Billie Eilish’s Surprise Coachella 2024 Appearance At DoLab Recap

The DoLab backstage area at Coachella is a scene of chaos. It’s 6:30 p.m. on April 13, and the usually spacious and chill hangout zone for industry people and artists is shoulder-to-shoulder with bodies. Benny Blanco rushes past me with a concerned look on his face, then walks by moments later with two neon-green wristbands in his hands. Someone carrying multiple large metal trays filled with Mexican food speed-walks to the cordoned-off staff-only area. Nearby, a man wonders if he should go catch Sublime’s set instead. “She’s DJing, dude!” says their friend in response. “This is the first time it’s ever happened! We don’t wanna miss it.”

Approximately 30 minutes prior, Coachella organizers had announced that Billie Eilish would be taking the stage at the festival’s sort-of-underground electronic tent DoLab for a last-minute DJ set. Indeed, of all the spectacles at Coachella this year, Eilish’s impromptu appearance was the most unexpected. As the flood of fan-recorded footage later showed, the pop star didn’t actually end up DJing, but she used the time to preview unreleased songs, jump along to hip-hop oldies, and generally vibe out with her crew, consisting of her brother FINNEAS, Tyga, influencer Quen Blackwell, and rumored beau Odessa A’zion.

It turns out the story of how this strange collision of worlds came together was equally as spontaneous. It began with a phone call just 10 days before the festival was to kick off. Jesse Flemming, one of the three founders of DoLab, got a ring from Coachella founder Paul Tollett, who told them Eilish’s team had gotten in touch about wanting to do a surprise set at the festival — and they wanted it to be at the DoLab stage. “I was like, are you f*cking kidding me?” he tells NYLON in an exclusive interview. “How does Billie Eilish know who we are?”

Flemming says the “very big, coordinated effort by a lot of people” was centered around creating buzz for Eilish’s new album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, that all went down on a 26-person call with her record label, management, and social-media team. Her earlier time slot — she went on at 7:35 p.m. — was also strategic: “Coachella didn’t want her to go up against No Doubt, or Tyler, the Creator… Because it’s Billie Eilish.”

In the end, Flemming estimates that up to 25,000 people gathered in their corner to catch the show, setting an attendance record for the stage. And notably, Eilish wasn’t the only huge pop star to grace DoLab that weekend. Katy Perry also made an appearance on April 14 to sing a song during DJ Mia Moretti’s set, but that appearance wasn’t planned. “She just showed up,” says Flemming, who was still in bed at the time and found out about Perry via text.

In the wake of these major pop-star moments, some DoLab purists have expressed frustration about the future of the stage, to which Flemming shrugs in response. He and his brothers Josh and Dede — who founded the stage in 2004 and use it to preview their own summer electronic festival Lightning In A Bottle — say they’re still committed to keeping an underground tilt as part of its mission. But, they’re also ready for a bigger spotlight. “Every big band was small at some point,” he says. “And if that happens to us after 20 years of doing it, then we’re not gonna resist it.”

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