Due to some unforeseen complications, I was only able to make it to Coachella for Sunday, but I definitely packed in all the acts I could. All and all, Sunday was one of the better days on paper anyway. Coachella is a festival of sound and lights unlike any other. Here's what I saw:
The first act I caught was Local Natives. Their debut effort, Gorilla Manor, has definitely grown on me since my first spin with it. I knew they would be something special live, but they definitely surpassed my expections. They played in one of the tents and had a pretty good crowd for that time of afternoon, with great crowd reactions. The fans seemed to feed off their crisp harmonies, which echoed across the tent smooth as silk. The band members definitely had a "I can't believe we're playing Coachella, this has been a dream of ours" moment, and damn near gave me goosebumps in 95 degree heat.
After that, we rolled down to Deerhunter on the mainstage. It was interesting seeing them in the light of day (I had only seen them once in a small club), their form of music seems like it would benefit from the cloak of night. But, surprisingly, the summer sunshine seemed to give them a surfier vibe I hadn't picked up on before. The set's highlight came when Lockett's guitar was malfunctioning and frontman Bradford Cox filled in time with an impromptu acoustic ditty about Coachella and the probability of various children being conceived as a result. Classic.
The choice between Julian Casablancas (from the Strokes) and Jonsi (from Sigur Ros) was tough, but the group went with Julian. He kept up his typical machismo and swagger by donning sunglasses and a leather jacket (in the desert.) Only Julian could make it look like it wasn't even contrived. Dude was probably born in a leather jacket. The set wasn't disappointing. His effortless croon kept things strutting along as they should. Fun. Plus they did a Strokes cover of "Hard to Explain" that rocked. Hard.
Miike Snow. Miike Snow's album has some killer tracks on it. I wondered how the band would present itself live and how electronic the setup would be. Turns out, they perform as a 5 piece live band (with some backing tracks). They really sounded clean and looked sharp. They were wearing white "phantom of the opera" type masks. Classy.
Phoenix. I've seen Phoenix before so I know they can throw down live. There crowd was absolutely massive. I mean huge, the biggest I saw all day (besides Gorillaz). The crowd seemed to know a ton of lyrics and the band seemed to be having the time of their lives. Total victory.
Pavement. Phoenix pretty much jacked Pavement's crowd. I guess even an epic reunion like that can't pull the people from a hype machine like Phoenix. I've always heard that Pavement was never a festival band, and I kind of get it now. Their brand of quirky indie songs are best enjoyed alone in your room as opposed to a big outdoor venue. But still, mad respect for Pavement.
I went to the festival with some friends that are great fans of electronic dance music (EDM.) Although this isn't my particular cup o' tea, I will say that I appreciate electronic sounds and hey, lets face it, sometimes dance music is flat out fun. The Sahara Tent at Coachella is about as fun of a venue for such a thing as you can imagine. A massive sound system that wraps the whole tent. A stage set with lighting rigs beyond comprehension. As the sun was setting, it was time to move to the dance tent.
Orbital put on a solid set. Solid beats. Solid lighting / visual stage production. Then came Plastikman. I guess this guy doesn't really do this performance too often and it was a highly anticipated show that cost many thousand dollars to put on. Whatever Coachella paid for this act, it was well worth it. The DJ was surrounded by a cylinder that covered his entire booth. The cylinder was lit with LCD type screens (or projections) that were not unlike a Winamp "Visualizer"... crazy psychedelic fractal-type images that seemed to ebb and flow with the music's every bend. The images never formed any real object, only colors, lines, swirls and shapes that were like an extension of the music, fascinatingly beautiful and diverse, morphing into different formations for each part / song. Some loonies were passing out kaleidoscopic glasses to everyone in sight for the show (Were they hired by Plastikman to do this as part of the experience? I'll never know.) Regardless, the result was unlike anything I've experienced. A masterful combination of sound, visual and kaleidoscopic madness. I now think I understand this wave of culture, this EDM experience. The EDM regulars seemed to understand how significant this performance was. They deployed thousands of glowsticks and formed a mound of them in the center of the crowd, swimming through them in delight. God bless Coachella. Haven for the crazies.
Thom Yorke. Of course it was amazing. It was Thom Yorke. Couldn't really get up too close cause it was massively populated, but this minimal techno low-key set was very calming after the intensity of the Sahara Tent.
We closed the night out with Gorillaz. It was the final act of the festival and was unrivaled by other performances at the end of the night, so I can't even imagine how many people stood before the great LCD screen that covered the entire Coachella mainstage for this monstrously huge production. Lord knows how much it cost to put on this show. The animations flowed through the entire set, giving the audience constant eye candy for the entire hour and a half set. Gorillaz has never been my thing, but I can honestly say that I was entertained and pleased throughout the duration. It would be tough to hate on.
Gotta make it all three days next year. It's an experience unlike any other. Yayyy Coachella.