which are creating the only sound we can hear. She finishes out her cadence before picking up her whistle and giving a command call for the (surprise) full-size marching band to join in. The other instruments’ sounds fall in line as marching band flags reveal Black female dancers, all dressed in sphinx-printed unitards and leather berets, hitting every single note before moving aside to reveal the queen herself.
It is at this moment that I realize this performance is not going to be what I, or anyone else for that matter, had counted on seeing on any Coachella stage—ever. For when she finally reveals herself, Beyoncé is outfitted as royalty—a true queen. But not just any queen, she’s undeniably an African queen. Making a statement to the audience before she even picks up a microphone. Dripping in a gold and diamond cape and donning a headdress worthy of Nefertiti herself, Beyoncé struts her famous curves down the runway to that familiar sound of an HBCU marching band while the crowd literally goes insane, eating up every moment of her presence. In this moment she is reminding festivalgoers this icon that they all love and worship is a Black woman.