Hockey players slated to perform with Frank Ocean at Coachella reveal new details

Hockey players slated to perform with Frank Ocean at Coachella reveal new details

Former hockey players Dan Powers and Chris Powers, who were supposed to participate in a canceled ice-rink production during the artist’s performance for the first weekend of the festival, shared their side of the story in Tuesday’s episode of their Empty Netters podcast.

The brothers revealed that they, along with about 120 additional performers including Olympian figure skaters and other hockey players, had rehearsed for a month on a makeshift ice rink constructed at Paramount and even had a successful run-through on the Coachella main stage before Ocean scrapped the entire spectacle the day of the set.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean

| Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

“This is something we can tell now,” Dan said. “There’s a point in the performance where we’re skating around in a circle, and then we all stop at a break in the song, and everyone pretends to be fighting with each other… He was teaching everyone how to sing the songs, giving them the cadence. It felt like this thing that he, like, really cared about, that he was super psyched about, and to see it all fall apart was definitely sad, but also nuts. It’s nuts because, listen, dude, it’s not like this fell apart and he was like, ‘Oh, no, this is [impossible].’ He was actively like, ‘I don’t want to f—ing do it.'”

The siblings went on to explain how their scheduled pickup time Sunday was delayed by three hours, saying “that moment is when the wheels started to fall off.” They added that most of the skaters were left waiting for hours on buses and in tents in the desert heat before Ocean decided to cancel the ice-rink component of the production, leaving them with nothing to do. Only about a quarter of the skaters who had been hired ended up performing, but that just entailed them walking around in a circle onstage in customized Prada outfits and face paint.

“Those figure skaters got cut not because there was an ice issue, not because there was something wrong — there was no malfunction,” Dan said. “[Ocean] just straight up was like, ‘F— this, I’m not doing this anymore.’ And [to] these 120 people [who] had bused out here, he was just like, ‘You guys aren’t doing s— now.’ So it was just a wild flip.”

The Powers remember hearing the news that the ice-rink production was canceled at around 4 p.m. PT, noting that fans were already camped out at the main stage for Ocean’s 10:05 p.m. PT scheduled start time, and crew members were “trying to undercover rip out this ice-rink stage because they [didn’t] want anyone to know it was there.”

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean

| Credit: András Ladocsi

The brothers added that they thought skaters should have been sent home much earlier if the change in production was due to Ocean’s alleged ankle injury, which his representatives say he sustained in the days leading up to the festival. Instead, the Powers said, many of the skaters sat around in their makeup and costumes for a long time on Sunday before getting dismissed.

“We both know how show business works in a lot of ways — production is a mess in everything, all the time,” Chris said. “[It would have been] a worthy experience if it had gone off correctly, right? But I would say that there was a lot of sunk time for the participants throughout this, because we’ve been rehearsing for months.”

He continued, “You guys have got to keep in mind that the skating portion was huge. It was going to be like 120 skaters, and the people that walked was only 30 or whatever. And that means that these people bused to Coachella without a pass can’t go into the festival. They are literally sitting in a tent in the baking sun. This is a group of people about to perform on stage with the headliner and were not given passes, which blew my mind.”

The brothers said they were asked to be among the smaller group who walked around in a circle on the stage but replied “f— no” because they had already bought tickets to the festival and wanted to enjoy their time there, which they said allowed other skaters to take their place. They ultimately were able to watch the set from the side of the stage.

“Frank goes on 50 minutes late,” Dan recalled. “He starts playing these songs, and he’s doing the throat-slash thing to his musicians in the middle of songs. They’re stopping. No one has a clue what’s going on. He’s playing all of his songs differently, which was kind of cool, but confusing so many people.”

While the Powers praised Ocean for how he treated the performers during rehearsals, they said they didn’t understand why the ice routine was thrown out, claiming that Ocean was not set to directly participate in it. They also wondered why the routine was canceled so last minute if Ocean had injured his ankle days before his Coachella set.

Listen to the podcast episode below.

YouTube video

“After suffering an injury to his leg on festival grounds in the week leading up to weekend 1, Frank Ocean was unable to perform the intended show but was still intent on performing, and in 72 hours, the show was reworked out of necessity,” representatives for Ocean told EW. “On doctor’s advice, [the] artist is not able to perform weekend 2 due to two fractures and a sprain in his left leg.”

“It was chaotic,” Ocean said in a statement. “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.”

Ocean’s highly anticipated headlining performance began an hour late on Sunday, and ultimately shocked and disappointed fans. The musician was barely visible, sitting far back on the stage, pulling up his hood, and constantly turning his back to the audience. He did not acknowledge the delay, and while he did perform reworked versions of songs like “Novacane,” “Crack Rock,” and “White Ferrari,” the silence between the tracks was long and awkward, eliminating any sense of flow and giving the impression that he was just winging it.

The singer chose to lip-synch many of his tracks rather than actually perform them, brought out a young piano player named Josiah to lip-synch one of his songs to represent his “inner child,” and then DJ Crystallmess played an extended EDM remix of several of his songs while Ocean left the stage. After he performed a cover of “At Your Best (You Are Love),” he announced at 12:22 a.m. PT, after another long and awkward silence, “Guys, I’m being told it’s curfew, so that’s the end of our show. Thank you so much.” 

On Monday, reports surfaced that an ice rink had been built for the set but that Ocean decided to cut it at the last minute, causing the hour-long delay as the rink was disassembled. According to those same reports, it was Ocean’s decision to scrap the YouTube livestream of his set as well, souring the relationship between him and the festival’s organizers. However, a source close to the situation claimed Ocean injured his ankle while riding a bike around the festival in the days leading up to his performance, which resulted in a change of the production to accommodate the injury.

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