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Looking back at Rage Against The Machine's Coachella Festival debut in 1999

With the news of Coachella 2020’s line-up dropping overnight we thought we’d take a look back at one of the festivals seminal performances as 2020 headliners Rage Against The Machine debut their set in 1999.

When you take a second to look 20 years back on your life you’d be forgiven for seeing a more exuberant, energetic and youthful self. Yet when Coachella Festival and Rage Against The Machine do the same they see the same powerful faces they see in the mirror in the present day.

In 1999, Coachella Festival was in its first year and ready to launch itself to become one of the biggest festivals in the world over the next two decades. Meanwhile, Rage Against The Machine were at the height of their powers, creating powerful rock that emboldened a generation, and were set to headline the event. In 2020, Coachella Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the world and will be hosting the headlining reunion of Rage Against The Machine. Times maybe don’t change so much.

We thought that now would be the right time to look back at the band’s debut headline slot at the festival for a stark reminder of their still important message delivered in their always brilliant style. Taking place on October 9–10, 1999, the inaugural Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival saw Beck, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine headline. Other acts to be involved were the Chemical Brothers, Morrissey, A Perfect Circle, Jurassic 5 and Underworld. A stellar lineup for the 100,000 strong crowd.

Yet Rage Against The Machine would swoop all the plaudits for this incendiary set from the Californian band. The decision to book the band ahead of radio airplay darlings would work for the Festival as it was soon labelled the “anti-Woodstock”. It was a moniker that would hold some Kudos for years to come. Zack De La Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford (despite taking part in Woodstock ’99) would have something to do with earning that moniker.

They take to the stage amid an electric atmosphere and start with a simple introduction “Good evening, we’re Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles, California” and launch into the nu-metal crown jewel ‘Testify’, with it begins one of the band’s seminal moments and one of Coachella Festival’s best ever headline sets.

With a setlist littered with classic songs, ‘Guerilla Radio,’ ‘Sleep Now In The Fire,’ ‘Bulls On Parade,’ and ending with ‘Killing In The Name’ Rage Against The Machine contribute one of the all-time great rock performances to the festival’s inaugural event.

[MORE] – Rage Against The Machine perform ‘Killing in the Name’ on Channel 4’s ‘The Word’, 1993

While Coachella’s Instagram-filter image may not now harmoniously sit next to Rage Against The Machine’s anti-establishment ethos, it’s easy to see how the two were looking forward to welcoming one another back into their arms. Hopefully, RATM has come prepared with a giant shot of ‘real’ for those particular arms in 2020.

Watch below as Rage Against The Machine make their Coachella Festival debut in 1999.

00:48 Testify
04:50 Guerrilla Radio
08:51 Bombtrack
13:26 People Of The Sun
16:41 Know Your Enemy
22:45 Born Of A Broken Man
28:02 Bullet In The Head
34:47 Sleep Now In The Fire
39:58 No Shelter
44:55 Bulls On Parade
49:28 Killing In The Name (54:44 Catch The Tele!)