Most artists at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival have their sets perfectly planned out and choreographed so they can deliver the most polished performance for their fans. They might have to work out a few kinks Weekend 1, but by the second weekend, they’re a well-oiled machine.
French-American electronic musician Marc Rebillet, however, doesn’t fit that mold. If he has one rule, it’s to go into each performance with no plan whatsoever and see where inspiration takes him. That lack of forethought could ruin someone’s career, but it’s only helped Rebillet’s take off.
Over the past few years, the musician has gained notoriety on YouTube for his eclectic electronic tracks that are about anything and everything, from yelling at people to wake up in the morning (which has garnered 29 million views) to singing about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
The videos look pretty simple — Rebillet films in his living room, often wearing a cozy robe or just his undies, and working on his keyboard and laptop — but the music is anything but, as it consists of multi-layered beats and rhythms mixed in with his sometimes operatic voice. The lyrics are usually silly, but it doesn’t stop you from grooving and having a good time.
As Rebillet has taken his show on the road, fans around the world have been treated to improvised sets. The musician has cited fellow improvisator Reggie Watts, a past Coachella performer, as a musical inspiration. So it was only a matter of time before Rebillet took his schtick to the desert festival, a gamble to face an audience with no concrete plan in place.
But it didn’t hinder either of his performances on the Coachella Stage.
The similarities between both performances are fairly limited. They include Rebillet’s set, a living room with a couch and photos on three walls to pay homage to what viewers see in his videos. Then there’s a video of a burning city playing in the background; his outfit, which consisted of a cozy white robe that he quickly shed due to the desert heat and his tightie whities (though they were technically different both weekends); the fact he sometimes asks the audience for their preference between beats; and breaking parts of his sets to really get people’s attention.
Otherwise, the respective audiences got treated to a unique experience crafted just for them.
Inspiration strikes Rebillet in any moment. When he came on in Weekend 1, he announced to the crowd he was “unbothered, hydrated and moisturized” before moving into a song with the word “unbothered” played in a loop. On Saturday, his living room set was boxed off with a surrounding wall until he literally burst through it. He kicked off his set by singing “bring the damn wall down” and encouraging people to “come a little closer” to each other.
What he sees among the audience also gives him a bit of musical juice. During Weekend 1, he wasn’t afraid to call out people who walked away from his set, which made the crowd roar with laughter, and made him change his tune to say he was now “bothered.” He also spotted someone in the audience who seemed like they were in trouble with the heat and called attention to them hoping to get them help. Once he saw that they were doing OK, he moved into a groovy-sexy-sounding song about wanting to keep people safe and sound and giving them a good smack on their behinds.
During Weekend 2, inspiration came when he went to the crowd with a bottle of Champagne and one festivalgoer shouted he wanted the artist to pour it in his mouth. “(Expletive) it,” the attendee said, which later got Rebillet to create a looping track with the word.
No matter what a song’s catalyst is, the effect is always the same. Festivalgoers will dance, bop their heads and even mimic Rebillet’s behavior, like when he looks angry and ready to destroy things on the stage. “What I love is every set is different,” one audience member was heard saying, showing how refreshing improvisation is in today’s music industry.
Rebillet makes it look so effortless, but there’s clearly so much thought that goes into each song. He starts with a good bass beat, adjusting the tempo, volume or rhythm as he goes, then adds drums and other percussion rhythms, and he croons for the crowd as an added bonus. As you marvel in amazement at the music unfolding in front of you, you can’t help but admire the sheer talent that Rebillet brings on stage, and you can tell he’s loving every moment of crafting the next tune that’ll get stuck in your head.
Even when a song he begins to build doesn’t exactly pan out, he’s not afraid to admit it to his crowd. Rebillet announced that during Weekend 1, but quickly bounced back as he started singing about moving onto other things you might have in mind when your first idea doesn’t work. It didn’t matter a whole lot to audience members either way as they were just happy to witness a genius in action.
Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ema_sasic.