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The 21 Best Surprise Performances At Coachella 2016

Kesha, Kendrick, Kanye, and more stars crashed stages during the two-weekend festival

Besides serving as the breeding ground for Instagram FOMO, sunny style trends, and celeb-packed pool parties, Coachella is, most importantly, about the music. And in recent years, it’s become the premier place for surprise guest performers to crash the stage and inject even more buzz into the already buzz-worthy fest.

So with the dust having finally settled in Indio, California, and another year of Coachella in the books, let’s recap the best and biggest surprise guests from both weekends.

  1. Lorde was magnetizing during Disclosure’s set.
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    The New Zealander busted out her signature wonky dance moves during “Magnets.” Oh, and Sam Smith was on hand to perform “Omen” and “Latch,” but he’s practically the U.K. duo’s third tentacle by now, so that’s hardly surprising.

  2. Brendan Urie made Halsey’s teenage dream come true.
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    After Hal told the crowd that Panic! at the Disco changed her life, frontman Urie joined her onstage to duet on her single “New Americana” and the Panic! classic “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”

  3. Kesha had returned to the spotlight with Zedd.
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    Not counting her court appearances, Kesha’s surprise performance on Saturday night during Weekend 1 was her first public appearance in months. She didn’t comment on her legal battle with Sony or Dr. Luke, and she didn’t need to -- this was a purely redemptive moment about her returning to the stage to do what she loves.

  4. Rihanna found love with Calvin Harris.
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    Sure, the DJ’s set also included a guest spot from Big Sean for “IDFWU,” but it was Rih’s finale of “We Found Love” that stunned and awed in all the right ways (just ask Harris’ girlfriend, Taylor Swift, who was in the crowd and loving every minute).

  5. Kanye West linked up with A$AP Rocky.
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    ‘Ye crashed the stage to play “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1,” and even though faulty mic issues plagued his performance, it was still Kanye, so it still ruled.

  6. Janelle Monae lended her infectious energy to Grimes’ stunning set.
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    Monae joined Grimes for “Venus Fly,” their collaboration from Grimes’ 2015 album Art Angels.

  7. T.I. came through with Anderson .Paak.
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    Tip hopped onstage to play his and Paak’s collab “Come Down,” then ran through his own “Bring Em Out” and “About the Money” (sans Young Thug).

  8. Post Malone was a mash-up master with Jack Ü.
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    The New York MC -- who’s currently opening on Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour -- closed out Skrillex and Diplo’s set with a mash-up of his breakout his “White Iverson” and Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now.” The DJ duo was also joined by Kiesza, AlunaGeorge, and, briefly, by Kanye West, who bounced around onstage while his song “Power” played.

  9. Snoop Dogg got ~luxurious~ with Ice Cube.
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    Snoop performed “The Next Episode” and “Go to Church” in a luxurious-looking robe and then exited the stage on a tricycle. As one does. Cube’s set was also crashed by former N.W.A. members MC Ren and DJ Yella, as well as his son O’Shea Jackson Jr., who helped out with the verses on “Dopeman.” But Cube’s Weekend 2 guest list was even more momentous -- more on that below.

  10. Jaden Smith turned up for Lido.
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    Jaden came out to debut a new song from Lido’s album Everything, which was performed in its entirety for the Coachella crowd. During Weekend 2, he also joined Rae Sremmurd onstage, but basically just to jump around a lot.

  11. Maddie Ziegler worked wonders with Sia.
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    Actors Paul Dano and Kristen Wiig showed up on giant video screens to dance the night away. But the real show-stopper was Sia’s frequent music video muse Maddie Ziegler, who was there IRL to remind you how insanely talented one tiny human can be.

  12. Ice Cube hosted an N.W.A. reunion. during Weekend 2.
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    Thought Cube’s Weekend 1 set was lit? That was nothing compared to Weekend 2, when all surviving members of N.W.A. reunited onstage. DJ Yella and MC Ren joined Cube for “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck the Police,” as well as a snippet of “Boyz in the Hood” with Eazy-E’s son, Young E. Then the elusive Dr. Dre rounded out the group by hopping onstage for “Still D.R.E.” and “California Love.” Oh, and Kendrick Lamar turned up for “Alright.” Yep, that all happened.

  13. Dre and Kendrick then crashed Anderson .Paak’s set.
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    After showing love to his former N.W.A. groupmate on Saturday night, Dre supported his Aftermath protege Anderson .Paak on the festival’s final night, wearing a Prince Shirt and performing his classics “The Next Episode,” “California Love,” and “Still D.R.E.” K. Dot came out later in the set to trade bars with .Paak on “Backseat Freestyle.”

  14. Usher paid tribute to Prince with Major Lazer.
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    Appearing in front of a purple backdrop with falling purple rain, Usher crashed Major Lazer’s set to perform the late icon’s “I Would Die 4 U” and “1999.”

  15. Big Sean encored “I Don’t Fuck With You” with the millionth (OK, third) time.
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    Sean performed the angsty tell-off scorcher with Calvin Harris during both of the DJ’s weekend sets, and then again for DJ Mustard’s Weekend 2 set.

  16. A$AP Rocky got hype with Miguel, A$AP Ferg, and Tyler, the Creator.
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    Tyler did his take on Kanye’s “Freestyle 4” and “Tamale,” Rocky and Ferg teamed up for “New Level,” and Miguel joined Rocky on “Everyday.”

  17. Run the Jewels basically brought out everyone they ever loved.
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    During Weekend 1, the duo were introduced by Bernie Sanders via video message and joined by Nas for “Made You Look.” Weekend 2’s guest list included Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha for “Close Your Eyes,” Outkast’s Big Boi for “Banana Clipper,” and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker for “All Due Respect,” as well as return guests DJ Shadow, Gangsta Boo, and Boots.

  18. There was a real ‘90s moment when Third Eye Blind crashed The Chainsmokers’ set.

    For whatever reason, TEB frontman Stephen Jenkins sang the band’s 1997 classic “Jumper” during The Chainsmokers’ star-studded set, which also boasted appearances from Walk the Moon, G-Eazy, ROZES, Daya, and Tiesto.

  19. Kendrick also paired up with SZA.
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    You just couldn’t escape Kendrick at Coachella. Toward the end of her set, SZA brought out fellow Top Dawg Entertainment artist Kendrick for “Babylon.” Elsewhere in her set, she brought out TDE artist Isiah Rashad and then closed out her set with MadeinTYO, who performed “Uber Everywhere,” aka that song you’re about to start hearing everywhere.

  20. Lil Wayne joined G-Eazy.
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    Weezy made a surprise appearance in the middle of Eazy’s set, going right into “A Milli” and then rapping his verses from Drake’s “The Motto,” French Montana’s “Pop That,” and Nicki MInaj’s “Truffle Butter.”

  21. Gallant and Jhene Aiko moved everyone with an unrehearsed Prince tribute.
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    During his Weekend 1 set, Gallant majorly impressed with a duet of his song “Weight in Gold” with special guest Seal. But Weekend 2 saw the up-and-comer busting out an even more gorgeous performance: a chilling rendition of Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” with Jhene Aiko.