Why Frank Ocean Isn’t Playing at Coachella This Weekend

6 minute read

On Wednesday, Frank Ocean officially pulled out of headlining the second weekend of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. His appearance during the festival’s first weekend marked his first performance in six years, as well as the first since his brother died in a car accident in August 2020. As the festival’s opening weekend progressed, fans were able to see history in the making with Bad Bunny performing as Coachella’s first Latin headliner on Friday and Blackpink as the first Korean and K-pop girl group to perform a headlining act on Saturday. On Sunday, the crowd was amped for Ocean’s historic return—with some waiting for 10 hours—only to leave disappointed and confused.

According to those who were at the festival, Ocean arrived an hour and a half later than expected, scrapped elaborate plans for his set, and barely sang his songs. Many called for fans to give Ocean grace, assuming he was still in a state of grief. But after the performance, a vocal majority online came to the conclusion that he shouldn’t have agreed to perform.

The enigmatic singer was originally slated to perform in 2020, but that year’s festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was announced back in January that Ocean would officially be making a comeback as a headliner for this year’s iteration of the music festival and was scheduled to perform both weekends. Rumors began to swirl online that he was gearing up for another performance this weekend. But on Wednesday, it was announced that he was officially pulling out of the show and that Blink-182 would be replacing him as a headliner for the festival’s last day.

The news genuinely shocked many across social media. According to CasinoAlpha.com, searches for “Coachella refund” ballooned over 491% following Ocean’s first performance.

What happened during Frank Ocean’s Coachella Set?

TikToks from people attending Coachella on Sunday showed a horde of people running as soon as the festival gates opened in an effort to secure a spot against the barricade for Ocean’s set. Many of those people sacrificed the chance to see other artists to ensure that they would see the Channel Orange singer. As day turned to night, the anticipation only grew not, only for those at the festival but for people at home who hoped to livestream the performance. A few hours before Ocean was set to take the stage, YouTube’s official Twitter account broke the news that he had been taken off the livestream schedule.

Many fans following from home saw the criticism of his performance come through TikTok. One creator who was in the crowd when Ocean performed listed all the reasons why people were upset with his performance. According to the video, which now has over six million views, Ocean arrived on stage an hour and a half late; he did not fully perform his songs; there were multiple long pauses; there was a DJ set in the middle of his performance; and people were not able to see him on stage or on the screen. The set was also cut short due to the city of Indio’s midnight curfew.

People also wondered why he was wearing slippers. After the performance, Rolling Stone reported that a source close to the situation said Ocean sustained an ankle injury during rehearsals in the week leading up to the performance. There were also rumors that the performance was set to feature ice skaters, but that the plan had been scrapped at the last minute. Many fans were left upset, stating they traveled far distances to see the artist perform. Many people in attendance filmed a swarm of people leaving the performance even before it was over. Other videos showed Ocean abruptly leaving the stage and mutterings of annoyance from the audience.


Watch the sea of people leave #FrankOcean set. What happened? #coachella

♬ original sound - Kimberly Wiley

Ocean pulls out of the second weekend

Although fans felt let down by Ocean’s first performance since 2017, there was still hope for redemption because he was slated to perform the second weekend. However, news broke on Wednesday afternoon that the singer would not be returning to the Coachella headlining spot for weekend two. A rep for the singer said in a statement to Variety that “on doctor’s advice, [Ocean] is not able to perform weekend 2 due to two fractures and a sprain in his left leg.”

Ocean added a note to the statement that reads, “It was chaotic. There is some beauty in chaos. It isn’t what I intended to show but I did enjoy being out there and I’ll see you soon.—Frank Ocean.”

This isn’t Ocean’s first underwhelming performance

Ever since the release of his debut album Channel Orange in 2012, Ocean’s fans have known that he doesn’t do many performances. He has only done a handful of live performances throughout his career, and he’s dropped out of more than one slot for festival performances. When he was slated to perform at the FYF Festival in 2015 right before his second album Blonde was released, he decided to drop out at the last minute and was replaced by Kanye West. After the album was released, it was announced that would be performing at a couple of festivals, but he ended up canceling more than one. In 2017, he decided not to perform at Hangout Fest, Sasquatch, and Primavera Sound but followed through with a performance at FYF in 2017 and Panorama the same year, which is the last time the artist performed in front of an audience.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com