With this year’s first-weekend installment of Coachella‘s desert extravaganza behind us, we’re still working the sand out of our unmentionables. Seriously, those sandstorms were out of this world, and we still can’t believe we even considered getting on the ferris wheel in such high winds, let alone that we actually did it.
Coachella’s hit a tipping point of public criticism with regards to its focus on fashion & celebrity, and rightfully so, but at its core the annual Indio gathering is still packed with a wildly diverse lineup, and remains an incredible way to kick off the Summer festival season. Arcade Fire and Beck closed out the night with back-to-back performances that were each celebrated crowd-favorite showcases. This, of course, was after the Motorhead christening we received in the Mojave tent, Chance the Rapper forcing Bieber upon us and a relentless Sunday EDM barrage of Big Gigantic, Adventure Club, Calvin Harris and more. Check out our highlights from Day 3 at Coachella below.
Know Your Audience: Beck
Beck has been known to trade out his magnetically quirky oddity for Elliott Smith-level sighful songs in recent years, but he brought an energized performance that defied his recent downtempo tendencies on Coachella’s closing night. Kicking off with “Devil’s Haircut” before the festival-obligatory “Loser,” “Debra” and a reworked, groove-driven “Gamma Ray,” there was little sign of the back injury that found him nearly motionless onstage at last year’s Treasure Island festival. In fact, the majority of Beck’s slower catalogue was missing from his Coachella set, replaced with live gems “Think I’m In Love” and a positively stompin’ “One Foot In The Grave”. On a night when tens of thousands of party-minded desert dwellers are in attendance, that’s a very good thing.
Freakout Zone: The Do Lab
Once a centerpiece to the Coachella experience, the Do Lab has now been inexplicably relegated to an easily missable corner of the polo fields. It’s a mystery as to why, given that it remains the centerpiece of dance music escapism in the sunshine – especially when the hoses are turned on in the front rows and there’s a merciful downpour in the desert oasis.
Snotty Darlings: The 1975
The 1975 preened and brooded their way into 5,000 screaming girls’ hearts with a dozen fey-rock jams from their full-length debut and EPs. Frontman Matt Healy, perpetually dissatisfied with the sound, alternated between annoyed scowls and tween-baiting One Direction faces for the throngs of teenage chicks in the crowd eager to touch the skeletal chest beneath his open shirt.
Unwelcome Guest: Justin Bieber joins Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper started the day with a sharp, powerful set backed by a live band. We were feeling good though “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and “Juice,” and all was right in the world… until the most despised Canadian of all time took the stage to perform their collaborative track “Confidant.” As Bieber danced and sang his little twerp ass off, we got the eff out of earshot with a quickness. Seriously – didn’t even stick around for a picture.
Raging Like Wine: Lemmy of Motorhead
As Motorhead’s perpetually scowly frontman introduced Slash on Sunday night as “a friend of ours, a friend of yours,” you could barely see a hint of charm in his eye despite a supremely awesome moment unfolding for the most OG-rockin’ band on the bill. They obliterated “Ace of Spades” like Slash had been a member all along, the highlight of a grindingly badass hourlong Mojave tent set.
Ill-Advised Photo Op: The Ferris Wheel
A ride on the ferris wheel in the high winds of weekend one was an irresistible but reckless-at-best decision that had us swaying and sweating in all the wrong ways. We’re still surprised the damn thing didn’t tip over in the insane desert winds.
Coachella MVP: Arcade Fire
Introduced by a man made of shimmering mirrors in the middle of the crowd, Arcade Fire closed out weekend one with a headlining slot performance that showcased superstars in a comfortable high stride. Opening with the title track of their new album Reflektor, Win Butler and a dozen or so of his friends were in no mood for half-steps as they delivered a barrage of upbeat songs with forceful excellence.
Win won many General Attendance hearts over with a little shot at the comically ridiculous and unnecessarily huge “VIP area” in front of the main stage barricade. “I just have to say there’s a lot of fake VIP bullshit going on at this festival,” he explained, with a nod to the giant open space dividing him from the tens of thousands of fans. “I know that’s a dream for some people, but you’re better out here, because it super sucks in there.”
Even the lower-tempo jams were met with wild enthusiasm, including the melancholy magnificence of “Ready to Start” and “The Suburbs”. Sure, Debbie Harry showed up to perform “Heart of Glass,” but Arcade Fire had won the night well before that.
Photos: Johnny Firecloud